Thursday, January 30, 2014

Growing in Our Love for Jesus ~ by Lianna

          Dear reading sisters, this is a candid testimony - meaning, I want to share as if you were a good friend, sitting beside me for a heart-to-heart talk. I share as one who is journeying, not as one who has arrived.
            Before we talk about growing in love for Jesus, I have to ask - WHY should we want to love God at all? Is it worth the fight against our flesh, which often drifts to love self and the world instead of God? We know it is worth it! But why?
            God has commanded us to love Him (John 14:23, Matthew 22:36-38). So love is an expression of obedience to God! Our gracious God has also designed that obedience brings great blessing. When we turn our affections to God, we find that “in His presence is fullness of joy; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). Loving God benefits us, bringing joy that we cannot find anywhere else! When we love God and joy from Him spills out in our lives, His worth is displayed to a watching world. Those around us will be pointed to the immeasurable worth of God, and He will get the glory He deserves.
            Understanding better the why, I then ask how can I grow in my love for the Lord? Sisters, I have had both victories and struggles in this area, and I need the Lord’s help so much to keep my eyes and heart toward Him! Sometimes I find myself becoming like Martha - busy and distracted with serving... but missing the point, as well as the blessing! I think of Jesus’ loving rebuke, and I want to be more like Mary. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-39). So how do I choose “the good portion”, that makes my heart long to sit at Jesus’ feet because I love Him and know how wonderful His presence is? These are reflections from God’s Word and my own experience on ways God has drawn my heart to love Him. The Lord speaks to me as I reflect on these things!

  “We love because He first loved us” (I John 4:19). Our ability to respond in love to God is dependent on His grace, so ask Him for help to grow in love for Jesus!
  You cannot love what you do not know, and I cannot understate the value of personal time alone with the Lord. This is how you will know Him, and grow to love Him! “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8)!
  “...long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation” (I Peter 2:2). The Word of God is powerful to change us, and to show us God so that we will grow in love for Him. We cannot survive spiritually without the milk of the Word!
  “I love the Lord, because He hears my voice and my pleas for mercy” (Psalm 116:1). Seeing the ways that God lovingly responds to my cries to Him, draws my heart to love Him! Prayer deeply cultivates my relationship with my Father.
  “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 2:15) and “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). The times when my love for God is weak are often the times when my love for other things is stronger than my desire for Him. What “idols” distract your heart from loving God? These things will often not be wrong in themselves, but they become sinful when I love them more than I love God. Clothing, food, friends, academics, money, boys... you get the idea!
  “...pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Make your close friendships with those who love God, and who make you thirsty for Him! Godly friends have profoundly affected my love relationship with God.
  “Set your minds on things that are above” (Colossians 3:2). Feed your mind truth about God, and choose to set your mind on Him. The thoughts we think, books we read, music we listen to, and what we watch all influence our affections.

            May I share one more thing that is on my heart, friends? As a wife and mother now,  there are many things that vie for my time and attention. Quiet times alone with my heavenly Father are harder to find, and I need the Lord’s help to turn my heart and mind to Him as I do laundry, prepare meals, play with our daughter or care for her in the night, and spend time with my precious husband. Though my spirit desires to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, the truth is that my affections are often divided. I am ever needing the Lord to teach me how to love Him even when my attention is pulled in many directions.
             I challenge you, my friend - if you are still in the season of singleness, consider the freedom that you have with your time and may the Lord stir your heart to seek Him in “undivided devotion” while you can (see I Corinthians 7:35). Life as a single woman is busy, I know! But in many ways, your time is more your own - you have greater freedom to choose how you will spend it. I love being a wife to my husband and a mother to my daughter!! I also do not regret a single moment of the times I spent alone with my Father - in prayer, reading His Word, memorizing and meditating on Scripture - while I was in the season of singleness. The roots from that season have many times sustained me and encouraged me now, when those times alone are harder to find.

            Whatever your season, sisters, may God help us look to Him and see how worthy He is of our wholehearted love!

Monday, January 27, 2014

~ Precious Truth ~

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." 
~ Lamentations 3:22-23

Thursday, January 23, 2014

“JESUS as my FIRST LOVE” ~ by Sunday

I LOVE TO LOVE!!!!  I love horses, I love babies, I love singing, I love garage sales, I love People, I LOVE LIFE and most importantly I love my JESUS!!!!  The MORE I LOVE HIM, the more I love others.  I am ONLY able to LOVE because of HIS GREAT LOVE FOR ME!!!  When I fell in LOVE with JESUS, my life was changed!!!

