Category Archives: Spiritual Maturity

4 Ways to Love God with Gusto (Part 1 of 2)


This week, author Kristen Hogrefe shares her insights on how we can love God more fully. She’ll share Part 2 of this post next week, so be sure to check back in for more encouragement then.

One of my favorite books is called I Dare You by William Danforth, and in it, he challenges his readers to live what he calls “the four-square life.” Following Jesus’ example in Luke 2:52, he dares us to grow mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially.

“And Jesus increased in wisdom (mentally) and stature (physically), and in favor with God (spiritually) and men (socially).” (NKJV, parenthesis added)

The other day, I was reading Mark 12:30 and realized that we are not only to grow in those key areas of our lives, but we’re also supposed to love God with four related areas.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (emotional/volitional), with all your soul (wholehearted), with all your mind (mental), and with all your strength (physical).’ This is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:30 NKJV, parenthesis added)

Coincidence? I don’t think so! God wants us to live for him and love him with all that we are. What does that look like? Let’s dive a little deeper into these four areas and see what Scripture has to say.


Love God Volitionally

When we typically think of our “heart,” we usually think about our emotions. Although our emotions are part of the idea here, “heart” goes far beyond them to include the will.[i]

In other words, love is more than a feeling but a choice, and we must exercise that choice in our relationship with God. He didn’t make us mindless robots, pre-programmed to love him. Instead, he gave us the privilege of deciding to love him and made it possible by loving us first.

In the educational world, we call that “modeling.” It means showing someone how to do something before expecting them to try. God modeled perfect love when he gave his own Son to mend the broken relationship between us and God, caused by man’s first and all consequential disobedience. By doing so, he offers restoration and the ability to love him back, “because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).

Wow! So how do we reciprocate? We can love God volitionally when we:

  • Choose to accept his salvation made possible through Christ’s sacrifice (John 3:16).
  • Choose to praise him when circumstances don’t go our way (I Thessalonians 5:18).
  • Choose holiness over what the world tells us is acceptable (I Thessalonians 4:3-7).
  • Choose an attitude of truth over how we feel at the time (Philippians 4:4-7).


Love God Wholeheartedly

The second way to love God is with our “soul.” Wait, aren’t the heart and soul similar? Isn’t “heart and soul” an expression to mean “all of me”? Or what’s the difference? I’m no Bible scholar, so I did some digging.

When I graduated from high school, my aunt gifted me with a copy of Strong’s exhaustive concordance which has been a priceless reference for me. Strong’s reveals that “soul” comes from the Greek word “psuche,” from which we get our modern word “psyche.” According to, the word’s origin literally means “breath” or “to breathe, blow, hence, live.”

Okay, stay with me. Strong’s further clarifies that the related Hebrew word means “heart (+ily), life, mind, soul …”

I paused on the word heartily, because it instantly reminded me of Colossians 3:23:

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men …” (NKJV)

In other words, we’re supposed to love God with everything we’ve got, or, as Ashley often reminds us, with gusto!

Can you think of some ways we can do that? What might loving God with gusto look like for you on an everyday basis?

[i] Faith Bible Ministries Blog does an excellent job of breaking down the biblical meaning of heart if you’d like more information.


Joy and Expectation


I love a comfortable home, so I’ve always been one to feather my nest. But now that I’m about 38 weeks into this pregnancy, my nesting instinct is at an all-time high.

It started with turning the guest room into the baby’s room. That required some deep cleaning, decluttering, and reorganizing, which spilled over to the rest of the house. Then there was the researching of all things baby-oriented, shopping, putting together of furniture, washing tiny baby clothes, and organizing everything (again). The pantry and freezer also had to be stocked to the brim, leading to more shopping as well as cooking. And all those household projects I’d been putting off for years? Yup, those had to be done, too…like yesterday.

Now that I’m having intermittent contractions (pause…here comes another one…), I can’t easily lift a laundry basket or swing a mop. Thankfully, Robby continues to be supportive and helpful, even when my demands don’t entirely make sense (like when I insisted our hurricane preparation had to include hanging pictures on the wall).


Preparing for Baby Jones

I don’t know the day or time that Baby Jones will arrive, but I do know he’s coming. I’ve researched pregnancy, labor, and delivery for the past nine months, and I know that it won’t be long. With each tick-tock of the second hand, I hear a whisper: “He’s coming. He’s coming. He’s coming.”

Still, this urgency doesn’t fill me with fear or dread but with joy and expectation. Yes, I know that I’ll have to go through pain, but the reward will be more than worth it, for I’ll get to take home my sweet Baby Jones.

Like all expectant moms, I daydream about my baby. What will he look like? Will he have Robby’s personality? Will we bond immediately? Will he be an easy baby? What in the world is he doing in there, gymnastics? I also dream of our future together as a family, and I pray for his health and wellbeing, both now and as an adult.

What I don’t do is focus on the impending labor, the sleepless nights, or the what-ifs. There’s just no point in dwelling on those things.


Preparing for Jesus

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus tells us to prepare ourselves for the day of the Lord. (I even wrote a blog on this topic recently.) For years, Christians have tried to pinpoint each obstacle the Church will endure as we wait for Jesus’ Second Coming. Unfortunately, this has created a sense of confusion, if not dread, for many people. They wonder, How long will we have to labor? How painful will it be? What, exactly, will it entail?

Only now, as I start my own personal labor, do I realize how wrong we’ve been. It’s not helpful to dwell on the tribulations we may endure. Instead, we should focus on the One Who is Coming. It’s all about Jesus. It always has been, and it always will be. [Click to Tweet.]

