Walking by Faith

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We left the disciples listening to Jesus as he told them to Go Out Two by Two with a Hefty Task

Wouldn’t you  love to follow along with one of these pairs to see how they fared in this challenging venture? They carried virtually nothing with them, walking only by faith.

I’m at this point in the manuscript for my third book, this one about the disciple, Matthew. I’m creating possible scenarios of what Matthew and Thomas may have encountered in their time out as missionaries.

As they enter the first town, they face the first challenge—”Find a worthy person with whom you can stay.” One sign of a good Jew would be one who welcomes strangers.

Once they settle in for the night, they likely begin wondering what the next day will bring. Will they find people receptive to their message? What will they say when they preach and teach? Perhaps they will remember what Jesus said to them,

…do not worry what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:19-20

I can’t say this always happens, but there are times when I’m preparing to speak to a group and realize the weight of doing so. I plead for God to give the words as I prepare. It is wonderful then, when I sense the Spirit moving in me, giving words I hadn’t even planned and receptive faces I hadn’t anticipated.

Imagine Matthew’s thrill when facing the first group of people and telling them the things that Jesus had taught, perhaps even in the way he taught. Did he make up his own parables to get across a point? Maybe something he saw nearby, or on the hillside, or a tool in someone’s hand. Was he amazed at how the words seemed to flow out of his mouth just as Jesus promised?

I try to envision what it was like at his first healing. How humbling to be the instrument through which the Holy Spirit worked. Oh the thrill of feeling God’s healing power surging through him to the wounded body or soul of another person.

While Matthew and Thomas found worthy persons who would take them in, Jesus warned that they would also encounter antagonistic situations where they had to shake the dust off their feet as they left town. The visual sign or custom for this was to take off their sandals and clap them together signifying that the dust (or the relationship) has been dusted away. 

No, they could not have imagined all that would happen to them in this mission effort. We, too, are sent out day by day to share our faith with our attitudes, our comments, and our hearts. We never know what our influence might mean in the timing of another person’s life.  

As Paul said,

We walk by faith not by sight. I Corinthians 5:7

~ Joyce ~

 

Go Out Two by Two

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Have you ever thought about how the twelve disciples might have reacted when Jesus said he was sending them out two by two? Evidently Jesus decided the time had come for his men to put into practice what they had learned from him.

They had watched Him heal, teach, preach, and interact with the people. They heard his illustrations (parables) to fit with many situations—sheep examples when shepherds were in the crowd; potter illustrations, rich men/poor men stories, or parables about lost things.

Now Jesus wanted his disciples to put their observations into action. Not only that, He said,

Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. Matthew 10:5-6

In other words, start where you are, begin with your own people, the ones you can best understand. In good time, the disciples will be told to go to the ends of the earth, but for now, going to their fellow Jews would be a good starting point.

What’s the message?

               

As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 10:7

The disciples had been with Jesus for sometime now. They realized that being with Him was like being near God’s own heaven because He was the Son of the Father. They must mimic the Son and tell people in the towns about Him.

He empowered them to do things only He had been able to do.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8

Whoa, that’s a tall order! Up to this time we have no mention of the disciples doing any kind of healing. Not only that…

Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no extra bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. Matthew 10:9-10

In other words, “Learn dependence!”

This hits close to home for me. I’m feeling the need to move my mother to a different memory care facility. She’s been very unhappy were she is, but to make a move at 95 is traumatic and takes a lot out of a person with dementia. On the other hand, I want her to be content. Do I move her or not?

I have had to be very diligent in prayer this week, seeking  the Lord’s leadership. To put it bluntly—trusting. Learning yet again to be dependent on Him. I have had to call up one of my life verses.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Learning dependence on the Lord became an essential life lesson  for the disciples. We’ll follow them again next week and see how it goes.

~ Joyce ~

 

Sowing Seeds

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I’ve had sowing seeds on my mind since the blog two week’s ago when Jesus talked of sowing and reaping. (4 – A Teachable Moment.)

I ran into an old friend at a funeral home the other day. He asked me about my writing and my books which then prompted him to tell me about a writers’ group he had started. He wondered if I could speak to his group sometime.

He shared something of the nature of the group and their goals. I told him I’d be glad to speak to the group.

He said one reason for starting this group was to find people who would have a common interest and enjoy being together. But the underlying goal was to develop enough trust in the members that he could begin sharing his faith. I thought, “Wow!”

Then he said he had another group of men who like to fish and he had formed a fishing group of sorts—with the same goal in mind—to sow seeds and reap believers. Double Wow!

Then this week, we were at a 50th wedding celebration and sat with a bubbly woman we knew and her quiet husband. She mentioned, in passing, that he had had two heart attacks. When she had to leave for a phone call, I tried to engage this quiet man in conversation.

I asked how his health was now and he said he was back to playing senior men’s baseball since his surgery five years ago.

That opened up a flow of stories from this quiet retired preacher. He’s in two or three leagues that play several times a week. Many don’t know the Lord. He feels like this is his new ministry in retirement. He plays with them, gets to know them, and they trust him. This leads the way for witnessing opportunities and several have come to the Lord through this man’s care.

