Tag Archive | love

Vulnerability

© SimplyStunningPhotographybySara

A few years back, I heard a song titled Arms Wide Open. The song talks about how Jesus loves. He loves with arms wide open, bleeding. He’s naked and nailed to a cross. He is completely exposed. Unprotected. And while many of our pictures of the cross show Him raised well above the crowd, it’s more likely that He was just off the ground, eye level with everyone who walked by.

A few years before that, I participated in a Beth Moore study on Daniel. At some point  during our 12 weeks, I realized that if I was going to speak about Jesus, my faith, or God’s desired changes in our lives, I was also going to speak about my messy past. Getting real with people about who I was and what I  had been would be part of the process. If Jesus has come to set us free, to set me free, what did He set me free from? And that was going to take some real vulnerability.

Fast forward to a few weekends ago at church, our Youth Director gave the first message in a series called Be Brave. The title of his message: Bare it all!

Vulnerability requires great bravery.

I have blogged about my past battles with anxiety and depression, neither of which were really an issue until I became a Christian. And while that may seem strange to some, the reality is that it was easier to protect myself before my relationship with Jesus. If I didn’t want to talk to someone, I just didn’t. I could be mad, walk away, talk about them, and puff myself up all for the sake of protecting myself.

But once I became a Christian, I was going to be exposed. I had to willingly admit my sin. That’s repentance. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven as come near.” (Matthew 4:17) Jesus commands it. But not only do I confess and repent to Jesus, I need to be willing to share my story of faith with others. If I can now see, what was I once blind to? If I’ve been found, where did I go and what did I do when I was lost? Why did I even need to be found?

And, most importantly, I needed to be willing to talk about Jesus with people who don’t know Him and maybe don’t agree. It’s great to talk to people who do agree! It’s encouraging and inspiring and comforting to know I am not alone. We lift each other up and move forward together.

At the same time, others need to know Jesus. There are people who are blind and lost, and they have no idea. It’s not a matter of being wrong so much as it’s a matter of not understanding. There came a point in my seeking God that He asked me to make a decision. What did I make of Jesus? Who did I really think He was? And how would that decision change my understanding of my faith, my sin, and where I would go next in my relationship with God?

As I sat in a church service 13 years ago, I recognized Jesus as the Messiah, God himself. And He made it clear that things would change. Over time, anxiety grew as I recognized the ways Jesus was calling me to step out in faith. I was continuing to look to myself and others to protect me. One day, Jesus made it very clear that I was not trusting Him to protect me. That day, as I repented of my lack of trust, everything changed. There are still times when I’m tempted to give into anxiety, but I recognize it as an opportunity to pray and be honest about what’s going on in my heart and mind. To be honest about our feelings, cares, concerns or whatever is causing us to pull back from God or others is to be completely vulnerable. Not everyone will be gentle and compassionate. Some will take the opportunity to stomp all over you, emotionally, mentally, potentially physically. Some will shut down the conversation, maybe even the relationship. Not everyone will be vulnerable in return, but without it we have superficial rather than authentic relationships.

I’m still in the learning process. I assume I always will be as God calls me deeper into my relationship with Him and calls me out into real relationships with others.

Something to Consider…

What risk are you willing to take to grow in vulnerability and be brave for God? What fear keeps you from moving forward in the ways God is calling and wanting to grow your faith and trust in Him?

If you experience anxiety or depression, seek help. There is no shame in admitting your struggles and you do not need to go into the battle alone. God calls us to bring into the light what we want to keep hidden in the dark. It’s where we are truly set free to love with arms wide open.

For Those Who Love God

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

© Depositphotos/Abigail210986

There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my children.

Now, if you asked them, they’d say there’s plenty I wouldn’t do for them. And they’d be correct.  This statement is only half the picture. The truth is there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my children as long as it was good for them. In the moment, it may not seem good to them, but as their parent who has lived through many more experiences, I may have a better idea of where things are leading and what is good for them.

There are times I offer help and there are times I wait for them to ask. There are times I take care of a situation completely and there are times I won’t touch it. It’s theirs to see through to the finish and then we can reassess if needed. Sometimes I (try to) teach a lesson and others when I let them learn on their own. In some circumstances, I make the decisions and in others I give them the reins. In all of this, I’m right here. Watching. Waiting. Ready.

And I always pray for them to know the Lord. I pray that Jesus would be at the center of and in all that encompasses their lives. It matters what they believe and who they go to for guidance, direction and understanding. It matters that they know their true value and that they believe the truth of who He says they are.

I pray this for myself as well. In this life, I will never arrive at the place of perfection as an individual or as a parent. I seek His wisdom and guidance in raising my children because without Him I would fall short of His best for me and for them. And even with Him I make mistakes, miss the mark, don’t quite understand and sometimes, admittingly, refuse to listen. I know that I’m an imperfect parent.

