Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Scars and His Glory ~ Mandy's Testimony


“Have you looked at your scars yet?” my friend asked me. I shook my head no. The surgery incisions on my back were still pretty fresh – just a few weeks old. While I was told that the operation was successful, I still couldn’t bring myself to look at the scars that remained. It would be a few months before I finally dared to glance at my surgery site in the mirror. 

When I did, I winced at the sight of two long, permanent markings marring my skin.

A few years later, an emergency operation would leave a third scar on my lower back. While I am so grateful for the successful, even life-saving results of these surgeries, I have also wrestled with the concept that my body will always bear the marks of my pain. These experiences have caused me to think deeply about bearing my scars in a God-honoring way.

What I began to realize is that everyone has their own scars. Some of these scars are visible, resulting from surgeries, accidents, or other painful experiences. Others are invisible – the results of grief, malicious words, and other forms of emotional trauma. While the circumstances leading to these scars may have occurred beyond our control, they are never a surprise to God. In fact, our scars are part of God’s matchless design for our lives.

One way we can find hope in the midst of our scars is to rest in the sovereignty of God. He has a purpose for our lives that is greater than we can imagine. His Word assures us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) While we may experience heartache in this life, we can take comfort knowing that God is the One who has a deeper, better, more perfect plan for our lives.

I can testify to this beautiful truth in my own life. In the years following my surgeries, I spent a lot of time on bedrest. During this time, I watched other girls enjoying a “normal” life. In some ways, I felt that my pain had robbed me of my teen years. What I didn’t realize at the time was that God would use that season of rest to draw me near to Himself in powerful, beautiful ways. In fact, I can now look back on my teenage years with great fondness, as the season in which God set me on a trajectory to seek and serve Him with my life.

Once we understand that God is sovereign, we also need to grapple with the shame that many of us feel concerning our physical and emotional scars. I certainly have struggled with feeling ashamed of the scars on my back. As a teenager, I fought a subtle but nagging thought that if only I had been a better person, maybe I wouldn't have had to deal with physical pain. But I have to continually remind myself that the circumstances that happened outside of my control were exactly that – beyond my control. Such scars are not the marks of sin. Rather, they are opportunities to bring honor to God.

As an example, I think of the blind man mentioned in the book of John. Jesus’s disciples asked Him, “’Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’  Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” (John 9:2-3) This passage greatly comforts me as I think about the spinal issue that I was born with. This condition, leading to my surgeries and subsequent scars, has always been intended for God’s glory!

It’s important to note that when Jesus appeared to His disciples in His resurrected body, He chose not to remove the crucifixion scars from His hands and side (John 20:27). Clearly, Jesus was not ashamed of His scars. Instead, He displayed them as physical evidence of God’s resurrecting power. This passage gives me courage as I remember that my own Savior is scarred without shame.

As I come to peace with my own scars, I choose to see them as an opportunity to thrive in my service to God and others. In particular, I am inspired by the example of missionary Amy Carmichael (1867-1951), who enjoyed several decades of fruitful ministry in India before she suffered a serious fall. As a result of this accident, Amy Carmichael was bedridden for much of the final twenty years of her life. Despite her pain, Amy Carmichael chose to use her time to write prolifically. In fact, some of her most enduring legacies are her books, which have touched lives around the world. It's clear that Amy Carmichael's physical scars were part of God's perfect design for her life.


After looking at my scars as part of God’s matchless design, I am encouraged to persevere despite them. I look to the past as a reminder of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty. I look to His Scripture to remind me that I need not be ashamed of my scars. And I fill my mind with positive examples of those who have used their scars to honor God. In light of all this, let us persevere with diligence as we joyfully anticipate how God will use our scars for His glory. 

His ways are higher...

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” 

~Isaiah 55:8-9

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Creator's Matchless Design of You ~ by Amy Vest

Have you ever watched an artist designing a masterpiece?

You, my friend, are God's masterpiece.

His design of the masterpiece of your life is perfect.  The aspects of how He created you are all for a specific purpose that is beyond what you could fathom. 