In Matthew 22:36-38 says,  "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." Matthew 22:36-38 (NIV)
I grew up with a FORM of religion and never understood what it meant to truly “Love the Lord your God will all your heart.”  My name is Sunday, I attended church, sang in the choir and everyone around me considered me a Christian!!!  But my first year at Bible college my roommate asked me how long I had known JESUS.  I said I had gone to church all my life.  She explained to me that there was a difference in knowing about Him and KNOWING HIM!  I watched her for three days and she looked like she was in LOVE all the time.  I wanted what she had!!!!  My freshman year in college I asked JESUS to be LORD of my life and from that point on my “love relationship” with Him has grown.  (That was 48 years ago!!!)

When I graduated from College and took a job in Kansas with a church teaching young people to LOVE JESUS FIRST and sing second……I saw the power of 350 young people singing and LOVING JESUS affecting lives!!!   I have NOT quit singing “I love you Lord and I lift my voice to worship you, Oh my soul rejoice. Take JOY my KING in what you hear.  May it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear!”
I was 30 and single and like most girls longing for a Godly husband.  I began to memorize, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25-26 (NKJV)  This is when my love for JESUS truly became first and I was honestly able to say… “If I never marry, you are enough!!” When you are “in love”, you want to talk to that person, spend time with that person, tell everyone else about how wonderful that person is!!!!  I couldn’t be quiet about JESUS, my FIRST LOVE!!!
Two weeks later I met Bud……he was a Godly man that truly had made JESUS his FIRST LOVE.  We were married 7 months later and that was 35 years ago.  I wanted to spend time with him, I wanted to talk to him, and I wanted everyone to know him.  I couldn’t keep quiet about him!

My FIRST LOVE was tested, for I was so in love with my husband and being married that my “first love” began to be “second love.”  Then I realized that again the GREATEST commandment was true and when I quickly put JESUS back into His rightful place of being FIRST, my love blossomed and grew.  When you are filled up with HIS love, your love for others is stronger!  In the book “Falling In Love with Jesus” the author says, “If women would yearn for closeness with Jesus the way they yearn for closeness with an earthly mate, their lives would be absolutely transformed.”  That’s why I love traveling around doing womens’ retreats to challenge women to get back to their “first love!”
Again my FIRST LOVE was tested when I had my first baby!  Ohhhhh, I love babies and I loved the two little ones that God gave me.  I thought I would BURST with love when they entered this world.  I loved them SO MUCH and again, I was seeing that my love for my children was almost more that I loved Jesus.  So I quickly confessed and asked JESUS to once again be my FIRST LOVE and He gave even greater love for my children.  (This is an ongoing process. )  Deut. 13:3-4, “The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.  It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.” Deuteronomy 13:3-4 (NIV)
All through life you will be tested in your love for JESUS.  There are so many distractions to take the place of your FIRST LOVE.  Jesus tells the church to “return to your First Love” in Revelation.  They were a lukewarm church and were not keeping Him as their “first love”.  What distracts you and keeps JESUS FROM BEING YOUR FIRST LOVE?  What ever it is, confess it and put HIM back into that position of BEING FIRST in your life!
As I write this I would love to sit with each one of you reading this and tell you that a life of LOVING JESUS is not always easy, but it is worth it!!  At every turn in my life my love for HIM has carried me through every hard thing.  Your LOVE for HIM will affect every relationship you have.  You will begin to view things as HE VIEWS them, grieve at things that grieve HIS heart, love the things that HE LOVES! 
Others will say, “She is in LOVE…….JESUS is HER FIRST LOVE!”  (And remember to pray for that future mate of yours to “love JESUS with all His heart, soul and mind!”)

Monday, January 20, 2014

~ His Love ~

"For 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

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Jesus Transforms: How knowing, being loved by, and loving Jesus has transformed and is transforming my life ~ by Elizabeth

Isaiah 43:1b-3a says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” That is my life verse, it describes who I am in Christ. I am His and I am redeemed. It describes that when trials come, my Lord will be with me, and He has saved me. He knew He would save me from before the beginning of time, He knew I would always be His.

