Posted by: playingmanyparts | February 2, 2017

True Love – Luke 4:16-30

Luke 4:16-30

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers[a] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

I’m not a pastor, but I imagine there are several sermons worth of material here in these few short verses on an incident that seems to have happened quite early in Jesus’ ministry here on earth.  But for me, the last verse here is the one that resonates deep within my heart and twists my heart up in thoughts of sacrificial love.

As a mom who has seen her kids through really tough struggles and a wife who has helped a spouse through really dark days, I do know the pain and the cost of true love.  As a daughter who watched her own mother sacrifice in ways I didn’t understand, I have seen true love demonstrated often.  And still, the implications of the verse “but passing through their midst, he went away” brings me to my knees with tears and thanksgiving.

Jesus didn’t have to die!  Here in these verses we see him speak the truth in love to some people from his hometown and what he has to say convicts them so completely that they take him to a cliff intending to kill him, but he escapes.  Do you see that here?  Jesus somehow escapes certain death by just passing through the crowd.  I am assuming here that their eyes were covered by something, but for certain some miracle allowed him to pass through their midst undetected.  Which means, he could have saved himself from the crowd in the garden, or at Pontius Pilate’s, or even on his way to the cross.  Jesus however, chose to die when he did.  In fact, “he chose to walk that road out of his love for you and me” (Via Dolorosa).  He sacrificed himself for us, as a real lover does.  He demonstrated real love and asks us to follow him in like ways.

So I ask myself today as I am overwhelmed with Valentines Day often silly sentimentality two questions.  First, am I sacrificially loving those whom God has called me to love, because that is what real love does.  And am I loving God back in a sacrificial way that not just talks but walks?

Father God, your love amazes me in fresh new ways every day.  I thank you for showing me in such an incredible way what real love looks like.  Help me remember always to love in a sacrificial way that brings real joy to every single loving relationship I am in.  Help me follow and obey and display my love for you in tangible ways today.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | January 5, 2017

Stop Fearing Death – Ecclesiastes 3:9-15

Ecclesiastes 3:9-15

What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

Please be warned, this post is about fear, death and dying.  If that is too real, please,  just don’t read it. 

It just never gets old, God reaching down and helping me when I ask for it.  It happens so often, and I feel like a broken record because I always talk about it here, but it is just so cool when he speaks.  To me, it is never an audible voice, I am not saying it can’t be, but so far, for me, it hasn’t been.  With me, God tends to speak through others and he almost always confirms that he has spoken with at least one, but usually several confirmations.  Let me give you an example of what I mean.

I posted a couple of days ago that I was going to focus on taking my fears captive this year, stop the sin cycle, stop allowing fear to keep me from doing things or from trusting God.  (It is important to note that I have been a slave to the fear of death for several years.  I quit smoking 8 years ago and since then I have had one long, almost constant, panic attack about my imminent death. It doesn’t escape me that almost no one would consider 8+ years as imminent, but fear isn’t logical.)  Two days later I was channel surfing at home and I stumbled across a very strange show called Adam Ruins Everything.  I know nothing about Adam, his political views, or if his show is appropriate for Christians or not.  It doesn’t matter to me, but if it does to you please do your own research first.  This particular episode (see part of this episode here but beware, this is a secular clip and the actors use a couple of harsh words:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGqbALhpUmM) was about death and how we really have to face our fear of death and think about it and plan for it if we ever hope to really live.  I believe the Spirit in me immediately said “listen.”  And over the next 30 minutes I began to lose my fear of death.

First, I started thinking about what death might really be like.  How it will probably be painful, and I will be exhausted, and how most likely I will close my eyes and die.  As a lover of sleep, this is not all that scary.  Also, since I know that when I open my eyes again I will be with my Savior in Heaven, it doesn’t sound so bad at all.  Next, I started thinking about how I would like to be buried.  I am so glad I watched this show, because I found out about Green Burials and how there are now options to embalming and steel vault caskets that are WAY more appealing to me (like shrouds and memorial parks with trees).  Finally, I got online the next morning and started looking at all of my funeral and burial options and started making a plan.  Suddenly, death and dying aren’t quite as scary and I think I can stop worrying a bit and not panic every time I feel sick or get a cold.  I am dying, there is nothing I can do about that.  Now that I have a plan that my family can follow I can get on with living and know that both physically and spiritually I am ready for that day if it is tomorrow or 40 years from now.

