The Trap Is Set – Part 3

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Our ongoing character, Mark, has been spurned and now conceives a plan to trap Apheima. (See “Gone Astray – Part 1” and “A Trap Envisioned – Part 2“)

He shares the details of his plan with one of the more vocal, angry Pharisees.

“So you see,” Mark concludes, “If the teacher says to stone her, we can let the Romans take care of him. They, of course, will not allow us to carry out death sentences, but we can blame him. And if he says that we should not stone her, we can say that he is going against the Law of Moses.”

“Excellent!” cries the Pharisee. “But how are we to set up such a scene?”

“Just leave that to me.”

And so, Mark proceeds with his diabolical plot. With a sly grin, he marches off to find a strapping young man who might like to have an exciting evening. Now I will give the Pharisees a counter attack, and at the same time, have a satisfying revenge of my own.

Mark has been watching for the last few days to see that the teacher gathers listeners in the same place at the Temple court. Mark knows the owner of a house nearby and asks if he might use his house that night. The friend agrees.

Mark has also been bating a young man with suggestions that Apheima has had her eye on him. The plan is to have the passionate young man meet her at this conveniently positioned house for the evening.

At dawn the next morning, the people have already begun to gather once again to listen to Jesus. He sits and continues to teach them.

Meanwhile, two assigned Pharisees break into the designated house and grab Apheima. (Of course, two witnesses are needed to make it legal.) They drag her out the door, down the street, and shove her in front of Jesus.

Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say? John 8:4-5

Apheima stands there shivering in the morning dew with only a blanket wrapped around her. She stares at the ground, ashamed to look at anyone for she feels the daggers of their stares. Several Pharisees gather around with stones in hand.

Jesus pauses a moment then slowly stands to look at each Pharisee, one by one. He bends to the ground to to write with his finger. Mark stretches his head around the men in front of him to see what’s happening.

“What is he doing?” he whispers to his partner in crime.

“I don’t know.”

Finally, one toward the front asks again, “What do you say? Stone her or let her go?”

How will Jesus answer? Have they finally trapped him? Well, you probably know the rest of the story now as you’ve discovered who our unnamed woman is.

Next week, the rest of the story.

~ Joyce ~

 

Peter – Defense to Denial

          Searching His Word

                       Seeking His Heart

Again, we will see the ups and downs of Peter’s personality.

Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, a favorite place to get away for prayer, but this will be His most agonizing prayer of all as He submits to the will of God. He asks Peter, James, and John to keep watch and pray. The late night and weariness of fear overtake them and they fall asleep even after Jesus pleads with them to keep watch.

Soon they are wide awake when they hear a mob of temple guards, scribes, and Pharisees approaching. Their lit torches cast frightening shadows through the trees while swords clang at their sides.

Jesus questions the intruders. “Who is it you want?” Though at first startled, the guards pick themselves up and push forward. Peter jumps in to defend Jesus. He asks,

“Lord, should we strike with our swords?” Luke 22:49

But in typical Peter-style, he is already swinging his sword and ends up cutting off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest.

Then Jesus answered, No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:51

Jesus is arrested and taken away. Before we condemn Peter for his rash behavior, remember two things—his good intention was to defend Jesus. Secondly, other than John, Peter determines to follow the crowd all the way to the high priest’s house. The other disciples flee for their lives.

Jesus is taken first to the previous high priest, Annas, then bound and led to Caiaphas. While Jesus is with Annas, Peter warms himself by a fire with some of the servants. A woman recognizes him and accuses him of being one of the disciples which he flatly denies.

A man recognizes his Galilean accent and repeats the accusation. Again, Peter denies with great emphasis that he doesn’t even know him. About the time Jesus is led through the court yard to Caiaphas, a third person makes the same charge. Peter protests, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” 

Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” Luke 22:60-61

Within the course of late night to early morning, Peter has shifted from defending Jesus with a sword to denying him. Now, in despair, he “went out and wept bitterly.” This is an all-time low for our friend.

We reach those low points in our lives—defeats, crushing blows, humiliation, harsh words, bitter attitudes, heart-breaking news. Sometimes we must go through humiliating experiences to become what God intends for us, so take heart, Peter will eventually become that powerful rock like his name. Remember, God named him not for what he was, but for what he could be. Same for you and me.

~ Joyce ~

 

Peter – Unclean Hands or Unclean Heart?

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Jesus and his disciples stayed so busy going from village to village sharing the gospel, they had little opportunity to observe traditions the Pharisees thought important, like ceremonially washing their hands.