It’s one reason I’m so grateful that God knows, sees and understands all things. He can make something good come from my shortcomings. He can work things out according to His good purpose even when I misunderstand. In every situation and in all of my character traits and flaws, I can seek His will rather than my own and allow Him to change me according to His purpose.

As His child, there are times when He helps without a word from me and there times when I need to let go of my pride and ask for help. There are situations in my life where I have no control and I can trust that He is in complete control. Then there are times when He says, “You need to do what you can do first.” It’s how I know where I end and He begins. God teaches me lesson after lesson as I read His Word and experience His wisdom through others who know Him well. I love when He breaks into my day to give me a glimpse of who He is right in the middle of some mundane task that appears to have no purpose. Or when I can’t imagine a more excruciating pain from rejection or a deeper love for another and He says, “I know. I’ve been there. It’s a reflection of my love for you.”

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. But we also know this is only half the picture. God has a great purpose in the good that He works.

Something to Consider…

As you’ve come to love God, how has your perspective of what is considered “good” changed?

When you struggle to trust God’s good purpose, what can you do to remember that He knows and sees what you can’t yet understand?

How does knowing His heart for you help trust Him more?

Rooted and Established

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)

© Deposit/sonerbakir

© Deposit/sonerbakir

In Christ, the Spirit of Christ lives in you. You are in Christ. Christ is in you.

Do you see how fighting God could make you frustrated? You’re one with the living God and you’re trying to work in opposition to Him.

It’s not that you don’t understand God, at least in part, it’s more that you do. You realize deep down what it’s going to take to follow Him fully. You realize what you’re going to have to give up, what will be sacrificed in your journey with Him. And less than money, position, influence or relationships, but more of your pride, excuses, vices, comforts and conveniences.

But here’s the deal: fullness of life comes from God, not these other things whether material or self-satisfying attitudes and motivations.

When we hold back even one part of our heart from the saturating living waters of the Holy Spirit, we lack fullness. Our relationship with God can seem stagnant, but it’s not. It’s always moving. We are always moving. He is the same. He is constant. We are always moving closer to Him or farther away. We can choose to let His fullness invade our hearts or we can close off more and more pieces to Him. Because when we find reasons and justifications to keep one area closed, we’ll find reasons and justifications to close Him out of others.

Even a tree planted by streams of water, a tree that has no mind, knows that it’s best to grow deep roots into the ground that’s saturated with water. And it’s best to be saturated with the Spirit.

Streams of water move. The Spirit within us moves.

Ground saturated with water from streams has a fresh supply of oxygen. The stream feeds fresh water in while pushing old water out the way our lungs pump oxygen into our blood and our hearts move it through every part of our body. And just like our bodies know how to dispose of toxins, this flow of water in the ground allows for drainage of anything that may hinder the growth of the tree.

The stream flushes the ground and the Spirit flushes our hearts.

A heart saturated with the Holy Spirit has a fresh supply of God’s fullness. The Spirit brings all of God’s goodness and glory into our hearts and we can tap into this fullness through the roots we grow. When the Spirit reveals those things in our hearts that are damaging or harmful to us, we need to let the Spirit remove them. We have to let go and stop fighting Him.

God’s resources are unlimited. He will never run out of what we need to live, move or have our being in Him. As He empowers us with His strength through the Spirit, we learn to trust Him more. Our roots grow deep. We choose Him sooner, we choose Him first. We look to Him to satisfy rather than other people, other things or our surrounding circumstances. As we come to understand how deep His love runs, we realize our roots will never outgrow Him. His love is long and wide. There is nowhere He won’t go to find you and no pit too deep for Him to pull you from. How high is His love? Higher than any cloud, any star. Higher than the most powerful telescope can see.

This is the love that loves you.

When you allow your heart to be saturated with Him, every dark and secluded corner filled with His light and love, there will be nothing that can bring you down. He will establish you in a firm foundation and strengthen you with His strength that stands for eternity.

Something to Consider…

Does the understanding of God’s great love for you escape you? Do you feel like you have too many questions and not enough answers? God wants to you to ask your questions with a willingness to listen. He wants you to know Him in the depths of your heart. He is strong and His love for you can handle any question you throw at Him.

Do you have a hard time letting Him into the deep recesses of your heart? Does the thought of what He will reveal worry you? He already knows what’s there and He knows how to bring healing through the living waters of His Spirit. As cool water refreshes our bodies, His Spirit refreshes our hearts and our souls.

Every success and accomplishment along with every difficult decision or situation will cause you to choose where your roots will grow. Find your satisfaction and fullness of life in Him.

The Life You’ve Learned

“That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 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.” Ephesians 4:20-24

© Depositphoto/xerox123.mail.ua

© Depositphotos/xerox123.mail.ua

There was a way of life that I learned before I knew Jesus. Growing up, watching those in my family, my neighborhood, at school and elsewhere, there was a way of understanding myself, others and God that I was learning. I was learning how to process information and interpret my experiences. I didn’t realize I was learning a way of life, I was simply living, existing, surviving, and trying to have some fun in the process.

