Tag Archive | Christmas

Worship through Mourning

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

© DepositPhotos/efired

© DepositPhotos/efired

The past few days I’ve been feeling a little heavy-hearted. We have all the regular holiday festivities going on: shopping, Christmas shows, gatherings, food, and exchanging of gifts. We’ve been sharing memories and making new ones laughing through most of it.

So why the heavy heart?

As I think about Jesus being born in the stable, I can’t help but remember that He was born to die. He had one purpose: To make God known and provide a way for us to have eternal life with Him. That required His death.

There are a couple of questions that come to mind as I work through this feeling knowing that there is ultimate and complete joy because of all Jesus endured.

  1. If Christmas is all about the birth of a baby, why think about death?
  2. If life in Christ is all about joy, how can we worship when we mourn?

It’s easy to gloss over His death, especially at Christmas. “Yeah, He died, but He rose again and we have life. Right now, He’s just a baby. Let’s celebrate!” But…

Jesus was not born so He, God, could visit us human beings. The reality is that Jesus was born because we were in desperate need of a Savior. Jesus was born to die so we could live.

Death is the consequence of sin even for Jesus. The difference is that it wasn’t His sin that brought about His death, it was ours. The corruption and wicked desires of man’s heart nailed Him to the tree.

We mourn, experience godly sorrow, when we recognize our sin and need for Jesus. My sin put him on that cross as much as the sin of those living at the time, as much as those who were yelling, “Crucify him!”

Understand this as well: mourning is not the same as sadness. I equate the feeling of sadness to the feeling of happiness. It can change based on our circumstances. Where mourning is a response to godly sorrow, a true understanding of the sin that separates us from God.

What do we learn about God through the death of Jesus? Sin is serious and it’s real. Sin as no place in God’s kingdom. At the same time, there is no length He won’t go to bring you home. There is nothing He won’t sacrifice so you can live in peace and freedom with Him. He is good because not even death can separate us from His love when we trust Him, choosing to turn from our sin.

Our worship of God is complete not just because we are happy that God is good. Our worship is complete because our joy is increased when we recognize the goodness of God toward us even in our sinfulness. We can more fully experience His joy when we allow ourselves to more deeply mourn.

Something to Consider…

How does knowing Jesus was born to die affect how you view the Christmas season: activities, events, and your own worship during this time?

Do you find it natural or difficult to allow yourself to recognize your own sinfulness? Are you able to process the truth of your sin or do you tend to ignore or deny the seriousness of it? If this is hard for you, find a trusted Christian friend you can talk with. You don’t necessarily need to share all of the details of your sin, but share your struggle and let God’s love and grace be experienced along with His truth.

How does knowing Jesus was born for not just your sins, but for the sins of the whole world affect how, during the Christmas season, you interact with others who may not know Jesus?

 

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.

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Reconciling Relationships

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” Galatians 4:4-5

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:17

2016-treeIt’s December 1st!

My husband and I love the 1st of each month. We like Mondays as well. Really, we do! And the best is when the 1st falls on a Monday. The 1st is a new beginning. Mondays are a new beginning.

And I need reminding that new beginnings are possible because I almost always feel like I’m in need of one. There are so many things that are good and right in my life. People, activities, places and work, so many things going well. And then there are relationships that are just difficult. I don’t know what to say, what to do, and the pressure of getting it right is a heavy weight. Of course, I worry a bit about how well I perform or achieve in my work, how well a meal or project comes together, but most of the concern is over how it will be received by others. Thus, I’m back in the relationship camp.

Relationships can be joyful, but they can also be really difficult.

And what I’m learning is that my attitude in relationships is more about what’s going on in my own heart than it’s about what’s good, bad, right or wrong with the other person.

God’s attitude in every relationship is Love. He is love. He does what love requires Him to do. He can do nothing else.

And with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can choose to love with the same love with which He loves me. Even the difficult people. Even those I’m not sure I like. Even those I’d rather avoid. Those that are rude, self-centered, needy and inconvenient.

Because at some point, I’ve been all these people in my relationship with God … and He loves me still.

He loves me and He loves you. He loves the whole world so much that He sent His Son to enter into relationship with the most difficult people who ever existed. This includes all of us. God had this plan from the very beginning, to demonstrate His love by doing what we can’t: reconciling ourselves to Him.

“Christmas is the beginning of God’s plan being made manifest and coming to fruition. God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, had made a declaration in the garden. He could have let His judgment stand and we could have been left to live our lives according to the law. But instead, He stepped in and fulfilled the law, the obligation He declared, and took upon Himself our judgment and punishment. He brought about a completion of the original declaration in such a way that it still stands and yet there is a way for it to be fulfilled.” ~ Excerpt from Prepare Your Heart for Christ, The Christ Reason

As December begins and Christmas approaches, let us remember the new beginning God provided through Jesus. A new covenant was proclaimed, not one born of law, but born of love. When we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we celebrate a reconciled relationship with God AND with each other.

Something to Consider…

Which relationships do you find most challenging? Which relationships do you avoid? What specifically makes this so?

In what ways have you experienced these same issue in your relationship with God? What was His response to you?

How can God’s love for you move you to love these same people differently? How does loving them display your love for God or God’s love for them?

 

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.

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

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!

Merry Christmas to All!

Image“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11 (NIV)

I recently wrapped up a Christmas study (no pun intended) with a few dear friends titled Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason. It’s not about the advent season specifically, although it is about hope, preparation, joy, love, and most importantly, Christ himself.

At Christmas, we celebrate God’s promise being fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah. He will be a Savior for all people throughout the entire world. While we don’t have to do anything to be saved except accept the gift of Jesus as the truth, we get to be part of His love, truth and grace at work in this world.

The last night of the study ended with a discussion about forgiveness; the absolute complete forgiveness and reconciliation of those who will believe to the one true and living God while we were still sinners. Before we recognized our need for a Savior. Before we acknowledged need of forgiveness. Before we knew we were far from God.

God has forgiven each of us and views us through the lens of Jesus when we accept Him into our heart. God longs for all of His children to know His love and put their trust in Him.

As we go out into this world this Christmas, I challenge you to look beyond the attitudes, words and actions of another and see the child God longs to love and live with for all eternity. As a child of God, you have the ability to make Him known in this world. Is there another, better gift for you to give this Christmas?

Something to Consider…

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” John 1:17-18 (NIV)

Truth seems to be an easier concept than grace when it comes to spreading the Good News in this world. Truth is what we know, or should I say Who we know, grace is what we offer. How do you freely offer grace to those who hurt you or don’t even realize they’ve wronged you?

As it is so easy and common to complain about others who make life difficult, how can you radiate the joy, peace, love and patience of Jesus?

We can be put off and irritated with the wishing of “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings”. Instead, take time to pray for those who do not yet know the love of God through His Son, Jesus Christ?

There is nothing that separates two people like a grudge. God’s plan through Jesus is to reconcile the world to Himself. How can the willingness of your heart to forgive not only bring you closer to Jesus, but show others the truth of His grace for them?

May God’s peace and joy be your gift this Christmas! May His truth and grace be your gift to others!

If you find encouragement in this message, please share with others. Blessings to you today!