Thursday, July 31, 2014

~ The Heart of Friendship ~ A video post

Join Amy Vest for this encouraging video post on the theme of ~ "The Heart of Friendship"!

Session 2 ~ "The Heart of Friendship" ~ Beautiful to God Conference from Loving the Lord Ministries on Vimeo.

Friendship is an amazing gift from God! God is a relational God and He created us in His Image for relationships. God has a very special plan for friendship - for His glory, our joy, and the blessing of others. We must realize that our friendships are so critical - They can either aid you in knowing Jesus and living the vibrant life in Christ that you were created for, or they can destroy you. We must seek for Lord’s grace to embrace friendship for all that He intended. We are going to look at this in this session!

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

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Always Needy of Jesus ~ by Amy Vest

Today I am sitting outside to meet with Jesus ~
the wind rustling in the trees
and blowing through my hair...
puffy white clouds float through the blue sky.
I open my Bible and the Holy Spirit takes the living Words of God,
and cascades them into my heart...
I am forever changed as Jesus meets with me.

My heart is also quick to remember ~
Some days I am sitting inside on a rainy day with an aching body or heart, struggle, or a battle - needing His grace.  I open my Bible and He is working, whether I can feel it at that moment, or not.

I am thinking of you, friend, as you are meeting with Jesus this summer.

Wherever you are - a sweet, sunny day or a painful, rainy day - Jesus is there.

Every day we are just as needy of Jesus and His Word in us.  On the sunshiny and sweet days, and on the rainy and painful days:

~ He is just as faithful, no matter how we feel or what we can see
~ His Word feeds us and grows us by His Spirit
~ Time in prayer not only is heard by Him, but changes us

He keeps His promise that,"...he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." Hebrews 11:6

May He bless you as you seek Him today!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Impact of Real, Deep Friendships Founded on Christ ~ by Breezy

Quotes about friendship are everywhere – embroidered on pillows, painted on cute little wall plaques, on thousands of refrigerator magnets and bookmarks, and all over Facebook. 
Relationships and friendships are a big part of our lives.  Whether you have many friends or just a few, we all know at least a few people and friendship and relationships are one of the biggest parts of our experience of life everyday.  In some way, whether big or small, every person we interact with has an impact on our life and we have an impact on his or hers.  Some of the most important relationships we can have – and the ones that can be most life changing are those with other brothers and sisters in Christ.  When I talk about friendship in the rest of this article, I am referring to friendships with other believers in Jesus, particularly our sisters in Christ.  Other relationships are very important, but these are the friendships we will focus on here.

Because of the gospel, you and I can be genuine, real, and honest in our friendships. You may have heard the saying “everything is level at the foot of the Cross.”  This means that every believer comes to Jesus exactly the same way – with absolutely nothing to give to Christ to help earn or deserve salvation.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)  In fact, if you are a believer you came to the Cross as an enemy of God because of your sin.  (Romans 5:8, 10) All that we have in Jesus – salvation, righteousness, and sanctification – is because of His grace.  (Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 2:13)  This is something that is very helpful for us to remember as we interact with other believers.  We do not need to pretend to be better than we actually are because we have all been recipients of the same wonderful grace of Jesus.  We can be real, genuine, and transparent because we have both received the same undeserved love from Jesus.  This will also help us to be patient with the ways that He is still working in the lives of our friends – we can “bear all things” (as we are told to do in 1 Corinthians 13) and forgive (as we are told to do in Matthew 18:21-35) because we know the love, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus in our own lives.

It is also for this reason that we can be faithful to speak the truth in love.  (Ephesians 4:15)  Jesus has blessed us with the gift of friendships and it is so important that we use them to build one another up (Romans 14:19) and bear one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)  It is wonderful to have fun (even silly!) times together as friends, but it is so precious to have those times when we can encourage and bless one another using the Truth of Bible.  This may mean that we share a verse with a friend who we know is struggling with discouragement or suffering of some kind.  It might mean that we pray for and with our friend.  It may mean that we lovingly remind our friend of what the Bible instructs and encourage them as they apply that instruction to their life.  Sometimes it just means listening to a friend and crying or laughing with them. (Romans 12:15)

I have a dear friend and our friendship is just like this.  I don’t see her terribly often but when I do, we have such wonderful times of fellowship sharing the Truths of Jesus with each other and catching up on life!  We can be totally honest about where we are struggling (for example, I recently told her that I was having a tough time just living daily in the promises of the Bible I know are true and trusting Jesus) and the things Jesus is showing us through His word and how He is encouraging us to grow.  When we aren’t together, we like to send little messages with prayer requests, Bible verses, or just “I’m thinking of you” notes.  We pray for each other and encourage each other to daily seek and walk with Jesus.