If, in Christ, we are a new creation, then that means there was an old creation. If we are a work in progress, that means we started in one place or state and are moving toward or becoming something else.

In Ephesians, Paul is explaining in part what it means to live as this new creation. He’s given examples of the old that is gone from within us, but still exists in the world around us. He says there is a former way of life, an old self. This old self and way of life was full of corruption and deceitful desires. Peter refers to these desires as evil. (2 Peter 1:4)

Part of this “work in progress” that we are experiencing is the learning to discern between the old way of life before Christ and this new way of life in Christ. As we begin to understand what God wants for us, certain things will look different. As we become familiar with Jesus, we will recognize attitudes, motivations and actions that look like Him and those that are the opposite of what we know to be true about Him.

As I mentioned in my blog A Work in Progress, there are things that will change because the Holy Spirit now lives inside you. There are also things that you will need to choose to do differently. This choosing is the putting-off of the old self and the putting-on of the new self. There are things we need to remove from our lives and hearts in order to make room for more of Jesus.

If we listen to music or read materials with vulgar or offensive language, we are more likely to use that language ourselves. We teach ourselves to talk this way. When we choose to listen to music, teachings, or read materials that encourage and honor God and others, we are more likely to speak in this same way. We teach ourselves to encourage and honor rather than offend.

There are also the deeper issues of our hearts. When we learn that resentment and bitterness cause us to hold grudges and not forgive, we need to instead choose kindness and compassion forgiving those who’ve hurt us, letting go of all that keeps us angry and hard-hearted. This is why repentance is so important. Repentance says I recognize my own sinful nature (the corrupt and deceitful desires within me), and am choosing to put it off and put on Christ and His righteousness.

In Christ, we learn there is a new way to live. There is a new way to think, a new way to participate in relationships with others and with God. There is a new way to respond to what we experience in this lifetime. And we have an active role in how this happens in our lives.

Something to Consider…

As you think back on your life before Christ, what did you learn about how to live? Who taught you and how did it affect you and your relationships?

What is God giving you to “put on” in this season of your life? What do you know you need to “put off” in order for it  to be effective?

Even though we must choose to do this, the Holy Spirit is always with us helping us to know what needs to be done and giving us the strength to do it.

The Feet of Jesus

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!” Psalm 95:6 (ESV)

© DepositPhotos/ Anetlanda

© DepositPhotos/ Anetlanda

As I think of kneeling before the LORD, I can’t help but think of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. There are days when I could sit and read, pray and listen all day. And I believe there are times of rest when this is just what needs to take place. Our spirits need to be renewed and refreshed, reminded and strengthened in the truth that God is still with us, God is still at work in our world, our workplace, and our homes.

But the feet of Jesus don’t sit still for long. Sometimes our worship and our bowing down takes place in our movement, not our stillness.

There were people who came to Jesus. There were those who sought Him out to hear His teaching such as Nicodemus and others who had real needs they hoped He could meet like the official with the son who was ill. There were also those who listened to trap Him such as the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.

And then there were those He met as He moved. There was the Samaritan woman at the well and the lame man at the pool. He came upon the man born blind and ten men with leprosy. He showed up on the road to Emmaus and the road to Damascus.

Jesus life was not just one of teaching with words and lessons, it was one of action. His life was an example for us to follow.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:3-5, 12-17

We like to find loopholes in these types of situations and lessons. “In our culture, we wear shoes so we don’t need to wash feet anymore.” Or maybe this one, “I’ll pay for them to have a pedicure.” Our feet don’t move and our hands don’t get dirty, wet or touched.

You don’t have to travel out of your city to come across people with needs in their lives. You don’t need to get on your hands and knees to comfort, console or care about the people you meet. You just need to show up. You need to be willing to love and encourage. Compassion from a distance is easy, but get up close and personal and it can become very uncomfortable.

When we seek God we will become uncomfortable. We will be stretched beyond our natural desires and our human understanding. Our character will be changed, transformed and made new.

I’ve realized lately that I bow down and worship my time. I covet every minute and in the process waste too much of it. I sit at the feet of a false idol. After all, what is time when eternity is waiting?

I want my worship to be active and passionate. I want to kneel at the feet of Jesus by getting up and going out. I want to see people as I’m “on my way” to wherever I think it is I need to be. It’s easy to get caught up in my own plans, so this will take intention. This will require an awareness of my surroundings. As I keep my eyes focused on Jesus, I trust Him to show me what He sees and help me respond with His heart.

I want my life to be a reflection of His example. That’s my hope for this time.

Something to Consider…

What do you worship? What stops you and causes you to “bow down”? We don’t have to let these things guilt us or control us. When we understand that we are giving ourselves to something less than God, we can make different decisions and move forward grateful and encouraged.

How is God calling you to sit at or move with His feet? Is there a next step that you are struggling to take? How can knowing Jesus has been there and done that help you trust Him as you move out of your comfort zone?

 

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.

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.

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.