Posted by: playingmanyparts | March 28, 2015

Faith Check – John 7

John 7:3-38

Rivers of Living Water

Rivers of Living Water

On the last day of the fest, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”

These words of Jesus in John 7 cause me to stop and think this morning.  I wonder how I am doing.  Are rivers of living water flowing out of my heart?  I am afraid not.  Most days I am lucky if I get a few minutes of thanks and prayer in, a few stolen moments of quiet time with my Bible and then maybe a minute or two to speak words of kindness to those closest to me.  But am I making time to allow rivers to flow from me. . .no.  If I am honest, what usually flows in the heat of the day as I am rushing around is far from that pretty picture of rivers of living water. . .more like a cesspool of waste and anger.

That leads me to wonder, maybe it is my lack of seeking Christ and taking the time to really drink him in that leads to such dirty water.  The over flow of my heart can only be provided by Christ when I have filled myself with him. Perhaps 5-10 minutes of quick reading and an even quicker whispered prayer in the mornings isn’t enough anymore.  Maybe with the great muck of toxic sludge surrounding me everyday I need a bit more time to ensure my heart is filled to the full with Christ, not just injected with a quick shot.  No wonder I am more swamp monster than river dweller.  I sure hope you are doing better than I am at producing rivers of living water for all those you encounter.  I am off to bathe in that river of clean, clear hope.

Father God, forgive my lack of time with you.  Help me find ways to carve out more and more time to sit by the river and learn from you.  Help me make time to read, to think, to thank and to praise you more every single day.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | March 17, 2015

Oh How He Provides – John 6:1-14

John 6:12-13

What He provides

What He provides

And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”  So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.

Life seems filled with problems and issues.  Some our own, others brought on by our proximity to other people and all the stuff they are dealing with.  But to be engaged in this world seems to mean that trouble is always just around the corner.  I have been praying for a loved one for a long time.  This person has some struggles that make life a bit difficult, but they seem unwilling to remove themselves from the things that ensnare them.  It seemed like they had given in and just decided not to deal with those things, and I was quite honestly mad at God for that. I love this person very much and I want them to struggle through, be convicted, grow, and then get better.  Several days of conversations and prayer had me at a bit of a dead end, not even sure how to pray anymore.  Wouldn’t you know it, today, suddenly, God began to open doors.  Doors of honesty and doors of hope and healing.  This person was convicted to be completely truthful and many things now make sense.  The key word is convicted.  I began praying for conviction in this person’s life a few weeks ago, and just when I had given up, God stepped in and did it.  This person still has a long way to go, but every time Jesus steps in, he provides more than we asked, with plenty left over; just like this story from John illustrates, He always provides more than enough.

How about you?  What do you need to trust God to provide?  What problems or people do you need to turn over to him?  He will provide, you can trust him.  Rarely like we ask or imagine, He always hears, always knows the need, and always provides more than enough.

Father God, forgive my wicked adulterous heart.  Forgive me for my lack of faith in you and your goodness.  Forgive me for always wanting to know it all and be in complete control.  In truth, I control nothing, and I would only botch it if I was.  Thank you for loving me, for loving him, and for convicting him.  Continue to work in his heart and life.  Continue to convict, convert and grow him into the man you want him to be.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | March 7, 2015

Speaking Truth Without Anger – Ephesians 4

Ephesians 4:15 & 25-27

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

Speak the truth in Love

Speak the truth in Love

It has been a hard couple of weeks for me with my ministry at church.  I won’t go into all the details here, but a recent committee meeting where I felt lead to challenge several people left me hurt, angry, and ready to give up.  This morning it all came to a head in my own mind and I was thinking that I needed to leave the committee and perhaps the church and move on to a group of people who are more willing to change, or who have already arrived on this issue that is central in our church right now.

Wouldn’t you know it, that is when God stepped in and gave me a message.  It started in the form of a devotional that has not made it to my inbox in weeks.  Today, I got these awesome words from Francis Frangipane about what I am becoming which lead me right to my Bible and God’s words for me today in Ephesians 4.  And there in Ephesians I felt the anger and disappointment melt away.  I felt God telling me that I am to stick it out.  I felt him encouraging me to relax and try to speak more lovingly to those who don’t yet see.  I saw the cross and Jesus yelling. . .”forgive them father.”  Tears running down my face i repented of my anger and asked God to renew my love for my brothers and sisters and asked him to give me the courage and the words to continue to ask the hard question. . .how would Jesus approach this situation. . .what words would he use. . .what attitude of heart. . .and are we being him in this situation?

