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?

Be Available

“At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?'” Mark 5:30

 

woman driving a car and looking at watch

©DepositPhotos/Syda_Productions

I have a long list of things I want to do. I have a long list of things others would like me to do. I have a long list of things I should do. And, of course, I long list of things I have to do.

It’s easy to get caught up in the lists. I am, after all a list maker. I like to write it all down and check it off so that I know I’ve really accomplished something each day.

When my children were young and at home, my list consisted more of “have to’s” than “want to’s.” Choices seemed easier just because there weren’t really that many. But as my girls have grown up and have become more independent, I have more time on my hands.

There was a season when time was what I wanted. I could sit and read, garden, take a nap, all the fun and relaxing things that didn’t seem to happen often enough with children. But as seasons have changed, I’ve realized that they may not need me in the same ways, they still need me … and so do others.

Our relationships matter not because requirements and expectations matter, but because it’s how we know we matter. What I do can make a difference in the life of someone else. This all sounds nice doesn’t it? But there are a few things we need to deal with and understand for us to really be willing to be available to others.

  1. It’s going to take some time. Jesus was on His way to see and help one person when another person came to Him. There will be interruptions. Now, I’m most likely not going to be stopped as I walk down the street, but I might get a phone call or text message that requires some immediate attention in order to really meet the need of the person reaching out. If I’m going to be available I’m going to have to stop and push pause on my list so I can answer or reply in the most timely manner possible.
  2. It’s going to take some discipline. And if I am going to answer or reply, maybe even show up when I can, I’m going to need to be aware of the time. Jesus was available in meeting the need of the woman, but He didn’t stay too long. He didn’t change the plans He has already made to go somewhere else. There are times when urgent matters need to be worked through in a timely matter so that you can get on with the other things that are also important. Discipline may also call for us to not over-schedule ourselves. Every time you are in a hurry rushing from one thing to the next, you are less likely to stop for someone else in the process. We miss divine appointments when we see the list or the clock before the person.
  3. It’s going to take some energy. Jesus noticed that power went out from Him when the woman touched His cloak. People take energy. We have to be willing to exert some energy. People need us to be intentionally present, not just sitting back and passively participating in the relationship. Jesus was always going off alone for time with His Father. He was filled and refreshed so He had what He needed for others. How we care for our relationship with God will directly impact our ability to care for our relationships with others.
  4. It’s going to get personal. Jesus stopped and asked, “Who?” You can easily do something for someone as another check box on your list. But the “who” behind the check mark is really what it’s all about. There will be quick, brief encounters with people. Names might not even be exchanged. But I wonder, should they be? Should we thank someone by name, notice them by name, and take a moment to step into their story in a more personal way? Who we are matters. If it’s not personal, what is it?

Something to Consider…

I’ve often thought of my flexible schedule as a positive aspect of my ability to be available, but what I’ve done is let it disrupt my ability to be disciplined. Overall I end up being less effective. How can discipline and flexibility work together to create space to be available for others when needed?

There are times when I think of people and the first thought is, “They are so much work!” What I mean is they are draining. They suck the energy right out of me. The truth is that I’m not prepared to give people my best. And if I’m at my best, then I can give them something better as well. What activities or behaviors increase your energy and ability to be effective and which decrease it? What activities or habits do you need to change so you can be at your best in order to give others your best?

How often does the “who” matter in determining your willingness to stop and be available? Jesus came for the entire world, each individual “who.” How can you let His love be the goal regardless of the “who?”

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.

Quiet and Still

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.'” Psalm 46:10

DSC06926As I’ve gone through the different seasons of my life, there is always a word or phrase that God gives me to help me understand what He wants to teach me.

A few weeks ago my prayer request was that I would be able to relax in Jesus. I want to cast my cares, unload my burdens and stop trying so hard. I want to let Him have His way rather than me try to do it all correctly…whatever that means. I want to trust where He leads me, the understanding He gives and just do what He says rather than question and weigh everything.

It seems like I’m always at war with someone; sometimes God, at times myself.  My flesh screams for its own way. I want others to acknowledge me. Others want me to give my allegiance to them, not God. All the while, ultimately, I just want to know the right way to go.

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you experience any of these same feelings?

God wants me to stop fighting and trust Him. God wants you to stop fighting and trust Him. So how do we do that?

