Monday, December 21, 2015

The Love Story for God's Glory ~ by Amy Vest

As we conclude this series on "Love Story and God's Glory", I pray you have been encouraged with a deeper treasuring of the Big Love Story of His redemption and a bigger vision for considering marriage for His glory!

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.

The Big Love Story - and a human love story - are about Jesus.

A love story based in Jesus, through His life in you, and for His glory.

A love story that points you and every one watching to Jesus.

A love story for His glory.

"...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

We are called to live, consider marriage, and marry to the glory of God - in a way that declares how good He is.  Isn't this amazing and exciting?  It twinkles with beauty - and the sweet reality is that God's glory and our joy always go hand-in-hand.

Let Jesus write your love story, friend. The One Who is Love and the creator of love can - and must - be trusted with the pen of your love story.

As you are satisfied in Jesus, growing into who He has called you to be, and are considering marriage for His glory, He will write the perfect story for His glory in your life.

Many of you know my favorite illustration to use when I talk about marriage - and I want to share it as we conclude this series.
Picture this:

You are running the race of life with Jesus.
You are running with Him, in Him, and for Him with all of your might. You are loving the run and are satisfied in Him. As you run, you begun to think, "I'd sure love to have a running partner, but I don't see anyone around here."

At this point there are 2 decisions you can make.

1. You can let the thought enter your mind, "Maybe if I just get off course a little, I can find someone." This will both get you off course and cause you to likely end up with someone sitting on the sidelines, not running the race - causing heartache in both ways.
2. You can keep running the race to know Jesus and make Him known with all that you are, and trust Him to bring someone who is running with the same passion. You can join paths and continue the race together as teammates. In this there is so much joy.

If He calls you to singleness, He will always be enough, you are fulfilling your purpose, and you can run the race fully satisfied in Jesus!

Whether single or married to someone who is running the race with Jesus, you are running the race and living the Big Love Story.

If it is His will for you to marry and He leads you into marriage, you and your husband can go on mission together to know Jesus and make Him known.

It is joining together as one in a love story founded on, thriving by, and for the glory of Jesus - as part of the Big Love Story for His glory!

I love these verses as we look at this, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!...And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken."  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12)

Two to walk with Jesus together, cheer one another on in Him, and lift one another up when they stumble. Companions and comrades on the journey with Jesus.

I have been so inspired by the love story of Charles and Susanna Spurgeon. Their mutual hearts that deeply loved Jesus, longed to grow in Him, and beat with passion to share Him formed such a unity and unusually beautiful marriage.

As you and the husband God gives you go on mission with Jesus together to:
- know Him
- grow in Him
- love and serve one another
- make Him known
it brings great glory to God, joy to your marriage, and blessing to others.

This union reflects Christ and the Church - the Big Love Story - to a world who needs Jesus.

Oh friends! Yesterday at church I saw a living example of what I wrote about in the last post - and my heart is still so full of joy.  In the worship service there was an older couple in their 70s sitting in front of me. It was obvious from everything about them that they loved Jesus, one another, and others.

The darling older gentlemen with a twinkle in his eyes slipped into his seat before service after serving in the bookstore.  His adorable wife gave him a warm smile and patted his leg. They sat there shoulder to shoulder, leaning against each other in their coordinating sweaters, soaking in the teaching of the Word. The older man lifted his hand in worship as we sang.

After service, the man slipped out to help in the bookstore again and we visited with his wife.  Our conversation with her confirmed what was obvious in their living. As she warmly talked with joy shining from her eyes, it was clear they had spent their lives loving Jesus, loving one another, loving others, and living for Him and His Kingdom.
This is vision we want to keep before us for marriage - the vision of loving Jesus, loving others, and living for Him together in a way that points people to Jesus.

It begins with walking with Jesus this way ourselves, trusting Him to bring someone with the same heart, allowing Him to lead us into marriage, and then living for Him together every season of the journey as we grow and mature in Him!

A Love Story for His glory.

God is writing a story for His glory in your life as a part of the Big Love Story.
Whether an earthly love story is in His perfect plan for you or not, you have the matchless satisfaction, purpose, and joy of living in the Big Love Story with Him.

As you walk in love with Him, surrendered to His plan, embracing life with His love wherever He calls you, with the goal of making much of Him, whatever it holds will unfold - for your greatest good and His greatest glory.

He is calling you:
Seek Me.
Trust Me.
Follow Me.
Glorify Me wherever I place you.
I love you and have the best in store.

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

Walk hand-in-hand with Jesus and He will lead you in His Love Story for His glory.
And there will be a happily ever after - and there will be no end.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"Seek first the kingdom..."

