Tag Archive | obedience

God’s Great Name

“‘My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations.’ says the Lord Almighty.” Malachi 1:11

Autumnal Park. Autumn Trees and Leaves. Fall

© DepositPhotos/subbotina

The name of the Lord will be great among the nations.

Isn’t that what all Christians want, for the name of the Lord Jesus to be great throughout the entire world?

Sadly, I think too often we want His name to be great so other people will act the way we want them to act. They will live godly, holy lives and create laws that require everyone to honor God and His laws. It would be so much easier to be patient, joyful, kind… And self-control would come so much more naturally because we wouldn’t feel the need to control others all of the time.

Wouldn’t that make your life, my life so much easier?

But then, sometimes, I wonder if the name of the Lord is truly great in my own heart?

In my world, my little sliver of this earth, is the name of the Lord great from the beginning of my day until the end? Do I offer up praise and thanksgiving, prayers and petitions calling on His great name with a pure heart? Do I have pure motives and a willingness to do His will? Do I live a godly, holy life that brings Him honor and glory?

Lord, if it’s not, if there is anything in me that makes you and your name out to be less than the great and good God that you are, help me. Do a work in me that I cannot fight, hide or deny. Move me, compel me, break and remake me as you see fit. I want to know you, Lord, more than anything else. I want your name to be great in my life, in my heart, Lord, God Almighty.

Something to Consider…

In what ways do you know you acknowledge the name of the Lord as great?

In what areas of your life do you try to keep Him small or hidden?

What do you need to view differently about Him or yourself in order for His name to great in every aspect of your life?

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Peace Like a River

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.'” Isaiah 48:17-18

Ebro River passing trhough Miravet, Spain

© DepositPhotos/ nito103

I know many people who want peace, more peace, deeper peace. And yet, they go about life doing the same things they always have. They react and respond the same as every other day. They point the finger, play the blame game, and justify their actions. All the while their insides are turning upside down, tossed like waves of the sea.

They say, “God, give me peace!”

The truth is they don’t really need more peace. They need to learn to grow and mature in the peace they already have. And so do I.

We can choose to operate in agreement with the Spirit of God living inside of us or we can do things our own way. As I was writing in my journal this morning I prayed that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

God can make that happen all on His own. He doesn’t need anyone to do it for Him or help Him in order for it to happen. But, one way it happens is through His people. He uses His people to show the world His will by living His way according to His Spirit in us.

So, if I want God’s will done on earth then I need to be in alignment with His Spirit. And this doesn’t just mean in agreement with my thoughts. It can be really easy to simply say, “Yes, God, change this world. I want your will to be displayed in this world and I want those who don’t know you to start acting like they do.” Because often, this is really what we want. We want everyone else to start acting the way we think they should according to how we understand God and then we will experience true peace.

It’s really easy to quarterback from the cheap seats and tell others what they should be doing. But peace doesn’t come through the actions of others; peace comes through our own actions. If I’m going to be in alignment with God, then not only my thoughts, but my own actions and words need to be in alignment with God as well.

Peace comes from obedience, personal obedience. Peace doesn’t come when we are satisfied that others are being obedient. Peace comes from us seeking God, His kingdom and righteousness, and willingly doing what His Spirit prompts us to do.

God warned Cain that He had the option to do what was right in his relationship with God or he would end up doing what was wrong in his relationship with his brother, Abel. We are no different.

Our ability to pay close attention to God, to listen to God first doing what He says, will go along way in our ability to love others and have peace in this world. And when we do, God will restore us. He will refresh us with living water. Our own well-being will no longer be subjected to the external circumstances around us, but will be secure and steadfast in the power and sovereignty of our Redeemer and our Lord.

Something to Consider…

What is your definition of peace? Where does yours come from? Nothing in this world will satisfy completely. Everyone will fall short and everything will fade, decay or perish at some point. You will always run out of what you need when you rely on this world.

