Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Why Do You Want to Get Married? ~ by Amy Vest

“Why, why, why, why, why???”

I want to play the toddler for you in this post - You know, the stage where they ask "Why?" about everything?  I want to keep asking "Why?" and help you to ask "Why?" as you consider marriage!

In this post, we are going to cover the “Why?” of marriage.

When your life is lived in, from, and for the greatest Love Story (Jesus and the Gospel), your mission in life and decisions should increasingly flow from that, also.

When we think about marriage, we need to ask, “Why do I want to get married?”
  We need to know the “why” before we consider the “who”, “when”, and “how”.  When you have prayed and thought this through with Jesus and your perspective and goals are in place, then you are in a better frame of mind to be considering who the Lord might have you marry.

Ask yourself:
"Why do I want to get married?" 
Stop and think about that for a moment.

Why do you really want to get married?  What is your goal in a relationship and marriage?

Let's take it a step deeper:

"What is my "Why?" in life?"

You were created for your life to be about Jesus, our relationship with Him, growing in His likeness, and sharing Him with the world.

Let your “Why” in life determine your “Why” in marriage.

When your goal in marriage is to know, become like, and serve Jesus more together, it brings purpose and stability as you consider a relationship.

Let's look at why (Yes, another "Why"!):

If your ULTIMATE goal is:
"He makes me happy" - he may make you happy today - but, he is a sinner who some days will make you sad (and you will do the same for him), no matter how much he loves you.
"He is cute" - try going to a nursing home and see what will matter in 50 years - if he was cute, or if he was like Jesus.
"I will be satisfied" - marriage can bring so much joy to your life, but only Jesus will satisfy you.
~ "_____________" - You fill in the blank.

But, WHY?
~ Why lay down your life for the other person?
~ Why serve one another?
~ Why be faithful in sickness and health?
~ Why?

It has to be about something bigger than you.

It must be about Jesus and His glory.  In this you are the most deeply satisfied, He is glorified, and others are blessed.  These three things always go hand-in-hand.

When the days are sunshiny and happy, or when the going gets tough - you are united around something deeper.

If you are united around this deeper purpose, it brings a solid foundation to your marriage - and draws you deeper in your relationship with one another as you grow closer to God.

The deepest, most joyful marriages have this as their uniting factor - a desire for Jesus and His glory.

Fairytales paint it as – “Happily ever after.” If your goal is only personal happiness, you will not always find it.  Marriage is about something SO MUCH MORE than our personal happiness! It is about Jesus and His glory - in our lives, potential marriage, and the world.  This comes in marriage as we point one another to Jesus, encourage each other towards growth in Him, extend grace and forgive when the other makes a mistake, serve and support one another, and join as a team to declare the Jesus we love most to the world hungry for Him.

Marriage is going to help make you holy, as well as happy.  To give you a way to minister, as well as receive a meaningful relationship.  To advance His glory, as well as receive His love through a person.

God designed marriage to bless you, sanctify you, and use you as a team for the Kingdom.

This question of "Why?" has been so powerful to me.  As I have pondered this with Jesus, it has brought such clarity in thinking about and considering relationships.
My "Why" for marriage is: Companionship with someone with whom I can seek Jesus, love Him more, grow in Him, and pour out our lives to make Him known.  My theme verse for my “Why” is this: "Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!” (Psalm 34:3)

I want Jesus, His will, and His glory more than anything - whether it means marriage or singleness.  I trust that if Jesus has marriage for me, He will bring it and He will make it clear!

He will make it clear to you, too, friend.  Know your "Why?".  If He has someone for you, you can trust Him to bring your lives together for the purpose of loving, following, seeking, and serving Jesus more together than apart.  (More on these topics in the coming posts!

I pray you are excited as you look at this vision of what life and marriage are about.

So I close as your toddler friend asking, "Why?, why?, why?"!

I strongly encourage you to really think about your “Why” for desiring marriage.  This will bring powerful clarity as you live life and consider a relationship. 

We will look at some practical ideas for considering marriage next week!

Have a wonderful week finding fulfillment in Jesus and looking with Him at your “Why?"!

Let us exalt His name...

"Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!”

~Psalm 34:3

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Relationship of Love with Jesus ~ Amy Vest

"God is love." (1 John 4:8)

There is no greater love in all the world.

The One who IS Love, Who showed us what love is, and invites us into the greatest Love Story of all time - Jesus.

"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us."
 (1 John 3:16)

The greatest Love Story of all time begins, thrives, and ends with Jesus.

And He is inviting you into this Love Story.

Jesus died a cruel death on the cross to save you from the sins that separated you from God, and He offers you forgiveness and a new life in Him.  When you trust Him to save you, turn from your sins, and give your life to follow Him - He washes you from your sin and makes you His own, His Bride.

At that point, you enter into His Love Story - the story of God drawing man to Himself.  From this place, He beckons you to embrace a deep relationship with Him.

