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.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | November 7, 2016

Life is Hard – 1 Peter 5:7

1 Peter 5: 5-7

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

As Christians we sometimes come off, or at least try to come off as having things all together.  We walk around with either a false smile plastered to our faces and a “Have a blessed day” motto always at the ready.  Or, many of us walk around with a martyr type attitude. . .”the devil is after me but I keep on keeping on.”  Both, in my humble opinion, keep us from humbling ourselves before our God and allowing him to take on our burdens for us.  I read these verses today and hear God whispering to me. . .”really child, I want to take them all, and I am able to handle them. . .you. . you are not handling them as well as you are pretending to.”

Life is hard.  My life, my friends and loved ones lives, and most likely yours.  Accidents, lay-offs, failures are all around us.  As I write this I have several friends fighting cancer diagnoses and my heart just hurts for all the pain and hardship in life.  If anyone tries to sell you a lie about how when you accept Jesus all your troubles disappear, run, that is a lie from the father of lies!  What God does offer however, is his presence, his peace and his fellowship as we ride out the storms of life.  In every single trial that has come my way, and there have been some really tremendous hardship, there has ALWAYS also been huge blessings.

As I deal with my latest trial, I am being blessed with friendship, love, and support in places I didn’t expect.  God is also heaping on the learning.  He is teaching me (at least trying, I am still resisting) a great deal about how to sacrificially love others, not just talk the talk but actually walk in darkness with another person and be safe in that dark place.  He is teaching me about humility and how to accept help from others and not assume there is judgement.  He is also proving to me daily that he is here, he is real, and he cares deeply about every tear I cry.  These things will most definitely come in handy in the years and trials to come.  Life is so hard, but in your own hardship today I encourage you to take a few minutes and look around for the hidden blessings, I am quite certain they are there.  And while you are looking and finding good things, thank God for them. . .all good and perfect gifts come from our Father in Heaven.

Father God, it is truth that your mercies are indeed new every morning.  Thank you for waking me this morning, thank you for speaking to me this morning, and thank you for leaving me your Spirit and your Word that they might refresh my soul and give me enough strength to keep going today.  May all my friends reading this feel a fresh infusion of hope love and power from on high today!

Posted by: playingmanyparts | November 4, 2016

The Story of My Life – Deuteronomy 7

Deuteronomy 7:7-9

The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.

I haven’t blogged in a while.  2 months ago tomorrow my husband was in a near fatal accident that almost killed him, and then almost left him paralyzed.  It didn’t, and he is alive and walking today because God intervened in miraculous ways to save his life, help him walk, and fully restore him to health.  We are still recovering from that accident, and it will probably be years before he is back to any kind of normal, but I feel that I just have to share with you the story of God’s faithfulness throughout my life.  This isn’t the first set of miracles God has produced in my life, and I am quite sure they won’t be the last.

These verses here in Deuteronomy were originally for the Israelites thousands of years ago, but they apply also to us today.  God’s faithfulness through many generations is a main theme of The Bible, history, and my own life.  We don’t  need to fear any accident, diagnosis, or presidential election.  God has remained faithful through the years, and in every situation he has provided love and hope.  His mercies ARE new every morning, and his love for those who put their faith in him is immeasurable.  God works in our lives not because of who were are or what we have done, we are nothing.  I am no one.  But he works all things together for His good so that His name will be known, so that He will be glorified and so that His kingdom will come on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Father God, your faithfulness is amazing, it leaves me speechless, and humbled.  Let this be my prayer today:

Posted by: playingmanyparts | March 25, 2016

Tetelestai – John 19:30

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.  John 19:30

tetelestai

Posted by: playingmanyparts | March 1, 2016

A Man of Sorrows – Isaiah 53

Isaiah 53:3-5

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  5But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

I had to memorize parts of Isaiah 53 when I was in Christian School and have always loved it.  As I read it now, in preparation for a series of pre-Easter lessons, I am struck by the horror of this chapter.  I was young when I first put these verses to memory, I was probably about 13.  What does a 13 year old know about such gore?  For that matter, what does a 40 something woman in America know of these things?  I watch scenes from The Passion movie and cry at a harsh reality I can scarcely understand.

But the purpose of this savagery is glorious.  He was pierced (John 19:34) for our transgressions so I am innocent before God.  He was crushed or bruised as the King James says (John 19:1) for my iniquities so I can be free from my sin.  And by his wounds/stripes (John 19:3) we are healed, at peace with God and healed from all our sin.  He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.  This man Jesus is not some man of privilege who is unable to understand our deepest darkest moments.  He is not some weak willed sap who is unable to bear the weight of our grief and doubt.  Unanswered prayer, job loss, divorce, sickness and even death itself are no match for my Jesus.  He is the God of the universe who laid down his God power to suffer the abomination of the cross in full humanity just so that one day I (or you) might decide to believe in Him and find our way to God.  Incredible!  “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Father, the immense barbarity of the cross is impossible to imagine.  The truth of what was accomplished on the cross is also hard to wrap my head around.  But thank you for what was endured by my Jesus.  Thank you that in the end he said “not my will but yours be done.”  Help me faithfully remain in the shadow of the cross.  Help me grasp the hand that was offered and never let it go.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | February 26, 2016

Because there is Peter, there is hope – Matthew 16:13-23

Mathew 16:13-23

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.  21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

It is human nature, I think, to focus on the wrongs others do.  At least I know I feel better about myself a bit when someone else reveals a weakness.  So it is the very weakest human part of me that reads these 10 verses and is relieved by the fall from grace of Peter.  Peter goes from being the blessed rock upon which Christ will build his church to being a hindrance and Satan himself.  For a cracked pot like me, that is some very real hope.

On my best days, I take some thoughts captive.  On a great day I share some of the hope that is in me.  It is a somewhat successful day, if I don’t kill, hurt, or talk down another person.  On my worst days, well, I am not at all like Christ and you would think I was not a Christ follower at all.  These verses along with many others throughout scripture remind us that we are all fallen, we all make mistakes, and we are all capable of the best and worst of thoughts, words, and deeds.  But blessed are we, that through the blood of Christ, we are all forgiven completely.  His blood covers me, washes me white as snow, and allows God to see me through the sparkling clean image of Christ.

Nobody’s perfect.  The disciples missed much, your pastor doesn’t have all the answers, we all fall short all the time.  Praise God he sent us a savior to cover it all!

Father thank you for the cross.  Thank you for sending your perfect son to become all my sin so that you and I can walk in communion and in relationship.  Help me be as much like Christ as I possibly can today and keep me from evil.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | February 23, 2016

Where Is My Heart – Matthew 15:8-20

Matthew 15:8-20

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

As someone called to a ministry to speak, I don’t read these words lightly this morning.  In fact, I was in tears as I choked over verse 8 above.  It is my sincerest hope that I not just talk about Jesus, but that I consistently demonstrate my love for Him with my thoughts, words and actions.  I pray with all my heart that I will be able today to take every thought captive and kill the ones that are not good and let through only those which can be used to help, encourage and strengthen those I come in contact with, not to tear down, but to lift up.  I fail at least hourly, but often every minute.   I need to stay in almost constant prayer in order to speak and think lovingly.  Shouldn’t this be easier after 20+ years of trying?  How are you doing??  Got any tips?

Father God, forgive my hateful heart.  Holy Spirit fill me, change me, remake me into the image of Jesus.  Help me take each thought captive, and change my heart till it is like that of my savior.  May I not just honor you with my lips but with my mind, heart and life as well.

 

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