Friday, October 27, 2017

Life-changing Faith ~ by Amy Vest

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

Think about that for a moment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

will wonder why we ever doubted Him.

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

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

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

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

This is the victory...

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Surrender – A Pathway to Joy ~ by Amy Vest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We find our life in Him...

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

~ Matthew 16:24-15

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Captivated with Jesus ~ by Amy Vest

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

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

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

Who - or what - has your heart?  

I want it to be Jesus.  Always.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing compares to Jesus.   

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

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

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

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

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

It is where our heart is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus, only Jesus is all that you ever need.

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

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

Where your treasure is...

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

~ Summer Devotions Pursuit 2017 Testimonies ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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