No one is meant to live the Christian life alone and it is a treasure to share the journey of following Jesus with precious friends.  They help us keep walking in the right path, and can be the strength and support we need during tough times.  But, remember, life-changing meaningful friendships are not possible without Jesus.  We must first know Him as our savior and have experienced His grace in our own lives.  It is also very important to remember  That is a longing that can be filled only by Jesus Himself.  (John 6:35)  It is so important and good to have human relationships built on Christ, but people (even believers) are still human and will fail us in some way or another.  Through the gospel, Jesus gives us power to forgive when that happens, and offers Himself alone to be the perfect friend who will never ever fail.  (Hebrews 13:5, 1 Corinthians 1:9, Psalm 9:10)
that no friend, no matter how much they love Jesus and point us to Him, can ultimately make us happy or satisfied.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cultivating God-honoring Relationships ~ by Isabella

Why maintaining Christ-focused relationships is so important...

John 13:34-35 says that others will know we're Christians by our love.  Others are watching us, and the way we interact with our parents, siblings, friends, and others, speaks so much louder than we think.

We, dear sisters, were created to bring God glory (Isaiah 43:1-3 &7).  We were created for Him!  We must find our all in all in Him (Psalm 107:9), first, and have a close relationship with Him, before we can have good relationships with others.

We as Christians are called to be set-apart...others should see a difference in our lives.  Having Christ-focused, Christ-honoring relationships – basically, how we interact with others - is one of the biggest things that sets us apart and points others to Christ.

The Lord's Work in my heart...

Quite a few years back, I was really having a hard time in the area of relationships... In fact, if you were to have asked me if I had any friends, I would have said “no” at one point.  I struggled a lot with fear of man, and it really effected my interactions and ultimately my relationship with others, more than I would have thought it would.  Though this time of "pulling back" so to speak, was really hard, I wouldn't trade it for the world.  Through this time, Jesus drew me so much closer to Himself and truly became my best friend, and then I started getting really close with my family. I realized how selfish being worried about what others think of me really was.  So, I started looking around looking for ways to reach out, and be more worried about blessing others.  Now if you were to ask me that question, my answer would be quite different.  The Lord has really worked in my heart in the area of having good relationships with others and keeping Him the focus of it, rather than others or me.  

Where to start...and the results of letting Jesus be the focus...

The ultimate goal of any relationship should be to point others to be a "giver" rather than a "taker". (Jn. 15:13)  It's amazing how blessed we are when we truly try to apply this.  It’s like Acts 20:35 says, “…it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  It's so, so true.  I have been so incredibly blessed when I've tried to point others to Jesus and let Him be the focus – and also, looking for ways to bless others rather than seeing what I can get out of it.  Something that's really helped me in the area of having good Christ-centered relationships is, to "Mirror Jesus".  I'll ask myself: “What would Jesus, do, say etc. in this situation?”  He is our ultimate example.  It's really up to us weather or not we will receive His grace and have Christ-glorifying relationships with those around us.  :)

Friends...are such a sweet gift God's given us. One thing to remember as we pursue relationships is...though we should be friendly and Christ-like to everyone, we need to be careful who our best friends are.  Because who we spend time with, we'll become like. (Prov. 12:20) I've seen when I let Jesus be the center of a friendship, as 1 Cor. 3:11 says, that I am so richly blessed, right along with them.  And ultimately God is glorified! 

~ Remember Who You Are ~ by Amy Vest

Dear Sister,

I am thinking of you as I type.

Thinking of you in light of how God thinks of you as His own in Christ.

And I just wanted to remind you, precious friend:

When you are in Jesus, you are:

~ Loved {Jer. 31:3}

~ Accepted {Eph. 1:6}

~ Chosen {Col. 3:12, 1 Pet. 2:9}

~ Treasured {Deut. 7:6}

~ Delivered {Col. 1:13}

~ Complete {Col. 2:10}

and so much more!

May He BLESS your day as you receive His grace to let this reality sink in and walk in it today - wherever you are!

{Deep,  happy sigh for both of us.}

Isn't He good?

You are loved by your Savior ~ and your sister,


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Having Devotions That Change Your Life ~ Video with Amy Vest

Join us for this encouraging and practical video as Amy shares ideas on how to have a meaningful devotional time with the Lord!

Loving the Lord Videocast #5 - Having Devotions that Change Your Life from Loving the Lord Ministries on Vimeo.

The theme of this videocast is - "Having Devotions that Change Your Life." Our personal time of seeking the Lord is critical to a close walk with Him and to becoming like Him! If we spend this time correctly, it will change our lives. Please join me as we look at how we can pursue our Savior in powerful ways! It is a joy to seek our amazing Savior together. Remember, He promises, "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8)

Monday, July 7, 2014

"Is anything too hard for me?"