Be still. To be still is to be free from turmoil and commotion. It means we are to relax, let our shoulders down, our hands fall and stop struggling and striving. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to sit and not move since this is something we can and should experience at all times. But it does mean that when we want to fight the battle, we can choose to stop and let God take over. I try so hard to make so many things happen, but God will accomplish His purpose regardless of what I, of what we try to do.

“Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:3

Know He is God. This sounds easy enough but really, do I know God? Do you know God? He made us and cares for us. He is our good shepherd. He comes after us and brings us back to Him. If we really believe God, then we know He really does care about and is in the details of our lives. When we trust what God says, we will stop trying to earn His favor and feeling the need to prove ourselves. He sees and knows exactly who I am and what mask I’m using to cover my shortcomings and failures. He is willing, and really the only one able, to help me take down that mask and He will still love me unconditionally. He loves you unconditionally when you trust Him as well.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

Cut others some slack. Fear of judgment is one of the main reasons I struggle. I’m always sure some will think I’m not holy enough. Others will think I think I’m “holier than thou.” No one will ever be satisfied. But really what this says is that I am always comparing myself to others which means I’m judging my holiness against another. I judge their holiness in order to understand and be comfortable with my own. But we are each a work in progress. I’ve seen some people be transformed quickly in their relationship with Christ while others have taken some time. I myself am at the slow end according to my own time table. What I’ve come to understand though, is that the less I worry about others, the less I’ll worry about myself. The more I assume good of others, the more I will believe others assume good of me. As people who know God, our desire should be that others know Him as well. Jesus came to reconcile us to God and in this, we can be reconciled to each other as well. We can stop fighting God and we can stop fighting each other.

Something to Consider…

Do you feel like you most often fight God, yourself, or others? What would those relationships, even how you see yourself, be changed if you stopped fighting? For this to happen, what would need to be different about the way you think? As you practice being still, let God have space to move and speak in your life, your day and your relationships.

Do you feel like you know about God or really know God? There is a difference. Jesus came to make God known and it’s through our relationship with Him that we are reconciled to the God who loves us, the God we too often fight against. To whom would you like to be reconciled? As you learn to live reconciled to God, He will help understand and experience what it means to be reconciled to others. Ask God to help you know Him so you can reflect Him in your relationships with others.

In Every Season

Depositphotos_10073264_xs (2)

© Depositphotos.com/menz11

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 8:5, 3:11, 3:1

I’ve been going through a season. I’m on the quiet side when I first meet people, but my husband, children and best friends would say I’m anything but quiet. I can talk for hours, days even given the right circumstances and people. I have an opinion about everything and I am more than willing to tell you if you really want to listen.

There are three things of which I’m certain: Jesus Christ is Lord so I submit my entire life to Him, my marriage is a lifelong covenant so I seek to move forward with my husband in unity, and God loves my children even more than I do so I can entrust them to Him. Every other opinion is subject to change and I willingly admit I don’t have all the answers even if I speak like I do.

But I’ve been going through a season of silence. My last blog was nearly 3 months ago and that was more of a response out of an assignment than my actually having something to say. I have no desire to add to the noise of the world just because I can.

So why am I breaking my silence now?

PRAISE!

When everything feels hopeless, Jesus gives us hope. When everything seems lost, Jesus provides the way.

There is a season for everything. There is a proper time and a proper procedure for everything. And in obedience to Christ, we can walk in whatever season we find ourselves.

And since there is also a purpose to every season, I’ve learned a few things in this season of silence.

Prayer is better than simply talking. As I said, I can talk it up with the best of them. But simply talking about our problems, concerns, stressful situations, and even our joys and celebrations only goes so far. In laying out in the light, openly and honestly, all of our “talk” before God, we actually engage with the One who can do something about our circumstances. We ask God to join us in our struggles, we ask to join God in His solution. We thank Him for what He has already done, what He is currently doing, and for what we trust He will do in the future.

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

Silence encourages us to listen more. When we aren’t so busy talking, we can listen with more intention. We can hear the people around us. We can be present in their lives and respond as needed to them. Because we pause to engage with God, if we really want to join Him in what He’s bringing about, we need to be able to hear what He has to say. We need to be able to respond in accordance with His character if we really want to see the fruit of what He is able to do in and through us.

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalm 103:8

 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

Peace comes when you realize there’s only so much you can say. I admit, I want to try to talk people into understanding, agreeing and complying with my ways. Even more so, I want to talk people into understanding, agreeing and complying with God’s ways. But that isn’t something I have control over. Only God can change, move and transform someone’s heart and mind bringing it into alignment with Him. Only the work of the Holy Spirit can cause someone to call out to Him in their deepest need and trust Him to respond. And only the power of the Holy Spirit through a relationship with Jesus can give me the peace to know when I’ve said enough and trust Him with the rest.

