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Pursuing Holiness

“But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all that you do; for it is written, “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16

© Depositphotos/ PetarPaunchev

I didn’t grow up going to church. I did, however, grow up hearing about church, and what I heard wasn’t very good. “It’s full of hypocrites, judgmental people who just want your money.” It was all a farce.

So here I am, a Christian, loving God, Jesus and the church He built. Why? How could I go from being taught the “church” is for fools to becoming the church myself?

People are people.

You don’t need to go to church to be judged. That happens in our own families. You don’t need to go to church to experience others hypocrisy. That happens in our places of work. You don’t have to go to church to be asked for money. That happens with our schools, sports programs, and countless non-profits.

We find these people at church because that’s just how people are. We are all pursuing something and we use the means we know to achieve what’s important to us, what we think we really want. In our brokenness we use and misuse the emotions and understanding God gives us. And if we are not careful, we will pursue what’s temporary and short-lived rather than what will last forever.

God is God.

I don’t go to church because of who people are. I go because of who God is. The church is not a building or a place we go. Church is the coming together of those who follow Jesus. In our brokenness we encourage and love one another. We support each other in our pursuit of Christ. And while not everyone who goes to church fully understands the temporary versus eternal, over time the pursuit becomes more clear.

The Pursuit of Holiness

I used to think of holiness as a vague, hard to understand religious term. What exactly is holiness and how do you know when you’ve achieved it? Is it about being perfect or following some set list of rules? And who decides what is perfect or on this list? Hopefully, it’s not the broken people at church.

In pursuing holiness, we are actually pursuing Jesus. It’s only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can even want to pursue holiness. Jesus has set the standard, not the people at church, and it’s too high for us to achieve in our brokenness. We cannot be perfect in this lifetime and yet, in Him, we strive after Him. We strive after His perfection. His death on the cross for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead makes it possible for us to pursue holiness in this lifetime and achieve it in the next. It’s in our pursuing of Christ and His holiness that the Spirit of God transforms us into the image of Christ throughout our lifetime. It’s in the pursuit that the things of eternal importance win out.

Something to Consider…

What do you pursue in your life? You can look at your calendar and your back account, but I challenge you to look at your heart. If one thing in your life could change what would it be? What would be the source of that change?

In our pursuit, we do nothing on our own. The Spirit draws us to Jesus. He softens our hearts to hear and accept His grace and truth, and yet we can choose to participate in this pursuit. What one thing can you start doing to pursue Jesus and come to know holiness?

A Tree Planted

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lordand who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

©Depositphotos/picsbyst

©Depositphotos/picsbyst

 

I’ve walked in step with the wicked and stood in the way that sinners take. I’ve also sat in the company of mockers. I tried to find a place to fit in wanting to puff myself up so I didn’t feel so small and inadequate.

Instead, I felt empty and dirty. I didn’t like what was coming out of my mouth nor the feelings I harbored in my heart. I was not kind or gentle, but rather harsh and belittling.

Understand, I had friends. I laughed and loved, cared for and enjoyed time with people who I honestly thought of quite highly. The problem was that for those I didn’t like, those who I didn’t consider friends, I could be quite mean-spirited. I didn’t necessarily say anything to their face, but behind their back it was no-holds-barred.

A friend of mine once said, when talking about something her husband had said or done, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. In other words, it was okay that she was breaking his confidence by telling us what had happened.

That was a turning point for me. I realized that he trusted her and even though she didn’t agree with his thinking, she had belittled him. She mocked him behind his back. And if we’re willing to do it to those we love and care for, or are supposed to love and care for, how much worse are we willing to treat those we don’t like or even know?

Choosing where to be planted

Psalm 1:3 says that the person whose delight is in the law of the Lord, the person who meditates on Him and His word day and night, that person is blessed. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water. They yield fruit in their season and do not wither.

Consider for a moment that we are trees, but unlike real trees, we can plant ourselves wherever we choose. Also imagine that the soil is the condition of our hearts and the water is the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Where we choose to plant ourselves will determine our overall health because the condition of the soil and the source the soil feeds on will allow us to either have healthy or unhealthy roots.