Rivers move, they are not sedentary. They navigate the terrain with ease and grace. The water gives to the bumps in the riverbed, but it keeps on moving.

What “bumps” keep you from being obedient to God? Fear, pride, or complacency? Only God can completely satisfy. When we trust in Jesus, He gives us His Spirit to help us know God’s will AND DO IT. Be obedient and experience His peace fully.

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.

Something New

© DepositPhotos/ Anetlanda

© DepositPhotos/ Anetlanda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new way to see things.

A new way to make decisions.

A new way to live.

With Him.

In Him.

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

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

And,

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

As well as,

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

Therefore.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Follow Me

© Depositphotos.com/ rachwal

© Depositphotos.com/
rachwal

“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” Matthew 9:9

Prior to this, Matthew was following the Roman government and other tax collectors. He was hated and reviled by the Jewish people. And yet, Jesus, a Rabbi, called Matthew to follow Him. In other words, He called him to stop doing what he was doing and start doing something new. Matthew would have to give up what he was pursuing in his following and pursue what Jesus was doing. It didn’t take but a moment for him to decide to take Jesus up on His offer. He walked away from it all.

Following isn’t mindlessly going where everyone else is going. In this case, it’s an intentional decision to go somewhere and do something very specific. There is an intentional effort to learn and do what someone else already knows and is doing. We learn what we pay attention to. We learn what we see, hear and experience.

Psalm 1:1-2 says:

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”

There is a benefit to giving careful consideration to our actions, relationships and who we pay attention to and learn from.

Paul in writing to the Philippians, Thessalonians, Corinthians and others says, “Imitate me.” Do what I do, follow my example and put into practice what you hear me say and watch me do. Why? Because I follow Christ. He is my example.

Paul also tells Timothy that he is to be an example.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

There are plenty of people who are in the spotlight and are considered role models and examples regardless of whether or not they want to be one. Some take it seriously, others just assume it’s not their issue.

As a follower of Christ, you are to follow the example of Jesus and those who knew Him. These examples are recorded in the Bible. We also follow the examples of those who have followed the followers of Jesus, and those who have followed the followers of the followers of the followers…

Something to Consider…

So who do you choose to follow and why? Whose example do you imitate? Have you given it much thought? Take an inventory of who influences and affects your decisions, words and actions. Do they help you follow Jesus or lead you away from Him?

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are also an example to others. Do you know who is following you? Ask God to show you any thoughts, behaviors or words that don’t honor Him. Ask Him to grow your understanding of the importance of demonstrating the true character of Christ with others.

Choose today to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. He is the role model worth imitating.

Take Up Your Cross

© Depositphotos.com/ WDGPhoto

© Depositphotos.com/
WDGPhoto

“As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.” Matthew 27:32 (NIV)

Take: to get into one’s hold or possession by voluntary action.

To take is voluntary.

Simon was forced to carry the cross with Jesus. He bore the weight that was too much for Jesus in His weakened physical condition. Simon did not have a choice to help Jesus; and yet, through the process of coming alongside Him in this barbaric situation, He grasped the weight and understanding of the cross. He didn’t simply walk away to never again consider the man who would be nailed to that cross. He took in the truth of Jesus on the cross and passed it along to His children. (Mark 15:21, Romans 16:13)

“And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38 (KJV)

Taketh: to take or get a hold of; to receive.

To take is to get your hands on and receive what is offered.

The cross is a vile form of execution. The cross was so inhumane it was eventually outlawed as a means of capital punishment. And yet, Jesus says if you are unwilling to take up your cross and follow Him, you aren’t worthy to be His follower. What’s up with that? Why would He expect us to voluntarily take hold of a cross? Didn’t He die so we wouldn’t have to do that very thing?

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. Matthew 11:29 (NIV)

Take: To take up or away; to raise up or lift; to take upon oneself and carry what has been raised physically.

To take is to personally participate in the raising or lifting while carrying.

