Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Question of the Month ~ We want to hear from you!

We want to hear from you!

Here's the question for the month:

What is  one way you can encourage your friends in Jesus?

 {Please comment below!}

Love One Another...

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."
~John 13:34

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Embracing the Gift of Friendship ~ Lianna's Testimony

Red-haired Anne of Green Gables put into words what many of us have wondered. Shortly after her arrival at Green Gables, Anne confided to Marilla her dream regarding friendship - she wondered if she would ever find “a bosom friend... a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul”. If you know the story, you know that Anne did find that friend in a girl named Diana. Does Anne’s desire ring true for you as well? It does for me! We were created to be in relationships - first with God, and then with one another.

When Jesus died on the cross, He purchased our salvation from the penalty of sin and provided the way for a relationship with the holy God of the universe. “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself...” (2 Corinthians 5:18). God created us for relationship with Him! For those who trust Him as Savior, we have THE GREATEST FRIEND that can ever be found. Before an earthly “bosom friend” or “kindred spirit” will ever satisfy, we must recognize and embrace the cup-overflowing fullness that is found in Christ alone.

The psalmist David knew this to be true (emphasis mine):
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty Rock, my refuge is God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62)

Those words have comforted me often, especially in times when 
friendships seemed to fail me or elude me. Finding our fulfillment, strength, hope, and all that we need in GOD frees us to enjoy human friendship without placing unrealistic expectations on imperfect people to meet our needs. 

Have you ever felt like you were on a roller coaster when human friendships ebbed and flowed, or even brought misunderstanding or hurt? With God our Father, there is no shadow of change (James 1:17)! He is a rock-solid Anchor that will not move, and a Friend that will not fail or forsake us. Ever. The Word of God is full of the blessings that we find in relationship with our heavenly Father, whom we can also call “friend”. He is worth knowing as our dearest friend! 

When our deepest needs are first satisfied in God, we are then free to give and receive in human friendships.
And these human friendships are profoundly significant! “He who walks with the wise grows wise” (Proverbs 13:20)... and “as iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). The people with whom we spend time will influence who we become. For this reason, the friends we choose as our closest confidants should have qualities that we want to cultivate in our own lives.

Where can such friends be found? For starters, you may have some wonderful friend prospects right within your own family. Don’t overlook your siblings! Friends may come and go, but you will be related to your family as long as this life lasts. Then, pray for God to reveal “kindred spirits” to you from other places as well - this may be at church, in your neighborhood, at a class, or somewhere entirely unexpected! God will provide just who you need, at just the right time. Recognize that there will be friends of the journey, and friends of specific seasons - some friendships will be precious for certain times in your life, and then time or distance will drift your paths apart. Other friends will be ones that will stick through all of life, even if time and space separate you at times.

How can deep, meaningful friendships be cultivated? Friendships that will take you beyond the surface are those whose roots are grounded in a shared love for and delight in God. If the deepest common roots of your friendship are your relationship with God, this is a bond that will hold you together far beyond circumstances alone. You will have more to talk about than a shared class or a recent purchase of clothing. Enduring friendship requires a willingness to be honest and real, and opportunities to share both daily life and the depths of your heart. One of my dearest friendships began when I was 16 - we didn’t know each other well, but she and I agreed to become prayer and accountability partners. This built the foundation of our friendship first on our relationships with God. As the years have passed, we have been able to share each others joys and sorrows, grow to be more honest and real with one another, and enjoy the gift of a sweet friendship for the journey! You might know this friend - her name is Amy. :)

I do not know where this finds you. Do you feel like you are in the wilderness, far from any prospect of a kindred spirit or bosom friend? Or are you enjoying nourishment from a blossoming garden of sweet human friendships? Whatever your friendship situation, there is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother. Our heavenly Father is ready to meet your deepest need for companionship, first in Himself... and then through the friendships He will bring in His perfect time, for your good and His glory.

A Friend Loves at all Times...

"A friend loves at all times,

    and a brother is born for adversity."

~Proverbs 17:17

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Power of Fellowship and Accountability ~ by Amy Vest

Fellowship and accountability are powerful - immeasurably powerful.

I have said over and over that Jesus is all you need. And I will confirm that and say it again - Jesus is all you need.

In His perfect design He gave us people and human relationships. Why?

God gives us people to encourage one another in following him.

Recently I memorized these verses:
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken."  ~ Ecclesiastes  4:9-12

The Lord could have created us and put us each on our own personal islands. But He designed us for community - to impact and be impacted by one another towards Him and living for Him.

Proverbs 27:17 clearly tells us, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another."

There is such incredible power in having others to point us to Jesus, fan the flame of love for Him in our lives, and challenge us to go deeper in our relationship with Him.

