Thursday, February 27, 2014

Praying the Word of God ~ by Lainey

Have you ever sensed the need to pray for someone without knowing their specific need? Ever searched for the right words when praying for yourself? Or lacked adequate words to prayerfully worship  the Lord? I often pray with words of Scripture.  As I pray Scripture, my heart and mind are drawn closer to the Lord Jesus Christ.  My spirit is nourished, my  thoughts  and actions are shaped.  I see more in-depth how great and mighty the Lord Jesus Christ is, so worthy of my praise and honor and obedience. My love for Him and devotion to Him is deepened. Thinking on God’s Word in prayer strengthens and builds my faith and trust in Him, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Jesus, in His prayer for us, prayed “Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). The Word of God has a purifying and powerful  effect  in our lives!

Here are some ways that I have learned to pray Scripture. Recently, an expectant mom at our church lost her unborn child at the 4-month mark of pregnancy. In addition to sending her a card, I prayed for her based on Psalm 9:9&10: “Father, thank You that You are a refuge for the oppressed. May Casey come to You as her refuge in this time of trouble. Those who know Your name will put their trust in You. Lord, I pray that she will come to know Your name even better and in a deeper way. Thank You, Lord.”  In praying for a Christian acquaintance I might pray, “Dear Father, I don’t know the specific needs of Mrs. Bell, but You do. Please enable her to know that You are with her,  and that You are her God.  Lord, strengthen her and help her and uphold her with Your righteous right hand, (Isaiah 41:10) in Your name, Amen.”

              As a  woman,  wife,  and mother, I have frequently inserted my name,  the name of my husband, or my childrens’ names  in a Scripture verse as I have prayed for them over the years. I have seen the Lord’s gracious work in their lives that would not have happened apart from His doings and intervention on their behalf.  “Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; nor are there any works like Your works.  All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.  For You are great, and do wondrous things, You alone are God.”  Psalm 86: 9, 10

If you are at all like me as a follower of Christ, we see how quickly we need God’s grace and provision in our daily lives.  Jesus tells us in Luke 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God.”  When I have wrong thoughts or selfish responses, the Holy Spirit points out my need to come to Him. I might pray, “Oh Lord, I confess these sins and ask that You would forgive me and replace them with ‘Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, and of good report, if there is anything praiseworthy’ (Philippians 4:8), I want to think on these things. Thank You, Father.” 

In  Psalm 119:105 we read, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  In praying Scripture for others or ourselves we are asking for God and His Word to illumine our path.  Praying God’s Word declares my dependence upon Him.  As I speak the Truth in my heart it directs me away from empty words and helps me to not view matters solely from my own perspective.  My thoughts and outlook are sifted through the Word.  It is fellowship and communion with Him; my spirit is nourished.  The prophet Jeremiah states, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your Word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts,” (Jeremiah 15:16).  Praying Scripture is a channel through which the Lord conveys His deep love, and care, and provision for me.  God, through His Word, has time and time again calmed my anxious thoughts, quieted my fears, comforted my sorrow and disappointment, eased my pain and hurt, and given voice to my thanks and praise. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10).  

Dear  Christian sisters, desiring that our lives reflect His love and His character, perhaps you join me in praying,  “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14 

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."  
~ Romans 8:28

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Word of God—Your Necessary Life-Book! ~ by Elizabeth

Think about this question for a moment. What does God’s Word, the Bible,  mean to you personally? When you hold it in your hands, and flip through it’s pages, do you feel uplifted by it, and view it as your guidebook for life, or does it make you feel bogged down by the fact that you don’t understand it or do not spend time in it? I have been in both circumstances. A few years ago, I would often try to read the Bible, I even read through it once, but I never seemed to get anything out of it. My mind would drift to other things. Then the Lord began to convict me, through church, conferences, school and my small group, that the Bible needed to be my guidebook for life, something that would govern how I thought about the world. I soon became more dedicated to digging into the Word every single day, no matter how busy I was. Soon, I began to eagerly seek its pages for everything. Every day the Lord seemed to have something new to show me, or to point out in my life. The Word began to change me. I began to memorize Scripture, because I felt it was crucial to hide God’s Word in my heart (Psalm 119:11).

