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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.

I am (fill in the blank)

2015-03-01 NGChurch (80)2

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God –” John 1:12

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety. I have some understanding of the issue, at least as it pertains to my circumstances. Everyone’s issues are different so what I’ve learned can’t necessarily apply to everyone, but it will apply to some. My hope is that for those “some”, they will find hope in what I have to say.

I recently read an article in which the author states, “I am depression,” over and over again.

What I’ve found through my experience is that in stating it this way, you take on the reality of it. It actually does become who you are. You’ve given it permission to be you and for you to be it.

For a long time I let myself be a worrier. I let myself be consumed with a negative view of the world, of people and of myself. But in Christ, there is no reason to worry because He is good, does good, gives good things and brings good of every situation for those who love Him.

Even though I suffered from depression, I am not depression. Rather, I am a child of God.

I am loved by the Creator of the universe and have at my disposal every blessing possible according to His will and who He is. When I look at myself, I can become depressed because I am flawed, at times I don’t measure up and I will always find someone else who is just a bit better than me at something. But when I turn to God and receive His love, I have reason to rejoice and be glad. I am who HE says I am. I am precious. I am loved. I am a delight. I am worthy of His love. I am able to do all that He has created me to do. I am protected by His grace and mercy. I am able to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patience, faithful, gentle, kind, good and exhibit self-control because this is who He is in me. I am free, healed, redeemed, restored, content, and new because this is what He came to do for me, and for you.

I am not depression. And for at least some of you, you don’t have to be either. You do get to choose. God lets you have that freedom.

Jesus came to heal you and set you free from the things that weigh you down. Will you choose to accept that freedom? The sad reality is that sometimes it’s easier to live as a prisoner. I’ve considered it. As a prisoner we’re free from responsibility and accountability. We’re able to excuse, justify and blame – we just can’t do anything about it. Freedom requires action. And the strength to step into that freedom and action, responsibility and accountability is part of the blessing we receive in Jesus.

Who will you choose to be? What will you choose to accept as your foundation in this uncertain world?

Today I choose to be who God says I am. Today I choose Jesus and the gift of freedom He offers.

Why Go to Church?

IMG_1781“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” Luke 4:16a

“Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.” Mark 10:1

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with Christians about why we go to church. Or better yet, why people don’t want to go to church. Conversations that honestly surprise me. I don’t expect people who don’t know Jesus to want to go to church. But when they decide to seek Jesus, when they decide they want to at least get some information about knowing Jesus, people often decide to go to church. So if those who don’t know Jesus go to church to find Him, why don’t those who know Him go there to experience His presence as well? Why don’t those who know Him go there to help others find Him?

Going to church is not a salvation issue. Let me repeat, not going to church will not send you to hell if you know Jesus and have faith in His saving grace.

You are not a bad person for not going to church. However, you are a sinner. And I’m a sinner. And in Christ we are washed cleaned clothed in His righteousness and are adopted into the family of God as His child.

So if you are a Christian and you battle with why you should go to church, let me offer this one perspective and hopefully you will find it to be an encouragement to begin or continue going to church.

We have an opportunity to know God and experience His presence. Jesus promises that when two or more gather together, there He is as well. (Matthew 18) So when we come together at church, as the church, we join in unity with others to love and worship God and experience His presence. Yes, we can meet other places but understand that the gathering of God’s people is His church so you may already be doing the very thing you think you don’t want to do. And when we gather and God is present, there is joy and blessing found in His presence. Do you need a little joy in your life? Go to church with the expectation of experiencing God’s presence and joy.

We also have the opportunity to love others who love Jesus. Just like you go to visit your family at their homes for various reasons at various times because you love them, we can gather together and spend time with our spiritual family. Each person who knows Jesus is your brother or sister in Christ. Do brothers and sisters sometimes hurt each other? Of course they do. People who go to church are no different. Sometimes there are pains and hurts, but in Christ, the goal is restoration and reconciliation. The hope is that those difficulties can be overcome because God is our perfect Father who works out our relationships. He helps us understand what it means to love our families the way He loves us. Do you need some hope for your family and relationships? Go to church with an expectation of help to love and hope that it will be better.

And we have the opportunity to love those who are wanting to know Jesus and looking for a family of their own. You can be the one to introduce them to Jesus. Do you need to be at church to do this? No. Hopefully, you are introducing people to Jesus all the time because you display Him through your words and actions. They know the truth about Him because of who He is in you. Do you let Him show? Do you want others to know Him? Do you want to be encouraged by the hearts of those seeking Jesus so that you can remember why it matters? Go to church with a heart set on Christ so you can see others through His eyes.

There is one issue of salvation: Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?

Then there are issues of the heart. Is church an issue of your heart? Ask Jesus to be the ultimate authority on whether or not you go.

“Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” Matthew 4:25

We have the opportunity to gather together to hear the teachings of Jesus from someone anointed with the Holy Spirit to preach and teach His Word. People came from all over traveling great distances on foot so they could be in the presence of Jesus. You can give whatever reasons you want not to go, but Jesus went, so I go, too. He is the one whose example I want to follow.

God is Life

“And this is the testimony of God: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:11-12 (NIV)

God offers us eternal life after we die, but He also offers the abundant life before we die. We do not need to wait until later to experience His kingdom. In Jesus, we have the ability to experience right here, right now the fullness of life God offers. Life after death becomes the perfection of our current state of living.

Are you living now the way you hope to in heaven later? Are you doing what you can to respond to and interact with others the way you imagine it to be when all things are made right? Do you trust and worship God with absolute devotion?

What does the full life in Christ look like? Here are three ways you can experience all He has to offer.

  1. Be confident.

God has sent His Son to redeem, restore and reconcile you to God, your Father. In Christ, you need never worry about your relationship with God. He does still correct and there are still consequences for wrong actions, but everything God does is to teach you what is best. When we refuse to listen, He lets the outcome be our teacher. When we ask Him for help, He will show us the way. Be confident in your relationship with Him.

  1. Be courageous.

God has given us His Word so we can know Him. His character and heart for people is seen throughout the Bible in all 66 books. When we know about God, we will continue to do what we do with an attitude of “that’s Him, this is me.” But when we truly know God through a relationship with Jesus, we begin to respond to God. We do things differently not because of who we are, but because of who He is. He has responded to us by giving us His Son. Read His Word so you can respond to God and do what it says. As you confidence grows, you will become more courageous in your love for Him.

  1. Be content.

People who don’t trust tend to protect themselves. There is an attitude of what-if and a response that comes out of what they don’t know instead of what they do. God knows our every need. He also knows our every want. He knows how getting our wants will affect our hearts and attitude toward Him and others. When we trust God, we can follow Him and be content no matter where we are, what we do or what we have. His way always leads to life. As you become courageous for God, you will see His purpose for your life unfold and in it you will be content.

Life in Christ is experienced when we know God personally, do what He says and trust Him completely each step of the way. God’s greatest desire is that the whole world would know His love and receive the life He offers. What’s yours?

Heavenly Father, you are life. In you, we move and breathe and have meaning. Lord, may my confidence grow as I come to know you more. May I become courageous for you because your love is true. May I be content with all you give me because I trust that you give me all I need. Your word is true, your way is best and your love leads to life like I have never known. Make it the desire of my heart  to know and live this life you offer. In Jesus name. Amen.

The Tree of Life

Lone Maple Tree“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:9

I’ve been thinking too much lately about what is missing from my life. I’ve been wondering what God has been doing, what He wants me doing and what results will come from any of it.

I have many great friends; better friends than I ever thought possible. They hear me say things like this and laugh…in a kind way. As we were driving and talking about all my concerns, we came across two signs. We couldn’t miss them. They were huge billboards, bright yellow with black lettering. “I love you anyway.” “Jesus.”

Regardless of the answers, regardless of my questions, regardless of me getting it all right, Jesus loves me anyway.

All too often, what is missing becomes the focus; not the abundance of what already is.

In the beginning, God placed two trees in the garden: 1) the tree of life and 2) the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Look what He has to say about these trees.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’” Genesis 2:16-17

In the beginning, there was one rule, one command: you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He even gave the reason: for when you eat from it you will certainly die.

God allowed people to eat from the tree of life. He told them not to eat from the tree that would lead to death.  Sounds like a pretty good deal!

Even though God warned Adam and Eve, they rebelled. They did what they wanted focusing on what was missing; something they believed was being withheld. They allowed themselves to be wooed away from the truth, the warning and the blessing.

They lost the right to eat from the tree of life.

They had life! They chose death. And because of this choice, we receive death as well. If they had understood the full consequence of their actions, would they have rejected the fruit, accepted the truth and remained in the garden?

“(Jesus said) Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7

But here is the good news. In Jesus Christ, we regain the right to eat from the tree of life! Jesus removes the barriers to the garden, to paradise, and to God.

God has made a way once again for us to have life! But once again, we are the ones who have to make the choice. We can choose our own way of doing things settling for death. Or we can accept God’s way, Jesus, and receive life everlasting!

We can focus on what seems to be missing and wonder about what we don’t know. Or we can remember what God has already done and know with certainty we already have life in Christ.

Something to Consider…

Where is your focus, on your abundance or on your lack?

In what ways do you reach out and grab for yourself what you believe is missing? Do you want to do it your own way not believing or understanding the truth of what you may lose when you do?

Do you trust God’s willingness to provide all that you need? Why or why not? If not, what would need to happen or what would you need to know in order for you to trust Him?