“The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.” Isaiah 32:16-17

Something to Consider…

What season are you in? Do you struggle to find God in your situation? Do you assume things will always be this good? Regardless of what season you find yourself experiencing today, know that God is only a prayer away. He hears you when you talk to others, but He really wants to talk with you Himself. Ask Him to join you. Choose to join Him.

Do you ever feel like you just talk too much? Like you’ve said it all and you’ve said it to everybody? Before we know how to do anything, we learn and practice. If you have a tendency to struggle with quiet, with silence, set your mind to learn to listen. Practice what you hope others will do for you. Give God space to speak so your ears can be fully attuned to what He has to say.

Knock, Knock … Who’s There?

Knocking at the door

© DepositPhotos/ depositnovic

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you any jokes, but I am going to tell you a story.

I don’t like to answer the door. Without getting into the reasons why, let’s just say, if you are coming over, text me … I don’t like to answer the phone either.

But God has been showing me that I need to open doors, not keep them closed. Once when I did answer the door, it was a teenager and his father collecting food for a food shelf. I grabbed some items from my pantry and as they were leaving, they thanked me for answering the door. Even though there were lights on and dinner tables set, no one else on my street had opened the door. They were about to sit down to dinner, but none took the opportunity to feed someone else in need.

In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.”

So this verse, Revelation 3:20, is the key verse in the lesson I speak on about how we can have faith. The implication of this verse is that Jesus stands at the door of each person’s life and knocks. When we hear Him and choose to open door of our lives to Him, we enter into a relationship with Jesus. The non-believer begins a new life of salvation in Christ.

Now, this verse is about relationships. And it’s true that when we invite Jesus into our lives, we are saved through a relationship with Him. Romans 10:9-13 says:

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'”

But Revelation 3:20 is not as much about salvation as it is about repentance.

In chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, Jesus is writing letters to the various churches in Asia. This particular verse is found in a letter to the church in Laodicea. Jesus has written this to the church, to believers.

So if these people already know Jesus, have already invited them into their lives and have begun a relationship with Him, why is He standing at a closed door knocking?

The church in Laodicea had everything a city and its people could ask for. There were in essence, healthy, wealthy and wise. And yet, the church was lukewarm to the things of God. In other words, they had become distracted by the things of the world, they had become self-sufficient, self-confident, and they had shut the door on Jesus. They were no longer depending on Him for their needs, no longer inviting Him into their lives, and no longer responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their every day activities. They were caught up in their own desires and activities, not really seeing a need for God’s work in their lives.

But, God doesn’t just work in our lives, He also works through our lives. They had everything they could want and maybe they wanted to keep it that way. Maybe letting Jesus in would have called for them to give up some of what they had, some of what they wanted: the convenience of a comfortable life. All the while their brothers and sisters in Philadelphia, a church just a short distance away, was in great need.

In Revelation, Jesus is preparing His church for His return. And in this verse, He is calling them to repent for the kingdom of God is not only near, it’s here, and it’s coming. There is still time to invite Him back into their lives.

Lately, we’ve been singing “Even So Come” during our worship time at my church. Part of the chorus says, “Like a bride – Waiting for her groom – We’ll be a church – Ready for You.”

So I have a few questions for you:

Have you answered the knock of Jesus in your life? Do you ignore His knock or have to ask “Who’s there?” OR Do you recognize His voice and respond to Him?  Do you depend on Him to provide or do you look to yourself and your abilities to meet your every need? Do you eagerly anticipate the promptings of the Holy Spirit in your daily activities? Do you go out of your way to sacrifice in order to be obedient to the call and love of Jesus in your life?

Church, Jesus gives us an opportunity even as believers to repent and grow in our relationship with Him. He gives us an opportunity not only as individuals, but as a church community to respond to His voice, a voice with which we should be quite familiar.

Jesus is coming soon. He is knocking at the door. Will we find ourselves wrapped up in our own lives or as a church, will we be found ready and repentant, eager to open the door?

Something to Consider…

If you’ve heard the knock of Jesus in your life, but have not yet responded, seriously consider opening the door. See for yourself what He has to say. This isn’t a decision anyone else can make for you. Not even Jesus will force Himself on you. But if He’s knocking, He wants to have a relationship with you.