This desire to read God’s Word and be in it does not, however, come overnight. It is a gradual process that the Lord places inside those He has chosen. The Bible is His book, He wrote it! 1 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and
for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” I like to explain that verse as the “back page description” of God’s Word. Most books have a description of what they are about or what they teach. This verse does that for God’s Word. So how should God’s Word be to us, in light of its back page description?

When you read God’s Word, remember that it is unlike any other book in the world. It is the most historically accurate ancient book ever written! The Lord has kept His Book pure throughout the centuries, so that today we can have His Word. During the Old Testament, God revealed His Word to His prophets, and then they would tell the people by mouth. Today God’s Word is written in our own language and we can freely have it with us all the time. God’s Word is our life-book. Our worldview should be seen through the lens of the Bible. We can’t just want the Bible. No, we need the Bible. It is our foundation, our starting point, as Christians. The Bible is the most precious item you can ever own. It is a library full of books! I live very close to a library that has a coffee shop attached to it. Sometimes I’ll go there, find a good book, get a mocha and curl up in a chair to read. I like to imagine my times with Jesus in His Word like that. You choose a book to read from the Library of all libraries, the Bible. Then you enter your coffee shop, which can be your bedroom, your living room or anywhere that is somewhat quiet, and you see your Best Friend waiting there, ready to read with you. It’s so easy for us to be able to go out for a cup of coffee with our friends, how much better it is to sit down with the Best of Friends and read His Book!

Remember, Jesus longs for us to spend time with Him in His Word, and He will reveal Himself to you in that time (James 4:8). He is your Best Friend, and when you spend time with Him studying the book He wrote, there’s nothing better
in the world! However, this is often easier said than done. In my life, some things that have helped me to find joy in reading God’s Word are:

1. Pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Before you dig into the Word of God, always remember to pray. Tell Him what you want help with in life, or ask Him to reveal His power, might, love and gentleness to you. Praying before I read His Word helps me to see things in myself that are convicting or moving, and things in Him that are amazing, perfect, and full of power. Then those thoughts follow me as I go throughout the day.

2. Have a focus (Joshua 1:8). For example, it can be helpful to find a reading through the Bible program, or a theme to study. As you read, you can journal about what you are reading so that it truly sinks into your mind and heart. There are many good ways to read, just ask the Lord to help you decide, and be confident that He will direct you – The most important thing is that you are reading His Word!

3. Don’t go at it alone (Hebrews 10:25).
God’s Word is a complex book, because it is your life-book. Therefore, it is powerful to have accountability when you read it, or you will become overwhelmed. Choose someone you can tell daily about what you are learning in God’s Word. That person can be a parent, friend, sibling or relative! Then in turn, that person can tell you what they are learning, and you can benefit from each other in reading God’s Word together.

4. Don’t get discouraged from reading the Bible because you never seem to 
find the time (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Lord is always with you, and He won’t love you less if you do not always find time to read His Word. If the Lord has put the conviction for you to read His Word on your heart, then be confident that He will help you find some special time for you to spend time with Him in your days. I encourage you to start small. Even five minutes of spending time in His Word will help to start your day off well, and help you to keep your mind focused on Him from the minute you wake up, to when you go to sleep.

5. Talk about it (Acts 1:8)!
Jesus commands us to be witnesses for Him. That does not only mean that we talk to unbelievers all the time (although that is also crucial for us), but it also means being a witness for Him to each other, as Christians. Let Him sparkle out of you wherever you are! When given the
opportunity to talk about Him and His Word, take it! He will give you the strength you need (Phillipians 4:13).

