Posted by: playingmanyparts | September 14, 2015

Word Made Manifest – 1 John 1:1-4

1 John 1:1-4

The Word made Manifest

The Word made Manifest

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

I’ve been flying by this particular chunk of scripture for years, but only this weekend really read it. I am teaching on it tonight, so I have spent some time breaking it down a bit. Do you realize what these verses say? The Word (both the Bible and Jesus) have been made manifest. Do you see that, hear that, feel that? It has been made manifest to a bunch of guys who soon after their experiences wrote everything down.

Let’s pull on this a bit. I love reading historical novels and biographies. Do you realize that is exactly what the Bible, and all of the New Testament is? First hand accounts of events that were seen, heard, felt and touched. When was the last time you read about the Holocaust, or about Rosa Parks and MLK Jr? These are stories written by and about some people who are alive or had first hand knowledge of their subject. Have you ever thought about how John points out here in 1 John that he too had first hand knowledge of his subject?

I think of one of the most popular biographies in recent years, John Adams by David McCullough. John Adams was dead many years before David was born, yet his book has endured none of the scorn and questioning the New Testament has. Why is that? The Bible is unique for so many reasons, but one of those is that the first hand knowledge of its writers is unique for a history book.

The Word was made manifest, and it was the same yesterday, today and forever. 66 books by 40 some authors in three languages over about 1600 years and the continuity of its central message is amazing. God created us to be with him and when our sin separated us from him he immediately put into action a plan to restore us to himself through the work of Christ on the Cross. The Word become flesh. The story came to life. It is a better mystery, sci-fi, horror and magical story than any other ever told, and it is all true. AMAZING!

Father God, help me see your word in new and amazing ways every day. Help me never get over the magic of you love, grace and mercy. Help me approach your word with the correct reverence and love for a work so profound.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | August 10, 2015

Learning To Do Hard Things – Romans 2

sweatRomans 2:6-8

He will render to each one according to his works:  to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

Nike might be on to something with their famous “Just Do It” slogan.  I used to think it was dumb, but I am starting to see the wisdom in repeating this, just do it.

I stopped eating sugar during the week.  I am working out (hard) 6 days a week.  I am eating vegetables I don’t love, and I am pushing myself daily to just do the hard things.  It started with pursuing a passion I have toyed with for years but that challenges me.  I decided that this was the year to just do it and go after it with all I have; put in the hard work, and see where it takes me.  That one decision led me to several others that are good for me.  Hard to do, but good.  And the thing about hard work it that it is its own reward.  After I have accomplished a hard task, I am elated.  I may be tired, sweating, and stinky, but I am HAPPY!

I think Paul is telling us here in Romans this same thing, to just do it.  Obedience to God is not always easy.  It is far easier to be mad, not love, and disobey than it is to practice joy, forgiveness and obedience.  We want to give in to the quick anger.  We want to hold a grudge for those words that cut us and leave scars.  We want to do what we want and not give to that charity or volunteer for that committee, but that is not what God calls us to.  He calls us to account and “will render to every man according to his works.”  I sure hope my works render me rewards and not wrath and fury.

How are your works?  Are you working hard and constantly expanding the bounds of your love and obedience, or are you too often taking the easy road with your time and emotions?  I know I have much work to do today, not just in my physical actions, but mostly in my thinking and in my responses.  Every thought needs to be taken captive, every word needs to be well thought out, and I must work hard to always be obedient.

Father God, thank you that my works have nothing to do with my salvation.  Thank you for your grace that saves me.  Help me now to put my faith in action and with my obedience convey my love and gratitude for all you’ve done.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | July 30, 2015

Thank God First – Romans 1

Romans 1:8IAMThankful

First, I thank my  God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.

I started reading Romans again today in preparation for a Bible study I’m leading later this year.  I am reading slowly, mining for gold nuggets that I can share with my students. We studied the person of Christ in the Gospel of John last year.  Now that they know who Christ is, I want to move into Romans for purpose, application, and practical living advice.  I felt called to Romans, and it was confirmed almost immediately by revelation from God.

In Romans 1 I was reminded again that God’s mission for me this year is thankfulness.  He has blessed me much, and I need to focus on Him, the giver of all gifts and remember to be thankful and content.  There are tons of Christian bloggers out there talking about thankfulness, and with good reason.  Paul starts off one of his most profound letters by saying that he first thanks God.  Clearly thankfulness is the most important thing I can do to  keep my mind right and focused on God.