Jesus has come so you can have abundant life; life to the full! (John 10:10)

Thankful for the Battle

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????“For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” Galatians 5:17

This past Sunday, my husband and I were home from our morning at church and we had a bit of time before we needed to get going on dinner to be ready for our evening event with a group of friends. As my husband and I talked, he asked me if I wanted to take a nap.

I’m sure to him it was a simple question. But as I thought about it, I felt a tensing and tightening of my insides. I finally admitted to him I didn’t want to do anything.

At first, he kind of shrugged it off and asked another simple, clarifying question.

I said, “No, I don’t want to do anything! I don’t want to do anything that I know I should do!”

Right away he says, “Isn’t that like Paul in the ‘I don’t know why I do what I don’t want to and don’t do what I want to’ passage?”

My initial thought was no, it’s nothing like that. But it was exactly that.

I had often thought of this rant of Paul’s as one where he doesn’t realize until after the fact that he did the wrong thing. Why? Because if he knew the right thing from the beginning, he would do it, right?

Wrong.

Sometimes, we know exactly what we should or shouldn’t do and we don’t do or do exactly that. We do it with full knowledge and full compliance. And then we feel horrible and remorseful. At least, hopefully we do.

After I listed off all the things I didn’t want to do, my husband said he was taking a nap. No convincing me of anything, no advice, only him stepping away. And once he did, I picked something from my list and did it knowing it was good.

And it felt good.

I felt relaxed and peaceful in my decision and I enjoyed my time and activity. In the end, I felt accomplished.

On Monday morning, during my quiet time, I thought about the events of the day before. I thanked God for the battle I had experienced. It wasn’t pleasant but it was good because it was proof of God’s Spirit at work in me showing me the wrong attitudes of my heart and the right ways to move forward with Him.

Lord, I thank you for the battle between my spirit and Yours. I thank you for your work within me. I long for your correction, instruction and guidance in your unconditional love. Thank you for showing me when what I want is not what you want for me. I pray the battle lessens and I am willingly able to follow You in all things. In Jesus name, Amen.

Something to Consider…

Do you find yourself in a battle between doing what you shouldn’t or not doing what you should?

Ask God to show you any wrong attitudes or thoughts that keep you from His right ways. Be willing to allow His Spirit to work in your life. Choose to follow His Spirit in your decisions.

“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

Joy and Thanksgiving

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

I want to hang this verse on my wall. I have the perfect spot between the bottom of my stairs and the laundry room. I pass this wall every day since it is between the bedrooms and the main living area of our home. And I don’t just pass it once a day; I pass it many times as I go up and down the stairs. I grab my purse but forget my shoes. The receipt is on the desk not in my purse. I left my sunglasses on the desk while looking for the receipt. Oops, I forgot to brush my teeth. Where is my phone? NOW, am I ready to leave the house?

It’s amazing what piles up in my kitchen because it needs to go upstairs. I also end up with piles of clothing in the laundry room. I definitely do not rejoice in carrying loads of laundry up and down the stairs. I used to rejoice in this simple task. At one time, we lived in an apartment on the third floor. When we moved into our first home, the laundry was in the basement. I would carry our clothes up and down three half-flights of stairs and be giddy. In the apartment, I would carry the laundry down three full flights of stairs, across the parking lot to my car, drive to my parents home and carry it down to their basement only to carry it all back and up again. My own laundry space in my own home was a dream come true. It didn’t matter where the laundry was located.

But then it happened. We moved. The laundry room was now located upstairs right next to the bedrooms. It was like the clouds parted and angels were singing. How could I be so fortunate? I had 18 glorious months of loving my laundry room and the task itself.

Of course, things do change and we moved again. The best I could do this time was a main floor laundry room, one full flight of stairs from bedrooms to washer and dryer. It was still better than the first house and way better than the apartment, right? Had I never had the upstairs laundry room, I would’ve thought it couldn’t get better than this. Now, anything less than two steps from my bedroom door is not good enough.

I began to wonder how many petty issues I allow to ruin my day and steal my joy?

I should be glad that I have machines to wash and dry the clothes for me. I should be rejoicing in the fact that I have clean water to drink, much less running water in my home to wash my clothes. I should be thrilled that I not only have the arms to carry my loads of laundry and legs to carry me up and down the stairs, but that I have the clothes to wash in the first place.

What is it that makes me think I deserve to have it easier when I already have so much compared to so many? Why am I not grateful for simply having another day to enjoy with those I love, another day to serve those I love?

Lord, I pray that I not only appreciate what I do have but that I would be content with what I don’t have. I pray that my desire to do your will would not be determined by my comfort, convenience or contentment but simply because I know you love me. You have already given me all I need. In Jesus precious name, Amen.

Something to Consider…

I’ve heard it said that nothing seems small in the moment. While that may be true from our perspective, it doesn’t mean we need to look at it from our perspective.

In what area of your life do you need a new perspective? What irritations can be replaced by joy and thanksgiving? How can His love and goodness be seen in your life?

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.” Psalm 118:29