Tag Archive | joy

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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Give Thanks

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5

© DepositPhotos/satariel

© DepositPhotos/satariel

My husband and I love to host gatherings at our house. Whether it’s a formal dinner, potluck barbeque or snack-filled game night, we eagerly anticipate time with family and friends.

There are definitely times of stress leading up to our events. Do we have enough food? Have we cleaned everything that needed to be cleaned? Are we on the same page about what we are trying to accomplish before everyone shows up? Will our guests enjoy their time? What if they don’t like anything we’ve made?

And as I consider all of these questions and concerns I realize how much I love to prepare for the arrival of my guests. I want everything to be just right. I hope they know how much we appreciate them and are able to relax and enjoy their time with us.

Today, as I was preparing dinner knowing we still had to figure out how we were going to fit everyone into the same space, Jesus said, “I’m preparing for your arrival as well and am excited for the day when you are finally home with me.”

Jesus is not passively waiting to return. He is actively preparing hearts and minds. His Father’s house has many rooms and they all need to be ready. He is not worried about space. There will be room enough for all who respond to His invitation to come.

We are imperfect people flawed in our thinking, our behavior and our handling of relationships, and yet, I can’t wait to spend time with those I love. How much more does Jesus look forward to the day when His people will be made complete in Him? When we finally enter the courts of God’s kingdom, we will give Him all our praise with great thanksgiving.

Something to Consider…

We get to practice now for life in His kingdom. We give Him our first thanks as we recognize that He alone could and did make it possible for us to enter His kingdom courts.

What will be your attitude when you walk through the doors to meet with family and friends? Do you focus more on the people or the concerns as you prepare your home for others?

Love as He loves and give Him thanks.

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!

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.

Joy and Suffering

View of Geiranger Fjord from the mountains in Norway“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3 (NIV)

My daughter came home from her evening activities one night the other week. She stopped and turned, looked at me and I could tell she was looking for the right words. She is careful with her words and she doesn’t like to complain, but there was something on her mind and I don’t think she meant to complain as much as she was looking for someone to validate how she was feeling.

She started explaining her day; how everything had gone well for the most part: she had a good day at school, did well on a test, enjoyed her time with friends, had a good evening at her job…and then she got an email that something wasn’t quite how it should be. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible thing but it was something she would need to address and it was weighing on her mind a bit as to just how she would handle it.

Her overall question was basically, “Why does it always seem like when things are going well, something has to happen to mess it up?”

Welcome to adulthood and responsibility, my child. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

In a nutshell, this was my response. Just when I think everything is going well, something happens. And just when I think it won’t get any worse, it does. There will always be something that causes us to stop, turn and think about the change that just happened in our day, our situation, or maybe our life.

The truth is we all suffer at some level; some more often than others, but we all do suffer just the same. We all suffer in different ways and as we get older, we have more responsibility and become more practiced at suffering, not only for ourselves but for others as well.

In this world there is pain and suffering all around us. Each situation we find ourselves in has the ability to add to or increase the level of pain, discomfort, or struggle in our lives.  Everyone’s pain is just as important from the perspective of God and He has compassion and mercy for each of us in our own personal condition. This trouble we face has the ability to stop us in our tracks and keep us from an abundant life in Christ. The question is, at what point do we acknowledge our difficulties and turn to God and other brothers and sisters for help?

 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed (because God brings hope and healing); perplexed, but not driven to despair (because God gives knowledge and clarity); persecuted, but not forsaken (because God is always with us); struck down, but not destroyed (because God delivers us to life through Christ); always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (We live in victory, not defeat!) 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (Notes and emphasis added.)

Contrary to this world, in Christ, each situation we find ourselves in has the ability to increase our joy and happiness because we know He is with us and it will end. We already have victory! Regardless of how any current situation plays out in this world, one day it will be over and we will be without tears, without pain, and without sorrow. (Revelation 21:4) It is coming, do not give up!