When I was in my teens, the Lord provided a precious friendship that grew through accountability and fellowship. My friend and I would call one another every 2 weeks to keep one another accountable, share what the Lord was doing in our lives, and find out how we could pray for each other. This friendship has been a mighty tool in the Lord's hand to bring me closer to Him. Just recently we talked again - though now many miles separate us - the fellowship and accountability is priceless.

Many of you have experienced the power of this when you have chosen an accountability partner for the Summer Devotions Pursuit, or a similar friendship.

I love the passage in Scripture that talks of how Jonathan and David's friendship and how they, "...strengthened his hand in God." ~ 1 Samuel 23:16

That is what we are called to in human friendship.

The Lord works so mightily through fellowship and accountability: 
~ Fellowship - a bond, encouragement, and grace in Jesus that comes from sharing the same Savior, love, and goal in life.
~ Accountability - helping, cheering, and challenging one another towards greater depth with Jesus.

I am so grateful for the precious friends that the Lord has used, and uses, to point me to Him in these ways. The impact on my walk with Jesus and life are immeasurable.

These kind of friendships He gives us are priceless companions sharing the path on this journey with Jesus and teammates cheering us on in Him until we cross the finish line of this life.

We are humans who need help, encouragement, accountability, and correction. The Lord often chooses to work through people to provide this grace.

Listen carefully to what this verse is telling us:
"But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." ~ Hebrews 3:13

I want this to be clear - the enemy of your soul loves for you to be isolated and alone. In this place, he will try to deceive you, discourage you, and distract you. When we are in godly community and relationships, the Lord can use them to speak Truth to one another and help expose lies we are believing and to identify and rejoice in God's work in our lives.

Fellowship and accountability are gifts God has given for our good and His glory - to point us to Him!

Let's embrace them for His glory in our lives.
Here are some action steps you can take today:
~ Ask the Lord to provide a godly friendship/godly friendships
~ Pursue one godly friend/godly friends
~ Establish a pattern for encouragement and accountability - This could be a phone call once every 2 weeks, a coffee date, praying for one another, quoting your Bible memory verses to one another, etc.
~ For more encouragement and practical application, you can watch the video session on "The Heart of Friendship"!

May the Lord work in a mighty way through your friendship and accountability to draw you closer to Him - your God, dearest Friend, and Life!

Iron Sharpens Iron...

"Iron sharpens iron, 
and one man sharpens another."

~Proverbs 27:17

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Join us for Session 2 - "The Heart of Friendship" - of the Beautiful to God Online Conference!

Welcome to Session 2 of the Beautiful to God Conference - The Heart of Friendship!
Friendship is an amazing gift from God! God is a relational God and He created us in His Image for relationships.

God has a very special plan for friendship - for His glory, our joy, and the blessing of others. We must realize that our friendships are so critical - They can either aid you in knowing Jesus and living the vibrant life in Christ that you were created for, or they can destroy you. We must seek for Lord’s grace to embrace friendship for all that He intended.

We invite you to join us as we look at this important topic in this month's session!
Please visit our website for the companion handout for this session!

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." ~ John 13:34

He First Loved Us...

"We love because he first   loved us." 
~1 John 4:19

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Question of the Month ~ We want to hear from you!

We want to hear from you!

Here's the question for the month:

What is 1 thing that helps you grow in your relationship with Jesus?

                                                                     {Please comment below!}

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

~John 3:16 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

There Is No Friend Like Jesus ~ Kayla's Testimony

 When I was 10 years old, I heard a speaker share the gospel. I was very convicted by what he said, so later that evening I went in tears to speak with someone who could explain the gospel to me because I did not think I was really saved. She explained salvation to me and I put my trust in Christ as my Savior and Lord. After that I had an intense desire to read and study God’s Word and get to know Jesus better. The more I studied, the more I realized how amazing Jesus is and that He is not just a God far away, but someone who can be a close friend, even a best friend. He has always been so faithful to show me His mercy and grace and love each day. Jesus has given me so much hope and joy that I never find with anyone else. I have so much peace when I walk closely with Jesus and even in the times when I have drifted away some, He has been faithful drawn my heart back to Him.

One example of a time I started to drift was last summer when I started to become really good friends with someone from my church. We spent a lot of time together and we would talk on the phone and text a lot too. It was a very godly friendship. We would often read our Bibles and pray when we would get together, and on the phone we would talk about church and tell each other what God had been doing in our lives. I was so happy that God had blessed me with such a godly friend.
 But over time I noticed something started to happen. I was spending less and less time reading my Bible and in prayer. I did not think about the Lord as much throughout my day and how I could honor Him. I was too preoccupied with this newfound friend who was taking a lot of my time and thought. So I started to drift away from my friendship with Jesus and He was given second place.