Planting yourself in the world

According to 2 Peter 1, the worldly nature is corrupt and deceitful. Ephesians 4 adds attitudes and behaviors such as speaking falsely, unwholesome talk, stealing, bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and every form of malice. The list goes on and on throughout Scripture.

Not many people think they would choose to plant themselves in these actions or feelings, but we do it all the time. When we don’t forgive, we may be holding onto a grudge, feeling resentment or bitterness toward someone. We experience a form of malice when we are happy or relieved that someone who has hurt us is hurt themselves. We’re glad they’re getting what they deserve. Twisting the truth is a lie. Gossip can cause someone to see another in a bad light.

By planting ourselves in the world, we separate ourselves from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. We live in a place where we are mostly unaffected by the work of the Spirit and the soil, or our hearts, will remain hard and unyielding. Our roots will grow out rather than down to find what we need. They will remain shallow as our hearts look to the world to meet our needs, rather than the Spirit within us.

Planting yourself in Christ

On the other hand, when we plant ourselves in soil that is rich with the Holy Spirit, our hearts will become softer and more pliable to the work of the Spirit. We yield more willingly to the Spirit. This doesn’t mean there’s no pain in the movement of the soil. There may be places that are not as saturated, places we’ve kept closed off to the Spirit. Once we’ve experienced the goodness of God’s work in our lives, we become more willing to let Him into the deeper, darker and dryer places.

2 Peter 1 and Ephesians 4 also give us some information about the behaviors, attitudes and motivations that cause our roots to grow down rather than out. When we speak truthfully building others up with words that benefit them, work hard sharing with others, and are compassionate and forgiving, we make space for the Spirit to work in our hearts.  We can persevere with self-control loving others as we trust God’s will over our own.

We we dig deep letting the living water of the Spirit saturate our hearts, our roots grow deep. We look to Him to lead, guide, correct and encourage us. We find our peace and satisfaction in Him as our source rather than the world.

 

Something to Consider…

Where do you tend to plant yourself – in the world or in Christ? To whose voice do you tend to listen? Be honest with yourself and with God. He already knows the condition of your soil and roots.

How have your thinking and actions changed as you’ve let God have more space in your heart and life? In what places do you need to seek Him above the worlds influence?

As you spend more time talking with God, reading His word and responding to what He’s saying to you, you will find His company better than any other.

God’s Great Name

“‘My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations.’ says the Lord Almighty.” Malachi 1:11

Autumnal Park. Autumn Trees and Leaves. Fall

© DepositPhotos/subbotina

The name of the Lord will be great among the nations.

Isn’t that what all Christians want, for the name of the Lord Jesus to be great throughout the entire world?

Sadly, I think too often we want His name to be great so other people will act the way we want them to act. They will live godly, holy lives and create laws that require everyone to honor God and His laws. It would be so much easier to be patient, joyful, kind… And self-control would come so much more naturally because we wouldn’t feel the need to control others all of the time.

Wouldn’t that make your life, my life so much easier?

But then, sometimes, I wonder if the name of the Lord is truly great in my own heart?

In my world, my little sliver of this earth, is the name of the Lord great from the beginning of my day until the end? Do I offer up praise and thanksgiving, prayers and petitions calling on His great name with a pure heart? Do I have pure motives and a willingness to do His will? Do I live a godly, holy life that brings Him honor and glory?

Lord, if it’s not, if there is anything in me that makes you and your name out to be less than the great and good God that you are, help me. Do a work in me that I cannot fight, hide or deny. Move me, compel me, break and remake me as you see fit. I want to know you, Lord, more than anything else. I want your name to be great in my life, in my heart, Lord, God Almighty.

Something to Consider…

In what ways do you know you acknowledge the name of the Lord as great?

In what areas of your life do you try to keep Him small or hidden?