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." ~ Matthew 6:33

"Seeking First God's Kingdom" ~ Mandy's Testimony

 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” ~Matthew 6:33

When my husband and I got married in July 2014, Matthew 6:33 was our wedding verse. How perfectly this verse describes the attitude of one who fears God, no matter what stage of life she is in!

Whether a young woman is single, in a courtship, engaged, or married, her primary goal should be to honor the Lord.

First, it is important for a young lady to prioritize her relationship with God in her single years. When I was growing up, many girls my age spent their teenage years chasing the things of the world, including boys, social status, and other selfish pursuits. All too often, the results were damaged emotions and wasted time.

In contrast, it is a rare and beautiful thing for a girl to seek God first in her life. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” As you seek Jesus, you will find fulfillment and peace that is greater than the world can ever offer. I would encourage single young ladies to devote themselves to a serious study of God’s Word and to prayer. Also, use this period of time to serve God and others. You will never regret using your single years for the Lord!
Also, it is important to use your single years to develop a deep satisfaction in Christ. Young ladies often buy into the lie that a relationship is the solution to feeling happy and complete. The truth is that if your satisfaction is not found in Christ alone, you can feel miserable at any stage of life – whether single or married.

While I was a teenager, the Lord worked in my heart to teach me that only He could complete me. I am truly grateful for this sweet lesson. Since Christ had fulfilled my heart, by the time I met my husband I wasn’t looking for someone to fix my insecurities. Yes, it’s true that I am happier as a married woman than at any other time in my life. Indeed, my husband and I have a deep, close, and meaningful relationship. However, this delight is only possible because each of us is individually  completed in Christ. Therefore, the great joy that my husband brings is an added blessing, rather than the antidote to my insecurities. 

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Unfortunately, many girls use their single years as an excuse to throw their hearts around, and to flirt with boys. However, godly men are very rarely attracted to flirtatious girls. In fact, my husband says that when we first met, the absence of flirtation  in our conversation made a deep impression upon him. If a young lady desires to find a godly husband, she ought to work towards character worthy of such a man.  

Indeed, Christian girls should find joy and beauty in saving their hearts for their future husbands. This means avoiding the pitfall of forming premature crushes and attachments to boys. As a now-married woman, I can testify that saving my heart for my husband was one of the best decisions I ever made! It’s a beautiful thing to open up your heart for the first time to the one that God intended for you all along.

For those who have had past struggles, and may not have the "perfect track record," it's important to remember that all of these principles can still be applied starting today. Know that God graciously forgives anyone who seeks Him (1 John 1:9). Through Christ's blood, no sin is held against a child of God. Each day is a new day with new chances to bring glory to Him.

It is also important for a young lady to honor God in the process of considering marriage. Psalms 46:10 says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” It’s easy for young ladies to be constantly searching  for “the one.” Instead, it is when we surrender our hearts to God that we find peace. Indeed, a young woman should be completely content for God’s will and timing in her life – even if it means lifelong singleness!

I remember a time in my life when I was struggling with discontentment in singleness. Thankfully, the Lord grabbed a hold of my heart and brought me to the point of surrendering my desire for a relationship to His will. I became completely content with His will for my future. Amazingly, the Lord brought my husband into my life just weeks later! In this case, the Lord was willing to grant me the desires of my heart, but He wanted full control of my heart first.

When considering a young man, don’t settle for someone who is merely good-looking and nice. Instead, search for a man whose life reflects the light of God. He should have a heart which consistently seeks after the Lord. While perfection is not the goal, you should still seek a man with truly excellent character. From personal experience, I can say that the blessings of being led by a godly husband are many!

Even while in a courtship or marriage, a woman shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of prioritizing her relationship with God. A woman who seeks God with all of her heart will continue to find satisfaction in Him. Such a woman will also be a great blessing to those around her – including her husband (Proverbs 31). When both the husband and the wife are honoring God, it is a beautiful example of Christ and his church (Ephesians 5).

In conclusion, pursuing Christ above all else is vital in any stage of a woman's life. Whether single or married, a woman can find freedom and contentment as she pursues her relationship with Christ above all others. Seeking first God’s kingdom truly brings many blessings.  

~ Final Blog Update for the Year ~

Dear Friends,

I hope you are doing so well and soaking in this amazing time of year!  I love how it is about JESUS! 

I just love loving and seeking Him together with you!  You are precious treasures.  Please never forget how loved you are by Jesus - and me!

I am so, so sorry for the delay in posts on the schedule!  Will you please, please forgive me, friends?! 
Today we have a special treat of a testimony from a young woman who has walked with Jesus through this journey of seeking to live for God's glory in the area of the Big Love Story and an earthly love story!  I will post it very soon!