Only in Jesus you will discover the deepest longings of your heart satisfied.  There is nowhere else you can find this fulfillment.  God created you with these longings and only He can fill them.  No human - or success, money, etc. - can ever satisfy these deepest longings.  Only Jesus can.

"He satisfies the longing soul..."  (Psalm 107:9)

Jesus calls you to know Him, to receive His love, and to walk in true satisfaction in Him.

If you will open your heart to Him and His love, you will know the fulfillment for which you were created and life will become an adventure of love with Jesus.

Jesus becomes your very purpose. He becomes the reason you live, breathe, get up in the morning, love, work, and dream.

He is calling you to this - will you answer?

From this place of satisfaction, joy, and purpose in Jesus, you will be in a much better place to consider marriage, if that is what the Lord has for you!

He is the Love we were created for – and that all other God-given loves flow from and are a 
picture of this Love.

Start with Jesus. If you are not satisfied in Him, you will never be truly satisfied with what you think you want in a relationship, marriage, or anything else.

When you get to know Jesus, He captures your heart and you can't help but love Him and want more!  It is hard to love someone you don't know, right?

Listen to just a glimpse of Who He Is:
He keeps drawing you to Himself - relentlessly pursues your heart.
He is the love that will never let you go.
He is the perfect Love and He loves you.
He gave His life for you. "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."  (John 15:13)
He is always with you.
He will never leave you. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
He can comfort you like no human can.
He will love us forever. "I have loved you with an everlasting love..." (Jeremiah 31:3)

He is so amazing!  Knowing Jesus more will absolutely transform your life and love for Him will come naturally.  I can say this from personal experience.  He both satisfies you and makes you thirsty for more of Him!

How can you get to know Him more?

Here are a few ways that you can cultivate that love relationship with Jesus:
(There are so many more by clicking HERE.)
~ Keeping Him first priority in your heart, thoughts, actions, and time.
~ Walk through the day with Him.
~ Share your heart with Him in prayer and listen for His voice
~ Read His love letter to you - the Bible.
~ Get to know Him - Keep a journal of Who He is as you grow to know Him in His Word.
~ Soak in and live secure in His love.  He loves you!
~ Love Him in return - in your heart and obedience.
~ See all of life as an opportunity to know Him more.

~ Have reminders of Him - You know how couples or close friends have special reminders of their relationship?  As I was getting closer to Jesus, I wanted something to remind me of Him, His love, and my relationship with Him.  He gave me heart shaped things as a reminder.  This has been such a powerful reminder of His love - often He will send something heart shaped just when I need it!  Just yesterday I was walking into an appointment and looked down to see a heart shaped leaf.  Remembering Jesus, His love, and my relationship with Him changes everything!

This is a love relationship that deepens and matures through the years - just like any beautiful relationship - and it lasts forever.  A relationship is always 2 sided.  Jesus is pursuing you - you just must respond and walk with Him!

This is a reality - Jesus and His love are the only love that will never fail you, always be there - in every season of life!

This love relationship with Jesus being your purpose, satisfaction, and identity - results in security, fulfillment, and joy.

From this Love, you can embrace the other lesser human loves - including a spouse. You will find that they have more meaning, stability, and true love, because they are founded on Jesus.

I just love how in the 1st and 2nd Commandments the Lord calls us to first love Him and then love others next.  As we receive His love and love Him in return, we are then able to love others with the love we've received from Jesus!

"' shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself...’"  (Mark 12:30-31)

When you are fulfilled in Jesus, you don't need to look desperately anywhere for love.

Friend, it is so crucial to see this - Only Jesus can satisfy the deepest need for love in your life. He placed it in you to drive you to Him. No human possibly could.

When you look to a human for fulfillment only Jesus can give, it makes them an idol, places unrealistic expectations on them, and sets you up for disappointment and relationship issues. 

When you are satisfied in His love, you are able to share His love from a place of fulfillment - in all the joys, mistakes, and trials of life.  In this place you can receive another person's love receive love from them with gratitude, but not be dependent on it.  This places you in a secure place to consider marriage - and then pour out love in your spouse in marriage, if that is where the Lord leads.

"We love because he first loved us."

As in all of life, Jesus is first.

You are called to the greatest Love Story, friend.

Run to Jesus today for the love you so desperately need.

May you find your deepest joy walking in this relationship of love with Jesus - soaking in His love, fulfilled in Him, and loving Him. 

As you do, you will discover that He satisfies the deepest needs of your heart - and that there is no safer place for your heart to be than in His nail pierced hands of love.


A note:
There is so much more that could be said about Jesus and our relationship of love with Him!  Below are some video sessions on this topic, if you are aching for more:

~ Jesus is Your Best Friend -
~ A Relationship of Love with Jesus -

Jesus satisfies...

"He satisfies the longing soul..."  

~Psalm 107:9

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Love Story for His Glory ~ Amy Vest

A Love Story for His glory.  We were all made for this.

Everyone loves a good love story.  As a little girl, I loved the fairytale love stories I would read in children’s books.  Those things have an attraction to us, because we were created for something like this – a beautifully deeper story that transforms every other part of our story.
In this post, I am going to give you an overview heartbeat of the material – and in the coming posts, we will look more specifically at certain points! 