God's grand plan for mankind is to know Him, be satisfied in Him, and to glorify Him.  He has a special way for you to do that - and He designed every detail of your life for that purpose.

Every part of how God made you is like the facets of a prism - a piece of crystal cut in many dimensions to catch and disperse light in gorgeous ways.  Each part of how God made you is intended to shine His life, light, and goodness through in a way that displays His glory like no one else can. 

From the beginning of time, He planned when you were born, your family situation, what you look like, the circumstances you can't change, your personality, the talents and limitations you have, the number of years you live on this earth... Each was purposefully individually designed to bring you to be satisfied in Him and shine His goodness through your life in a unique way.

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb."  (Psalm 139:13)

Stop and think about that.  That mellow personality, country you were born in, specific sibling, gift you've been given, limitation you face, circumstance you can't change, that _____ - you fill in the blank - are all intentionally selected by God for you.

He looks at the way He made you and He says, "She's perfect."  You are exactly how He wanted you to be.  (Yes, His work on our inside - sanctifying us - is a lifelong process.  We are looking at how He designed the framework of your life as a staging ground for His work in and glory through you.)

He has put all of these details together to enable you to fulfill His plan for your life - to know Him and display His goodness to the world in a specific, one-of-a-kind, world altering way - as you walk close to His heart, receiving His grace, and embracing His beautiful plan in grateful surrender!

For me, such incredible rest, security, and purpose results from realizing:
~ God's plan is perfect - He makes no mistakes, sees the big picture, and has a specific plan for how He put my life together.
~ The opinions of artwork (myself or other people), about how I was created, don't matter - the Master Artist's opinion is all that matters!
~ I do not need to try to be like someone else - God made me exactly how He wanted me to be!
~ I can freely embrace the Lord and His plan with all of my heart, seeking to let Him shine His goodness through my life and circumstances for His glory!
~ As He shines, He will glorify Himself in ways He uniquely planned for my life that are beyond imagination.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."  (Jeremiah 29:11)

As the Lord pours out His grace and continues to lead me in embracing His design of my life - my limitations, circumstances, personality, and more - I have seen more and more the breathtaking perfection of His plan as life unfolds and witnessed how fully trustworthy He is. 

As we look at the masterpiece of your life, remember - The way you look at the Artist's design shows what you believe about the Artist Himself.  If I truly believe that God is loving, sovereign, and wise (which He is!), I will know that what He does is an outflow of His heart and for my satisfaction in Him and His glory.  This will cause me to trust Him, embrace His plan in surrender, and thank Him for it.

Let's say with the psalmist, "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."  (Psalm 139:14)

As you live fully, gratefully, and purposefully in God's perfect design for you ~ His masterpiece ~ you can watch Him shine through the prism of your life to glorify Himself in a unique and beautiful way!

A future and a hope...

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."
~Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Join us for Session 7 - "You are Perfectly Made by God" - of the Beautiful to God Online Conference!

Session 7 ~ "You are Perfectly Made by God" from Loving the Lord Ministries on Vimeo.

From the beginning of time, God planned when you were born, your family situation, what you look like, the circumstances you can't change, your personality, the talents and limitations you have, the number of years you live on this earth... Each was purposefully individually designed to bring you to be satisfied in Him and shine His goodness through your life in a unique way.
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." (Psalm 139:13-14)
As you live fully, gratefully, and purposefully in God's perfect design for you ~ His masterpiece ~ you can watch Him shine through the prism of your life to glorify Himself in a unique and beautiful way!
Please visit our website lovingthelordministries.org for handouts and study questions for this session!

I am fearfully and wonderfully made...


"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."

~Psalm 139:14

Wednesday, July 26, 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 lie you have been believing and 1 Truth you will replace it with?
                                                       {Please comment below!}

The Word of Christ...



Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly...
~ Colossians 3:16

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Power of Telling Yourself the Truth vs. Listening to Your Feelings ~ By Breezy

As a short seven-year-old, the edge of the pool felt very safe.   Who knew that toes could grip so   My  I knew my dad, I knew he loved me, I knew he was going to catch me, and I knew this would be fun.  But my feelings were telling me this was not a good idea – the water was deep, I was not very tall or strong, I was not a super swimmer, and there were no lifeguards close by.
dad was in the water and I was supposed to jump in and he would catch me.
well?

This is the struggle we face every day: truth versus feeling – what we know versus what we feel. 

That day at the pool, I went with what I knew was true and I jumped in.  It was so much fun.  My dad caught me (of course!).  We laughed, we splashed, and I jumped into the pool some more.  
I see this scenario over and over in my life.  I read my Bible in the morning and my heart is encouraged and challenged with so much truth from God’s Word.  Then, as I start my day, feelings start to press in on my mind.  It is far too easy for me to forget the things I know are true (because God has said them in His Word) and instead be guided by what my feelings are telling me.

It is so important that I go prayerfully to God’s Word to look for His Truth in everything.  To begin with, it is important that I am honest with the Lord about what I am feeling so that I can address it with the Truth of Scripture.  For me, it has been so helpful to write in my journal the specific thing I am feeling and then begin searching the Bible for verses that will tell me the Truth.  

Here are two recent examples from my life…

My feeling: This circumstance in my life that I am going through is not fun and I am tired of it.  My life will probably never change.

God’s Truth:
“All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenants and his testimonies.” (Psalm 25:10 ESV)  The path Jesus is asking me to walk is His way of expressing to me His steadfast love and faithfulness.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)  “…What [God] desires, that he does, For he will complete what he appoints for me…” (Job 23:13-14 ESV)  “For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it?” (Isaiah 14:27 ESV) God has a good plan for my life and nothing can stop it.

“But [Jesus] said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid’…” (John 6:20 ESV)  When Jesus says, “It is I” it means “I AM” like God spoke to Moses in Exodus 3.  Jesus said this to his disciples when he was walking on the water across the sea to them in the middle of the storm, but for me, I can know that Jesus is the I AM – He is in control of everything, so I don’t need to fear the future.

My feeling: This person is not treating me very nicely today, so I will just avoid them today.

God’s Truth:
“Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10 ESV)  I am not supposed to be kind to someone because they deserve it.  I am supposed to be kind because it is what Jesus asks of His children.

Dear sisters, these are just two tiny example  God’s word is so full of practical Truth for every area of our lives and it is so important that we never let our feelings be in control of our thoughts and actions.  The Truth of God’s Word must control us.   This means that we must spend time in God’s Word to seek and know the Truth and we must give hard, diligent effort to letting it shape our feelings.

We can never stop ourselves from feeling certain things, but here is the key: will we choose to listen to our feelings, or will we choose to tell ourselves the Truth? 

He is a shield...


Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
~Proverbs 30:5 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Transformation of Truth ~ by Amy Vest

Truth that transforms.  That is the Truth that Jesus is offering you.  In John 8:31-32, we hear it:  "So Jesus said... “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Let's look at this transforming Truth together!
1. Knowing the Truth - "If you abide in my word...you will know the truth..."
It is one thing to have a knowledge of the Truth of God's Word in your head.  It is another thing to be personally knowing the Truth, believing it, experiencing it, and owning it as yours.  This comes by you abiding and being in the Word of God - the Bible.  John 17:17 makes it clear, "...your word is truth."  This is the Word of the God who created you, has spoken the Truth to you in the Bible, and is equipping you by the power of His Spirit to know His Word for yourself.