The final post of the "Love Story and God's Glory" series will be coming at the beginning of next week!  It has been such a joy to consider this topic together and hear your feedback!  I love how Jesus is the center of - and at work in - every area of our lives!

We will post the final mini videos before the end of the year.  Some, or all, of these mini videos will only be available through the end of the year, so please make sure to watch them if you want!

I am so excited for all Jesus has in store!  He is matchless and His way is perfect!

Sending hugs and asking Jesus to bless you in rich ways as you walk with Him today!
With so much love,

"Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul."  (Psalm 143:8)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

God's Man for You ~ The "who" of "I do" ~ by Amy Vest

Just think of it - If God has a husband for you, he is alive and walking the face of the earth right now.

As you walk this amazing journey with Jesus, the most important decision you make after committing your life to Christ, is who you will marry.

{Enter prospective husband.}

Okay, wait.  Pause. 

It is so incredibly, incredibly helpful to seek Jesus and know ahead of time what is important in a husband BEFORE a guy comes along vs. being caught up on the fact that a guy is pursuing you and losing sense of what is important.

In this post we are going to look exactly that - seeking God's heart on considering a guy as a potential future husband for you.  {Did I hear a woo hoo? :)}

So far in this series we have looked at the purpose, approach, and you of marriage - now we are going to look at considering the "who"  of marriage. 

I want you to see how incredibly serious and sacred this decision is.  This is the person you are going to spend the rest of your life on earth with.

I encourage you to stop and ask the Lord for His guidance for you personally - we so need His leading to choose wisely. 

As we begin, I want to be so clear that you are looking at a guy's heart, character, and direction of life.  No guy is perfect (we sure aren't!) - but taking a serious look at his heart, his growth in Jesus, and his pattern of life is essential.

Okay, ready?

Keys to look at:
~ Christ's place in his life - his walk with Jesus. 
Is he Christ's man? (Again, NEVER consider someone who isn't Christ's!)  Is Jesus his life, or just part of his life?  Is he in love with Jesus?  Does he walk with Jesus?
~ Character - his heart and who he is.
Is he like Jesus?  Is he growing in Jesus and becoming like Him?  What is he like when no one is watching?  Is he humble, a man of integrity, selfless, faithful, consistent, etc.?
~ Convictions - what he believes.
What does he believe?  Are his convictions founded on the Word of God?  What is his vision for life, marriage, children, raising/schooling your children, church, use of time, activities, finances, etc.?
~ His lifestyle - how he lives.
Does his walk match his talk?  How does he treat others?  Where does he invest his treasure?  What does he watch, look at, spend time on?  What does he get excited about?  How does he respond to suffering?  Can he support a family?
~ His mission - what he lives for.  
Does he live for Jesus?  Is his desire to glorify Christ with His life?  Is his mission to know Jesus and make Him known?  Are you both on the same path?  Can you join him in his mission?

A guy who is fully Christ's, who deeply loves the Lord, walks with Him, seeks to obey and honor Him and His Word with his life, desires to grow in His likeness, and seeks to make Him known and build His Kingdom.
This will flow out in a million different ways in every area of his life - and through your life together.

1. Pray about him - get the Lord's heart for the kind of guy you should marry.
2. Make a list of key qualities - from the Word, key things you know are important in a godly spouse, specifics the Lord lays on your heart.
3. Pray for him - pray for him, pray for those qualities to be formed in his life, pray Scripture for him, ask the Lord to bring you together in the right time.
4. Place this in Jesus' hands, release to Him, and trust Him for His will - knowing Jesus knows best.

Remember these things:
~ Realize what you are choosing - not only your husband, best friend, teammate, lover, and key growth partner, but also your kid's father, the spiritual leader of your home, who you will submit to and support, and so much more!
~ Consider the Bible's call to husbands and wives, and see - this is the man you will be answering God's call to place yourself under his spiritual leadership, submit to, and support - as teammates with equal value and beautifully different roles.  You must know that he is a man who is following Christ!
~ You are going to do LIFE with this person - with all that it holds of celebration, suffering, and daily life - not just 2 hour conversations over coffee.