What do you need to view differently about Him or yourself in order for His name to great in every aspect of your life?

Peace Like a River

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.'” Isaiah 48:17-18

Ebro River passing trhough Miravet, Spain

© DepositPhotos/ nito103

I know many people who want peace, more peace, deeper peace. And yet, they go about life doing the same things they always have. They react and respond the same as every other day. They point the finger, play the blame game, and justify their actions. All the while their insides are turning upside down, tossed like waves of the sea.

They say, “God, give me peace!”

The truth is they don’t really need more peace. They need to learn to grow and mature in the peace they already have. And so do I.

We can choose to operate in agreement with the Spirit of God living inside of us or we can do things our own way. As I was writing in my journal this morning I prayed that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

God can make that happen all on His own. He doesn’t need anyone to do it for Him or help Him in order for it to happen. But, one way it happens is through His people. He uses His people to show the world His will by living His way according to His Spirit in us.

So, if I want God’s will done on earth then I need to be in alignment with His Spirit. And this doesn’t just mean in agreement with my thoughts. It can be really easy to simply say, “Yes, God, change this world. I want your will to be displayed in this world and I want those who don’t know you to start acting like they do.” Because often, this is really what we want. We want everyone else to start acting the way we think they should according to how we understand God and then we will experience true peace.

It’s really easy to quarterback from the cheap seats and tell others what they should be doing. But peace doesn’t come through the actions of others; peace comes through our own actions. If I’m going to be in alignment with God, then not only my thoughts, but my own actions and words need to be in alignment with God as well.

Peace comes from obedience, personal obedience. Peace doesn’t come when we are satisfied that others are being obedient. Peace comes from us seeking God, His kingdom and righteousness, and willingly doing what His Spirit prompts us to do.

God warned Cain that He had the option to do what was right in his relationship with God or he would end up doing what was wrong in his relationship with his brother, Abel. We are no different.

Our ability to pay close attention to God, to listen to God first doing what He says, will go along way in our ability to love others and have peace in this world. And when we do, God will restore us. He will refresh us with living water. Our own well-being will no longer be subjected to the external circumstances around us, but will be secure and steadfast in the power and sovereignty of our Redeemer and our Lord.

Something to Consider…

What is your definition of peace? Where does yours come from? Nothing in this world will satisfy completely. Everyone will fall short and everything will fade, decay or perish at some point. You will always run out of what you need when you rely on this world.

Rivers move, they are not sedentary. They navigate the terrain with ease and grace. The water gives to the bumps in the riverbed, but it keeps on moving.

What “bumps” keep you from being obedient to God? Fear, pride, or complacency? Only God can completely satisfy. When we trust in Jesus, He gives us His Spirit to help us know God’s will AND DO IT. Be obedient and experience His peace fully.

The Reality of Sacrifice

© DepositPhotos/ elenathewise

© DepositPhotos/ elenathewise

“About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: ‘You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business.'” Acts 19:23-25 (NIV)

Sacrifice in the name of Jesus Christ is a choice.

In the United States, most people live a comfortable and convenient life. We see sacrifice as giving up television or Facebook for a period of time. Maybe we do without cable or satellite and only have 15 disappointing channels to choose from.

Maybe we see sacrifice as contentment in the not having. “I can’t afford something so I am willing to sacrifice my desire or longing for the thing I want.” Our willingness to accept what is for what isn’t can be a sacrifice of our own will for God’s. But in order for this to be true, we have to believe that God has a will that is worth sacrificing for.

What? Of course God’s will is worth sacrificing for you say.

But I ask, how do you know? How do we know it to be true? How do we see it lived out by Christians in this world?

I hear about boycotts all the time against companies who contribute to organizations that go against Christian values, at least according to some Christians. Maybe the company has a religious foundation other than that of Christ and the funds they receive go to further their message. Can we really be expected to give up products based on the beliefs and values of others? Can we really be expected to be the moral police of the world?

