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.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | January 2, 2015

Devotionals Aren’t All Bad – Philippians 4:8

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I spent the past month doing something I had said I wouldn’t do; I read a devotional book.  I made this exception because I felt very called to change.  Let me back up and explain just a bit.  I have mentioned before that I have a youth ministry that I feel is my main calling in life.  In order to run this ministry on a full tank, I feel it is necessary that I spend significant time each day in the word, as God directs, hearing from the Author of Creation and not some other author who may have been lead to write amazing things, but for their situation.  This has taken me through reading most of the books of the Bible in the past 3 years and I have felt God blessing my learning and growing.

All that changed a bit back in November when I stumbled on an audio book that quite literally stopped me in my tracks and made me change my mind about the value of hearing from some of God’s other authors.  I think I first heard of the book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are through a recommendation over at the Desiring God Website.  As I listened to the author tell a beautiful story about very hard things, my heart softened toward her and God used her words to encourage and bless me.  Ann Voskamp is not for everyone, but to me her words were excellent and praiseworthy.  Her writing is very poetic and flowery, but if you get a chance to listen to her audio book, I really recommend it.  Her words spoke to the Spirit in me and my mind was blown just a bit.  Not only that, but her message, that giving thanks is the only real way to the heart of God and the life I want to live, is perfectly sound.  Once I finished that book I headed over to her beautiful website and saw that she had an advent devotional that I knew I NEEDED to read this December. The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas  is an advent devotional based on the Jesse Tree (Isaiah 11:1).  It is all done in Ann’s wonderful voice and I have never felt so very close to God as I did this past advent season.  Because I was so blessed by this book, I decided to review it here and not only humbly admit that I have been wrong to ignore other authors, but to encourage you also to go find other writers who connect with the Spirit living in you and give you wings to fly to God’s open arms.  He is so good, all of the time!

Father God, thank you for gifting so many others with words of truth and grace from your heart.  Help us all to find other voices that speak to us of your glory and point us toward you.  May we be blessed by seeking you in all things.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | December 14, 2014

God Is Firmly On The Throne – Isaiah 9

Isaiah 9:7

The mercy seat on the arc of the covenant.

The mercy seat on the arc of the covenant.

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.

This time of year can seem so out of control.  There is so much pressure for everyone.  Pressure comes from good and bad sources I think.  It seems that everyone just wants to experience some kind of blessing.  A blessing for themselves to keep going, for their children or for others in general.  I have had many ask me to pray for them.  A good friend had a job related situation that caused her to worry a bit.  As I prayed for her and asked God for advice and direction for her, He began to overwhelm me with verses and promises for her.

God has reminded me, through the struggles of my friend, that He is most definitely in charge, and I need not worry over any plans anyone else may have.  He also reminded me through the writings of Ann Voskamp that throughout history he has been in charge.  From Adam and Eve’s first sin in the garden, through the faith of Abraham, the hard life of Joseph, the trust of a prostitute, the determination of Ruth, the sins of David on down to the humility of a young girl; God has been carefully, slowly, and most perfectly fulfilling His plan to glorify Himself by saving mankind.  What men mean for evil, God means for good.  (Joseph)  What Satan plans to harm us God uses to rebuild us even better than before.  (Job)  The bad decisions we make that take us down paths we never meant to take paying far more than we ever intended to pay, God turns into beauty  used to save a nation and bring forth a savior.  (Rahab)  Nothing you are facing now or will face in the future is out of the control of God.  He has a purpose in it and you can trust Him and rest.  Cast all your cares on Him for He is seated on the throne directing all of human history for his plan and his purpose.  He has the battle map, the marching orders and the victory. . .none of it depends on you.  Aren’t you thankful today for his presence and his firm grip?!

Father God, help me today just to rest in you.  Help me look upon your face and bask in your glory and find comfort, strength and hope.  Give me peace and please bring peace to all your children who need a word or a touch from you today.  Give us faith that will move mountains that comes from our humble mustard seed beginnings.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | October 6, 2014

It Isn’t Supposed To Be Easy – Matthew 6:9-13

Matthew 6:11

Give us this day our daily bread,

Daily Bread

Daily Bread

I get frustrated when things take long or remain hard to do.  Both my writing and my other youth ministry are hard for me.  I am not a gifted speaker, and am quite shy by nature until I know people, so being outgoing and talking about God are not actually easy for me at all.  I constantly pray for God to make me more eloquent in my speaking and to give me the exact words to write here.  I beg and plead and try to deal with God before each time I write and speak.  He does, in the end, always provide the words, but it doesn’t get any easier.  As I think on this well known portion of the Lord’s Prayer, and compare it to what I know about his provision of manna in the wilderness for the Israelites, I begin to see a truth I have missed.

God wants my daily dependence on Him.  He wants me to continue to come to him, in complete reliance upon His goodness.  He wants me to ask for His help each time and patiently wait on Him.  If I don’t need Him, I probably won’t go to Him as often.  No ministry, big or small, should ever be done in our own strength or power, and this is His way of reminding me that I am following His calling, not mine.  I am doing His will, not mine.  He is in charge, He knows what needs to be said or written, I am simply to seek Him and ask for the words He wants to share at His time and location.  I need to let go of my desire for control and self-sufficiency and rely completely on Him.  That is the whole point.  It really shouldn’t be easy, if it is, it might not be His work we are doing?

Father God, give me this day my daily bread.  Help me rely on you and you alone as the provider of all I need, from food and water to words and wisdom.  Reveal yourself to me, show me your will and your way and help me to walk daily in accordance with your plan for my life.

Posted by: playingmanyparts | October 1, 2014

I dream of playing with lions, how about you? – Isaiah 65: 17-25

Now THAT'S a hug!

Now THAT’S a hug!

Isaiah 65:25

The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food.  They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

Am I the only one?  Do you ever have dreams of flying?  Do you dream of running through the woods or field barefoot?  How about playing with the lions?  Do you ever have dreams where you can swim underwater for a really long time, and have no fear of sharks or other scarey ocean dwellers?  I do, all the time.  Does that make me crazy?  Maybe, but I think if you are honest, there are desires in you that you could probably trace back to the way the creation was made to be enjoyed.  Some of these are silly, but I love the verse above about the lion eating straw and the wolf being gentle enough to eat with the lambs here in Isaiah.  I love the hope and promise verses like this hold for our future after all creation has been “set free from its bondage to corruption.” (Romans 8:21)

Do you ever think about what the New Earth is going to look like?  What our jobs will be?  How we will get around and interact with others?  Or do you just accept that old urban legend that Heaven will be us in white robes playing harps all day, or sitting on a cloud contemplating God?  When I read sections of scripture about how the New Earth will be, I get super excited about the possibilities of Heaven and start wondering how many of my deepest desires are actually a deep longing for Heaven my home.  I want to live by a lake, eat fruit and veggies I didn’t anguish over and spend my days learning all I can about everything.  (And don’t get me started on what verses like Amos 9:13 about the mountains dripping with sweet wine may mean!?)  Maybe that’s how I was created?  Maybe that is exactly what eternal life with God will look and be like.  I do know that I need to stop worrying about dying and get busy making the moments I have here count and always keep my eyes focused on that ultimate reward . . . an eternity with God and all that might entail!

I would like to ride a lion!

I would like to ride a lion!

Father God, thank you for the cross.  Thank you that I can dream and hope and look forward to a future with you forever because Jesus died to cancel my sin and shame and give me full access to you both now and in the future.  Thank you that while death may be my future, so is Heaven!  Help me share that good news today with everyone I meet and help me live my life like I believe eternity is coming.

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