The Big Love Story –
There is a bigger story than our earthly love story.  This story is the purpose of our lives and is the Love Story you are called to no matter what your earthly love story looks like.  All of your life and relationships will flow from where you stand in this Love Story.

The Biggest Love Story – The Gospel - God created people to be in fellowship with Him, bringing joy to man and glory to God.  But people sinned and broke our relationship with God.  God showed His powerful love by sending His perfect Son Jesus to earth to die on the cross for people’s sins and rise victorious – offering forgiveness of sin, a restored relationship with God, and eternal life in Jesus.  When we trust in Jesus to save us and give our lives to Him as our Lord, we become His - the Bride of Christ – forever.

This is the most beautiful Love Story of all time.  All of life and human love stories point to this.  Only when we grasp this Love Story will we be fulfilled, and be able to have the right approach to a human love story - lived in, from, and for this Love Story.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Love Relationship with Jesus - Our Love Story begins and ends with Jesus.  We were created to find our total satisfaction in a personal relationship of love with Jesus.  He is the only place we find total satisfaction - It is simply not possible for a human, no matter how wonderful they are, to meet the needs God created that only He can meet.

I can tell you from personal experience that Jesus will fully satisfy the deepest longings of your heart.  Those deep longings that nothing else can fill were meant to draw you to Him.  When you find your satisfaction in Jesus, you realize that you have everything you truly need!

When we are fulfilled in Jesus and whole in Him, we are in a much better place for life and to enter a relationship pursuing marriage (and any other relationship!), if that is what the Lord has for us!

“He satisfies the longing soul…” (Psalm 107:9)

Relationship and Marriage – the why and the how -
When your life is lived in, from, and for the greatest Love Story (Jesus and the Gospel), your mission in life, decisions, and actions will flow from that – as well as the way you consider a relationship.

When we think about marriage, we need to ask, “Why do I want to get married?”  We need to know the “why” before we consider the “who”, “when”, and “how”.  When you have gotten before Jesus about this and your perspective and goals are in place, you are in a better frame of mind to be considering who the Lord might have you marry.

Taking steps in considering marriage is a beautiful opportunity in seeking to honor Christ and point one another – and everyone watching - to Him in a way that displays Jesus.

It is so powerful, protecting, and freeing to look at the gifts of our personal walk with Him, His Word, community, counsel, boundaries and accountability, serving and walking through hard places together.

In every step, it takes much prayer, staying close to Jesus, being in His Word, listening to good counsel, and seeking to follow and glorify Jesus in every step you take.

“Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!” (Psalm 34:3)

You and Your Life -
Look at you before you consider a guy – get before Jesus and know whose you are – His, who you are – both your identity in Christ and who He has created you to be, and where He has called you – your purpose in life.  This is so essential to know as you consider who you will commit to spend your life with!

As you walk in love with Jesus and live in these realities, the right kinds of guy will be attracted to the Jesus in the real you.

And remember  - The single you will be the married you.  (Character, habits, relationship patterns, etc.)

The Guy You Consider -
Once you know your purpose in life, who you are, and why you would marry, then you are in a much better place to consider who you will marry.  
As you do, it is important to look at the key things in a guy you know God would have you consider – What are his walk with Jesus, his character, his beliefs, his mission in life, his goals for marriage and family?
Knowing both of these things helps you keep a more level head when considering guys who pursue you.

One of the best pieces of marriage advice I’ve ever received was this, “Marry someone who loves Jesus more than you - Then he will love you well.” 

The Story for His Glory -
Let us keep in mind our purpose in living, singleness, relationships, and marriage – to know Jesus and to make Him known.  You can – and must - do this at every stage. 

God is the Author of the most beautiful Love Story of all time and can be fully trusted with your life and the area of your human love story.  Let God write every part - what He does is always best.

You are called to take part in the greatest Love Story of all time.  Whether it involves a human love story or not, you are called to be fully loved, satisfied, and filled with purpose as you embrace Jesus and His love every day you live.

As you walk closely with Jesus, embracing life with His love wherever He calls you, with the goal of making much of Him - it will be a Love Story for His Glory.

And you will have a happily ever after.

The greatest love...

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” 

~John 15:13

Friday, October 27, 2017

Life-changing Faith ~ by Amy Vest

What would your life look like if you truly believed God?

Think about that for a moment.

What would your life look like if you not just said that you believed God, but truly believed in the depths of your heart that He is all that He says He is, that His Word is Truth, and that He will fulfill all of His promises - and then acted on the reality?  How different would your life look?

Right now I am sitting in my computer chair as I type.  While I can say that I believe that my chair will hold me up, I only prove my faith in it when I sit in it.  It is the same way with faith in God - we prove our faith when we step out and live in the reality of what we say we believe.

Faith takes God at His Word about Who He is and what He has promised.

Faith says - "God, I believe:
You are Who You say You are.
Your Word is Truth.
You will do what You say You will do."