Where does God what you to speak out in love.  Where does he want you to find healing and restoration within his body?  How is he challenging you to grow and become more like Christ??

Father God, thank you for your awesome power and for never ever leaving us alone.  Thank you that even in these small matters of faith you lead and guide.  Thank you for the grace and the gift of Christ, who from the cross looked at me and said father forgive her. . .she is one of mine.  I wonder in full gratitude for all you do.  Amen

Posted by: playingmanyparts | March 3, 2015

Suffering – Hebrews 5:8-9

one_candleHebrews 5:8-9

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered  9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Even the Son of God had to learn obedience from suffering.  Keeping that in mind does make it easier to understand why there has to be so much suffering in all its forms.  Disappointment, rejection, sickness, death. . .we are surrounded by great suffering and no amount of optimism can change that.

But notice that second verse?  Once made perfect, he became OUR source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. . .by what we suffer.  Let’s be honest and clear, we learn the most from our suffering.  It is harder by far to learn and stay close to God on those perfect days when all is right with the world.  Sure we may spend a quick minute offering up a simple word of thanksgiving for a wonderful day.  But it is those dark days of the soul, those days that are so full of worry or or loss, those days when we can barely speak, eat or move that keep us attuned to the father, begging for his help.  It is those days that have us frantically searching his word for some lifeline of hope that will give us peace or at least a reason.  It is those moments where we are most lost that we find the best moments with him.  It is through suffering that we learn to rely on God and find our strength in his great power.  It is in our struggling, in our suffering where we learn to lay us down and put him on.

Father God, thank you for the suffering, and for showing up so big in those most awful moments.  Thank you for the suffering of your son who was perfect and overcame the grave.  Thank you for your constant presence and guidance in our lives.  We give them to you now.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | February 9, 2015

There Should Be Fear – Hebrews 10:26-39

An Old Rugged Cross

An Old Rugged Cross

Hebrews 10:31

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Yikes.  This reminds me of the Jonathan Edwards sermon “Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God.”  I think far too often we want to focus on the happy traits of God, the ones that make us comfortable, like his unconditional love and his abounding mercy.  You know, the ones that are easy to understand without having to really grapple with who God is as displayed throughout all of scripture.  How do we reconcile the vengeful God who wiped out everyone but Noah’s family with the God who spared Nineveh?  How do we compare the God who rained fire on Sodom and Gomorrah with the God who forgave a murdering adulterer like David?  I believe the answer is incredibly simple and profoundly complex, as it should be.  For, who am I, the created, to ask the creator why he does anything.  (Romans 9:20-23) Yet to love him I must wrestle with all of this and come to some conclusions that are helpful.

Into this confusion steps the beauty of the blood stained cross.  In a single moment, the wrath of God is forever removed from those who call upon the name of Christ.  In that moment of ghastly gore I was made equal with those in Nineveh and with David, a child of the most high God.  My sin is forever removed from me because of what he accomplished on the cross so that when God looks at me, he sees the perfection of His son instead of all my wretched sin that had me lower than those in Sodom and Gomorrah.  “All have sinned and fall short”, (Romans 3:23) and we all should have “a fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume [HIS] adversaries.”  (vs. 27)

So is God a vengeful, angry judge?  I believe so.  Is God “rich in mercy”? (Ephesians 2:4-5)  I believe so.  How do we reconcile the difference?  We must understand that God is seeking true worshipers who will love him with their heart and soul and believe he sent his son to wash away our sin!  So simple in its wonderful complexity.  Still struggling?  Good, continue to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)

Father God, help me continue to work out my salvation. Help me to ask the right questions and quietly wait for your answers.  Help me to see the truth of who you are and what you have done.  Help me finish the race set out for me.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | February 6, 2015

How Active Is My Belief – 1 Corinthians 15:58

Just plant the seeds

Just plant the seeds

1 Corinthians 15:58

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

My friend asked me Monday if I could take her new Sunday School Class for her this week since she will be out of town.  She said I could do whatever I wanted, but she had planned to talk just a bit about Atheism.  She recommended Penn Jillette and even shared some videos with me that she had planned to use.    In one of the videos, he says “If I don’t have an active belief, then I am an atheist.”  I am not saying this is absolute truth, but I am saying that I believe the whole of the New Testament seems to support the fact that “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”   That is the ESV version of James 2:17. I agree with “faith alone in Christ alone,” but I think the real question is what does faith mean, and how is it displayed?   So, I have to ask myself (and you too really), do my works support my faith?