 As I realized this was happening, I also started to realize a lot of my joy was gone. I was not living in the peace that only God can give because problems started to surface as a result of this friendship. I went from being very happy to not very happy at all. I was had a lot of inner turmoil. It was at this time, that God removed this friend from my life. It was a little difficult at first, but I could see God’s grace through it in so many ways.

I now had so much more time to spend in my personal devotions. It was so wonderful to be able just to focus on Jesus and His Word. I could pray without any distractions. I was not looking forward to being with someone else more than I was with my Savior. I began to experience again the joy that only comes from being close to Jesus and having Him as my best friend.

It is good to have close friendships with other godly people, but when they replace Jesus as your very best and closest friend, they can become a distraction and God, in His love for us, may remove them from our lives or lead us to back away a little. Even though it can be hard sometimes, God always does what He knows is best for us and what He knows will give us the most joy. And He has shown me that nothing or no person can give you more joy than walking closely with Jesus and having Him as your closest friend.

Jesus Satisfies...

"For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things."
~Psalm 107:9

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Journey of Love with Jesus ~ by Amy Vest

Jesus is calling you to Himself.

He is inviting you on a journey with Him.

You were created for a journey of love with Jesus.

This is a journey that is meant to deepen every year you walk with Him - amid all of the happy and hard times - bringing matchless joy to you, glory to Him, and overflowing in blessing to others.

You were meant for this journey with Jesus, friend.

Nothing compares.

Never forget that you were created for Jesus and will not be satisfied anywhere else.

He IS love and is calling you to a journey of love with Him.

"I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness." (Jeremiah 31:3)

Let's take a glimpse at 3 elements of this journey of love:

1. Know His love personally and love Him in return.  He pursues and we respond.
- Know for yourself His love in His Word, Salvation (more on this HERE), and His being present and at work in you every moment by His Spirit. (John 3:16)
- Love Him in return by putting Him first in heart, seeking Him, worshiping Him, and living for Him. (Mark 12:30)

2. Live in and from His love.
- Live in His love - soaking in it every day thorough His Word, prayer and fellowship with Him through the day, and remembering His love. (2 Thess. 3:5)
- Live from His love - letting the love that is forever and unchangeably yours in Him motivate and empower all you do vs. trying to live to earn His love that is already yours and cannot be earned. (2 Cor. 5:14)

3. Share His love.
As you receive His love and love Him in return, allow that love to spill out to others. "We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

Oh, friend! You have the joy of walking in this relationship of love with Jesus every moment of your life!

It is a relationship.
It is love.
It is a journey.
It is with JESUS! 

There is nothing sweeter in all the world.

And Jesus is calling us to this!

I want to live each moment with:
my hand in His hand and my heart in His heart,
basking in His love and presence,
soaking in His Word and listening to His voice,
loving Him with all that I am,
spilling out His love to others and calling them to know it for themselves...
Following wherever Love leads.

Do you?

There is no other journey worth taking - and on this journey He guides you to all else He has for you.

He is pursing you, revealing His love, guiding your steps, teaching you His Truth, giving grace to walk with Him. When you fall, He picks you up, when you disobey, He lovingly disciplines you and draws you close, when you are weak, He strengthens you...He will keep you.

Nothing can separate you from His love.

"...I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

As we embrace this, life - in all of its seasons - becomes an amazing journey of a deepening relationship of love with Jesus - the One who is Love.

He has so much in store for you, friend.

Jesus is calling you to this journey of love with Him - will you answer?

Love the Lord...

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind and with all of your strength."

~Mark 12:30 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Join us for Session 1 - "Jesus is Your Best Friend" - of the Beautiful to God Online Conference!

Session 1 ~ "Jesus is Your Best Friend" ~ Beautiful to God Conference from Loving the Lord Ministries on Vimeo.

Welcome to Session 1 of the Beautiful to God Conference - Jesus is Your Best Friend!

The reason you are on this earth is for a relationship with Jesus that satisfies you and glorifies Him! This relationship with Him is the most important thing in this life and in eternity. Jesus is so amazing and knowing Him will transform your life!

Join us for this powerful session as we look at the most important relationship in the world with Jesus - the One who alone can satisfy the longings of our soul. It is our prayer that you will encounter Jesus for yourself - in a deeper way, or for the very first time - and you will never be the same!

Please visit our website under the "Beautiful to God Online Conference" section for the handout for this session!

We would love to have you comment below and share something the Lord did in your heart as you watched this video!

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind and with all of your strength." Mark 12:30