6. Memorize (Psalm 119:11).
There may be a day in the future when we will not be able to have the Bible with us physically all the time. We may find ourselves in a situation where a loved one is hurting, and you want to comfort them with a verse. In that time it will be crucial for us to have stored up God’s
Word in our hearts, so that in those dark times we can be encouraged with the Word, and encourage others with it.

Finally, remember 2 Peter 1:19-21 which says, “And we have somethingmore sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in
your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” We, as Christians, have something that the rest of the world does not have, a book written by the very Creator of the universe. Make sure as you read that you do not interpret God’s Word in a way that is contrary to its real meaning. God wrote it perfectly the first time, it needs no human additions.

As Christians, it is often easy for us to just let life fly by, and not find time for the book that was written directly to and for us by the One who knows us better then anyone else. The Library is full of books, and the Coffee Shop is full, except one seat, yours. Sitting across from you is the One who holds the universe by the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). He pushes a book towards you, and opens it, looking at you with gentle eyes that have spanned eternity. You glance at your chair. My challenge to you is, will you take it?

Friday, February 14, 2014

~ We have been loved ~

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." ~ John 3:16

A Valentine video message from Amy to her sweet sisters in Jesus!

Have a beautiful day in the love of Jesus! (Jer. 31:3)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Prayer: Our Life - Line to Heaven ~ by Sarah

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens,
Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,
that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
(Hebrews 4:14,16)

What an unspeakable privilege it is to be able to commune with our Heavenly Father through prayer! This is a gift that was bought for us with the blood of our Lord Jesus, our High Priest. He has said, “the prayer of the upright is His delight” (Proverbs 15:8), and also directly commands us to bring our petitions before Him without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

As our form of communication with the Lord, prayer must be cultivated diligently in our lives, for Christ is our only source of spiritual victory. In the midst of life's busyness and frequent distractions, we as daughters of the King must make a conscious choice to “stay” our minds in Christ, and come before Him in prayer—closing the doors, so to speak, to the noise around us and activities of the world—to commune with Him.
Psalm 55 gives us an example of one whose prayer came unto the throne room of God continually, even during great trials. He wrote, “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:17). This attitude of continual prayer and supplication is one that we should strive to emulate as believers in Christ—evening, throughout the night, when we awake to a new dawn, and throughout the day.

As we wake up each morning, it can be our goal to immediately begin communing with the Lord. Psalm 5:3 beautifully says, “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Sometimes this attitude of prayer does not even have to be a “formed prayer”—but simply the mental act of “looking up” and meditating on Who our Lord is.

Prayer is also an essential part of our devotion time with the Lord. Each morning, I pray as I open God's holy Word, knowing that I cannot, without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, understand or apply it in my life. I ask the Lord to open my eyes and allow me to behold wondrous things in His Law. Making time to pray during our daily time with the Lord is vitally important and powerful. This spiritual discipline can also be equally as difficult, since we war against the flesh. I have found that making a minimum goal of time to pray, helps me discipline my mind during the opening minutes of my prayer time; otherwise, I tend to get distracted and think I prayed for 15 minutes when really I only prayed for 42 seconds. Prayer is work of the mind, but we must apply diligence. At first, the seconds of prayer may drag by, but once we have “broken the ice,” it will become a great delight and unparalleled joy as the time flies by!

A prayer journal can be a great blessing to the prayer life of a believer. A few years ago, I began using a prayer journal, which has sections for worship, prayer requests, answers to prayer, thanksgiving, and notes. Through recording prayers and requests over the years, my faith has been tested and I have seen over and over the Lord's faithfulness in providing in incredible ways. Sometimes we tend to think that only “others with great faith” experience big answers to prayer—however, keeping a prayer journal helps the believer see God's direct answers to prayers that otherwise might not be noticed.

Prayer should be our continual line of communication with the Lord throughout the day, as we strive to offer our service as a sacrifice well-pleasing unto the Lord. This can be a simple whisper to the Lord as you go about your duties—“Lord, give me wisdom for this situation,” or, “Lord, I need your strength at this moment to guard my mind.” Prayer should be our delight and refuge!