As you consider him:
- Ask key questions about key areas to get to know one another and see if you are on the same page - walk with Christ, theology, expectations for marriage, children, raising/schooling children, church, past, entertainment, finances, etc.
- Observe him and have those you trust observe him.  Like someone said - "Use a magnifying glass before marriage and put on rose colored glasses after marriage."  This is your time to identify things that could be huge issues after marriage.
- Really, REALLY get to know him.  It is so important to know a person incredibly well before committing to spend the rest of your life with them!  (Make sure he was living the way he is and following Christ before he met you vs. trying to get you by living how you do.)
- You want to look first at their heart and who they are as a person, and then consider chemistry and emotions.  Emotions will come and go, but who a person is is critical.
- Notice:  "Do I love Jesus more after being with him?" "Does he lead my heart more to Jesus than himself?"
- Remember as you consider "him", you are really considering "us".
- Pray, pray, pray!  Seek Jesus every step.  Fast.  You want Him to choose and lead you to His man for you.  He knows best, does best, and sees the big picture.

Can I walk toward Jesus with this man?
Is this God's man for me?  Is God calling me to marry him?

~ If the Lord makes it clear that a guy is not His man for you, don't settle - you can know that He has a plan that you can trust is best.  (I want to encourage your heart - there are great, godly guys out there who are pursuing Jesus!) 
You must know that Jesus is leading you to marry a guy - not emotions, expectations, or pressures.
~ If as you seek Jesus about a guy, He makes it clear that this is His man for you - embrace this gift with joy!  It is a beautiful treasure.  You have the joy of sharing life, being a team, and supporting him as you love, follow, and share Jesus together! 

Can I tell you a little something you may not know?  I am a romantic at heart.  This is why it is extra important that Jesus is the love of my life and that I surrender this area to Him - and where I have found such fulfillment and freedom!  While there are sacred things I ask Jesus for that I will keep between me and Him, I will give you a little general glimpse of what I am trusting Jesus for:

Someone whose hand I can grab and run towards Jesus together with all our hearts, who we can fan one another's flame of closeness with and love for Jesus, who we can challenge one another to growth in Him, and who we can pour out our lives for His glory for each other and the world around us.

Someone I can live for Jesus with - and die for Jesus with.  Whether that is living to a ripe old age as an adorable little old couple whose wrinkled hands still clasp together in prayerful worship for His faithfulness in the joys and trials, or dying at any age for our faith in Jesus, hand-in-hand, declaring to one another, "Jesus is worth it!"  Someone with whom to share this journey with our Jesus and live this verse, "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!" (Psalm 34:3)

Now it is your turn, friend.

I encourage you to go before Jesus, pray, search His Word, think, and know what is important in a husband.

Then write it down and lift it up to Jesus in prayer.

He hears you and He cares about this more than you ever could.

You want God's man for you.  Don't settle for less.  Follow Jesus, stay true to what He shown you, and trust Him to bring His best for you.

Jesus knows best, His way is best, He gives what is best - and only we want what He wants to give.  "...the Lord will give what is good..." (Psalm 85:12)

If it is His will, He will bring His man for you in His time - and together you can heart in heart and hand in hand walk with Jesus, grow in Him, and live for His glory!

"O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!" (Psalm 34:3)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The You of "I Do" - Looking at yourself before looking at marriage ~ by Amy Vest

Sweet Friend, I wish for this blog post, we could be sitting together over warm mugs of cocoa for a heart-to-heart talk. 

I am thinking of you - precious you - so deeply loved by Jesus, kept in His care, and for whose life He has a breathtaking plan.


I invite you to listen closely and ask Jesus to meet you in these next moments.

The things we are going to look at are an invitation to the life Jesus created, redeemed, and called you for.

This is crucial for you to understand and embrace the life you were created for - whether you are married or not.

You don't want to settle for anything less than all Jesus created you to be and do in Him! 

As you live in this, you experience the fulfillment, joy, and purpose you were meant to experience. 

You are called to live a full life - right now.

When you understand who you are, the life God has called you to live, and are living in this, you are in a healthy place to consider joining paths with a guy on the same path.

It can be so easy to focus on finding the right person - the qualities of the guy you desire, or the right way to consider marriage, etc. - and miss being the right person - the person Jesus is calling you to be.

You see, you need to know who you are and the life God has called you to live before you know if the guy you are considering is who you should marry. 

The goal is to look to Jesus and then look at you, before you ever consider who you will marry.

Does that make sense?

Are you ready to look at you?

A theme verse for my life has been Mary's response to the Lord's call for her - "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38)  May our hearts pray, "Lord, I am Yours - do in, with, and through my life all that You desire!"  As we look to, listen to, and are lead by Jesus, as His, He will lead us into the life He has in store for us - and nothing compares. 

Let's look at your life with Jesus:

The areas are powerful.  There is much that could be said about each one - and I encourage you to do further study yourself!