Thankfulness is key to keeping our hearts and minds healthy and focused on God.  In verses 18-32, Paul indicates that those who fall away from God  take four steps on their road to Hell.  First, they stop honoring God (vs 21).  Second, they do not give thanks to Him for all things (vs 21).  Next, they start to worship the created instead of the Almighty Creator God (vs 25).  Finally, by no longer acknowledging God, they seal their fate and God gives them up (vs 28) to their own evil minds.  (Father, help me to always honor, thank, worship and acknowledge you!)

Romans 1 to me is a fantastic reminder to start each morning, and each prayer, thanking God for who He is, what He’s done, and all He’s provided. I can’t wait to see how this one small change will impact me now that i plan to be more purposeful in starting every day honoring, thanking, worshiping and acknowledging Him.

Father God, thank you for who you are.  Thank you for sending your son to take my guilt and wash me clean.  Thank you for allowing his perfection to reflect on me, making me appear holy before you.  Thank you for all you have provided for my family and me.  Your blessings really are new and wonderful every single morning.  Help me love, honor and thank you appropriately every day, every hour.  Change my heart, help me look for thanksgiving in every moment you have given me.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | July 13, 2015

Love’s List – Song of Solomon 5:10-16

Song of Solomon 5:10-16sandheart

My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand.  His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven.  His eyes are like doves beside streams of water, bathed in milk, sitting beside a full pool.  His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs.  His lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh.  His arms are rods of gold, set with jewels.  His body is polished ivory, bedecked with sapphires.  His legs are alabaster columns, set on bases of gold.  His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars.  His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable.  This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

I am blessed, I can picture my husband when I say “he is altogether desirable, this is my beloved and this is my friend.”  At least today I can, he has been out of town a couple of days and I miss him.  But if I am honest, there are days when I don’t “feel” this way.  So what do I do on those days?  I think the answer is I have to remember how I feel about him usually, like today and remember that feelings change (sometimes based only on the day of the month).  But the truth of who he is hasn’t really changed in 20 years.  Basically, I need to write my own list of attributes that make him so unique and special to me.

With my list, I need to be creative.  Off the top of my head, my list of attributes is more practical and less flowery than the woman above.  I tend to think of my husband as a loving father, a tireless provider and a fixer of all things.  But I think this awkward, interesting, almost naughty book of the Bible is a great reminder that we should also look for the flowery stuff about our spouses that really make our hearts warm.  We need to fix our gaze on “whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

I think we need to guard our hearts and minds most diligently in this area, in our marriages as well as in our faith walk.  Our marriages need to be solid, different, and filled with the love of Christ.  Our marriages here are supposed to be a representation of the love of Christ for his church and us for him.  I can’t love my husband like I love Christ if I am always worried about what he is doing wrong and never think about the things that make him special to me.  I am making my list today and tucking it away somewhere private where I can pull it out at a moment’s notice when I am tempted to be unkind or say hurtful things.

Father God, thank you for the man you have given me to love and cherish.  I don’t deserve him and most days I don’t treat him like the treasure he is, your son, and my brother in Christ forever.  Give me grace and love for him.  Fill my heart with loving thoughts and remind me of all the ways that I love him today and always.  Help me love him and everyone you put in my life with all my heart.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | July 1, 2015

The Fear of the LORD – Proverbs 1:7

Proverbs 1:7 & 33

The Universe

The Universe

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

but whoever listens to me will lie in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.

I am taking a journey through Proverbs this month.  I want to read a chapter a day and really focus in on a verse or two that jump out at me.  Today I start with the fear of the LORD.  It seems to me as I study the Old Testament that we serve an awe inspiring God who we often box up into a neat little package, and we forget that we serve the God of the Universe.  We serve a God who SPOKE the world into being.  HE IS MIGHTY!  The people and Moses were overwhelmed by His presence.  We should be too.

As the lines between right and wrong seem to grey and narrow.  Let us keep our focus on our call to both love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, and to fear him for all we are worth.  As a loving child of my father, I want to always seek his face, and walk after Him in obedience.  In order to do that, I must LISTEN to what he says to me from our daily conversations. I have to seek his words, his wisdom, his heart.  How should I follow Him today?  I will have to ask him.  I will have to enter into His presence and actually talk to him.  How is your daily walk?  Are you engaging in study and conversation with the author of the Universe?  What is He teaching you?  What is He speaking to your heart?  What does he want you to leave behind?  What does He want you to pick up?