The joy of communing with our Lord Jesus cannot be told or estimated; it must be simply  experienced. I  challenge you to establish a life of prayer, and thus to know the fullness of joy that is found in abiding in the Vine. Our Father delights in our prayers—let us therefore come boldly unto His throne, that we may obtain His mercy and help in our need and weakness! (Hebrews 4:16)

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Love of God in Sunlight, Branches, and Shadows ~ by Amy Vest

Glancing out the window as I ran through the house on a mission, I was stopped in amazement at what I saw.


A heart.  A heart on the snow formed with sunlight, branches, and shadows.  A heart reminding me of the Lord's love for me.  {An early Valentine from Jesus.}

As I looked at the picture tonight, a deeper meaning came.

Sunlight, branches, and shadows...

Over the past months, the Lord has shown me His love through:

1. Sunlight - the beauty of His presence in each moment
2. Branches - the reality that I am a branch and He is my Vine (John 15)
3. Shadows - the trials that press me into His heart and remind me of His matchless love

I have witnessed the reality that, in His deep love, the Lord will do just what we need to draw us close to His heart, taste His love like never before, and give us a sweeter story of His heart to share with others.

His love is a love that is deeper than we can fathom.

He is drawing us with this love.

"I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you."

~ Jeremiah 31:3

The One who is Love loves us too much to let us settle for less.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dependence on God ~ by Amy Vest

Stop and let this soak in:  You are totally dependent on God. 

It is not little, partial, or huge – but, TOTAL – dependence.  It is dependence on Him for the next breath, spiritual salvation and life, grace to do what we cannot do on our own, His hand to work in our situations, etc.  When you recognize this, there is a deep peace that results. 

I have found this so real in my own life.  When I realize that I am desperately needy and cannot do anything on my own – and that God is all-sufficient - I am able to lean fully on Him and experience His beautifully full supply.  This is how the Lord designed it – so that we would be driven to Him.  It is there that we are satisfied and He is glorified.

I love the way Jesus in John 15 compares Himself to a vine and us to a branch drawing our life from Him as our source! 

“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)  

{Take a deep breath.}  It is not up to you to strive to become something that only God can make you or do what only He can do.  He has created and called you to rely on Him to do the work in and through you as you rest in surrender and obey by His grace.  This reality will transform your life!  It continues to transform mine…
3 ways the Lord is helping me to live in this reality in daily life:

~ Word – I need to be daily coming to the Word of God – the Bible – realizing that I am dependent on His Words vs. my own thoughts for Truth, knowing that He is infinitely wiser, and acknowledging that I don’t have all of the answers.  I am in constant neediness of His Truth in the midst of emotions, thoughts, culture, and ideas – and I need to be looking to His Word for food for my soul, direction, and wisdom. “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:14)
~ PrayerPrayer is showing my dependence on God – that I am relying on Him for what I need. “Lord, I need You this moment – and every moment.” Prayerlessness can be a sign that I think I can do things on my own.  We are called in 1 Thess. 5:17 to live a life of prayerful dependence on God, “Pray without ceasing…” Live looking to Him, bringing all things to Him, and asking for His grace - and watch Him answer in His powerful ways.

~ Daily Life
– In His love, I have seen Him reveal the reality of this dependence through my weaknesses, situations, etc.  and this can be a beautiful thing when it causes me to look to Him saying, “In this situation, I can’t respond as I should in my own strength, but I depend on You for grace, Lord.”  He loves to show Himself strong on our behalf!  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  (Phil. 4:13)

Today, look away from self to Christ and let your need drive you to Jesus to drink of His sufficiency!
He loves to show His sufficiency as we come to Him in our neediness.

Moment-by-moment, may our heart’s prayer be: “Lord, I am needy.  You are sufficient.  I live resting in my dependence on You.”