If we really lived believing this, wouldn't it change our lives - and the world around us?
Faith begins at salvation where we embrace faith in Jesus, His death on the cross for our sins, resurrection, and redemption of our souls - relying on Him alone to save us, to cleanse our sin, fill us with His life, and make us His own.  "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast."  Ephesians 2:8-9 

Then we live from that faith in daily life by relying on Jesus, His Word, His life in us, and grace to live life called to in Him until we see Him face to face.  
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."  (Hebrews 11:1)

This journey of faith in Jesus is a beautiful thing.
 The key in our faith is the object of our faith - Jesus.  You are only as secure as the one you put your faith in.  When your faith is in Jesus, you are as unshakeable as He is.  "And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God."' (Mark 11:22)
Stop and ask yourself, "Who - or what - is my faith in?"

God alone will never fail us.  Faith in God is a rock solid security to our soul.  All that He is - and all that He has promised - is a reality for you lean on in faith.

Faith in God overcomes feelings, circumstances, lies of the enemy, or doubts of others.
  Faith does not say, "Look at my impossible circumstances." Faith declares to your circumstances, "Look at Who my God is!"

"My God is the One Who created the universe, is in control of all things, has all power, is forever faithful, knows what is best, redeems souls, loves me perfectly, will never leave or forsake me..."

This week I was reading a verse that stirs me in the core of my being, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?" (Jeremiah 32:27)  What is the answer? NO!  Nothing is too hard for You, Lord!  "For nothing will be impossible with God.”  (Luke 1:37)

Friend, this is the kind of faith we are called to live in every moment of our day! 

Faith leads us to action.
  It moves us from saying "I believe ________." to acting on that belief.  Faith says, "I believe Your promise to be all that I need, so I will not covet other things." and "I believe that Your Word is Truth, so I will not turn other places for my answers."

We have been called by God to living, active faith.  
True faith in God inspires gutsy prayer, insane action, and deep joy.

This is the faith that inspired the  people we read about in the Hebrews 11 "Hall of Faith".  I strongly encourage you to go read it.  In this chapter is a beautiful reality that floods me with hope.  All of the people in this "Hall of Faith" were humans just like you and me - the thing that set them apart and enabled them to live the lives they did was a deep faith in God and His Word.  They were weak, imperfect people just like us who relied upon God and His Word instead of themselves, culture, possessions, or circumstances.  It is just as possible for you and me to live these lives of faith - because the God Who their faith was in is just as real today!

Every time I step out in faith - in small and enormous things - God proves Himself completely faithful.  He and His Word can be trusted, friend.  Even today I am leaning in faith on Jesus for some pretty big things - and am finding such peace in His faithfulness.  The more we have faith in God, the more we experience His faithfulness. " ...for we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7)

God is waiting to meet you and work in and through your life in a way that only is possible through living a life of true faith in Him.
Gives us faith
Tests our faith to prove it is real
Deepens our faith through life's joys and trials
Is honored by our faith
Uses our faith to point others to Him 

Faith comes from God and points to God.
We will never believe perfectly this side of Heaven, but the greater our faith, the more we will experience God's presence, power, and provision in our lives.  Let's pray like those in Scripture did, '“Increase our faith!”'  (Luke 17:5)  '“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)  These are prayers the Lord delights to answer. 

This life on earth is our only time we need faith.
  When we see Jesus face to face, we will no longer need faith - our faith will become sight and I know we

will wonder why we ever doubted Him.

I want to believe my God.  I want to live in faith in all that He is and has said.  I want that faith to propel me to do things that are only possible when He is Who He says He is and does what He promises.  I want to live a life of audacious faith that declares my God is all that He promises He is!  Don't you?
Here is a very practical part of this: 

Will you rely fully on God and what He says today?
When you live by faith in Jesus and His Word - both believing and acting upon that belief - you find a solid rock beneath your feet that will transform your heart and life, lead you to radical living for His glory, and keep you through all of eternity.
Jesus has called us to lives of faith in Him that declare He is all that He says He is. 

Let's ask Jesus for deeper faith today, place our faith in Him, and step out to live lives that believe His every Word!

"...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith."
  (Hebrews 12:1-2

This is the victory...

"...And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith." 
~ 1 John 5:4

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Surrender – A Pathway to Joy ~ by Amy Vest

When Jesus calls us to surrender to Him, He is calling us to joy.

In giving up ourselves and our agenda, we receive more of Him and His best, abundant life.

Jesus tells us,"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."  - Matthew 16:24-15

We do this first at salvation – a once and for all turning from ourselves and sin to follow Jesus as our Lord.  Then it is a daily receiving of His grace in sanctification to grow in living more and more yielded to Him in every moment of our lives.

Surrender is:
letting go of control, yielding, and releasing my all to Jesus,
letting Him be my All and King of my life,
and allowing Him lead me to and do His best in my life.