Father God, forgive me for always wanting to talk and ask for favors instead of entering into deep meditation and prayer.  Help me dive deeper into the waters.  Help me seek you more, listen to your more, and sit in silence more waiting on you to speak in your time and way.  Give me grace, give me love, and show me your wisdom that binds me to you and helps lead others to you.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | June 27, 2015

Are We Still Looking for A King of This World?

Matthew 22:36-40

Love Wins36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

I dive into this pool knowing I will most likely drown.  I know I will be disliked and probably argued with.  But as a Christ follower, I too wonder how to react to the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday here in America.  Again, as a Christ follower, I always try to go back to His word and what he said while he was here when making decisions.  I ask myself how I think he would want me to demonstrate His love to a hurting world.

I could probably fill up volumes about how guys like Abraham, Issac, Joseph, King David and King Solomon to name a few are most likely some folks who will be in heaven that did NOT subscribe to “God’s plan of one man and one woman.”  I could talk about sin and if some are worse than others and what may be meant in the New Testament where it mentions homosexuality, sexual immorality and drunkenness, but I think all of that misses the point.  I think we miss this entirely.

Christ “did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”  In every situation when he ministered and talked to people, Jesus loved them first.  He did not condemn the hurting and confused, nor did he judge them.  He was kind and gentle.  More importantly, when asked what the greatest commandment was, he said to love God and others.  How does my condemnation of someone’s acts show them Christ’s love, especially if all they know of Christ is what I am showing them??

So I wonder, are we like the religious leaders of Jesus day?  Are we looking for a king, or president, or government to change the world and save us while our hearts wander farther and farther away from Him?  Would Jesus be as harsh with us as he was with them?  How have we ministered to the homeless and the fatherless?  The women at the well?  The Samaritans among us?  Does denial of rights, condemnation and harsh words demonstrate my deep love of God and others to a watching world?  Am I loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind while loving others as myself?  Jesus demonstrated that love by spreading out his arms and dying for me!  Am I willing to die for my LBGTQ brothers and sisters?  Are you?  How does love win in my life today?

Heavenly Father, in a world so dark and hurting, help my light shine.  Help me to be close enough to Christ that I radiate his love for all.  Give us wisdom, courage, and the unconditional love you demonstrate, for each person you put in our lives today.  Help us to love you and love others as we should in every single situation.  May your light shine in and through us.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | May 19, 2015

To Know His Voice – John 10:1-5

John 10:1-5

The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

1 “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.  2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  3 To him the gatekeeper opens.  The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

I used to think this passage was so hard to understand because I don’t personally know any shepherds.  But the text indicates that the Jews and the disciples all sort of scratched their heads at this one.  So what is Jesus getting at here, and why all this talk of animals following him through doors?  To me, I hear him again using my relationship with my dog and something that happened a couple of weeks ago to teach me a life lesson from his words.

I was out walking my dog a few weeks ago on a bone chilling rainy night when we happened upon a lone puppy out and wandering about.  He didn’t have much interest in us, and in fact quickly walked away from us when we tried to approach him.  We were near a very busy street in town and I feared for this little guy’s safety as he seemed determined to wander into the street.  I was desperate to reach him and read his tags so I could return him home, but no call or whistle would bring him closer to us.  After a while, we were able to get close enough that I could grab his collar and get him to safety.  He simply wouldn’t respond to me, he didn’t know my voice.  This point was made even clearer as my own dear dog continued to obey my every command, sit, stay, come, sit, stay while the lost one just looked at me with absolutely no recognition.  My dog knew my voice, and knew me and what I was trying to do and so he easily obeyed me.

So I wonder, whose commands do I hear?  Whose voice do I recognize and respond too?  Have I trained and practiced following the voice of Jesus enough to easily hear and recognize it?  Have I had long walks and talks with him where we communicate and I learn to hear him?  Or am I following the voice of my own wants and desires, or worse. . .the voice of the thief who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”  I know that in training and working with my dog, it takes daily practice, it takes time, and lots of repetition.  And once again I hear the still small voice calling me to more time, more prayer, more depth.