In another video Penn talks about a guy who gave him a Bible at one of his shows.  He is clearly moved by this, and talks about how much respect he has for any Christian who proselytizes.  He points out that if we really believe that anyone who doesn’t believe in Christ will suffer eternal damnation, we ought to be doing all we can to convince people of that.  So what does that all have to do with the verse above?  I have been praying for guidance on how to move forward with a ministry.  I have been worried about numbers and details and lots of things related to the ministry.  Earlier this morning I got my daily devotional from Desiring God Ministries with the title Reviled Here, Rewarded There and I finally heard God.  My work done for him is not in vain.  If it is big or small, done perfectly or otherwise, he will bring to pass what he has planned.  I am to work out my faith, be faithful to share what I am learning and what I know, and he will deal with all of the rest.  All of it.  True faith, as demonstrated through my thoughts, speech and actions, will not be in vain.  Make no mistake though friends, there is much work to do, and we are all called to do it daily.  Here’s praying you are doing far better than I!

Father God, forgive me for always wanting to complicate things.  Thank you for steadfastly sticking by me, gently guiding me into true faith and love.  Lead me, guide me, change me, help me do your work as long as I am able.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | February 4, 2015

True Love – Isaiah 54:7, 8, 10 & 17

trueloveIsaiah 54:8

In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.

Valentines Day is my least favorite holiday.  It reeks to me of cheap love.  It speaks with flowers, candy and syrupy cards that have little lasting meaning.  Valentines Days smacks of lust and infatuation at the expense of real, lasting, unconditional love, which our modern day seems to know little of anyway.  Yes, I may be too cynical for this holiday, but the love I read of here in Isaiah seems much more real to me than any love song currently on the radio or in any card I have ever read.

Chapters 40-66 in Isaiah generally focus on things that haven’t happened yet.  Namely, the deliverance of Israel 150-200 years later and our deliverance from sin through Christ.  Our deliverance through Christ to a father who is angry but a moment at our sin, and gave us everlasting life, forgiveness and relationship.  THAT is true love.  That is the kind of love I want to sing songs about, write blog posts about and soak myself in everyday, not just one day of the year.

Just what kind of love is this?  Verse 7 says it is great compassionate love.  Verse 8 says it is everlasting love.  Verse 10 speaks of steadfast love that is full of peace.  And finally, verse 17 claims that it is a conquering love that is able to keep every weapon fashioned against me away, including any judgmental tongue.  This love is significant.  It has weight, is everlasting, and most importantly, it doesn’t depend on me or any performance I give.  It is not temporary, it doesn’t fail, and it doesn’t end.  THAT love is worth celebration everyday.  Not feeling loved by your sweetheart, family or friends?  Rest assured follower of Christ, you are deeply loved, infinitely cherished and wonderfully protected by your Heavenly Father today and everyday!  For you, he sent, killed and raised his son from the dead so that you can be with him FOREVER.  THAT is love.

Father God, how can we say thank you?  How can we respond to a love so deep, a love so wide, a love so vast?  Help me to see, hear, feel your love today.  Fill me so full of your love today that every conversation and ever interaction is flowing with loving acceptance for all.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | January 12, 2015

Saving Souls Is God’s Work – 2 Corinthians 4: 6-7

2 Corinthians 4:6-7

Leave it to God

Leave it to God

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

As I read this, I struggle a bit.  What is God saying here?  Why won’t he let me move on.  Why does he keep bringing me back to these two verses?  And as usual, it hit me.  He has a message here that is very important to my forward movement and development.

I hear God gently reminding me here that it is HIS will and HIS work to save those I love and pray for.  Between my youth ministry, those at work, my family and my friends, there are some lost souls I continue to pray for.  I try all the time to faithfully lift them up without getting discouraged.  I try to share with them keen points, important verses, wise stories and awesome videos.  I am sad when they don’t respond to these, or worse, respond with indifference or hurtful words.  But I hear God telling me in these verses in 2 Corinthians to instead be grateful for the wonderful work he has done in me.  I hear him calling me to rejoice that my eyes are not blinded and I am not being kept from seeing his amazing light in all things.  I feel Him gently prying that list of names out of my hand so that He can work on them in His way and in His time.  I see His desire to have them call Him Father, and know He cares far more for the lost than I am able to and I see my error.