I see Him bringing me to greater and deeper surrender the longer I walk with Him – which always brings more joy, because it brings more of Jesus!  Surrender can be painful to our self (self doesn’t die easily), but the life that results is far worth it.  It is an emptying of our self and a filling with the transforming life of Jesus.

Surrender is not an option for us as Christians – Jesus said, 
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24) Following Jesus in surrender is a life like no other – You don’t want anything else!  When you know His heart, you know that all He calls us to is for our good and His glory.

Jesus only calls us to surrender our life, love, time, possessions, plans, desires, etc. so that He can give us more of Himself and His best.   

It is like Him holding out sparkling gold, when our hands are full of dull mud. 

When we resist surrendering to Jesus, it hinders our fellowship with Him and keeps us from His best.  Every time we surrender to Jesus, it brings us closer to Him.

Even this afternoon, such peaceful joy flooded my soul as I surrendered afresh to my Jesus.

It is saying to the Lord, “You and Your will are better than anything I surrender.” 

It is evidence of trust.  Trust in His heart of love that only allows things for our good and His glory, even if we don't fully understand right now.

I have learned that my life is safest in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus – the One who loved me and gave His life for me.

Jesus knows what is best.
You can trust Him.
Surrender to Jesus always leads to life - a life filled with joy, because it is filled with Jesus.

We find our life in Him...

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." 

~ Matthew 16:24-15

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Captivated with Jesus ~ by Amy Vest

Captivated with Jesus.  This is how I want to live.  You too?

Let's ask ourselves the very real question: What are you captivated with?

We can tell what we are captivated with by what we think and talk about, spend time and money on, or do in our spare time.  What would it be for you?  I am asking myself the same question.

Who - or what - has your heart?  

I want it to be Jesus.  Always.

"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." ~ Matthew 6:21

What does being captivated with Jesus look like?  Here is a little glimpse.

When you truly meet Jesus, fix your eyes on Him, and grow in knowing Him, everything else fades more and more into the background in view of the glorious light of all that He is.  The tinfoil of the world that used to sparkle grows dull in light of the radiance of Jesus.  You realize that Jesus alone is the source of all you desire and the only place to look.  When you become captivated with Jesus, it is a point of no return - you are never the same and desire to only grow knowing Him more all of your life.  

Jesus' love, purity, grace, faithfulness, power, patience - and so much more - captivate your heart, both satisfying you and making you long for more of Him!
  You fall more and more in love with Jesus, taste true satisfaction that you long for in the deepest parts of your soul, are riveted on His glory, and you want more.
You find yourself thinking, "I want to dive into my Bible or a book about Jesus - not so I look spiritual - but, because I want Jesus - to discover and personally know more of Him who has captivated my heart!  I want to be where He is, know His heart, and live in a way that honors Him."

Your heart echoes the prayer in Psalms 27:4, "One thing have I asked of the Lordthat will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple."

It is not that we never struggle or get distracted with other less important things.  We are human and we will.  But when we do, we always see that those things never truly satisfy, and the Lord will always bring our hearts back to our true joy - Jesus!

Nothing compares to Jesus.   

When we are captivated and satisfied by Jesus, all of life takes on a new perspective.  

It is not that we never think about or love anything or anyone else!  It is that Jesus is the One who captivates our hearts and we see everything else in light of being captivated with Jesus.

For example:
~ I still eat food - but, I do it, not looking to the food to satisfy me like only Jesus can, but for it to nourish me to walk with, love, and serve Him more!
~ I still treasure time with people - but, I do it looking to Jesus to satisfy what no human can, and seeking to share and receive His love through fellowship and ministry.
~ I still... and you can fill in the blank for yourself.  Do you get the picture?

He gives us all we need and then gives us His desires in light of all that He is.

"Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."  ~ Psalm 37:4

It is where our heart is.

Yesterday in church, we sang one of my favorite songs, and these words struck me so sweetly and strongly, "We will fix our eyes on You, so we can set our hearts on You."

Here is something important to remember - If you want to be captivated with Jesus, do not wait until you feel captivated with Jesus.  Seek Jesus, ask Him to reveal Himself to you, pursue Him... As you know Him, you will grow in captivation with Him.  It is about riveting our hearts on what His Word promises will satisfy - Jesus - and then allowing our feelings to follow.

Here are some helpful ways to do this:
~ Giving Him first place in your heart
~ Time with Him
~ Reading His Word and growing in knowing Who He is
~ Prayer
~ Worship
~ Fellowship with others who are captivated with Him

Here is the beautiful thing - Jesus wants to captivate your heart, friend.  He is pursuing your heart - both to save you from your sins and then for an ever deepening personal relationship with Him.  He is for you and wants to help you to listen to His Word, see evidences of His love, and know Him.  He promises to help you as you pursue Him, battle the enemy's distractions, and embrace all that the Lord has for you in Himself. Your call is to respond by His grace and pursue Him - and prepare to be dazzled with all that He is.

"Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you." ~ Jeremiah 31:3

Jesus created you to be captivated with Him.  This is where your deepest joy and His greatest glory meet.

