NORTHGATE Blog

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21

The book of 1 John is known as the book of love. Over and over, John describes the love of God: what it is and what it is not. And then we get to the end of this love letter and we see this last thought. “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

What? Wait. Where did that come from?

Maybe it’s just me, but as I read through this book over and over myself, this last sentence seemed out of place. It’s good. It’s right. It’s something we need to do. But it seemed like an afterthought. Like an, “Oh, by the way…” kind of thing.

But as we think about this statement and look back at all John has just communicated about God’s love, we see that this is how we do everything else he’s talked about. We will keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, walking in His ways, or we will fix our eyes on idols, things of lesser value, power and truth.

The principles discussed in the study Living in the Light of God’s Love: Walk this Way are how we keep fixed on Jesus. We can all get off course occasionally, but by doing these things, we will course correct quickly. What does it entail?

FELLOWSHIP

It’s such a churchy word, but all it means is active relationship. We live and engage in an active relationship (in fellowship) with God and with others who know God. We are authentic, not hiding who we really are. We grow and become more invested in Him and each other, able to speak deeper and more gracious truth and encouragement into each other’s lives. We more clearly hear and receive God’s truth and encouragement.

OBEDIENCE

This word entices rebellion right off the bat. “No one’s going to tell me what to do!” But our relationship with God is not just any relationship. His heart for us is one of a parent for a child. And just as our parents told us what to do for our own good, so does God. And God’s direction (commands) are not based on His personal experience in our world; it’s based on His character and the character He’s growing in each of us. It’s completely pure in thought, word and deed. God’s commands set us apart for good in this world, not evil. And if we’re honest, isn’t that what we want, to do good in this world?

HUMILITY

At the same time, we all want what we want. And it seems good to us in the moment, even over the years. And yet to follow anyone’s direction requires us to set aside what we think for what they say. Humility lays ourselves down, acknowledges the value and worth of another as more significant than just what we want. It isn’t that we are not also important, it just says that our wants are not more important than another person’s being and needs. We submit to Jesus, what He says and what He does, so that we can actually do things the way He did them.

MEDITATION

This word, unfortunately conjures up thoughts of religious practices that have nothing to do with the true and living God. But I refuse to let lesser gods hijack words that have good meaning and purpose. Meditation is simply the things we think about throughout our days and nights. What thoughts roll through your mind on a regular basis? Worry, anxiety, revenge, achievement, proving yourself, loss and sorrow? God has given us His Word in both the person of Jesus and through the Holy Scripture. We can think all sorts of things, but all we really need to know is found within the pages of our Bibles. We can read and know that God’s grace and truth will see us through, and as we think on His Word, our perspective, understanding and response to our situations will change. We can know God and through the power of His Spirit, find joy in His Word.

PRAYER

As I was growing up, I thought of prayer as me thinking, maybe speaking my requests to God hoping that He’d hear them and answer them. When I was in my late 20’s, I heard a woman at church talking about how she was talking to God and He was talking back! Really? Was this older woman for real or just “thinking” she heard from God? Can we really hear God? Does He really speak to us personally, individually? Prayer is all about our conversations with God, coming to Him with everything. We seek to know Him and hear from Him. What God says to us when we pray has the power to change our lives if we let it. And therein lies the challenge of prayer…

WORSHIP

“Dear children (you who are loved), keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21) “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Deuteronomy 5:7) (Jesus replied:) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

How do we love each other well? We worship God and God alone. As we seek to follow Jesus in relationship with Him, doing what He says, submitting our will to His, knowing His truth and grace, seeking to hear from Him regularly, we follow the example He set of what it means to love God and love others. We focus all our attention, all our purpose on Him. This is our worship: to be a living sacrifice offering our whole life up to Him for His purpose. His love is good in us and it’s good through us. Walk as Jesus did. Love God and one another well.

Want to dig deeper into the book of 1 John?

light of gods love.png

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

HOW TO RAISE YOUR "BATTING AVERAGE" THIS CHRISTMAS

I don’t know about you, but I was excited to see the Minnesota Twins make a big improvement this year.  In case you are not a fan, the Twins finished in last place in 2016 with only 59 wins.  This year, they won an incredible 26 more games and finished in second place.  Many things were improved this year for the team compared to 2016, including their quality of “at-bats”.  In 2017, the team sent a player up to home plate to hit 61 fewer times than in 2016, but they got 93 more hits.  The team saw significant improvements in their goal (wins) by making the most of every chance they had at the plate.  

By now you are probably asking yourself, “where is he going with this?”. Well, I’m glad you asked!

Christmas is upon us here at Northgate once again.  Preparations are well on their way for an amazing service and experience this year.  There will be 5 identical services to choose from this year on Saturday, December 23 at 3 and 5pm and Sunday, December 24 at 11am, 2pm, and 4pm.  As usual, this will be an event that you will want to invite all your friends and family to come and see how we worship the new born King of Kings!  Maybe you have invited friends and family in the past, but have not had too much success.  Well, like the 2017 Minnesota Twins, we are going make sure that we all do better with our “at-bats” (invitations) and enjoy even greater success this year!

Like most things in life, planning and practice are the key to success.  This year, before you start swinging away (OK –I’ll stop with the baseball analogies) you should take a few minutes and really think about how you will make the invitation.  One method that can be effective is to use what is called an Elevator Pitch. This is a technique that, like the name implies, forces you to be succinct and to the point with your words so that your entire “pitch” can be completed in the time it takes to complete a short elevator ride.

Here are some keys to creating your own unique elevator pitch.

  1. It should be brief – 30 seconds max.  People have a short attention span so keep it brief!

  2. Your pitch should explain what’s in it for them – people aren’t going to be as fired up as they can be if the reason you want them to come to church is “I love it here”.  That’s nice, but like you, most people look at invitations through the lens of WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).  You know who you are inviting; explain to them why you think they would enjoy Christmas at Northgate.

  3. Do not go for the “home run” – Sorry, couldn’t help myself.  But this one should bring relief to us.  You do not have to sell salvation in your invitation.  God is way better at saving people than we are, so we should not try and do his job.  A simple “come and see” should suffice.

I just heard an astounding statistic that said that a whopping 86% of people who are invited to come to church will come.  By preparing your Elevator Pitch in advance, practicing it, and using it during game time, I’m sure that you will come to enjoy inviting friends and family this year.

“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?

light of gods love.png

 

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

 

 

Close