NORTHGATE Blog

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

This is one of my favorite verses from 1 John. At the same time, it’s been one of the most difficult for me to step into and accept. I’m uncomfortable with being lavished in love, God’s or anyone else’s. Don’t get me wrong; I want it. It just doesn’t feel natural.

I grew up in a blended family that never really blended. I am the youngest of seven children, the only one born to my parents who remained married until my father passed away in 2006.

During the 40 years my parents were married I witnessed anger, bitterness, resentment, denial, jealousy, offense, justification, blaming, excusing, and unforgiveness. Three of my siblings never saw their mother once my father and her divorced. The other three were eventually shipped back and forth between their dad in California and our mom in Minnesota. It was hard. I didn’t understand it, and yet it was all I knew.  These six people where my siblings and even though we spent many years in the same home, our experiences as children were completely different. Even though my parents were together and my home intact, I grew up with the idea that I could protect myself by walking away from people.

And then I met Jesus.

I wish I could say everything changed instantly, but what I’ve found is that my tendencies to live the way I grew up remained deeply rooted within me. Because I expected the above attitudes and actions, I wanted to keep myself isolated and hidden.

What did change was that I found myself immersed in a new blended family.

We all come from different backgrounds and experiences, yet we all have two things in common: sin and Jesus. We were all broken and in need of saving. And because of the love of God demonstrated through Jesus, we’ve been adopted into the family of God. We are His children. All on the same footing with God. All with the same access to and gift of His extravagant love.

I’ve also come to understand that if I want to live fully as a child of God, I need to receive and accept the full on drenching of God’s love which is poured out into my heart through the Spirit of God in me. I will struggle to share God’s love if I never really experience it for myself.

So I’m learning a different way to live: as God’s child. What does that look like in my life?

I live as one who has received and believes through faith.

“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

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” Galatians 3:26

Receiving and believing Jesus (what God says is true, what Jesus says is true, and what the Spirit says is true) gives me the right to become a child of God. Jesus makes the adoption process legal and binding. Through faith, the Spirit guarantees my position in God’s kingdom as His child. I don’t have to doubt my identity. He is my Father and His love for me is great.

I live led by the Spirit.

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” Romans 8:14

I am learning to choose to live according to the tendencies of the Spirit within me rather than my own natural tendencies. I had an example set for me by my family. I also have an example set for me by Jesus. In choosing to follow Jesus, I need to give up the old attitudes, behaviors and tendencies and live according to my new life in Christ motivated by His love for me.

I live without grumbling or arguing.

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’” Philippians 2:14-15a

I admit, this one is tough! Overtime, however, I’ve realized that the more I trust Jesus, the less I have to complain about. Why should I complain about or argue something that God will use for my good? I waste precious time and energy being angry rather than joyfully anticipating what God will work out. I find I miss the gifts and blessings of God when I complain and argue about what I don’t see God doing, rather than being grateful for what He is. God’s love is greater than any difficulty or challenge I may face. I am a work in progress and I hope those closest to me will say I am at least moving in the right direction.

I live with a desire to make peace.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9

My hope is that all will know the love of God. That means I need to bring people close rather than push them away. I can’t keep myself hidden and isolated if I want to be used by God. I apologize and forgive. I’ve been reconciled to God through Jesus and He commands me, and us,  to go and make disciples. This isn’t just about converting people, it’s about reconciling people to their Heavenly Father and to each other. I live open to renewed, restored and reconciled relationships with all, even those who have hurt me the worst with a real hope that love will be at the center of the relationship.

I live with a desire to love, bless and pray for my enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray fo those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-45a

I was once an enemy of God. Jesus didn’t kill (hate, despise or trap) His enemies. He died for His enemies at the hands of His enemies. This means He died for me and my sin put Him on that cross as much as those who hammered the nails through His hands and feet. As I watch the news today and see the senseless and violent acts committed against innocent people, I know Jesus can relate. It’s what He experienced. And yet He loves the people committing these acts. Following this example, especially when lives are lost, can challenge me to my very core and that’s good because sometimes that’s what it takes for the love of God to penetrate the deepest places. The walls need to fall and the good news is God’s love makes us whole without them.

Looking back on my childhood, I now understand that my parent’s love was imperfect. As a parent, I realize mine is as well. God’s love on the other hand is perfect. It’s excessive and extravagant. God has all of the love we need and He gives all the love we need to love Him and love each other well. I don’t want to be angry, bitter, resentful, jealous or easily offended. I don’t want to live in denial justifying, making excuses or blaming others for my decisions and actions. I want to willingly forgive and offer grace to others just as God has done for me. I want to love well and God’s love is helping me do just that.

Want to dig deeper into the book of 1 John?

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Living in the Light of God’s Love: Walk this Way is available at the Welcome Desk or at MariKeisling.com.

 

 

SATURDAYS - WELCOME BACK!

THE NEED.

Last spring, after prayerful consideration, our staff made the decision to discontinue Saturday night services for a season. Attendance fluctuated dramatically and didn’t leave the best first impression for our guests.

We set apart a deliberate time to rethink and retool during the fall. As I wrote in May, “we may reevaluate and restart Saturday night services or even add a third Sunday service at some point in the future, depending on attendance trends and needs.”

CONCLUSION?

