Posted by: playingmanyparts | October 6, 2014

It Isn’t Supposed To Be Easy – Matthew 6:9-13

Matthew 6:11

Give us this day our daily bread,

Daily Bread

Daily Bread

I get frustrated when things take long or remain hard to do.  Both my writing and my other youth ministry are hard for me.  I am not a gifted speaker, and am quite shy by nature until I know people, so being outgoing and talking about God are not actually easy for me at all.  I constantly pray for God to make me more eloquent in my speaking and to give me the exact words to write here.  I beg and plead and try to deal with God before each time I write and speak.  He does, in the end, always provide the words, but it doesn’t get any easier.  As I think on this well known portion of the Lord’s Prayer, and compare it to what I know about his provision of manna in the wilderness for the Israelites, I begin to see a truth I have missed.

God wants my daily dependence on Him.  He wants me to continue to come to him, in complete reliance upon His goodness.  He wants me to ask for His help each time and patiently wait on Him.  If I don’t need Him, I probably won’t go to Him as often.  No ministry, big or small, should ever be done in our own strength or power, and this is His way of reminding me that I am following His calling, not mine.  I am doing His will, not mine.  He is in charge, He knows what needs to be said or written, I am simply to seek Him and ask for the words He wants to share at His time and location.  I need to let go of my desire for control and self-sufficiency and rely completely on Him.  That is the whole point.  It really shouldn’t be easy, if it is, it might not be His work we are doing?

Father God, give me this day my daily bread.  Help me rely on you and you alone as the provider of all I need, from food and water to words and wisdom.  Reveal yourself to me, show me your will and your way and help me to walk daily in accordance with your plan for my life.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | October 1, 2014

I dream of playing with lions, how about you? – Isaiah 65: 17-25

Now THAT'S a hug!

Now THAT’S a hug!

Isaiah 65:25

The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food.  They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

Am I the only one?  Do you ever have dreams of flying?  Do you dream of running through the woods or field barefoot?  How about playing with the lions?  Do you ever have dreams where you can swim underwater for a really long time, and have no fear of sharks or other scarey ocean dwellers?  I do, all the time.  Does that make me crazy?  Maybe, but I think if you are honest, there are desires in you that you could probably trace back to the way the creation was made to be enjoyed.  Some of these are silly, but I love the verse above about the lion eating straw and the wolf being gentle enough to eat with the lambs here in Isaiah.  I love the hope and promise verses like this hold for our future after all creation has been “set free from its bondage to corruption.” (Romans 8:21)

Do you ever think about what the New Earth is going to look like?  What our jobs will be?  How we will get around and interact with others?  Or do you just accept that old urban legend that Heaven will be us in white robes playing harps all day, or sitting on a cloud contemplating God?  When I read sections of scripture about how the New Earth will be, I get super excited about the possibilities of Heaven and start wondering how many of my deepest desires are actually a deep longing for Heaven my home.  I want to live by a lake, eat fruit and veggies I didn’t anguish over and spend my days learning all I can about everything.  (And don’t get me started on what verses like Amos 9:13 about the mountains dripping with sweet wine may mean!?)  Maybe that’s how I was created?  Maybe that is exactly what eternal life with God will look and be like.  I do know that I need to stop worrying about dying and get busy making the moments I have here count and always keep my eyes focused on that ultimate reward . . . an eternity with God and all that might entail!

I would like to ride a lion!

I would like to ride a lion!

Father God, thank you for the cross.  Thank you that I can dream and hope and look forward to a future with you forever because Jesus died to cancel my sin and shame and give me full access to you both now and in the future.  Thank you that while death may be my future, so is Heaven!  Help me share that good news today with everyone I meet and help me live my life like I believe eternity is coming.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | September 23, 2014

Jesus Temptation – My Application

Luke 4:1-2

Temptations of Christ, Botticelli

Temptations of Christ, Botticelli

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.

As I was reading this familiar story this morning in Luke, I noticed something I have never noticed before, although I am sure I must have heard some sermon on this passage at some point, since it seems so obvious.  The Devil quotes scripture to Jesus.  I have always focused on how Jesus so adequately uses the word of the Lord here to defend himself and conquer temptation.  This morning I read it as always then walked away, got ready for work and headed to the car for my long commute to work.  In the stillness and complete quiet of my car I started working through the text in my head and stopped short at this part of my reflecting.  I almost missed the fact that the Devil too quotes scripture.

I rushed a bit more than normal to work to get to my online Bible to re-read this all and pray and meditate as I work.  I am still working through it, but one thing I do see clearly after only a second reading is that in verse one it says that Jesus is full of the Spirit and that he was led by the Spirit.  So the application for me here is that in all things, but most especially in my reading of scripture, I MUST be filled with the Spirit.  When I attempt to understand, or teach God’s word it is crucial that I am full of and led by the Spirit, for even Satan can twist the Bible for his purposes.  Only the Spirit, who knows God can lead us in understanding the things of God.