The truth is there’s a cross with your name on it. Because of sin in the life of each person, death is the penalty and judgment. Jesus also says that because He’s been hated and persecuted, as His follower, you will be as well. There will be plenty of people who will want to nail you to your cross. In the midst of struggles and persecution, will you take up your cross or walk away?

The cross of Christ has already been lifted. Because of what Jesus has done, death is not the end of our story. It’s a step in the process rather than the end of the journey. We will face things from our past, things in opposition to our faith, but we don’t have to do it alone. When we are willing to acknowledge that truth, He offers His yoke as well. We can take hold of His yoke to help us carry our cross. He offers us what He’s already done. When we take up our cross, we can also show people what we’ve been set free from. The cross is the cost of our sin. We deserve death. Thank God, in Christ, we receive life.

I found this story of St. Patrick, someone who picked up his cross and followed hard after Jesus. We may not be called to minister to a country, but we each have a family, neighborhood or circle of friends God wants us to reach for Him.

Something to Consider…

Do you have a hard time grasping the truth of the cross, what Jesus did, and why He did it?

Do you have a difficult time acknowledging the truth of your own sin and the reality of the penalty for that sin?

Jesus invites you to follow Him. Where will He lead you? Straight to the cross. Let Him help you understand and grasp the truth of what He’s done for you. Let Him help you acknowledge the truth of your own sin and receive His grace and redemption so you can live free, willing to take up your cross and share His love with others.

Deny Yourself

© Depositphotos.com/ bst2012

© Depositphotos.com/
bst2012

“He (Jesus) called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Mark 8:34

We are currently in the season of Lent, the 40 day period of preparation leading up to Easter. People of faith give up all different types of foods and activities during this time period each year. Some choose things that are easy and won’t really be missed. Others choose things that will not only be missed, but will at times seem unbearable to go without. Either way, it’s a defined period of time and then we often go back to our old ways.

It’s good to change things up at times. It helps us draw closer to God in a different way so we can refocus on Jesus and our relationship with Him. I encourage you set aside time at Lent and other times of the year to refocus, rededicate, and remember that He is enough. His grace is sufficient.

But I do believe there is a difference between these occasional denials of self and the lifestyle of denial Jesus refers to. Here are three ways we can experience those differences.

  • It isn’t what you choose, it’s what He says.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15a, 17

Sometimes what we choose to give up is surface level and shallow behaviors or activities. We focus really hard on not doing these things and then are relieved when our time is up. But often, God wants to get to the stuff behind the behaviors and activities. He wants to go deeper and not just change what we do, but change our hearts so we do things differently choosing His will over our own.

  •  It isn’t for a limited time, it’s every day of your life.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

We don’t acknowledge Jesus just to walk away going about our business. We stay. We remain in Him and continue to do the things He shows us to do. We will continually be challenged to give up the things we want, the way we react and respond, the way we think about and see others. Denial is a counter-cultural lifestyle change that continues and does not end.

  •  There is no going back to the old way. The old is gone, the new is here.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

In Christ, you are no longer the same person you were before knowing Him. When you go back to your old ways, you don’t deny yourself, you deny Him and why He came. You can’t follow Jesus and do things the old way. You may try for a while, but eventually, you will go your own way. You will no longer be following Him.

We are called to deny ourselves daily for the sake of the One who called us to Himself. His love is seen and experienced best when we allow ourselves to get out of His way. Choose today to deny yourself and acknowledge Him.

Something to Consider…

Do you want to follow Jesus, but are unsure of just what it means to deny yourself? As you spend time in His presence reading His Word, rely on the Holy Spirit to show you the things He wants you to get rid of from your life. He will help you move forward in a new way.

Do you know what God’s Word says and yet, you are doing what you want satisfying your own desires and ignoring what He says? God loves you and it’s in remaining in Him, doing what He says that you are able to follow and experience the benefits of His presence in your life. Choose to not just know what Jesus says, but deny yourself and do what He says.