Jesus, only Jesus is all that you ever need.

It is a lifelong joy of growing more captivated with Jesus.

The promise - "Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed."  ~ Psalm 34:7

Where your treasure is...

"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." 
~ Matthew 6:21

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

~ Summer Devotions Pursuit 2017 Testimonies ~

"I feel closer to God and think about Him more than I used to." ~ Anonymous

"I was extremely blessed by my quiet time with the Lord this summer!  He has given me direction for the new season of life I am entering upon, and has truly brought me closer to Himself!  He has enabled me to know Him in a new way this summer!  Thank you for hosting this challenge!" ~ Claire, WA

"This summer I believe that God has given me a more proneness to pray to Him.  Also to pray for other people that I see, hear, or read about." ~ Grace, CA

"Thank you for putting this challenge together!  This is my 4th year doing it and this has been the most blessed!  I memorized Psalm 34 this year and am helping my sisters to memorize it.  It is such a beautiful Psalm!  I have learned what a true blessing it is to spend time with the Lord!  I will never master the beauty of all God is!  But it is such a blessing to have Him as my gracious Father!" ~ Maria, NE

"I have been participating in the Devotions Summer Pursuit for about 3 years.  Each year I have learned something new about God, how I can better pursue a relationship with Him, and my sinful tendencies to put off daily Bible reading.  This year, God has specifically revealed to me how absolutely everything is for His ultimate glory, how important prayer is in our relationship, and that I tend to put off our time together because I believe other things are more important." ~ Hannah, MN

"Before this summer I never had a consistent quiet time.  Doing Summer Pursuit really helped me to develop a habit.  I also feel like I am closer to the Lord than I’ve ever been before.  I read through a lot of the Psalms and a little bit in Matthew.  Reading through the Psalms was really neat because there is so much diversity in thoughts.  Thank you for putting this resource together!" ~ Mary, OH

"Thank you so much for starting this Summer Devotions Challenge!  It has greatly benefitted my relationship with our Heavenly Father!" ~ Emma, WA

"This summer the Lord helped me spend time with Him almost daily... I hope I will continue to spend time seeking the Lord daily and showing it in my words and actions. The Lord really showed me His power this summer through all the stories I read about Him... I’m so thankful I get to worship such an amazing God!  I hope to continue to be a bright light for Him." ~ Brooke, OH

"Throughout this summer the Lord has worked in many ways on my heart.  The more time I spent with Him, the more I longed to be in His presence, and on days that were shorter or I didn’t get one in, I could see a direct effect on my day – it was less fulfilling and I would struggle more in some areas.  He opened my eyes to some of my weaker areas and lead me to some encouraging Scripture so that I can work on them.  He has shown me the importance of boldness and fearlessness in sharing the Gospel, the importance of people hearing it, and that only things done in Christ’s name will really matter in eternity.  By having to spend time in the Word each day this summer it has really become a top priority where it should be, but isn’t always.  Thank you for giving me this opportunity!  It has been very uplifting and helped me much.  God bless!" ~ Anonymous

 "The Lord has definitely been working on my life this summer!  He has guided me through many obstacles and has given me many blessings.  I just wonder how people make it through life without Him! Thank you for the chart – it has kept me on track with my personal quiet time with God." ~ Caitlyn, OH

Wednesday, September 27, 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 the Lord is calling you to live for or share Him today?

{Please comment below!}

For those who love Him...

 “...No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

~ 1 Corinthians 2:9

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Outflow of a Transformed Heart ~ Isabella's Testimony

The Lord has blessed me with the privilege of being raised in a Christian home.  I came to know Christ at a very young age. When I was 3, I can remember being with my mom and asking Jesus into my heart. I realized that I was a sinner, and that Jesus died on the cross for me.

My whole childhood, I can remember my parents teaching me about Jesus and sharing the scriptures with me. I grew up loving Jesus and learning about Him. But later on when I was about 10, I started to fear, and doubt in whether or not I was truly saved. I kept pushing it aside though, telling myself, your fine, you already “prayed a prayer”. But I continued to fear and doubt. I wasn’t sure if I would go to Heaven or not if I died tonight. I didn’t feel I had what I thought a Christian should have. I didn’t feel satisfied. I knew there was more to life. As I observed the lives of my parents and other godly men and women, I saw that Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), and that life in Him is totally satisfying (Ps. 107:9)! I went to a girls conference and the speaker, was talking about fully surrendering your life to Christ. She shared her testimony, and up to this point, it was so similar to my story. I saw that to follow Christ, I needed to fully surrender my life to Christ, and not only make Him my Savior, but also my Lord.

When I was 11, I surrendered my life to Jesus! And from that moment on, the Lord placed a peace and joy in my heart like I never even thought possible! My life has never been the same since that moment. He has been my best friend ever since.

As I started really seeking the Lord, with all of my heart, that’s when I truly started to find Him (Jer. 29:13). He satisfied my every longing, and gave me a genuine peace and joy!