I got my confirmation this morning when I read this section of Ecclesiastes 3 and see the line about God setting eternity in our hearts.  I immediately think, “well of course we don’t want to die.”  God created us for fellowship with him and he put the understanding in us that this world is not all there is.  But then we sinned and cut ourselves off from everlasting life with God.  Our sin now distorts our reality and keeps us from seeing God and truth.  Our only way back is through faith in Christs’ sacrifice on the cross, but to get eternal life now with God, we have to first believe in Christ as our savior and then we must die.  I am finally beginning to mean it when I read Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Father God, thank you for being God.  Thank you for hearing and answering my prayers often before I can even vocalize them.  Help me keep seeking you, your truth and your wisdom.  Fill me with the Spirit of truth that I may easily discern good and evil.  And help me live every single day like it might be my last, but not fear death and my home coming to you.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | January 3, 2017

All is vanity – Ecclesiastes 1:12-14

Ecclesiastes 1:12-14

I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

King Solomon, one of the richest and smartest men the world has ever known has quite a dismal opinion of “all that is done under heaven.”  He speaks here in Ecclesiastes of work and sun rises and sets, wind, steams, all that can be seen and heard on Earth and says it is all vanity. . . nothing.  Everything on Earth is meaningless.  Sort of gives you something to think about.  I still marvel at a sunset and can’t help but wonder. . .if that is nothing. . .what is coming?!!  If our glass here on Earth is only half full. . .what will the fullness of Heaven bring, and aren’t we a bit crazy to fear its coming the way I do?!

There are many opinions on the “right” theology of this passage and what the author intended. . .but as I sit still this morning and listen to God speak, I hear him saying that all that matters in the end are the things of Heaven and those we will take with us when we go.  Nothing here on Earth will go with us, except those seeds we sow and plants we water and children we shepherd . . . as will the relationship we have nurtured with the King of Heaven.

Father God, help me focus today on the things of Heaven and those who need its light.  Help me stop chasing after the the wind. . .the things of Earth. . .and look only for ways to serve you, that your kingdom my come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | January 2, 2017

Fear Not – Isaiah 43:1-3a

Isaiah 43:1-3a

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you;  I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;  and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I heard someone say recently that the Bible tells us not to fear more than 365 times.  It seems, after a very quick Google search, that this may or may not be an accurate count.  But clearly it is said quite a few times, and in my experience, when God repeats things, it is very important.  So one of my new goals for this year is to lay aside as much fear and doubt as I can.

For a worrier like me, that is not an easy task.  I fear so many things, death, disease, elevators, mean words, failure, abandonment and many others.  I will need a pretty specific plan if I hope to move from fear to resolution in a year.  I plan to do three things to move from fear to faith this year.  First, I will ask God to do it.  Second, I will help by doing my best to take my thoughts captive, especially those late at night or when I am alone that sneak in and try to overwhelm my mind.  I will take them captive by turning fear and scared thoughts to praise and worship instead.  Finally, I plan to grow much closer to God by remaining in his Word both day and night.  Morning devotions are a regular habit of mine, but I am now adding bedtime devotions too.  My hope is that my thoughts before bed and when I begin the day are of good things, God things.

Any other thoughts or ideas on how to beat the sin of fear?

Father God, help me to stop fearing.  Help me turn my fear and doubt into assurance and faith.  Help me pray more regularly, read more often and praise and worship you at all times.  May this be a year of healing and hope, renewal and growth.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | December 12, 2016

Real Love – Matthew 1:18-23

Matthew 1:18-23

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).

There is a really cool story in 1 Kings 3, right after King Solomon asks God for wisdom.  He is asked to settle a dispute between two mothers, both claiming to be the mother a child, because one of them has killed her baby accidentally.  King Solomon asks for a sword and shares his plan to cut the child in two so each woman can have a half.  One woman, says no, spare him and give him to the other woman.  The other woman says that neither should have the whole child, divide him.  And in one sentence answers, the women have revealed their hearts and the truth.  Only the true mother loves enough to give the baby away to save him.  A beautiful metaphor of the Christmas story.

Like the true mother in 1 Kings, our true father loves us enough to sacrifice his son and allow him to be born in human form so that God can be with us, and save us all.  God has come down to be with us, live with us, be in pain with us, walk with us, be tempted like us and die like us so that we can be saved.  No other God has come down from the throne, been killed, died, been raised from the dead and ever ascended back to Heaven to rule.  No other God has loved us enough to sacrifice his son to save us. Only a real father, the true creator of us all could or would love us all so boldly and so completely.  How can we not bow down and worship him?!