Now we’re not talking about scrubbing hands to keep from getting germs—they didn’t know about germs. No, the religious leaders’ concern was that they must ceremonially wash any Gentile contact off their hands and, by golly gum, Jesus and his disciples should do that as well.

Jesus countered by quoting Isaiah’s words,

“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.” Mark 7:6-7 

Jesus went on to describe a law the leaders had made that over ruled one of God’s own commandments. Then he gathered a crowd around Him and emphasized that,

“Nothing outside a man can make him “unclean” by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ ” Mark 7:15

When the disciples were alone with Jesus, Matthew remembered that Peter asked Jesus to further explain his parable. I picture Jesus closing His eyes and breathing deeply to maintain patience as he said,

“Are you so dull? Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, he declared all foods “clean.”) Mark 7:18-19

Don’t let that parenthetical remark slip by you. After the resurrection, Peter will have to have a roof-top vision to truly understand this, but note this beginning point.

Jesus explains a little more about the “heart thing.”

“What comes out of a man makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ ” Mark 7:20-23

I’m trying to think of a modern day application to this principle. The “worship wars” of the last few decades have about declined from their peak and most churches have settled into whatever style they are going to have, but I think it’s worth using as a good example of arrogance emanating from the heart. 

The traditional side said, “This is how we’ve always done it. We don’t want all those jazzy instruments in the church. It’s like making our sanctuary a bar. What sense does it make to sing two or three phrases over and over? Our texts are solid and enhance our understanding of the elements of our faith.”

The contemporary side said, “We need to meet people where they are with relevant texts and music. All gifted musicians should be able to use their gifts. No more old songs. We sing songs that engage the singers and bring life.”

Jesus might say, “It matters not your style, what matters is your heart. Are you worshiping the song, the sound, the singer, the tradition, the performer… or your God?”

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

Easter – Beyond the Palm Branches

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

What a delight to see the happy faces of the people as they waved their palms and shouted their praises while Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem.

But here and there I saw stern Temple guards watching every move or clusters of black-clad Pharisees looking down their noses with disdain at the crowd.

Jesus proceeded into the Temple area where the money changers sat at their tables exchanging coins for Temple money. It was the only way the Passover pilgrims could purchase their unblemished lambs. Everybody knew it was a money-maker for the Temple, but what else could they do?

Unbelievably, Jesus marched into the area and began overturning the tables—coins rolled everywhere, pigeons flew from their coops, even lambs were beginning to escape from the pens. Jesus spoke out over the noise and confusion.

“It is written, ‘my house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’ ” Matthew 21:13

 What He said was absolutely true, but must He be so bold? It was as though He urged them on to have their way with Him.

Later, I took comfort in the strength of the crowds and the admiration on their faces as He  healed the blind and lame.

The next day, the Pharisees were out and ready to shatter His influence by bombarding Him with questions. At every turn, He befuddled them with His questions or His answers.

By mid-week, he lit in to the religious leaders with such aggressiveness that I thought sure they would arrest Him on the spot.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you Hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you. You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but on the inside you are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Matthew 23;13, 25

On and on He went, one woe after another, enumerating specific character failures and evil deeds. I thought the religious leaders were going to explode. We left before they could figure out what to do with Jesus, but we were soon to learn the wrath that they felt for Him.

Two days later, we gathered in the upper room for our Passover meal. Jesus gave us a real life demonstration of humility by washing our feet. 

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” John 13:14

I understood the living parable.  Think and  act in humility. Encourage and care for one another. For me, it also meant, “don’t depend on the strength of an adoring crowd.”

He continued to teach us with what felt like last thoughts. He prayed for us and reminded us again that crucifixion was near.

With heavy hearts, we followed Him in the dark to Gethsemane, the garden where we often went to pray. He went deeper into the garden alone. I could hear Him crying out in agony as He prayed, but I couldn’t quite make out His words. 

I drifted off to sleep but was awakened by voices and the clank of spears. What was happening?

~ Joyce ~

Easter – On to Jerusalem

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Jesus had told us that He must go on to Jerusalem. I didn’t feel too comfortable with that because He had also told us of the persecution that awaited Him there.

Soon we found ourselves heading that way along the east side of the Jordan. We traveled through some of the ten cities of the Decapolis. Amazingly, even in this pagan territory many people came seeking Jesus. He taught;He healed. The demoniac Jesus had healed months before must have heeded Jesus’ command to go and tell what things Jesus had done for him.