These are unique ways of engaging people in things they love and sharing the love of God with them. It occurred to me that, while starting these marvelous ministry groups is wonderful, some people can’t add one more thing to their plate. But wouldn’t it be great to have that same ministry outlook with the groups of people in which we’re already engaged?

As Jesus told the disciples in our thoughts about sowing and reaping…

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35

As we have just celebrated Easter, what pleasing goals these would be to the Christ of the cross who paid it all for us.

~ Joyce ~

3 – She Spreads the Word!

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Didomi (Dee-doh’-mee), our main character this time, has had quite a conversation with Jesus at the well. (See 1 – We’re Going Where? and 2 – Woman at the Well)

It ended last with her saying “when the Messiah comes, he will explain everything to us.” Amazingly Jesus declares to this common woman, “I who speak to you am he.” She evidently believed him and trusted him so much that she felt empowered to go into town and share this news with the people.

Not all joined in her enthusiasm, but…

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I did.”

They believed enough to check it out further.

So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. John 4:39-41

This woman, who had probably been shunned before, speaks with such joy and belief that she has shared with her neighbors the good news, and they have listened to her and responded. She opened the way for them to hear Jesus.

They said to Didomi,

“We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” John 4:42

Those are strong words, my friends! The ball started rolling all because she stepped out with joy and courage. Oh, that we could be so bold to bring others to Jesus!

The people soon learned (as did Didomi) that it doesn’t matter on which mountain they worship, God is spirit and we are to worship him in spirit and in truth.

        

Jesus gave her living water, not with the well dipper, but with his words of truth. She, in turn, gave to the townspeople. In two days, they could declare, “He is the Savior of the world.”

Jesus gave to her, and she gave to them. Didomi is the Greek word for “gave.”

Meanwhile, how did the disciples respond to all of this? Remember, they were the ones who asked, “We’re going where?” (You hear it coming, don’t you?) Next week!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Candy Cane Reminders

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

As you read this, my grandchildren will be gone, the sheets and towels in the washer, and decorations packed away along with the memories of Christmas 2018. 

When I put the last candy canes in the box, I couldn’t help thinking about the legend of the candy cane. You haven’t heard it? Or maybe you’ve heard only parts of it? Perhaps you would enjoy this one last reminder of “the reason for the season.”

THE LEGEND OF THE CANDY CANE

A humble candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a special gift for the King of Kings, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane.

He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.

He began with a stick of pure hard candy to symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Christ,

hard, because the church is built on solid rock,

firm, because God’s promises are a firm foundation.

He formed it in the shape the the letter-J

to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior.

When turned upside down, the “J” could also represent the staff of the Good Shepherd with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.

Then, He added three small stripes to represent the scourging Jesus suffered before He went to the cross.

One large red stripe would remind those with eyes to see and ears to hear of the blood He shed that we might have the promise of eternal life.

It would be a gift of love that would tell His story—

the greatest story ever told!

As we look toward the new year, the old story is never outdated. We must tell it again and again through candy canes, visuals, stories, or whatever creative means we can find.

For the wages of sin is death [spiritual death], but the gift of God is eternal life [spiritual life.] Romans 6:23

Blessings on your New Year!

~ Joyce ~

 

Peter – Born Again

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Back to Peter. Last time, we found Peter out in the boat with Jesus. He doesn’t catch fish all night, but at Jesus’ command, the boat overflows with the fish he hauls in.

This personal miracle seems to speak to Peter in a unique way. He is convicted of his sin, for he kneels at Jesus’ feet and cries out,

“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Luke 5:8

Peter will have much to learn, but yielding to Christ is a beginning step of trusting.

The night Nicodemus comes to visit Jesus provides another understanding of who Jesus is. Possibly Peter could have been nearby as Nicodemus comes to ask his questions. Nicodemus says,

“Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” John 3:2

Jesus cuts right to the chaste of what Nicodemus needs to hear.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, He cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Perhaps Peter thinks the same thing as Nicodemus. How can a man enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time? They soon learn that Jesus is speaking figuratively. We are born of flesh—born physically, but we must also be born of the spirit—born spiritually.

How to do that? Another part of the conversation includes John 3:16…

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have life eternal.”

Believe. Believe and not perish. Have eternal life. Jesus goes on…

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him.”John 3:17

Saved through him.

Little by little, Peter must internalize these words. He has the next three years to do so as he learns to trust what Jesus says and does. Jesus will correct Peter, lead him, empower him, teach him, rebuke him… forgive him.

But the first step for Peter—and for us all—is to be assured of spiritual rebirth.

How do we share the joy of believing and looking forward to life eternal with the Father?

I have a friend at the Y with whom I chit-chat at times when we end up on the recumbent bikes side by side. Last week, she was wringing her hands, so to speak, about all the weather disasters and the mass killings, etc. I said, “Oh I know, it’s awful. It makes us realize how much we need to depend on our faith.” She was getting off her bike, but at least I planted the thought.

We must share our faith, even in simple ways, because there’s a world out there that hasn’t come to spiritual rebirth. Help us, O Lord, to be bold.

~ 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 ~