In everything I must give thanksgiving, and then lay the names of those I love at his feet and wait.  I must wait for Him to move and act and save.  I can do nothing, for if it isn’t Gods power moving in them, all the eloquent words in the world will not shine light into a dark heart.   How are you doing?  Have you laid your list of those you wish saved at the feet of the cross and then stepped back to allow God in his wisdom to work as only He can?  Or do you hold tight to that list like I do and try to work my own will and way to get them to God??

Father God, thank you for shining you light in my dark heart.  Thank you for saving me, and continually teaching me your truth, helping me to see your handiwork in all things.  Give me faith Father God.  Help me to do and be just who you want me to be.  May you have all the control and please help me to submit to your authority and love.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | January 8, 2015

Choosing Light or Darkness – John 1:4-5

John 1:4-5

4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I was watching the People’s Choice Awards last night long enough to see Ben Affleck get the Humanitarian award.  He said some interesting things and was humble enough I guess.  What caught my attention though was this, he said “It’s important for me to try my hand at philanthropy because I want to leave behind a record of someone who did more than just gobble up stuff for himself, I realize a life lived just for yourself is not much of a life.”  I hear that and I say, even someone who has everything, all the money and all the status and everything this world says that a life lived just for yourself is not much.  They still seek a purpose, and I believe it is the God sized purpose in us all to be more like Him, to love like Him, and to live like Him.

I then see the Desiring God devotional for today and am further inspired by Jim Elliot to “[give] what [I] cannot keep to gain what [I] cannot lose.’”  That is how we have been designed.  We have within us the ability and desire to do great things for others, and know the sadness of a life lived that denies this calling.  God has placed his light in all of us, do we recognize it and act, or do we kill ourselves running from it and instead live in darkness?  Even non-Christians feel the darkness and know that they don’t want to be a part of that.

Father God, show me how to give all I have to do your work today.  Instill in me each day the desire to work for you, to seek you and to share you with everyone I meet.  Help me embrace the light and run from the darkness.  Let your light shine in me so that the darkness can’t overcome it.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | January 7, 2015

Incredible Peace – John 14:1-4

ElderPrayingJohn 14:1-2

1 “Let not your heats be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.  2 In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

This passage took on a whole new meaning Monday.  When I was asked to read a portion of scripture at my Grandmother’s funeral, I expected the usual Psalm 23.  What I got instead was an invitation to read most of John 14.  For those of you who aren’t regulars here, John 14 contains my favorite verse in the entire Bible, as I believe it sums up faith in Christ quite well.  John 14:6 is where Jesus says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  I am ashamed to say that I never really put this in it’s proper context before.

This portion of scripture is recorded in John’s timeline as happening at the last supper.  Jesus is trying to prepare his small group of disciples for his departure from this world and they can hardly be bothered to pay attention.  They seem to miss so much in these last hours with Christ, and I often am quick to judge, before I remember how little attention I pay to those around me when we are having dinner or hanging out.  Christ has not only told them that he is dying soon, but has also identified Judas as his betrayer. . .but I think the disciples have missed it all.

He now turns to giving us some much needed hope and a beautiful coping mechanism for loosing those close to us to death.  He begins telling the disciples of the home he is preparing for them, how the presence of Christ will be with us always, and how we can be sure we know the way home.  All of those things are here for us in verses 1-14.  Additionally, a promise that if we are in Christ we can ask the Father for anything and it will be given!

I encourage you to re-read John 14:1-14 and bask in all that the father has for you here.  What insights do you see?  What truths does He speak to your heart here?  For my Grandmother and I. . .we love the promise that Jesus is all we need to find our way to the Father when this life is done!

Glorious Heavenly Father, thank you for your word, for your wisdom, for your grace and mercy to me.  Thank you that at such a difficult unsure time you have provided a safety net and a solid foundation upon which to base my faith.  Thank you for a full, long life of faith that has inspired multiple generations of Jesus following believers.  May you bless the family of Bunny for generations to come.

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