A while back I found out that Susan G. Komen contributed money to Planned Parenthood. I could no longer in good conscience contribute to the organization. I am not against breast cancer research or awareness. I do not wish or hope for people to get breast cancer and I am not insensitive to the suffering that those with breast cancer endure. I do contribute to other organizations working on cancer treatments and I do pray for organizations to use their resources wisely in their ongoing efforts to effectively and quickly treat cancer.

But finding a cure to cancer should not come on the backs of innocent children who have no voice, no choice and whose lives are ended too soon by the choice of another. This is one area where I stand firmly in my convictions. As I learn of other organizations who also contribution to abortion clinics, I hope to stand just as firm.

You see, not contributing to SGK is not really a sacrifice. I lose nothing because of that choice.

Am I willing to give up my favorite food, soft drink, coffee or activity because at the root of it lies funding for the murder of unborn babies? Even this is shallow in context. But…

Am I willing to give up the cure for my disease so others may live? Am I willing to give up my livelihood for what I believe Jesus Christ stands for and what He holds me accountable for in my lifetime? Am I willing to live without what everyone else has by choice so that my conscience can be clear before Christ on the day of judgement? Does it matter? Or am I content to say Jesus will forgive me anyway?

It sounds so cheap. Cheap grace. Contentment in sin. Contentment in complacency.

© DepositPhotos/ michaeljung

© DepositPhotos/ michaeljung

I’ve recently seen a number of articles addressing the use of child slaves in the making of chocolate. Is it true? How far-reaching is it? Does every piece of chocolate make its start on the back of a slave? And if it does, am I willing to give up chocolate? Do I have to give up every food that has chocolate as an ingredient as well? Is it just too difficult? Are there just too many uncertainties? Is it just too inconvenient? Would too many others put up a fuss?

When Paul was in Ephesus, the people were so convicted by the Spirit that they were willing to sacrifice. They sacrificed so greatly that it was felt by those whose businesses profited from the ungodly practices. Demetrius was not only concerned about his own business but that the god he worshiped would be discredited.

What god would be discredited if the abortion business was completely wiped out?

What god would be discredited if child slavery was no longer a profitable business?

What would you need to sacrifice in order to discredit the gods of this world? Or is that not your concern? Is that beyond your willingness to sacrifice for the will of God?

What grieves your heart because it grieves God’s? What would it take for that grievance to be made right in this world? What would you need to sacrifice in order to contribute to God’s will becoming reality?

Something to consider…

Sacrifice is not just about giving up your personal desires or contentment. Sacrifice serves others.

Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself to serve you. His love for us could only be made known through His willingness to sacrifice His own human will for that of God’s. What is God calling you to sacrifice, truly sacrifice, so that His love can be made known and so that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven?

 

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason available now!

What new thing is  God calling you to do out of worship for Him? How is God growing you in your relationship with Him? Is God asking you to sacrifice to serve Him and others in a greater way? Do you celebrate the fullness of all God has done when you come to Him in worship? Christmas is the beginning of God’s plan coming to fruition. It may not be realized until Jesus dies on the cross and is raised to new life, but today we have the gift of a baby. God has come to dwell with and save His people.

PCH Front Cover

 

 

 

 

 

Visit www.marikeisling.com to check out other studies available.

Follow Me

© Depositphotos.com/ rachwal

© Depositphotos.com/
rachwal

“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” Matthew 9:9

Prior to this, Matthew was following the Roman government and other tax collectors. He was hated and reviled by the Jewish people. And yet, Jesus, a Rabbi, called Matthew to follow Him. In other words, He called him to stop doing what he was doing and start doing something new. Matthew would have to give up what he was pursuing in his following and pursue what Jesus was doing. It didn’t take but a moment for him to decide to take Jesus up on His offer. He walked away from it all.

Following isn’t mindlessly going where everyone else is going. In this case, it’s an intentional decision to go somewhere and do something very specific. There is an intentional effort to learn and do what someone else already knows and is doing. We learn what we pay attention to. We learn what we see, hear and experience.