If you have already invited Jesus into your life, but are distant from Him; if you tune Him out because you don’t think you really need to depend on Him in your day-to-day activities, reconsider His invitation to you. He has shown you His love. He has chosen you to be His representative in this world. He has given you the opportunity to open your life to His knock every day. It’s not too late to repent and begin again by growing in your relationship with Him.

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.

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

Jesus: The Real Deal

704630_443730492347160_1248831165_oI just saw an article titled Santa Claus: The Great Imposter. And while I didn’t read it, the title brought me to Scripture within seconds. As my husband knows, one thought leads to another, and to another and so on. So here goes…

  1. Who is he a substitute for? Jesus
  1. Why would he be a substitute for Him? Because people believe they know the story of a real man who did kind and thoughtful things for children (people) and they want to be like him. We can put him on a pedestal as a great example. And while we can say that in a way Jesus did the same thing, He (Jesus) requires something of us that Santa Claus (St Nicholas) doesn’t: Submission. We can do things that are like Santa Claus such as give gifts and be jolly, but he doesn’t set a standard of how we are to live our lives otherwise. Fun is as far as Christmas needs to go.
  1. Very quickly, my mind was brought to Scripture.

“What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” 1 Corinthians 1:12-13

“For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere human beings?  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.” 1 Corinthians 3:4-5

When we choose to imitate Santa Claus, whether we believe he was a real human being or an ideal picture of a generous grandfather figure, we imitate a man who was a mere human being or even less, a thought or idea. We may be imitating someone who was possibly a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, but still just a person like you and me. In truth, we should be worshiping, celebrating and imitating the true Lord and Savior. This means our service does not stop at a Christmas gift or meal for the sake of being nice and thoughtful, but continues through to the purpose and message of the Gospel.

God gave us the greatest gift ever given: His Son Jesus Christ who came to die for our sins and be raised to new life, so that we could be made right with God and enjoy eternal life with Him. At Christmas, we celebrate the beginning of God’s plan of reconciliation becoming a reality. We worship Him and Him alone. We submit our lives to Him out of reverence for who He is, not just the nice things He’s done.

God has been growing me through the season and celebration of Christmas. Every year I remove more of the Santa figures and ornaments I’ve had in our house. Some are fancy, some are sweet. Some have fond memories tied to them as gifts from various people in my life. It can be hard to remove things that seem harmless on the surface, maybe even good. But when I make someone else the center of a celebration that belongs to God, I set up a false idol – an imposter. Jesus Christ is the real deal and is worthy of my sole attention.

Who will you celebrate this Christmas? Where will your attention be focused? Will you settle for and spread the lies of an imposter or will you rejoice in and share the truth of the Savior? Christmas focused on Santa falls short of the glory of God shown through His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

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

PCH Front Cover

Something New

© DepositPhotos/ Anetlanda

© DepositPhotos/ Anetlanda

Lately, I’ve been struggling in the area of discipline. Well, truth be told, I’ve been struggling for a long, long time. Most people who know me would never know or probably believe this to be true. I get things done on time, I appear to be organized and I carry a lot of information around in my head.

Honestly though, I procrastinate. And when I procrastinate, I lose control of my schedule.

I recently took a personality test and one of the statements made about me in my results was that if I say I will do something, I will. People know that and they count on it. I had to laugh a little when I read it because in the sixth grade, when we went around the room and had to say something about ourselves that made us unique, this was the very thing I said about myself. “If I say I will do something, I will.”

The problem I find is that I’m the one I cheat when I procrastinate. Because I feel such a deep commitment to others, an accountability to follow through, I will easily let go of the things I know I should do and have even said to myself that I would do. I don’t feel the same accountability to myself that I do others.

And so I lack discipline. Complete discipline. True discipline.

And worse, I cheat God because sometimes those things I need to do for myself are things He wants me to do for myself. They are things that He wants me to do for Him simply because He says so. They are things that may make a difference somewhere else along the line. As I take time to invest in myself, I’m investing in my future with Him, becoming who He created me to be.

I tend to make decisions based on what’s easy in the moment, convenient for my “rushed” schedule, or seems to be too much work and could interfere with commitments to others. I hold myself more accountable to people than to God.

But what God has been showing me lately, offering me, is a new way of doing things.

A new way to see things.

A new way to make decisions.

A new way to live.

With Him.

In Him.