When we arrived in Jericho, I recognized the voice of blind Bartimaeus. When I lived there for a time, Bartimaeus constantly begged for money, but this time, he shouted,

“Son of David, have mercy on me!” Mark 10:47

When Jesus healed him, he was a new man and began praising God. The people joined in with his praise.

I picked up my pace to walk beside Jesus to advise him  about Zacchaeus. Jesus just smiled at me as though he already knew about the tax collector. Of course he did, just as he knew my heart. Little did I realize that the little rich man waited for us in a tree. What a glorious day in Jericho! Things were going so right.

Then we received the word about Lazarus. So sick. Why did Jesus delay? This man was His good friend. Finally, a couple of days later, we did go to Bethany to see Lazarus and Mary and Martha, his sisters. Too late—Lazarus died and had been in the tomb for four days, but Jesus commanded them,

“Take away the stone.” John 11:39

I’ll never forget the strength of Jesus voice as he shouted,

“Lazarus, come out!” John 11:43

A unison gasp came from the onlookers when Lazarus appeared at the mouth of the tomb. Some lifted their hands in the air muttering words of praise. Others fell on their knees in humble submission. Many believed that day. Our hearts were made glad.

But as I looked on through the crowd, one group of men frowned. Another group whispered disgruntled  words to each other. Spies from the religious leaders, I surmised. 

We retreated to a village called Ephraim until it was time for Passover. One of Lazarus’ servants came to report that the people eagerly awaited Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. Before the servant left, I talked to him privately. “And what of the religious leaders?”

…they have given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so they might arrest him. John 11:57  

This was worrisome. My mind quickly went back to His warning that the authorities would beat Him and kill Him.

A few days later, the time had come. A donkey was provided and we followed as Jesus rode into the city. What happened next was totally unexpected. The people lined the pathway—singing, shouting, praising God, spreading out their cloaks before Him, and waving branches of peace.

Perhaps their praise of Him will win over the Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the law, I thought.

~ Joyce ~

Easter – Matthew’s Point of View

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We had enjoyed the admiration of the crowds as Jesus healed many of their loved ones. Not only that, the people murmured among themselves in amazement at his teachings. However, we saw more and more religious leaders coming to observe Jesus’ ministry.

They nitpicked at everything He did, even criticized what we, His disciples, did. We picked grains of wheat as we walked by a field on the Sabbath; we didn’t fast like the Pharisees, we didn’t ceremonially wash our hands before we ate our food. On and on it went.

I thought about His call to me two years earlier. “Follow me,” He said that day as I sat at the collector’s booth. Weary of my sinful life, I did just that. I left my tax collecting table and followed Him. It was the most important day of my life.

I experienced His miracle of feeding over 5,000 eager listeners with only two fish and a handful of bread. I saw Him calm the frightening wind and waves with just a word.

One day, He sent us out two by two to teach the principles He had taught us. God used me to heal five people during those few days. It was thrilling!

However, along with the wonderful depth of His teaching, publicly and privately, He began giving us warnings about the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. He said,

“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matthew 16:6

We thought He was talking about the fact that we had forgotten to bring bread along with us. We finally realized He was talking about the teachings of the leaders. Like yeast, they’re teachings and influence would grow and permeate the crowds.

Then one day, He plainly said that He must go to Jerusalem… 

... and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chef priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed, and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21

It hit us like a bolt. Typical Peter rebuked the Lord, implying that we would protect Him. Jesus rebuked him right back, saying,

“You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men. If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:23-24

Indeed, we grew to realize that we must deny self to follow Him. At least two more times, he said to us again,

“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day, he will be raised to life.” Matthew 17:22-23

I find it difficult to explain how we internalized these words. Somehow we couldn’t quite take it all in. True, the religious leaders criticized, but that’s just the way they tended to be—very critical. We felt relatively safe in the Galilee area, but we began moving further away from our safety net. What  might be next ?

~ Joyce ~

 

 

The Dinner Party Observers

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Our scene was set last week with Jesus, Matthew, and his friends at a dinner.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. Matthew 9:10

Ah, so Jesus disciples came along too. Wouldn’t you love to know what they thought about this gathering? Did Jesus prepare them for what was about to take place? Did he say, “Now look boys, there’s likely to be a rough crowd there, but remember our goal here. We want to spread the good news to everybody.”