Psalm 1:1-2 says:

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”

There is a benefit to giving careful consideration to our actions, relationships and who we pay attention to and learn from.

Paul in writing to the Philippians, Thessalonians, Corinthians and others says, “Imitate me.” Do what I do, follow my example and put into practice what you hear me say and watch me do. Why? Because I follow Christ. He is my example.

Paul also tells Timothy that he is to be an example.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

There are plenty of people who are in the spotlight and are considered role models and examples regardless of whether or not they want to be one. Some take it seriously, others just assume it’s not their issue.

As a follower of Christ, you are to follow the example of Jesus and those who knew Him. These examples are recorded in the Bible. We also follow the examples of those who have followed the followers of Jesus, and those who have followed the followers of the followers of the followers…

Something to Consider…

So who do you choose to follow and why? Whose example do you imitate? Have you given it much thought? Take an inventory of who influences and affects your decisions, words and actions. Do they help you follow Jesus or lead you away from Him?

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are also an example to others. Do you know who is following you? Ask God to show you any thoughts, behaviors or words that don’t honor Him. Ask Him to grow your understanding of the importance of demonstrating the true character of Christ with others.

Choose today to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. He is the role model worth imitating.

More than Girl Friends

SAC Camping 2010(Jesus said) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)

“Any part of my life that I am not willing to let God have, take control of, correct, or change is a part of my life that will keep me at a distance from Him.”

This was my first thought as I sat down to reflect on the past five years.

Five years ago today, my husband had a meeting with someone who was, and thankfully still is, a very important and influential person in our lives. Unfortunately, at the time there was a division. I didn’t know how it would turn out, what all would take place in the process, but I remember at the time telling someone it would be okay. That was all I could say.

God has been so faithful since that day, just as He was every day before and will be every day going forward.

18 months after this event and after much turmoil, I received an email from a friend. She was someone I was just getting to know really. We knew of each other, but didn’t really know each other. She reached out to invite me into a group of women who were seeking God together.

It was in God’s perfect timing that this invite came. I was alone, abandoned in some ways, struggling for freedom in others.

What I found was a group of women so focused on God that over time, they would allow God into every part of their lives and encourage others to do the same. It sounds simple in some ways, but in so many ways it was no small task.

They are gentle, peaceful, loving women who simply want what God wants and not just for themselves but for every woman, every person. Their real and raw thoughts, feelings, emotions and struggles made it possible to see God’s hand in their lives which in turn, helped me see Him in my own joys and sorrows, struggles and needs.

About three years ago we did an action challenge.  We were to be intentional about being the hands and feet of Jesus whether it was through kind deeds, words or prayer. We traced our hands, some traced feet, and on them wrote out all of the things we did over the two weeks. I looked at my “hand” last night for the first time since the challenge.

I am humbly amazed at the prayers answered, the solid friendships that have grown and the huge family of sisters I belong to. I don’t know where I’d be without Jesus and I am grateful that He chose to love me through these women.

Prior to this group, I often wondered if I was too serious about my faith. Does everything have to be about God? I discovered with the help of these women the simple answer is “yes”.

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)

The truth of Jesus is real and it matters. Everything we do, think, or say has the opportunity to draw us closer to Him, show His love to another and bring Him glory.

These women have drawn close to God, showed His love to many and have brought Him glory in all things. They are not perfect, they have made mistakes, but their hearts are set on Him and He has worked all of this together for good according to His plan.

I am not perfect, but I am also not who I once was in part because of the time spent with this group. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their obedience and willingness to be vulnerable. I thank them for being more than friends, but family…Sisters in Christ

Something to Consider…

Are you wondering about God just wanting to know what is true about Him? Who is He? Does He really love you? And if so, what does that mean for you going forward? Seek Him by seeking out others who also really want to know Him. His love for you will be evident as you seek Him together.

God’s love for us is made complete through the obedience of people. You cannot be alone and fully understand or grasp the love of Jesus. Commit yourself to a local church and you will find more than a building of Christians, you will find a family and a home.