When God sent Jesus as a babe in the manger born of a virgin, He was doing something new. He was making a new way to Himself.

“’The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 31:31-32a

And,

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

As well as,

(In Christ) “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore…” Ephesians 4:22-25a

Therefore.

We don’t simply add Jesus to our way of doing things. We stop doing what we did before we knew Him and we start doing what He shows us to do. We repent, change our thinking, and do what He moves us to do.

I think of life with Christ as more of “T” intersection than a fork in the road. There is a path you can clearly stay on, the one going straight ahead, or you can choose to go a whole new direction. You don’t veer one way or another; you intentionally choose a different path.

And you can’t take a little of this path and a little of that path and fudge your way. That doesn’t work. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried it and I don’t recommend it. It will drive you crazy, maybe literally.

But instead, there is a choice to make: Do I stay on the road I’m on or do I choose a new way?

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the paths of the world will intersect with your new path many, many times and each time, you will have to choose. Will you do what’s easy, convenient and expected or will you choose to be set apart in Christ, doing what’s hard, requiring effort and may even go against the grain of everyone around you? Will you give up what you’ve always done and who you’ve always said you were (who others say you are) and let Jesus renew, restore and redefine who you are in Him.

What new thing is God doing in your life? What new thing is God asking you to do in your relationship with Him? How might this new thing display a heart set on and committed to Him, to world that needs to know Him?

God remembered His people and did something new. Now, it’s your turn.

 

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

PCH Front Cover

Summer Days, Winter Nights

conceptI’m sitting here on this beautiful summer day thinking about Christmas. Why? Because that’s just how fast time seems to pass.

Life is busy. In Minnesota, summers are busier. We have three, maybe four months to enjoy the warm temps, warm water, and not have to layer up just to get the mail. We cram weekends “up north” into our schedules, do everything we can to get to “the lake.” In some ways normal life seems to stop and our outdoor summer life kicks in. Now, don’t get me wrong. We like our winters, too. Just not that many of us like them as much as summer.

I lived in southern California for 18 short months and it wasn’t like that there. Summer or school year, so much of it seemed the same. There seemed to be a natural flow from one time of the year to the next with no dramatic shifts. I love the seasons of Minnesota, but there was something quite peaceful about our So Cal life.

So as summer begins to draw to an end (August begins this weekend, school the end of the month) and our summer thinking turns to fall activities, winter will be here before we know it. The changing of the seasons works that way. Different times in our lives distinctly marked out by the weather.

And if we’re not careful, we let our lives be directed and guided by what’s going on around us rather than by Who is in us. We let our actions be determined by the season we are in, rather than by the One we belong to.

Christmas is one such time when the ways of the world can quickly overshadow what we say is truly important to us. We make decisions because of what’s expected rather than because we believe it’s the right thing to do. We act as if this holiday is all about us when others don’t respond to or hold the holiday in the same regard as we do whether they are friends, family or complete strangers.

We forget that it’s all about Christ. We act in a way that doesn’t accurately represent who He is to a lost world. We expect others to conform to our way of thinking when we ourselves, those who claim to know Christ, have not conformed to His way of thinking. We have higher expectations of those who don’t know Christ than we have for ourselves.

Jesus had something to say about this:

“Jesus replied, ‘And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.'” Luke 11:46

And He says something about Himself:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

We can’t expect a world to come to us to find Jesus if we are doing all the same things they are. We can’t expect a world to come to know Jesus if we make it hard for them see and know His gentle and humble heart.

So what’s the answer?

We keep Christ at the center of our hearts, lives and activities. We find our joy, peace and strength in Him. And we remember that He came as a gentle and humble baby, not for His own benefit, but for ours and for others.

Our hearts need to be open to His leading at all times, but it seems like we need to be more aware of what’s truly in our hearts when the spotlight shines on us more brightly…like at Christmas. What will your heart tell others about Jesus? What will others learn about Jesus because of your words and actions? Choose to make this Christmas different. Choose to prepare your heart for the coming Christ so that the world may know and believe.

Something to Consider…

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason

Being intentional in our relationship with Jesus is necessary at all times. It’s easy to think that just because we are involved in ministry, work for or go to school in a Christian environment, or we are in a season that is focused on Jesus, we will have a heart set on Him in all we do. The world creeps in and we can be easily distracted .

What steps will you take this Christmas to be intentional in your relationship with Jesus? He is gentle and His burden is light. Help others know Him this way.

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