I started thinking about other girls I knew, who didn’t know Jesus, and who didn’t have this precious gift. I wanted to do something, I didn’t know what, so I began to pray about it. As I did, the Lord just really placed it on my heart to start a girls Bible study for some neighborhood girls. This had never crossed my mind before...It was something that was way out of my “comfort zone”, and to be honest, I just didn’t think I was capable of doing something like this. I really had a heart though, to share with other girls how beautiful life can be with Him! I talked to my parents about it, assuming for some reason they would say no. But to my surprise they really encouraged me to do this. At this point, I had no idea where to I just prayed. The Lord was so faithful and lead me every step of the way.

In June of 2009 when I was 14, I held a Summer Bible study at my house for some neighborhood girls. 3 came that year. We studied “What Friendship and Life are all about” by Loving the Lord Ministries. I really felt this was something the Lord wanted me to continue to do. The following Summer we studied “Beautiful to God” by Loving the Lord Ministries.

At this point it was no longer just a Bible study for neighborhood girls...girls from church started coming friends and even others I had never met before. I saw that there was a great need to encourage girls in the Lord. So now annually every Summer I do a girls Bible study. Last year around 13 girls came, and this year up to 23 girls came. Wow! Each time, we study God’s word, pray, and then we usually do a craft that goes along with what we studied. Have a snack and if there’s time we’ll play a game. I have been amazed at who the Lord has all brought! And what He’s all done through it! I have learned so much! And have been so blessed by all these girls hearts to seek God and desires to learn more about Him! It’s been so sweet to see them grow in the Lord! He has worked in such amazing ways through this! My ministry is to learn to be a vessel that the Lord can work through to reach out and become an encouragement to others.

Praise the Lord for how He working...and will work!!!

We walk by faith...

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

~ 2 Corinthians 5:7

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Impact of Your Life ~ by Amy Vest

Close your eyes.  Think of yourself 5 years from now.  Now try 10 years.  How about 50?  Now really stop, be still, and think of yourself in eternity.

What will really matter then?  All that will matter is your relationship with the Lord and secondly the souls of people.

Look at your life now.  What is the impact of your life is having right now?  What will it be after you are gone?
 Each of our lives has an impact.  No matter who you are or where you are – your life is having an impact.

We each have one life – a short blip on the radar of eternity – and the results of what takes place in that blip will last for eternity.

3 things – Let’s look at 3 things that will impact - the impact - of your impact - on eternity.  Are you ready?

1) Knowing Jesus –
All of your life, eternity, and impact hinge on your relationship with Jesus Christ - A relationship with Jesus in coming to Him for salvation from your sins, and then growing to know Him in a real, personal way.  In salvation, you receive God’s grace to fully trust in Jesus as your Savior from your sins and surrender to Him as the one in charge of your life.  He saves you from your sins, makes you right with Him, gives you the assurance of Heaven with Him when you die, and fills you with His life to live in Him and to pour Himself through you as His ambassador to the world.

As you grow in this relationship with Jesus as you seek Him, spend time with Him in prayer, base your life on His Word, and allow Him to reveal Himself to you and work in you - you will come to know Him more and more as the One who saves, satisfies, loves, never leaves you, is your strength, holds your hand, guides you, teaches you… and He transforms you from the inside out!  As you know Him, you are satisfied, He shines from you, and you long to share Him with others!  The outflow of this relationship with Jesus – of Him in and through your life - will be an impact on the lives of others that will last forever.

Life, salvation, or leaving a lasting impact are not possible apart from Jesus – and they were never meant to be.  You were created for that relationship with Jesus, and all of life is meant to drive you to that relationship – and impact will result.  “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

2) Surrender -
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”  Matt. 16:34-36
There is nothing more freeing - more secure – more fulfilling – than surrender to Jesus.  As you live yielded in His hands, He will work in you and then through you to do things you never could have dreamed.  It is the greatest adventure of all time.
There was a point in my life when surrender sounded scary – and that was because I didn’t know Jesus well.  But, when He drew my heart to surrender to Him in salvation and then opened my eyes to my need to live in yieldedness to Him, I began to witness the wonder of the most incredible life imaginable… and would never trade it for the world.  Knowing Jesus as He worked in and through me? – yes.  Watching miracles unfold? – yes, because it was Jesus and not me.  Comfortable to my flesh? – no, but, so fully secure.  Worth it? - without a doubt.  As a child of God – the only option.
It is bowing before Him moment-by-moment, saying, “Yes, Lord. I am Yours.  I will do whatever You desire, by Your grace.”  It is obeying when it is not comfortable, loving someone unlovable, speaking Truth when you are afraid, stepping out in faith when you cannot see…  As you live in surrendered obedience - even when it’s hard - Jesus can live and love and work in and through you in ways that leave a mark on eternity.

3) Eternal Perspective -
“The best use of a life is to live it for something that outlasts it” is a quote that has echoed in my heart.
This spring, I sat at my grandma’s bedside, holding her hand while she was in her final hours of life on this earth... The reality was so vivid that we all have a very short time on this earth before we each will slip into eternity.  We each have only one life to live and then it is over – and all of eternity will echo with the impact.