Father God I stand in awe, am humbled and amazed once again by you.  Help me understand, accept, and proclaim your great love for us.  Give me wisdom to see truth, good and evil, and give me the courage to proclaim what you reveal always.  Over the next two weeks father help me lay aside all worldly trappings, help me strip away all the false paper and packaging of the false xmas and fully worship you for the Christmas miracle you have given!  Help me worship you fully in acknowledgement of the great love that brought Christ here to die for me!!

Posted by: playingmanyparts | December 9, 2016

He became one of us – Luke 2:1-7

Luke 2:1-7

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Life is really hard for all of us.  Some struggle with illnesses that steal our joy.  Others are dealing with mental health issues that rob years of life from them.  Still others have disappointments so big they overshadow all the good in our lives.  Whatever your hardship is today, know that God has come to earth to meet you right where you are.  You don’t have to clean yourself up, you don’t have to get all better or get rid of all the sins you struggle with.

The truth of the Luke 2 story is that God allowed himself to be born in a stable to a poor young couple so he could really know us.  He allowed himself to become human, will all our frailties so that when you hurt, he can relate.  When you suffer, he knows what it’s like and when you struggle he can feel the pain.  The God of the Bible, the one that sent his only son to die on the cross so that anyone who believes in him can have life eternally with him in heaven, is the only God that was willing to become man in order to save us all.  What are you struggling with today?  Have you given it to God and asked him to reveal himself to you in this situation?  Have you looked for the blessings and the opportunities that lie within this struggle.  Have you pulled up your pants and dug in and determined to live each day as if it is your last, doing all that God has called you to do where you are, in the situation you are in.  I pray that you have, and that you will.  Friends, God loves to work all things for good, but he also works wonderful miracles in each trial, look for them.

Father God, there is so much pain and hurt, struggle and hardship in all of our lives.  Help us to not focus on the bad, but to look for the good.  Help us seize every opportunity to love and serve you no matter our situation.  Help us all to speak as Paul did “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Posted by: playingmanyparts | December 5, 2016

Nothing will be impossible – Luke 1

Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[b] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[c] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[d]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

I love Christmas time!  I love the lights and the colors, the friendliness of everyone and I love the holiday music the most, all of it.  However, there is a newer song that has been added to many people’s playlists called Christmas in Heaven.  It’s not a favorite of mine, too emotionally charged, I don’t love songs that guarantee a cry.  But I accidentally listened to it Saturday and found my self honestly crying as I realized that my kids and I could have easily been singing that song this year as we grieved the loss of my husband.

A couple of months ago he had a water accident that left him face down and paralyzed in the lake.  Only by the grace of God was he rescued in time and delivered to the hospital for surgery and healing.  So with that fresh in my mind, I am hyper aware of the angel’s promise here in verse 37 and proclaim to you that it is indeed truth.  Nothing will be impossible with God.  He is the God of second chances, the God of love and peace, the God of miracles and the God of impossible.  This is one story I have of his impossible grace, but I have so many from my life I could write an entire book and probably still miss some of his blessings to me and my family.  God is the God of impossible.  He can and will do all things to bring you to himself and he will bless you in impossible ways so you can bless others out of that very blessing.  Are you counting your blessings this Christmas, however small or big, and then sharing them with a world who no longer believes in the God of impossible?

Oh Father, thank you for who you are!  Thank you for being the God of impossible and miracles and love.  Thank you for the impossible birth.  Thank you for the miracle of Christ and his resurrection.  Thank you for the love that brought him here to fulfill his impossible mission of grace to us all!  May we all count our many blessings and share them with everyone who’ll listen.  Open our mouths and then their hearts to receive all you have for them.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | November 28, 2016

For such a time as this – Esther 4

Esther 4:12-14

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

I love the story of Esther for so many reasons, who doesn’t love to root for the underdog?  But today I am very convicted by what I hear God saying through his words.  I find myself looking for all those times I have remained silent when I should have spoken.  I am repenting of lost opportunity, times when I should have shared my story and didn’t because I was afraid of what someone may think.  What a waste!  And how sad that I have missed so many opportunities.