Or, did he just let it happen? I spring for this second option.  Read on:

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Matthew 9:11

Were the Pharisees invited? No, they weren’t on the guest list, but often the dinning areas in large homes were rather open. Passers-by could easily see all who gathered. The disciples were likely on the outer edge of the group, probably not too comfortable with the main guests. In fact, they may have been asking the same question in their minds.

 In essence the Pharisees were saying, “These people are the scum of our community. Why taint your reputations with the likes of these law breakers? Don’t you realize these are Roman sympathizers?  Why would you give them the time of day, much less fraternize with them, even eat with them?”

Jesus knew exactly what was going on in the disciples’ minds as well as the question being mumbled by the Pharisees. Perhaps Jesus hesitated before answering the question, hoping his men would answer.  After all, the question was asked of the disciples, not Jesus. But we hear not one word from his followers.

Let me pause here to remind you that all three synoptic gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) report Jesus healing many people by this time, so the disciples have seen His power. They’ve likely heard His discourses on the importance of loving God and loving people as well. So while they have heard the Word from the Lord and seen His power displayed, perhaps they have not had much practice in the doing.

Since the disciples did not answer the question, Jesus responded to the Pharisees.

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31

A lesson that needed to be heard by the Pharisees and the disciples.

Do we need this lesson as well? How easy it is to vegetate in the land of the familiar—my routines, my responsibilities, my joys, my kind of people. Meanwhile, there are people who are spiritually sick around us who need the great physician. Lord, give us eyes to see. Help us to invite them to your ultimate feast in heaven.

We considered the invited guests last week and the observers this week. Next week, let’s see how Matthew himself is feeling about this dinner party. 

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Setting Up Traps

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Sometimes, as we read Scripture, we don’t always see, much less think about all the people involved. Last week, we left Aphiemi making excuses to his wife and walking down the streets of Jerusalem to meet a former lover. After their romantic evening, he was about to leave for home.

 

“Our time together should be worth something, don’t you think?” Marnah hinted.

Aphiemi looked puzzled. “Worth something? What do you mean?”

“Well, you wouldn’t want your wife to know about this little get together, now would you? Three denarii should take care of things.”

“Why you little slut…”

“Uh, uh, let’s be careful. Your precious elders at the Temple would be very disappointed in you.”

Aphiemi’s temper flared, but he could see that he had been trapped. He jingled some coins from his money pouch and threw them on the floor as he stormed out.

How dark the streets were as he shuffled along on his way home—dark as the sin that hung on his shoulders. But more than shame, he felt anger. How dare her trick me in such a way. She will regret this. His mind raced as he tried to think of forms of retaliation, but his thoughts were merely a jumble of revenge with no clear action.

The days wore on. Aphiemi made it a point not to see Marnah again. The money may have taken care of her threats, but not his bitterness.

One day, as Alphiemi came near the Temple, several Pharisees were engaged in a robust discussion about the preacher from Galilee who had caused quite a stir among the people. The leaders had questioned him on several occasions, trying to trip him up, for he had gained quite a following with the people of Jerusalem as well as the crowds throughout Judea and beyond. Every time the religious leaders set a verbal trap, this Jesus caught them instead, making them look weak and feeble.

The next day, Aphiemi observed the teachings of this intruder to the city.

Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them… You have heard it said, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement… You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:17, 21, 22, 27, 28

The intent of Jesus’ teaching went right over Aphiemi’s head. Instead, the wheels began spinning in his mind until he had concocted a perfect plan. He shared the details of his plan with one of the more vocal, angry Pharisees.

“So you see,” Aphiemi concluded, “if the teacher says to stone her, we can let the Romans take care of him, for they, of course, will not allow us to carry out death sentences. And if he says that we should not stone her, we can say that he is going against our law.  “

“Excellent!” cried the Pharisee. “But how are we to set up such a scene?”

“Just leave that to me.”

And so, Alphiemi proceeded with his diabolical plot. With a sly grin, he marched off to find a strapping young man who might like to have an exciting evening.  

Now I will give the Pharisees their revenge and, at the same time, have a satisfying revenge of my own. 

 

Have you guessed this episode in Jesus’ experiences with the Pharisees? Stayed tuned next week for the rest of the story!

~ Joyce ~

Connecting

Two days until Valentine’s Day. Have you connected with your loved one this week? Figured out something that would mean a lot to a friend? In order to have genuine relationship, we search for ways to connect with those we love.

It works in the business world as well. If we have a product or service, we try to connect people’s needs to what we have to offer. Networking. Connecting.