Jesus said He had to go to prepare a place for us, and He will return to claim us as His own. If we believe that—truly believe that—then nothing can be more important to the Church than to be ready when our King returns. (See John 14:2-3.)

Focus on Him

This idea is just as important on an individual basis, for each of us should be prepared for God to move in our own lives. In an instant, He can call us to witness to someone, pick up and move to a new city, or start a new career. If we’re self-centered, undisciplined, or just too busy to listen, we’ll miss these opportunities and the blessings they would have entailed.

Both corporately, and as individuals, we would do well to model the pregnant woman, feathering her nest with singular focus and determination. Even when it looks strange to the world, or the storms of life prevail, we must make it a priority to get our house in order.

It’s important to remember, though, that we can’t do all this alone. There will come a time when the labor is too intense and our strength fails. There may even be times when our knowledge is lacking and faith must prevail. As a Church, we can rely on each other for various strengths, gifts, and accountability. As individuals, we can call upon our family, friends, and mentors for support.

As the saying goes, we don’t know what the future holds, but we know the One who holds the future—and He is coming! Let us focus on Him as we forge ahead with great joy and expectation!

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7 NAS).

In the post above, I shared how we need to rely on others from time to time. Well, this month I’m relying on a few blogger friends to pinch-hit for me while Robby and I get to know our little one. Next week’s post will be from Kristen Hogrefe, author of the Rogues Trilogy. You don’t want to miss it!

A Little Peace and Quiet


Thanks to author Kristen Hogrefe for hosting this week’s post on her blog at Check out her site for more godly encouragement.


I’ve always had a sensitivity to noise, but it’s getting worse. I think that’s because the world is getting noisier. Every store I go into is blaring the latest top 40 music (as if I want to hear about some teenager’s sexual exploits while trying to buy a carton of eggs). When Robby and I pay good money to eat out at a restaurant, we often have to talk over the music and several TVs, all tuned to different stations. At doctors’ offices (which are stressful enough), the TVs are usually tuned to daytime talk shows showcasing the worst humanity has to offer.

In traffic, the guy next to me will inevitably blast his music because he thinks it makes him look cool. (It doesn’t.) Even at home, a neighbor will often turn up his favorite station until I have to shut my windows for a little peace and quiet.

And that’s what I find myself seeking these days: peace and quiet.



When I was little, I loved to stay at my grandparents’ house. Papa liked to have the TV on all the time, whether he was watching it or not. But whenever he would go outside, Grandma would immediately turn it off. I thought it was the perfect opportunity for us to finally watch what we wanted to watch, but to Grandma it was an opportunity for some peace and quiet.

Looking back, I don’t remember any of those TV shows, but I do remember Grandma singing hymns in the kitchen while the washing machine thumped along in the background. To me, this is what a peaceful home sounds like.

I understand now what Grandma meant when she said she needed quiet time to hear herself think and to hear God speak to her. By seeking silence, Grandma was able to tune out the world and tune into God.



How can we expect to hear God’s voice when we can’t even hear ourselves think? How can we focus on what’s important in life if our attention is constantly switching from one song or show to the next? Why do we feel the need to stuff ourselves with entertainment at the expense of our own peace?

Author Richard J. Foster addressed this issue back in 1978 in his book, Celebration of Discipline: “Our fear of being alone drives us to noise and crowds. We keep up a constant stream of words even if they are inane. We buy radios that strap to our wrists or fit over our ears so that, if no one else is around, at least we are not condemned to silence.”

Foster goes on to discuss the Discipline of Solitude, which he states is inseparable from inner silence. “Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment… There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times… if we possess inward solitude we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone. Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us. In the midst of noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart.”

That’s what I want! Don’t you?



Fortunately, solitude is something we can attain through spiritual discipline. Foster states that one way to “step into solitude” is to “take advantage of the ‘little solitudes,’ that fill our day,” from quiet early mornings to being stuck in traffic. We can also develop a “quiet place,” such as a special room in the house where we can shut out the noise for a bit.

Robby and I discovered this inadvertently when we canceled our cable. I’d like to say that we were being super-spiritual, but the truth is that it was getting too expensive. Although we still have internet-based TV, the format is different. Instead of streaming one show after another, we have to select each show we want to watch. Since we have to be intentional about it, we find ourselves watching less. We also avoid the hamster wheel of 24/7 news and weather; this change alone has removed stress from our home. We even avoid commercials now, which are manipulative by default.

Now, Robby listens to the news for a few minutes in the morning and evenings so we can stay current on important events. When he gets home from work, I’ll turn on something soothing like light jazz or Christian music, and we’ll enjoy our dinner at the dining table (not in front of the boob tube!). On weekends we might find a show or movie to watch, but for the most part, we prefer to piddle around the house or read. We tune out the noise of the world and make room for each other and for God.



As we’ve quieted our home, I’ve felt a quietening within my spirit. Yes, I still have to contend with the noise of the world, but I’m learning to develop that inner silence Foster speaks of—and you can too!

I encourage you to watch your habits this week. Do you reach for the radio, the TV remote, and the phone without even thinking about it? Do you always have something on, even in the background? Do you feel uncomfortable with silence, even in your own home? If so, it’s time to make a change. Unplug for awhile. Fill that time with quiet rest, housework, or a hobby. Even better, read your Bible and pray. By carving out some time for a little peace and quiet, you might begin to hear God speak to you like never before.


“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12 KJV).

Sometimes, God prefers to speak in a still, small voice. Can you hear Him? [Click to Tweet!]