The longer you walk with the Lord and fill your life with His Word, the more that you will see the reality that, 
Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”  (Proverbs 30:5)  

As you truly know the Truth for yourself, you will be able to increasingly discern things that are not true when they come - whether in the form of information, feelings, or thoughts.  Years ago my family was in another country that was both beautiful and different from where I had grown up.  When we went to a restaurant, I decided to try to be healthy and ordered milk.  When it arrived, I took a sip and quickly realized it was NOT real milk!  It was some form of powdered milk or substitute that I couldn't bring myself to drink.  But, how did I know it wasn't real milk?  Because I had spent years drinking the real thing.  It is similar with the Truth.  When you have known the Truth and are filling your life with it, you will be more and more aware when something is not the "real thing"!
2. The Transformation of Truth - "...the truth will set you free.”  
As you know the Truth, it: reveals to you where you are in bondage, serves as a key through which the Holy Spirit brings the Truth to life, and sets you free from the bondage that once held you captive!

It is a beautiful process:

~ Us battling bondage of: fear, pride, jealousy, etc.
~ God opening our eyes in His Word to: Who He is, what He has said and promised, who we are, and the hope we have.
~ God giving us faith to believe His Word
~ Freedom results

Recently the Lord gave a beautiful opportunity to serve Him where I faced and regularly had the temptation to feel pressure and fear.  In this situation, the Lord brought His Word to my heart, "I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand a keep you." (Isaiah 42:6) This brought refocus on Him, His Truth, and freedom of rest through both His presence and Word.  He wants to bring this freedom in every area and situation of your life.


3. Truth in Every Day Life - "If you abide in my word, you are truly my 
disciples..."
The Word of God is meant to saturate and impact every moment of your day - leading you more and more into the freedom that comes from living in the Truth of His Word!  
Colossians 3:16 tells us, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly..."  

Let's look together at some ways we can live, abide, and soak in His Truth in a daily practical way: 

~  Being in His Word - reading, studying, etc.
~  Having His Word in you - memorizing His Word, so you can think on it all of the time.
~  Being reminded of His Word through the day and week - reading, playing Bible on CD, speaking it to yourself, listening to sermons, singing songs filled with Truth.
~  Thinking intentionally about verses from the Bible and allowing the Lord to teach you from them
~  Sharing the Truth with others and allowing them to share with you - confirming it in both
of your hearts
~  Allowing the Lord to bring it to your heart through the dayand all that you face - this is possible as you are reading the Word and have memorized it
~  Receiving God's grace andwalking in the reality of His Truth - no matter how you feel - and experiencing His freedom

Right now, I am in a season where my health is struggling and I have seen the power of this so real in my daily circumstances.  If I focus on and base my attitude on how I am feeling, it results in becoming discouraged, sad, or even crabby (and who wants that?).  But, if I keep my focus on Jesus and the Word, feed my soul with Truth (verses like 
Psalm 73:26, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.")and listen for Him to speak His Truth to me, my heart is flooded with joy, hope, peace, and purpose - causing me to embrace Him, His Word, and my current circumstance for His glory, my good, and blessing of others!

Look at your life with the Lord and identify at least one area in which you need to walk in His Truth and freedom.  Find a verse to memorize on that area, pray it to the Lord - asking Him for His help to walk in it, and receive His grace to walk in it each moment!

May the Lord pour out His richest blessings to you as you go as His disciple, abide in His Word, know the Truth, and watch Him work through it by His Spirit to set you free!

Your Word is Truth...



Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
~John 17:17

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Join us for Session 6 - "The Influence of Your Thoughts and Attitude" - of the Beautiful to God Online Conference!

Session 6 ~ "The Influence of Your Thoughts and Attitude" from Loving the Lord Ministries on Vimeo.

Truth that transforms. That is the Truth that Jesus is offering you. In John 8:31-32, we hear it: "So Jesus said... “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” He has called us to live a life that is radiant in His Truth! Two of the major areas the transformation of His Truth takes place is in our thoughts and attitudes.

Join Amy as we look together at the power of Truth - the Word of God, the Bible - and allowing it to transform our thoughts and attitudes in a way that impacts our lives and the lives of those around us!

Please visit our website lovingthelordministries.org for handouts and study questions for this session!

The truth will set you free...



"...and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
~ John 8:32

Wednesday, June 28, 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 step you are going to take to walk in purity today? 


                                                                   {Please comment below!}