We can apply this to life lessons. Let’s suppose your 16 year old seems oblivious to the seriousness of the speeding tickets he is receiving. Then one day his good friend is killed by a another teen in a speeding accident. Suddenly, your teen sees the consequences of speeding because it has entered his world of experience. He has connected.

This is probably a long way around to where I’m trying to “connect” you, but I find that Scripture makes more sense to me when I see the connections between the characters, the traditions, the way of thinking, the habits, even the geography. For instance, when Bible characters are going (down) south from Galilee to Jerusalem, they say they are going up to Jerusalem. They don’t mean north, as we would think, they literally mean up as in “up the hill,” because Jerusalem sits on a raised mound.

So, before we leave Nicodemus, there are a couple of “connections” I want you to think about. Early in the story of A Heart for Truth, we hear of a report from Bethlehem shepherds who say they saw a vision of angels. The angels told the shepherds that the Messiah had been born. Sure enough the shepherds search out the stables and find the baby just as they were told. They were excited to share their good news.

17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. Luke 2:17

Since Bethlehem and Jerusalem are only about 5 miles apart, the news could have easily reached the Temple area where Nicodemus might have heard the report. Connection. We discover then the low opinion Pharisees and other Temple leaders have toward shepherds. This helps us to understand Nicodemus’ attitude later in the story when, in Nicodemus’ time of need, he is rescued (heaven forbid!) by a shepherd . Connection.

Another example of connecting scenes is when Jesus comes to the Temple as a twelve-year-old boy where he is:

46b …sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. Luke 2:46b

We hear the teachers’ reactions to Jesus.

47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his questions. Luke 2:47

Rather than seeing this as an isolated incident, we can surmise that very likely Nicodemus could have been one of those teachers who heard Jesus’ questions and answers. Connection.  Could Nicodemus have reflected years later on this incident, remembering some of the things that were said? Possibly.

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As you study the Bible, I encourage you to look beyond the immediate passage and see how it fits in the totality of the passage. Who is around around to hear or see what is going on? How does it connect to verses in another book of the Bible? Scripture is seldom isolated passages. One thing connects to another and another. It all fits together to bring the whole message. Seek out these connections. I’d love to hear some of your discoveries.

Meanwhile, think about your friend or loved one this week. Share your love with them in surprising ways that will connect you to each other more deeply.

~ Joyce ~

Commitment Indeed

Today we turn to the third and final mention of Nicodemus in John’s Gospel. We are at the tomb of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea has come to bury his body. Like Nicodemus, Joseph is also a member of the high court. It will not set well with the Jewish leaders if they find out that one of their own has anything to do with Jesus. Therefore, it is a bold move on Joseph’s part to seek Pilate’s approval to bury the body.

38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. John 19:38

 Matthew, Mark, and Luke also tell about Joseph of Arimathea. Only John reveals that Joseph had an accomplice—Nicodemus.

39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. John 19:39

Wow—75 pounds! That would be the amount of spices used for a king. Hmm, yes, a king. Joseph and Nicodemus tenderly go about their task of preparing the body for burial.

40 Taking Jesus body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. John 19:40

This scene, as well as the crucifixion, were two very difficult scenes for me to write in A Heart for truth. I tried to get into the scene and look around to see the setting, the blood, the people, the conversations or lack thereof, the emotions, the whipped flesh, the crown of thorns, the lifeless body—it was all very heart wrenching.

Nicodemus and Joseph faced a very dangerous task. Their positions in the high court, their reputations, their very lives were at risk. If the first two scenes (Nicodemus’ night visit and his statement before the Sanhedrin) were not quite full commitment, this act of love was total commitment indeed.

I recently received an email from a dear missionary friend in a another country. She spoke of a terrifying incident as she and a friend were walking in a slightly wooded area. Suddenly a pack of wild dogs encircled the two of them, barking and lunging at them with evil-looking eyes. They managed by God’s grace to escape, but she reflected on how of late, evil seemed to be all around them. A fellow worker had fallen into depression. New believers were weeping over the way their families were treating them. Satan seemed to be haunting them at every turn.

I think of the easiness of my own life. I have challenges, but nothing like this, nor the great risks that men like Nicodemus and Joseph faced to stand in their faith. I think of today’s martyrs who sit in prisons because they profess belief in Jesus. How do they endure? As I study God’s word, try to understand, and seek to believe with greater depth, I wonder how strong and faithful I would be in the face of life-threatening danger. Would I have the boldness, the full trust, the commitment to stand firm in my faith? Help us, oh Lord. Help us to grow in our commitment to you.

~ Joyce ~