Father God, fill me with your Holy Spirit.  Help me remember to always ask for guidance when I read and study your word.  Give me a heart to understand and eyes to see and ears to hear all you have to say and speak to me.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | September 21, 2014

I Wanna Be Like Lazarus – Luke 16:19-31

Luke 16:22-23

the rich man and Lazarus

the rich man and Lazarus

22  The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.  The rich man also died and was buried, 23  and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.

Remember all the hoopla around Michael Jordan. . .and all the ways we said “I wanna be like Mike”?  I am reminded of all that as I read Luke 16 today, and am immediately sobered.  Why on Earth would I want to be like a man, when I should strive to be more like Christ?  I want to start here by saying that this post is for and about me.  There is no condemnation here for anyone but me, except to say, learn from me and don’t make my mistakes.

As I read this today I am cut the core, and brought to tears.  I weep at the wasted time, and opportunities and life that I have missed by trying to live my life like the rich man and like MJ too.  The time I have wasted seeking after Earthly treasures while I could have been storing up Heavenly treasures is shameful!  (A reference to Matthew 6:19-20) I am going to stand before Jesus someday and explain why it is I spent 80 hours watching True Blood, not to mention 96 hours of Dexter, 120 hours of Friends, 153 hours of Gilmore Girls; you get my point, I have wasted years of my life on TV alone.  This doesn’t begin to answer for the hours of fictional books and silly pass times and all of the other time in my life I waste not being with or sharing Christ with others.

So I find myself identifying with the rich man in this story far more than Lazarus, and that scares me.  Lazarus received in his lifetime bad things, and he celebrated in Heaven with Abraham.  The rich man received good things in his lifetime and went to hell when he died.  I like to pretend I am like Lazarus, and I am quite certain that I will go to Heaven when I die, but I am not living my life like Lazarus, and for this I am ashamed, and hear my wake-up call.

Father God, forgive me for the wasted hours I have stolen from you.  Hours that could have been spent in your word, with you, loving you or others.  Help me give you back that time moving forward.  Help me say no to the things and riches of this world and instead seek treasures that will last in Heaven.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | June 30, 2014

It’s all about the fruit – Galations 5:22-23

Galations 5:22-23 (ESV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

I have mentioned before how persistent God can be when He is trying to deliver a message to us.  After at least three very separate and yet equal reminders from Him, I finally got to my knees this morning to ask Him to help me apply this message he so clearly has for me.  I believe God is very firmly commanding me to actively pursue these fruits in my life.  No more casual reading my Bible, praying when it’s convenient and blogging when I can.  I can no longer lovingly look into the eyes of my perfect Savior and choose disobedience.  My love for him is calling me to really start taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), and to attempt to be more and more like him.

I cry about how I want to be more like Jesus, but I have done nothing recently to prove that, or “put my money where my mouth is” like my Dad used to say all the time.  I expect a miracle to come along and change me, and while this will happen, it also will take some work from me.  I know I have been called to pick up my cross DAILY and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23), and he promises that the burden will be light (Matthew 11:30) when I cast my cares onto Him (1 Peter 5:7).  The first step of obedience is what I feel called to today.

Father God, I am going to need your help to begin this next step of my faith journey.  I will need help moving my feet and most especially my hard heart toward love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in all my thoughts and actions.  Come Lord Jesus into my heart, my mind, my life and help me to trust you and obey.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | April 20, 2014

I Am The Resurrection – Matthew 11:25-26

Matthew 11:25-25 ESV
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

The only man in recorded history that I know of who not only raised someone else who was 4 days in the grave, but who died himself, tore the vail in two, brought many from the grave and caused an earthquake! He is not dead, he is alive just as He said. He is the only one worthy of our praise for what He did. He did It all for you, and me. We turn our backs on God when we sin, and Jesus sacrifice takes it all away. He gained God’s acceptance. Because of His sacrifice that first Easter, I have been resorted to a right relationship with our creator. Oh what a day we celebrate today!

May you all have a very blessed Resurrection Day!