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?" Jeremiah 32:27

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Devotions - Growing From Five Minutes to Two Hours - One Step at a Time - Part 2 ~ by A Sister in Christ

5. Reading, Cherishing, Digging, Asking, Searching, Keeping, in God’s Word 
      With my heart prepared, focused on, and in awe of God, I come to the best part, time reading HIS WORD.  Beginning with acknowledgement,
                                    my need for HIS
Psalm 119:18 “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wonderous things out of thy law.” 
Behold (to look, to regard, show regard to, pay attention to, consider), not something to do casually.
     This time of fellowship has seen many different ways of being with Father in HIS Word.   If I had to pick just one helpful nugget to share it would be this.  I read until I am fed, until my time of fellowship is satisfying.  Sometimes I don’t read very far.  As I am reading something will touch my heart, will make me ponder, ask a question, so I stop, camp out, and dig; maybe it will be cross referencing, which will lead to the Strong’s Concordance, Vine’s Dictionary, or a commentary. 
                                                Listen to the still quiet voice in your heart. 
                                                It is HIS Spirit that will lead you into all Truth,
                                                the previous mentioned helps are just tools.
Sometimes I am so encouraged by God’s Words that I will stop and pray the Words for me or others.  Other times, I will stop to thank God for things HE has taught me, and remember how HIS Word has changed me.   Reading HIS Word is not something to get through, an item on our to-do list.  It is time to receive Words of Life, to be edified, to receive faith, "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God", a time for our minds to be transformed.

Romans 12:2 , “And be not conformed (to fashion (one's) self according to this world, -to me the idea is to masquerade, to wear a mask over who I really am) to this world: but be ye transformed (the Greek word, metamorphoo, which we get the word metamorphosis from, think of the transformation of a butterfly.  We are taken from an earthly perspective, to a heavenly, to God’s perspective.  A caterpillar will never become who it really is unless it is transformed - metamorphosis) by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

     Vine’s Dictionary note: being outwardly "conformed" to the things of this age is contrasted with being "transformed" (or transfigured) inwardly by the renewal of the thoughts through the Holy Spirit's power.
Online Bible resources can also be an incredible help for you to access various translations, Bible on audio, study tools, etc.

     Share with others what God is teaching you.  Hopefully they will have something to share with you too.
6. Journaling

     An influential believer in my life, strongly encourages journaling what God shows you during your quiet time.  This has been a time to meditate, chew the cud, and in writing down what I learned it takes on a richer, deeper meaning.

7. Prayer

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly];” (Amp);  JB Philips says, “Never stop praying.”  The Strong’s, gives an expanded vision to the word, ceasing - "without intermission, incessantly, without ceasing"

     A note of encouragement, most people who pray, say they spent years learning how.  You don’t have to be good at it, to do it.  It has been my lack, my inability, my frustrations at times, which have caused me to learn more, seek, read, ask. 
Learning how to ask, “Lord I ask…,
                learning how to do warfare, bind, loose, hedge of protection,
                                how to bless,
                                                how to intercede.

     I am still in the learning how to pray stage.  Where ever you are, be encouraged with each step.  One help that I enjoy is reading written prayers, of mature believers.  The important thing is to
keep praying,
                keep asking,
                                keep seeking,
                                                 keep sharing your heart,
                                                                keep the communication with your Father,
                                                                                open, dependent, real, intimate, special, precious.

8. Concluding thoughts
     Two thought to leave with you:
                First, remember this has been a journey, you may not apply all of it in a summer.  Start out with what God quickened your heart with, and be patient.  
Like a baby lying down with their face against the mattress, they look out and see an adult walk into the room, and think to themselves, I want to do that,
 I want to walk,
                I want to talk,
                                I want to be able to get dressed,
                                                 I want to feed myself,
                                                                I want… 
                                                                                and they do,          
but first they need to learn how to strength their arms, so they can pick their head up off the
mattress.  When a baby takes their first steps, it doesn’t look so good,
                they hesitate,
                                they wobble,
                                                they fall 

What do we do?
                We clap,
                                we praise them,
                                                we hug and kiss them. 

Know that God your loving heavenly Father is pleased with your steps even though they may not look good to you, they do to HIM.

 A final thought from Ecclesiastes 12:1a;
                                “Remember now (today) thy Creator in the days of thy youth,”
     If there is an older person or grandparents in your life they may tell you that, they can’t remember what they did yesterday, but they can remember things from their youth.   I remember an elderly person in my life, could quote things she memorized in school, but not remember something she just said.  The things that you are putting in your life now/today, in your youth, will stick with you.  These are precious days, and they are short, enjoy filling them with God.

2 Timothy 4:12 “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers,
                in word,
                                in conversation,
                                                 in charity,
                                                                in spirit,
                                                                                in faith,
                                                                                                in purity.”