~ Whose you are - You must know whose you are before anything else.  Have you become Christ's through seeing your sin and need for a savior, trusting in Christ and His death on the cross on your behalf, receiving His forgiveness and life, and turning from your sin and giving your life to Him? (More HERE.) 
If you have, you are His - you belong to Him, you are loved, forgiven, eternally rescued, and spiritually alive.  You are His, He will keep you eternally, and your call is to follow Him with your life.

" are Christ's..." (1 Cor. 2:23)

~ Who you are in Jesus - Understand who you are in Jesus.  He alone has the right to define you - not what others say, your feelings, your relationship status, etc.  Listen to Jesus in His Word, discover who you are in Him, and seek live in that reality.  This will bring a security and humble confidence.

" Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Cor. 5:17)

~ Whole in Christ - See that Jesus alone can complete and satisfy your deepest needs.  While longings for marriage can be very real, and a guy can be a great gift, only Jesus can satisfy your deepest needs and complete you.  He alone can also bring the freedom to your soul, cleansing from your sin, and healing from your past.  Allow Him to meet you, complete you, heal you, and set you free.

" Him you have been made complete..." (Col. 2:10)

~ Who God created you to be - God has a beautiful plan in who He created you to be and how He fashioned your life.  Your personality, spiritual gifts, passions, strengths and weaknesses, etc. are incredible things when yielded to Him for His glory!  Don't try to be someone else, or try to be what others want you to be - be you.

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."
(Ps. 139:14)

~ What you believe and why - Look to Jesus and His Word to receive and know what YOU personally believe.  Ask yourself WHY you believe it.  Is it because you have seen it in the Bible and Jesus?  Or is it because someone you respect said or believes it?  You must receive it from JESUS - and then seek to live it with all of your heart!

"...your word is truth." (John 17:17)

~ What life you are called to live - Receive from Jesus the life He has called you to live. 
Let's look at 3 different aspects:
1. The life all Christians are called to in His Word - as you read His Word, the Bible, you discover this call!
2. Your call as a young woman - there is incredible freedom in understanding Biblical womanhood and the beauty of femininity for God's glory and your blessing!  I encourage you to study and live this with joy.
3. God's individual call for you - this is always in line with the first two and is the specific way He is calling you to walk with Him and share Him with the world.  As you follow Him in obedient surrender, He will unfold His vision for your life and lead you into His beautiful call.

Live fully where He has you right now.  Love and walk with Jesus, love and serve people He has in your life, encourage all sisters and brothers in Jesus, live the life He has called you to - right where He has you today.

"Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him." (1 Cor. 7:17)

~ Working with Jesus on growth - Jesus calls us to growth.  We will never be perfect this side of Heaven, but Jesus is working to grow us more into depth with Him, His likeness, and effectiveness for His use.
1. Our walk with Him - is a relationship that He longs for us to deepen every day of our lives as we respond to His pursuing our hearts by loving Him in return, spending time with Him, learning from Him, sharing our hearts with Him, and so much more!
2. Our heart condition - He is committed to working in our heart to transform us into the likeness of Jesus - for our good, His glory, and the blessing of those around us!  It is so powerful to welcome His work and pursue the heart of Jesus being formed in us.  Then increasingly people will see Jesus in us!
3. Our skills and habits - these are areas of our life to be cultivated that can help us in more effectively walking with, living for, and sharing Jesus.  This can include life skills and habits like hospitality, organization, cooking, wise use of money, scheduling, etc. - and relationship skills like communication, thoughtfulness, humility, etc.

We are all in the process of growth and will be all of our lives.  Staying teachable, humble, and growing are beautiful things!  Our blessing is Jesus working in our hearts and lives to grow us to be more like Him and live more fully the life He created us to live in Him.

" is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13)

I encourage you to pause and talk with Jesus about each of these areas, friend.  Let Him lovingly speak to you, pour His grace on you, and lead you as you respond and follow Him in the life He has created you for and called you to in Him.

As you live as Christ's, walking closely with Him, secure and satisfied in His love, growing in Him, shining His light and building His family, living the life He has called you to, and following Him in faith, you are fulfilling your deepest purpose.

You experience incredible joy, God is glorified, and people are blessed in a way that ripples through eternity.

In God's time and way, He can attract a godly guy to you who you both to realize shares the same love for Him, vision for life, and passion to follow and glorify Jesus - and you can continue the journey together!

And whether or not His plan includes marriage, you are living fully the breathtaking life in Him you were created to live!

Does your heart echo this desire with mine?
“I want to walk closely with My Jesus, grow in Him, follow His call, and shine His light right where He calls me – and trust Him to bring someone to do this with, if and when He sees best!”