“Gifted” at recognizing other Pharisees, I rarely recognize my own pharisaical tendencies. “Surely I’m not like one of those…”, I frequently tell myself. Perhaps I need to order a slice of humble pie…
Just wait until you read A Heart for Truth: The Story of Nicodemus, an Unlikely Believer by Joyce Cordell. Joyce introduces us to Nicodemus, taking us on an arduous journey with him where he shows his true colors and learns more than one lesson about what real faith looks like. We may just see ourselves in this story…. For starters, Nicodemus’ prejudice against lowly shepherds lands him, you guessed it, in the care of a family of shepherds. So as not to spoil the story, may I just say Nicodemus’ rigid-rule-following-eyes are opened and you may chuckle more than once!
The further into the book I got, the more hooked I became. The Holy Land and its’ inhabitants, animals included, come to life. You find yourself watching Nicodemus’ encounters with Jesus and praying for him to turn to Him, not scoffing at Him as his fellow Pharisees did. You see our Lord’s piercing-yet-compassionate eyes reach into Nicodemus’ heart. The experience will melt your heart.
Joyce’s characters are so well developed (some appealing and some with nauseating personalities), you find yourself saying, “Well, of course he’d do that. Typical!” You can almost hear a crowd booing had this certain character entered stage left.
One of Nicodemus’ many encounters involves a woman named Ruth. Ruth’s keen insight figures Nicodemus out pretty quickly. Could romance result in this pair? Will it be too late? Ahhh, you’ll have to read the book to find out!
Joyce’s extensive research and her own visit to the Holy Land is an asset to the story. She also includes a helpful Appendix in the book with “verses used in the background of the story.”
Her goal in writing this Historical Biblical Novel is “to discover what might have been the rest of the story for these characters, telling it with as much authenticity as possible and staying true to the culture and to Scripture.” She concludes with:
“May we all learn from Nicodemus’ story that it’s not enough to be clean on the outside.
We must be humble enough to give attention to the inside in order to have clean submissive hearts where God’s truths can take root.” Each chapter begins with an epigraph. Joyce chose Scriptures which foretell what will happen in the chapter. Sometimes you may find yourself saying, “oh no!”, forgetting that yes, it is in the Bible.
God graciously crossed my path with Joyce Cordell via Book Club at Southeast Christian Church several years ago. I discovered she’s a writer and we’ve enjoyed several fun conversations as well as frequent e-mails.
A Heart for Truth is her second book to be published. Ears to Hear is her first book about Malchus. She loves to write about characters we often miss in the Bible. Her weekly blog, “Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart”, is like doing a Bible study with Joyce. You can find it by visiting her website: www.joycecordell.com Joyce and I recently met for a fun lunch at North End Café. I got to find out a little more about her. She and her husband, Jim, have been married for forty-eight years. They have two children who are married and seven grandchildren. She’s about to have all of them visit for a week of fun.
Joyce has been writing for years. She has written devotions, scripts for plays, and moments in between music programs when she taught elementary music and led children’s choirs. Her love for reading has expanded in many directions! One thing led to another in her experiences, including help with ideas of publishers from the Kentucky Christian Writers. www.kychristianwriters.com
When I asked her how she was able to persist and keep writing (it took her seven years to complete A Heart for Truth), she offered her favorite quote: “The task ahead of us is never as great as the power behind us.”
Be listening for Joyce to be interviewed on Joyce Oglesby’s radio show, “Just Ask Joyce” soon. You can find the program weekdays at 3:00 p.m. on WFIA FM. www.justaskjoyce.com
Let’s close by reflecting on a prayer Nicodemus prays near the end of the book. I believe it will resonate with all of us:
“Oh, Lord, like those straying sheep, I too have strayed.
I have concentrated so intently on the letter of the law, worried so about pleasing men, and have indulged in self-exaltation that I am far from you.
My mindless, routine prayers are of little account.
My heart is cluttered with laws and man-induced rules.
There is little room for truth, mercy, grace, love.
And like a sheep that has gone astray, I have caused others to stray as well.
Just as Nicodemus’ Father told him, “Always seek the truth”, may we all look to our Lord for answers, not ourselves.
‘Til next time!”