Life is a series of light and dark times.  What we do before, during and after each of those seasons matters and prepares us for whatever is next on our journey.  I have known some really dark nights recently and in years past, but I have also known long stretches of really light times of joy.  It was a dark time here in this passage for Esther and for the Jewish people in her husband’s kingdom.  Esther had known dark as a orphan, but had recently had light times after being chosen to be the new queen.  What she does here and in the next few chapters matters, and saves the lives of an entire race of people.  What message are you being encouraged to share in your light or dark time?  Are you watching for opportunities to share what God is doing in your life?  Are you encouraging others to grow in times of dark and light?  Are you growing in the dark and thankful and content in all circumstances?  God if faithful, he will move you from dark to light. . .but what work needs to be done in the darkness before you move on to the light?

Father God, thank you for the darkness that only serves to reveal the brightness of the light.  Help me to shine in my dark nights, may I be a beacon of Christ’s light every day and always be ready to share the truth of the hope I have.  Bring people to me who I can share with and open my mouth with the truth of your grace and mercy in my life.  Forgive me for my silence.  May my fear of you be greater than my fear of them, for I am so thankful for your work in my life in both the dark and light times.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | November 21, 2016

How to Do Thankful – Psalm 136

Psalm 136:1-5

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.   His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.   His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:   His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,   His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,  His love endures forever.

who spread out the earth upon the waters,   His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—   His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,   His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;   His love endures forever.

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt   His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them   His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;   His love endures forever.

Perhaps the secret to really being thankful for all we have and all God has done (and finding true peace) is to look a bit further than our nose, or at least this year.  God is eternal and the sooner we understand, grasp and then truly embrace this reality, the sooner we can relax and let go of the pretend control we think we have over anything that is happening here.

In America we are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, and so this week in my devotions I wanted to focus on thanking God for all he’s done and this beautiful Psalm came to my attention.  I quickly realized that not only has God been working on the small details of my life (making sure I had insurance, FMLA coverage, the right salary) to prepare me for today’s struggles (my husband’s accident, a seriously reduced income), but that he has been working on my story for far longer than that.  How far back should I go?  My parents meeting and falling in love, my husbands parents, our grandparents?  My marriage being saved a few years back?  According to this Psalm. . .I need to go way back to the very beginning, to the creation of this world!  How can I say thanks for thousands of years of goodness to me and to all my ancestors before me?  All the details have been intricately woven by a master craftsman who has a plan that is far bigger and more beautiful than I can possibly imagine.

God’s goodness knows no bounds, his mercies are new and enough for today.  For that reason, even in the dark, I will praise His name. . .I woke up this morning!

Thank you God for who you are.  Thank you God for all you’ve done.  Father, forgive my short memory.  Give us this day, our daily bread.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever and ever. . .Amen!

 

Posted by: playingmanyparts | November 11, 2016

Wisdom from Above – James 3:17

James 3:13-18

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

I know I am in trouble, or at least in for some serious learning from God when he repeats himself and brings things to me via multiple passes.  This has been happening to me over the past few weeks.  God has been drawing me in to passages of scripture and sermons and even praise music that focuses on gaining wisdom from Him.    If my experiences of the past few months have taught me anything, it is to pay attention and take notes when God is teaching because there will be a testing or a situation coming my way that will require whatever virtue He is encouraging.  YIKES!!

I love this passage in James for so many reasons.  It follows a long rant by James (and I use rant with all love and respect) about how impossibly important it is to tame our tongues.  As someone who struggles with a quick temper, it is my sharp tongue that causes that short fuse to inflict damage.  If I kept my anger to myself, I doubt many would notice.  It is when I open my mouth that I get into trouble.  And what often causes this anger. . .bitter jealousy and selfish ambition of course.  I just read an article yesterday touting the importance of focusing on one or two bad habits to break instead of making unending lists of good things I want to do.  Then what do you know. . smack. . I am given this passage this morning and I hear God chuckle.

“Yes child” he says in my head, “lets focus on getting rid of all that bitterness and ambition that is hindering the progress I wish for you.  I want you to sow purity, peace, gentleness, reason, mercy, good fruits, impartiality and sincerity, but first, we need to get rid of the garbage.”  When God asks us to change, he doesn’t ask small!  It sure is a good thing He is in charge and doing all the work. . .I am completely unable on my own to even take a small step in the right direction.  I will pray each day now for wisdom to remove bitterness, jealousy and selfish ambition from my life and instead look for ways to love and serve others, and I think I know just who he has in mind. . .

Father God, thank you for speaking words of life and hope into my life.  Thank you for your word which teaches and corrects each day.  Thank you for gifted communicators who share your words with us.  Thank you for gifted musicians who help me see and worship you in beautiful moments.  Help me today to throw off bitterness, jealousy and selfish ambition and to seek to do good in every situation and to take every thought that is not from above captive.

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