Posted by: playingmanyparts | April 14, 2014

The Sacrifice – Matthew 27:46

Matthew 27:46

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying “Eli, Eli, lema sabachtani?”  That is, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

In both the gospel of Matthew and Mark (15:34) these words Jesus utters before he dies are recorded.  I found special significance this week in these words as I looked at them in light of Romans 3:21-26.  I usually read from the English Standard Version, as it is my favorite and one of the most literal translations.  However, for one of my Bible Study Groups I find the Serendipity Bible works really well so I was reading it this week.  As I read verse 25 of Romans 3

Romans 3:25

25 God presented him [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.  He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-

I noticed that there is a footnote after the word atonement that says God presented him as the one who would turn aside His wrath, taking away sin, through faith in his blood.  And isn’t that just what Jesus was saying in his last words?  That as he became our sacrifice, he was forsaken by God.  That perfect union He had with the Father was broken because of our sin, and the Father had to turn His face away.  How utterly devastating that is.  Jesus became our sin.  And that is the pain and horror of Good Friday.

Praise God that it doesn’t end there.  The resurrection of Sunday morning proves that the sacrifice was accepted, and that Jesus has been restored to right relationship to God the Father, that he is seated at His right hand, and therefore we too are restored to a right relationship with a Holy and Righteous Father who can not tolerate sin.  The cross means we have been saved, and the resurrection means we have been restored!  Praise God, what a week it is.  Glorify the one and only risen savior and Lord.  The only man in history who died, was buried and was raised again to life and was seen by many witnesses!  He deserves it, he earned our praise and gratitude forever!

Posted by: playingmanyparts | March 23, 2014

But I Can’t Do It – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

20140323-092352.jpg

1 Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

I have to speak weekly for a ministry I do in our community and every week I ask God to find a more gifted speaker to do it. I am very shy and do not enjoy public speaking. I get flustered and my voice shakes, I never say what I practiced and it never comes out like I want. I am beginning to think that perhaps that is why He won’t release me from this ministry.

Some of the young adults that I speak to will never set foot in a church, but they will come to this gathering. It weighs so heavy on my heart that I am the vessel they are stuck with. And someday I will stand before God and have to give an account of what I said every week. So I speak nothing among them except Christ crucified. With much fear and trembling I try hard to simply tell the gospel story and let God do everything else.

I am reminded again that we are not asked to know it all, or to speak well, or to be the most gifted. We are called to tell the truth of Christ in us and in our lives. We all can do that! What ministry or person might God be calling you to today?

Father God, forgive my lack of faith and unbelief. You have called me, you will enable me. Give me your words, your love, and your heart for those I am called to serve. Turn their hearts and lives toward you and when this life is done, call them home to you.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | March 14, 2014

The Good Shepherd – John 10

The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

John 10:1-11

10 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

I have been meditating all week on what it means for Jesus to be our shepherd.  It is complex, and I am still processing it.  What I do see here is a very compassionate leader who will put himself in harms way to save the least of us.  I see a servant leader who carries a large staff to rescue those who go astray.  I hear a man speak whose voice and words are so profound that all I can do is follow.  I see someone who loves me no matter what; I see a gentle shepherd who like David will slay lions, bears and serpents.  I see the Jesus of my childhood with a soft glow about him who is my hero, my rescuer, my savior my all.

It is with much love and compassion I embrace this wonderful picture of who my savior is.  So far, my study of John has left me with may pictures of Jesus.  He is the Word, the Light of the World, the Living Water, the Bread of Life, the Gate and the Good Shepherd.  So far, this image of a shepherd is the one to which I cling and meditate on and embrace with all my heart.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | March 11, 2014

Jesus Commands It All – John 6:19-21

Stormy Sea

Stormy Sea

John 6:19-21

When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened.  20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”  21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

A read-through of the first 6 chapters of John gives me a pretty big picture of who Christ is.  From the very first verse of Chapter 1 all things point to his divinity.  Jesus turned about 6 bathtubs full of water into wine in Chapter 2, and lays out for Nicodemus in Chapter 3 that He must be lifted up and that he is the way to eternal life.  From Jesus conversation with the woman at the well we begin to see him as the living water that will finally satisfy our souls and lead to eternal life.  Next in Chapters 4 and 5 he performs 2 healings and comes back to the second one to point out the importance of repenting from sin.  And then in verse 6 he takes 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed 5,000 and walks on water to be with the disciples.

Jesus has complete control of the natural world.  We can read it here in John, but my favorite summary of this is found later in the New Testament in Colossians 1.

Colossians 1:15-22

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him.  17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  18 And he is the head of the body, the church.  He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.  19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and though him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.  21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him

He is the only one who claimed equality with God and then proved it through his actions, words and resurrection.  Surely he is “the way, the truth, and the life.”  500 people saw Christ after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6), no other leader, religious or otherwise can or does claim that.

Father God, thank you for sending you son to be the perfect sacrifice for our sin.  As fully God and fully man he is the only one in all creation qualified to fulfill the qualifications of a New Covenant with you.  Give me faith and courage to share this amazing Good News with those you put in my path.

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