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.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | April 6, 2015

We Need A Bit More Grace – 1 Peter 4:10

Why you gotta be so rude?

Why you gotta be so rude?

1 Peter 4:10

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

Oh how I desire God to meter out his justice.  I love to imagine that person who cut me off getting what they deserve.  Or how about that co-worker who was overly judgmental about the completion of that project we did, wouldn’t I just love for them to get what they have coming.  That rude person in the check-out line just needs to be fired, and that truck driver on the road should not have a license!  But what about me?  Am I getting what I deserve??

It is so easy for me to see the judgment I think folks have coming, but how am I doing on my call from 1 Peter to administer God’s GRACE in its various forms?  You guessed it, not so good.  Holy Spirit check time?

Love = hardly

Joy = on my days off

Peace = while I am sleeping

Patience = never

Kindness = to those I like

Goodness = I might have feed a homeless person last week

Gentleness = I played gently with my dog yesterday

Self-control = I didn’t yell at that guy who took my spot Saturday at the store

Seems I have a long way to go and much work to do.  I LONG to be more and more like Jesus, I want him to trust me to serve others and administer grace to them, so I guess I better get to praying about all those gifts I am lacking.  More time in the word, more time in prayer, and more time at peace with my savior should do much to help me get back on track and be more ready to go.

Father God, thank you so much for not keeping score, but for lovingly encouraging me through your word to be more like Jesus and less like the world.  I know works are not required, but I so want to put my faith and love for you into action that tells a watching world how very much I love you and serve you with my whole life.  Thank you for your grace and mercy, that you don’t always send me what I deserve, but what what I need. . .thank you for your grace.  Please help me be grace and mercy to all those you put in my path.

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.

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