Saturdays are coming back! They have value and they serve a purpose! Some people just can’t make it on Sundays, and Saturdays provide another option for them and anyone who has a Sunday conflict.

WHEN?

We start SATURDAY, JANUARY 6 at 5 pm!
KIDNECTION and NURSERY provided.

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!

Right now, a LAUNCH team is being pulled together with people who are committed to attending SATURDAY night services throughout the year. This team will have its first meeting at 10 am on SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 19 in the auditorium. ALL are welcome! In DECEMBER, this launch team will meet for worship and planning on SATURDAY, DECEMBER 2, 9, and 16 at 5 pm to get ready to welcome guests in the New Year!

Please consider joining our Saturday night LAUNCH TEAM! We need people like you who are willing to serve in First Impressions, KIDNECTION, etc. to make this service a success and we can’t do it without you and the Holy Spirit!

If you’re in, CLICK HERE to let us know!

In the meantime, move heaven and earth to join us on Sundays and invite a friend to Northgate!

Northgate Church is passionate about helping people become who God purposed them to be.

“We write this to make our joy complete.” 1 John 1:4

A few years back I was reading a book that really spoke encouragement into a situation I was going through. I carried it with me everywhere I went. Any time I heard someone mention something that pertained to the topic I would interject this book into the conversation. “I’m reading this book. It talks about just what you’re going through. I’ve found it to be so helpful. You might find it helpful as well.”

It’s so easy to tell someone about the latest book I’ve read, movie I’ve seen or product I’ve found, but tell someone about my relationship with Jesus? That’s another story.

The Apostle John explains, however, that telling others about Jesus doesn’t have to be so difficult. In fact, whatever fear you may think you will experience will actually be overwhelmed with joy. And not just any joy, but complete joy.

John writes to make His joy complete and in doing so, lets us in on a few ways we can experience this joy as well.

1. Share Jesus and invite.

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3

More often than I’d like to admit, conversations touch on topics that speak to God’s work in my life and yet, I stay closed lipped. Jesus is my greatest joy. Just as I share other experiences with people, John says to do the same thing regarding Jesus. One of the best ways to tell others about Him is to share what I’ve seen, heard and felt. I can tell them how my life has changed because I’ve encountered Him. I can share what I love most and what I know to be true about Him. He is more than helpful; He is everything good. Why would I want to stay quiet about Him?

At the same time, no one wants to be told what to do, but everyone wants to be loved, included, and know they have a place to belong. My hope is that others would join me, so we can follow Christ together. That means I need to not only tell, but invite. It’s easy to invite people to our game nights, barbecues, concerts and other fun events. Why is it so hard to invite people to church, to a Bible study or some other Jesus-centered activity? I know I too often take their hesitation, uncertainty or out-right rejection of Jesus personally. I also know, however, that my desire for others to know Jesus as their greatest joy is an indicator of my love for them. What does it say about my heart for people if I don’t care if they know Him or not?

2. Live in the Light.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

John says, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” He knows and sees all and as we step into a relationship with Him, His light shines into all the dark crevasses of our beings.

I admit there are times when I want to hide. I fear criticism, judgement and rejection. I fear being called out on all the things I’ve done wrong. I don’t want to be seen. I don’t want to be hurt again. This attitude thrives in the dark, but in Jesus there is no darkness. Not one shadow. His light reveals everything that causes me to want to hide, but with Him there is nothing I need to hide.

My sin separates me from God. My not believing and acting on His command to not be afraid keeps me separated from God. When I acknowledge my sin, give it to Him and ask for His help to think, live and love differently, I begin to live in His light. If I think I’ve already got it altogether and don’t need His help, I’m fooling myself and I’m calling Him a liar. The light of Jesus requires me to be honest and vulnerable if I truly want a relationship with Him and relationships with others.

3. Walk the way of Jesus.

“This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”
1 John 2:5b-6

Or as one version says, “ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” How did Jesus live or walk? He walked in love and I’m called to do the same. I need to walk in agreement with what He says is true.

I embrace His love for me and I embrace His love for others. I trust that when He says His love is perfect and casts out fear, I can let it go. And when I still hold tight to my fear, I’m not walking in His love. I’m trying to stay hidden in the dark. When I hold grudges, sit in resentment and bitterness, or am judging and criticizing, unwilling to share His love with others, I’m living from a heart of hate, not love.

Living and walking like Jesus isn’t just about what I do outwardly with people, it’s also about what I let live in my heart towards people. If I claim to know Jesus, if I claim to be a “good Christian”, then I need to love like He does. I love without judgement, forgiving and offering grace. I support and encourage people in whatever way I can and trust that God is at work in their lives as well as my own. I step into the messy places and relationships He calls me to trusting that I have nothing to fear in His perfect love.

As we step into a relationship with Jesus, we acknowledge the truth of who He is and who we are. We let ourselves be seen and trust His love to help us think, live and love His way. We love one another when we are willing to be seen and known, strengths, weaknesses, flaws and all. We love one another when we are willing to see and know the struggles of others and go through it with them so that they can know the love of Jesus themselves. In Jesus, we form relationships that are unbroken by time and the conditions of our hearts and world. We come into agreement with God and in this, together we can experience full and complete joy.

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Want to dig deeper into the book of 1 John?

Living in the Light of God’s Love: Walk this Way is available at the Welcome Desk or at MariKeisling.com.

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