Father God, thank you for your patience with me.  Thank you for continuing to show me your will and you way.  Help me cut out the clutter, noise and all the distractions that keep me from time with you today.  Let’s sit together and practice talking.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | May 7, 2015

Deep Roots – Psalm 1:1-4

Psalm 1:1-4

He is like a tree planted by streams of water

He is like a tree planted by streams of water

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.  4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

I am meditating today on this portion of Psalm 1.  I want to slow down a bit, take in maybe less scripture but try to imprint it more deeply and this seems to me like a beautiful place to begin.  The Psalms are for me a place of deep thinking and quiet peace.  I come back here in times of trouble and in times of rest to soak up the essence of God.

To me, the Psalms are proof that the all merciful God who sent Jesus to save us was the same yesterday as He will be tomorrow.  The rock found here who loves without end is the same one that we see in the Christ of the New Testament.  And he paints an incredibly calm picture here of the life of the Christian.  A tree planted by steams of (living) water.  How I long to go to that place and sit and meditate and talk with and learn from God.  In that place, I can put off the worries of this life and just be a barefoot child again, dipping my feet into the cool waters of wisdom shaded by the protection of my fathers body as he cradles me in his arms and shares with me all things.

A picture of the perfection of creation, restored once again.  How I long for Heaven and Home as I mediate on the goodness of the grace and mercy of the Father today.  As I delight in his law and how it protects me from harm.  Can you feel Him?  Can you see the streams and that deep rooted tree, the safety of its shelter; the shelter of following the perfect will and way of God?  He is calling to us to come home.

Oh my Father, I thank you for your Word.   I thank you for your son.  I thank you for your grace and mercy.  I seek your face today as I rest beneath the shelter of you.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | May 4, 2015

Obeying Leads to Freedom – Psalm 19:7-10

Psalm 19:7-10

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;  8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.  10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

It hit me as I was training my dog last week, obedience leads to far greater freedom and joy than running after my own desires ever can.  I am trying to train my small dog to be off-leash.  It is hard work, takes much consistency, and is initially a bit hard on us both.  However, once he is trained to obey my every command, he may have far greater freedom than he ever would have untrained and on-leash.

As I was walking my dog and thinking about this, I realized our faith journey, the one where we learn to love the Word of the LORD and seek him as our Master is very much like the relationship I am trying to build with my dog.  He thinks it is best for him to go running after every squirrel, bird and bunny that he sees.  Me though, I can see the whole picture, the car on the next street over that isn’t looking for him and the big mean dog in the yard 5 doors away.  I want to keep him from harm and train him to trust me.  But he sees none of the danger, he just knows I am keeping him from what he wants.  How very like my dog I am, especially in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  If I would but learn to listen to his gentle, wise commands, and follow him with loving devotion, he can keep me out of much trouble and lead me to a life of abundance and freedom with Him.

His law will revive my soul, make me wise, rejoice my heart and enlighten my eye if I would let it.  Those are all his promises to us about his word.  It is more valuable than much fine gold and sweeter than honey. . .why do I continue to fight him like it will crush my spirit and taste like vinegar. . .he has promised us much more if we would but follow and seek Him.

Father God, forgive my unbelief.  Help me seek you word with all my heart, help me run after you and your word as if it is the only thing that matters.  Fill me with the knowledge of you and write your commands on my heart.  Help me follow you more closely, read your word more fondly, and love you deeply.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | April 10, 2015

Intentional Change – Galations 5:22-23

Galations 5:22-23

Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit

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

God has placed on my heart a desire for change down deep in my heart.  He calls me daily to walk closer to him, to watch him, to mimic him, and to become more like him.  I try so hard to do this, and I guess looking back through my life I can see a slow trajectory of improvement, but the change is very very slow and hard to measure.

I was re-reading part of Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography this week and came across his system for tracking his mastery of 13 Virtues and realized that I too could use a similar system to track how I am doing on my 9 Fruits of the Spirit.  I know God isn’t interested in score cards and he has no interest in any chart I make, but I want to do something.  I know that God desires that I grow in wisdom and in character and especially in love for others.  In order to do that, I need to be purposeful.  I need to track what I am doing so I can make an honest effort at change.  So I have my list and I will be focusing on one each week.  Then, I will go back and start all over again at the end of week 9.  So next week’s post will be about love, and hopefully I will be able to put some circles in my box next week for love!

Father God, I love you and because I love you, I submit to your authority.  I recognize that I need to put my faith into action and very much want to do that.  Help me learn much through my struggle to become more like you.  Give me strength, wisdom, and love to become more like you.

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