This should not be a morbid thing that causes us to sit around in gloom – the total opposite!  This should fill our hearts, minds, and lives with purpose to live every moment to the fullest in a way that will make an impact forever and give a vision to invest our lives in far past the surface things of this earthly life to what will last forever – a walk with God, His Word, His purposes, people’s souls. 
It is a daily, moment-by-moment choice we make.  As we walk through the day, let’s ask ourselves these questions, "Is this what the Lord wants me to do?", "When I stand before the Lord, will I be glad I did this?", and "Will this last for eternity?"

It likely will mean that you spend more time reading God’s Word than surfing Facebook or the internet.  Sometimes it will mean opting out of “pleasure” activities, so that you can invest your time in something that lasts – like discipling a younger girl over ice cream, praying for a missionary, helping your mom cuddle your siblings, or organizing a Bible study.  It doesn’t mean that you never get together with a friend, or are refreshed, but even then, what is the purpose of it – to be built up in Jesus and advancing His Kingdom, or to focus on self and what you want?  The key is that you are living in surrender to the Lord and letting Him live His life, love, and Truth through you wherever He calls you.  I can tell you from personal experience – and long for you to experience for your self - that it is worth it, so much more fulfilling than living any other way, and lasts forever!
The Impact -
As you walk with Jesus in surrender with your eyes on eternity – HE will bear fruit through you.  This is the fruit that lasts forever – what CHRIST does in and through you – as you cling to Him.  Not fake fruit that you try to produce by trying to work on your own self effort that will never have any lasting value.
As you abide in Him, He will bear fruit.  Let’s listen to Jesus again,

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  (John 15:4-5)

History is dotted with girls and women who walked with a real God and let Him fill them in a way that changed them and flowed through them to impact the world for His glory.  Just like Esther was in her day, you are “come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14) to be filled and used by God for His eternal purposes!  The needs are great.  We have a great and powerful Savior.  He desires to pour His life into and through you in dynamic ways to leave a lasting impact for His glory. 

As you receive the Lord’s grace to pursue Him above all else, know His heart, let Him work in you, and be a surrendered vessel for Him to pour out His life 

– you will experience the reality that He fully satisfies, He is glorified, and people are blessed in a way that ripples through eternity.

Abide in me...

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

~John 15:4-5

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Join us for Session 8 - "The Impact of a Life that is Beautiful to God" - of the Beautiful to God Online Conference!

Session 8 ~ "The Impact of a Life that is Beautiful to God" from Loving the Lord Ministries on Vimeo.

Close your eyes. Think of yourself 5 years from now. Now try 10 years. How about 50? Now really stop, be still, and think of yourself in eternity. What will really matter then? All that will matter is your relationship with the Lord and secondly the souls of people...
We each have one life – a short blip on the radar of eternity – and the results of what takes place in that blip will last for eternity...
As you receive the Lord’s grace to pursue Him above all else, know His heart, let Him work in you, and be a surrendered vessel for Him to pour out His life – you will experience the reality that He fully satisfies, He is glorified, and people are blessed in a way that ripples through eternity.

Please visit our website for the handout for this session!

“...No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

For such a time as this...

"And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

~Esther 4:14

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Summer Devotions Pursuit is Ending - and a Lifetime of Seeking Jesus Begins!

Hi Friends!

The Summer Devotions Pursuit 2017 ends on August 31st - and a lifetime of seeking Jesus begins!

Did you have a good summer?

We are so thrilled about each of you who have spent your summer seeking to know Jesus! We know He has met you, worked in your hearts, and changed your lives - and there is nothing more exciting! He is so amazing, isn't He?

I know this summer, I fell more in love with Jesus. Just this morning, I was praying, "Jesus, I want You more than anything - If I have You, I have everything I need."

I am so grateful to be on this quest to know Jesus more together! I want to encourage you to keep seeking Jesus with all of your heart, spend time with Him, read the Bible, pray, memorize, and be with friends who will challenge you to grow in and love Jesus! This is a life-long adventure of knowing Jesus more - and the more we know Him, the sweeter life becomes!

So, I want to say - GOOD JOB - and KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

Let's let our continual heart's cry be like Paul's in Philippians 3:10, "...that I may know him..."!

Jesus is with you every step, drawing your heart towards Him, and waiting for you to taste even more the joy of knowing Him!

You are welcome to send in your Summer Pursuit charts by September 7th and we will love to send you a reward - in addition to the best reward of knowing Jesus!

We'd LOVE to have you comment below about something that Jesus did in your heart or showed you as you spent time with Him this summer!

{Sending a happy hug as we rejoice in all that Jesus did this summer!}

Cheering for you as you seek our amazing Jesus!

With love in Him,
Amy and the LTLM Team

That I may know Him...

"...that I may know him..." ~Philippians 3:10

Wednesday, August 23, 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 aspect of how the Lord created you that you are thanking Him for today?
      {Please comment below!}

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.