As a little girl, after I’d found Christ, there was nothing I liked better then talking about Him. I had a childlike faith, I did not care what other people may have believed. I only knew that I was saved, and I wanted every one else to be, too. I talked about Jesus to everyone. One time, my extended family, who are atheists, came over when I was about 7. I put on a play, of my own planning, for them about a princess who lived in a castle, distressed because she did not know how to run her kingdom. Then a man came by who told her about Jesus, and she accepted Him into her heart. Then, with Jesus ruling by her side, she was able to wisely govern the kingdom. The play ended with me giving out some New Testaments. I was not hindered by the fear of what they would think, I just knew what was true and what Jesus had done for me, and I had to share it.

As the years went by, that boldness to speak about Christ began to diminish, as it always seems to when one is growing away from childhood. I began to understand that other people had minds that could think, too, and what they thought about me began to matter more than in the past. I still loved Jesus, but I kept it more hidden. When I was around 11, I could feel the Lord was pressing on my heart, inviting me into a deeper relationship. However, I did not really know or understand how to have a relationship with my Maker, He seemed distant and far off. This feeling was there until, at a conference by Amy Vest in 2009, Jesus revealed to me just how He is my Best Friend of all friends, how He loves me like no one else. I rededicated my life to Him, and I’ve been growing rapidly since that time. The core of how I think and who I am revolves around my Best Friend, Jesus. I have, undeservedly, come to know Him. In His arms I find rest, under His gaze I find peace!

Now my passion is talking about my Savior, as it once was. There are still times when I feel that old nasty enemy, fear, place it’s icy hand on my heart, but
the Lord is there already and He says, “Be gone.” What on this earth do we have to lose when we are in Christ? My Maker died for me. Sometimes I just sit and
ponder that. Why would He love me like that? Yet He says, “…You are precious in
My eyes, and honored, and I love you.”
(Isaiah 43:4a). No one loves me like He does, and it has made me who I am. I am so sinful, and yet He has said I am honored in His eyes. That is only because Jesus died for me. Now when the Father looks at me, He does not see me as I was and still am, full of sin. Now He sees His Son, Jesus Christ reflected back. Not because of anything I have done. I deserve death upon death forever. Yet He has called me into His marvelous light, the light of His truth and love, revealed to me through His Word, which is ultimate truth from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22!

At this point in my life, I am a senior in high school, and am thinking a lot about my future. Sometimes I feel so unsure about what I should do. Then I look back on my life, and I see what my Lord has done for me in the past. He has made Himself my Best Friend, He has made me His own. I can trust that He who began a good work in me will truly carry it to completion (Philippians 1:6).  I know that what my Leader of Life tells me to do, I need to do, because He has my heart and knows me better then I do. I am excited about my future, because I know that His plans for my life are what I want most of all, because He plans perfectly. (Jeremiah 29:11).
Recently, I have been taught that I am not native to this earth, I am native to Heaven, where my Lord is. Although I was condemned to death, Christ transformed my heart and made me who I am today, His and His alone. He wanted me to be with Him forever! I think back to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden in the beginning of Genesis. When they sinned, God really should have destroyed them. But He didn’t. He longed for them to be with Him forever. He loves us that much! Why would we even dream of giving up that free gift? We need to declare the truth of Christ to everyone! A verse that describes my passion is Jeremiah 20:9, “If I say, ‘I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” My fire for Christ is intense within me, and it hurts when I hold it in. Unbelievers need to see the truth, that they are sinners, in need for a Savior. I desire to unleash it, to let that fire shine out of me. It is not I, but Christ who works in me (Galatians 2:20), who has built up that fire and it is Him who will let it out. Once the fire is out, there is opportunity for ultimate Truth to be revealed!

Friends, while we’re here on earth, I challenge you to not be afraid to speak about Jesus to everyone. It is not easy. Skeptics are out there, ready with all their worldly guns pointed at the foundation of the church, the Bible. Fight hard, and put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). 1 Peter 3: 13-17 says, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” Even though we may be required to suffer for speaking out, we should not be afraid. I sometimes struggle with fear, but Jesus has already won the battle over sin, and so I do not have to be afraid. Just like my life verse says, “Fear not…” (Isaiah 43:1). The Lord grabbed hold of my life at an early age, made Himself prominent in my life, transformed me, and most of all, loved me. He loved me so much that He died on a Roman cross for me. There is no greater love in the world (John 15:13). Therefore, as His servant, but also His princess, I want to love Him back with all of who I am, trusting Him for my life.

