Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Stepping into a New Year with Jesus ~ by Amy Vest

I love this reality:

When you step into a new year, you step into it with Jesus.

This reality changes everything.  Jesus changes everything.  Jesus is everything you need.

Listen to His sweet promises for those who are His:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5)

"I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matt. 28:20)

Jesus is with you, friend.

He goes with you, before you, and within you.

In Him you have an:
All sufficient Savior
Faithful Shepherd
Truest Friend
Unfaltering Guide
Ever present Help
Unfailing Love
Reigning King
and so much more!

He is: 
your only hope
all you need
with you
for you
working all things for your good
giving what you truly need
going to keep you to the end

He will be with you every step of the way.

The Jesus you have known in the past will be the same in this coming year - "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Heb. 13:8) -  and each step offers the opportunity to discover so much more of Who He is!

What a beautiful reality!

Yes, you can step into this new year - and each new day of the rest of your life - with joy, because you step in with Jesus.

I am with you always...

  "I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  
~Matthew 28:20

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Wonder of Immanuel - "God With Us" ~ by Amy Vest

I stood outside gazing up into the winter sky in breathless awe as I pondered the wonder of the reality:

Immanuel - "God with us."

GOD - the King of the universe, the One we were created for, and the only answer to the longings of our hearts
WITH - being not just far off in Heaven, but taking on human form and becoming present and near

 - not just with the angels - but with us needy, sinful humans desperate for Him!

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” 
Matthew 1:23

In Jesus - our Immanuel - God came to be with us, so that we could be with Him forever.

Jesus came to be with us, so that He could redeem us from our sins through His perfect life, death on the cross in our place, and resurrection from the dead - triumphant over sin, death, and hell.  He did this so that those who trust in Him as their Savior, receive His grace to turn from their sin, and surrender their life to Him as Lord, could be with Him forever as His own.  What amazing love!

"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

Jesus came so that we could enter into an eternal relationship with Him. He came to rescue us from sin, to allow us to know Him, to transform us into His Image, and so that we could walk with Him every moment.

Isn't this amazing?

When Jesus is with us, everything changes.

He brings salvation to the lost, hope to the hopeless, comfort to the hurting, healing to the wounded, joy to the discouraged,  peace to the troubled, freedom to the captive, satisfaction to the longing... He is all that we need!

"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. " Philippians 4:19
I love how the Gospel of Matthew begins in Chapter 1 with Jesus being "Immanuel - God with us" - and ends in the last chapter with Jesus promising His disciples - "I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

He has promised, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

My heart can't stop whispering, "God with us." this Christmas season... and I don't think the wonder will ever disappear, because its reality never will.

{Deep, grateful breath}

"Thank You, Father for sending Jesus.
Thank You, Jesus for coming.
Thank You, Holy Spirit for opening our spiritual eyes to Jesus."

Immanuel - God with us.  And because He came, we will never be the same.

Have an incredible Christmas rejoicing in Jesus and treasuring the reality that He is with us - and for those who are His, we will be with Him forever!

God with us...

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, “God with us.” 

~Matthew 1:23 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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.

A future and a hope...

"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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

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)

Two are better than one...

"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