The beauty of our victory is that we can experience and share it with people now. Do you believe in the victory enough to live it out? Do you share with others the reason for your joy in the midst of what others would consider unbearable? Are you willing to allow others to witness your hope even if they think you are crazy for really believing in that hope? The truth is that the idea of Jesus is crazy! It turns this world upside down and shakes it loose of all its preconceived notions and ideas of what it means to suffer and how to find true happiness and joy in spite of suffering.

Something to Consider…

As you consider 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, is there a situation that you feel afflicted or in pain; perplexed or uncertain; persecuted or abandoned; struck down or hopeless? Call on God with your whole heart, seek Him and His truth. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you how God brings healing, hope, clarity, knowledge, life and victory! God is faithful and trustworthy in all that He does.

It’s important to keep a good perspective regarding the significance of your pain and suffering. It’s easy to make something out of almost nothing and we can often try to downplay our problems not wanting to draw attention to ourselves. Don’t be afraid of letting Jesus and other brothers and sisters in Christ come along side of you so you can remember His perspective and be encouraged.

Let’s Go!

Bobo What's up (2)“‘Master,’ Simon answered, ‘we have worked hard all night long and have not caught a thing. But if you tell me to, I will let the nets down.’” Luke 5:5 (CEV)

I am on a health kick struggle. Some call it a journey, but for me it’s a constant battle of the will to even decide how I’m going to tackle the food and exercise choices each day. Is variety the answer or a consistent planned out routine?

The other day, I chose to walk my dog. He needs to get out more often so it was a twofer. The best part of taking him for a walk is the moment I tell him we are going. Actually, I ask with excitement and anticipation in my voice, “Do you want to go for a walk?”

His head lifts and tilts, his ears perk and his body is at attention. I ask again, “Do you want to go for a walk?”

He turns, stops, and looks at me as if to ask, “Now?”

And then the moment he’s been waiting for, “Let’s go!” He bolts for the door, tail wagging while pacing back and forth as he waits for me to catch up. I love every minute of it!

And if there’s anything he loves, it’s taking a walk. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing, he drops everything for this one thing…even though he’s on a leash and never more than four feet from me. Even though he never gets to stay and check out a scent for too long. Even though he doesn’t get to choose the direction or the pace, he joyfully comes with me whenever I call.

His excitement, energy and joy made me wonder. What call do I willingly, joyfully drop everything to answer and follow? Is it an activity, a person, or a purpose? Does it matter if I get to choose the destination or the route to get there? Does it matter how fast or slow we go? Do my desires get in my way of being able to stay close, stay focused or continue in excitement? Do I see it as a burden rather than a gift – a gift of spending intentional time with another for a specific reason because I’ve been asked to join in and be part of what’s going on, take part in what this other person is doing?

I love the way Luke 5 tells the story of Jesus calling Peter to come and follow. Other versions simply say he dropped everything and followed. But here in this version we see the real thoughts and emotions of a person who is going about his day, tired from his work, and struggling to follow instructions that seem from his perspective and experience a waste of time.

 “They did it and caught so many fish that their nets began ripping apart. Then they signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. The men came, and together they filled the two boats so full that they both began to sink.” Luke 5:6-7 (CEV)

After, out of obedience, doing the very thing he didn’t want to do, Peter sees the results that come when working with Jesus.

God is at work in this world. He is everywhere at all times and while He could go alone, He doesn’t. He calls to us to come with, to follow Him and to be part of what He’s doing.

God has made me an offer better than anything I or anyone else could imagine. I know who He is, I know what He’s done, and I know who I’ve been, as does He, which makes the offer all that much more incredible. He wants me to see what He’s doing, listen for His call, and be ready to act when He says, “Let’s go!”

That is my prayer today: that I would be aware of what God is doing, in tune with and listening for His voice above all others and in that moment when He calls I would willingly, joyfully and with great anticipation drop everything in response to His invitation to join Him in His work.

Something to Consider…

How has Jesus called to you and invited you to join Him in what He’s doing? What activities do you struggle to drop so you can follow Him fully?

What results have you seen in your work with Him? What actions do you hesitate to take because you don’t understand how it will play out?

How does knowing God doesn’t need you, but wants you to join Him encourage you to follow Him in whatever way He calls?