Monday, January 13, 2014

~ The plans of His heart ~

"The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations."

~ Psalm 33:11

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Goal {for 2014 - and life}: L.O.V.E JESUS ~ Amy Vest

A new year.  The Lord has given this fresh new year to seek Him and I am so grateful to welcome it together!

This time of year, many people are setting goals for the coming year - maybe you've even set some of your own!  Looking to the Lord for His priorities for us is a very important activity that He can use to bring us deeper with Him!

While over the past months the Lord has been beautifully making priorities clear, I began to think about the top goal for this year…

Love Jesus.

This is the goal of my life – and of this year. 

Again, yes, I have other sub-goals and things the Lord is leading to grow in, but they pale in comparison and all flow from this goal.

The longer I live {smile}, the more I see so clearly that it is all about JESUS!  His call to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength
(Mark 12:30) is right where we are satisfied, He is glorified, and others are radically blessed.

This all begins with knowing Him and being loved with His pursuing love – in salvation and the resulting personal relationship with Him.

As we are seeking Him, seeing Him for how wonderful He is, and soaking in His boundless love, love for Him increasingly comes naturally.

This love motivates and fuels us to trust and obey Him, seek Him more, destroy idols that rob our love of Him, and long to share His love with others.

It is Jesus!
It begins with Him,
is about Him,
and ends with Him.

Jesus is the:
Source – of His transforming love to us
Satisfaction – of His love in our hearts
Supply – of love to love Him and others


These verses help capture it so well:

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

Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” (Psalm 34:5)
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”
(Psalm 34:8)

For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) 

And it is this place – and only here – that we are truly happy.

When Jesus is first, foremost, and the focus of our love, heart, and life – the complications of life, questions we encounter, weaknesses we face, longings we realize, etc. – all find their place.

I know personally that when I am looking to Jesus and His love for my all and responsively loving Him, I am happier than words can express.  But, when my gaze shifts to other things and people to fill my needs, is when I know emptiness and begin to lose my joy.

Jesus is so wonderful, He loves you so deeply, and He is so worthy of all your love. 
Nothing and no one in this world even compares to Him.

He is pursuing your heart with His matchless love, pouring out His grace for you to draw near, and calling you to love Him above all – in your heart, soul, mind, and strength. 

Ways we live our responsive love to Him include receiving His grace to:

~ treasure Him more than anyone or anything – giving Him first place in your heart. 
~ let your thoughts be fixed on and filled with Him.
~ hope and trust in Him vs. yourself, people, etc.
~ cherish His Word (the Bible) and receive His grace to walk in obedience to Him.
~ make choices and pursue what will cause you to know, love, and bring glory to Him.
~ live investing your time, energy, and resources in love for Him and His glory.

These are daily things that, when pursued, give us more of Jesus and grow us in our love for Him - which are exactly what we want!

Think of reaching the goal in soccer - the team works with all its focus, energy, and passion to get the goal.  That is how it should – and can be by His grace – in our relationship with Jesus!

I want to live moment by moment soaking in His love and in love to Him – starting my day in worship for His love and ending the day in loving thanks to Him.

I know I will not love perfectly… but, I know that His love is what purchased my forgiveness and will pick me up when I fail. 

Jesus - the One who IS Love (1 John 4:16), who loved us first (1 John 4:19), whose love never fails (Jer. 31:3), and who loved me while I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8) – is that One who holds my life, continues to draw my heart, and gives me grace to love Him.

In Jesus alone, we find all the satisfaction that our hearts are longing for. 

Wherever you are at today and whatever you will face this year, if you are in Jesus - soaking in His love for you, and loving out of love for Him - this year will beautifully give you more of Him.

Will you join me in seeking for His grace to know Him and His love – and to love Him above all?

It is going to be a good year.

~ A Precious Promise for the New Year ~

"The eternal God is your dwelling place, 
and underneath are the everlasting arms..." 
~ Deuteronomy 33:27