ICYouth: The Longest Winter Ever {Gracie}

Your generosity helps transform lives! Every Friday, we’re taking a peek at how God is working in the lives of our impact students. These servants of Jesus are walking daily by faith as they navigate the hallways and relationships inside their school walls and beyond. Our weekly series will highlight what God is up to in their lives in their voices. Leave them some encouragement by commenting?

by Gracie Adamek

Winter. Ugh. Blaaaahhhhhh. This winter has been one I’ve found hard to enjoy. The cold, the piercing winds, birds on vacation and a whole lot of clouds. But that’s not all; winter is by far the most depressing season.The sun is often hidden, and the bitter cold just never seems to go away.

Normally, this doesn’t really have any profound effects on my mood or attitude; I usually don’t mind winter, but from December up until now this year, it feels like 100 winters have been loaded on top of me. With my Grandma passing away, spending twelve to thirteen hours at school because of the musical and homework and keeping up with my responsibilities at church, I’m just feeling stretched so thin. Now don’t get me wrong —  I love everything that I do and I wouldn’t trade my life for anything, but sometimes I just feel as though I’m burning the candle at both ends and I literally have no time to take a break.

I’m not depressed, just feeling the effects of stress. I mean, it’s not all bad. God has been using this time to do some crazy awesome things! 2013 has already had its fair share of ups and downs but March has been a month of blessings. I recently have learned who my real friends are. I have some great guys and girls in my life that I can go to about anything and they will be there for me to talk and make me laugh and just build me up. I have an incredible family and church community that are truly concerned with me and helping me when I need them.

Also, I have reaped the benefits of walking in prayer. Of all of the gifts God has given me, I would say walking with Him in prayer is one of them. With some situations, all I could do was pray and trust God’s plan for me. My favorite blessing of the whole month is that my best friend in the whole world, Peggy, accepted Jesus as her savoir!!! YAAAYYYY!!!!!

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I have been praying for her for about three years and just about two months ago, she was saying that she would probably never accept God and then all of the sudden she text messaged me and shared  that I have a new sister in Christ — HER!

God’s movement caused me to take a step back from my life and really look at it.

My conclusion?

The sun can shine through the clouds.

Even in the darkest of winters, God can pour his blessings upon us.

Snapshot_20121212Gracie Adamek is a junior at Lakes Community High School. She enjoys singing, acting and spending time with friends! Gracie is so grateful for this opportunity and hopes to glorify God 100% through this!

The Monday After: The Suffering Servant {Anita}

You know that Sunday feeling, right?

We leave church inspired by and filled with  Truth, encouragement and passion on Sundays … and somewhere along the course of the day and week, we often lose that Sunday feeling. 

The Monday After {the Sunday Sermon} is our attempt to carry the Sunday message into Monday mornings by walking together and sharing how what we’ve heard on Sunday morning is making a difference in our Mondays, our weeks, our lives. Each Monday, a voice from the pews will give personal perspective to the words we soaked in on Sunday. Because of your generosity, lives are being changed by God’s grace, and we’re able to share these stories with you here!

The Monday After Sunday, March 24, 2013: The Suffering Servant

By Anita Everly

Oppressed.  Afflicted.  Judged.  Cut off.  Stricken.  Suffering.

These are the words used to describe Jesus, our Savior.  Perhaps any of these words from the text of Isaiah 53: 7-9 could describe you right now.  If not, undoubtedly your season in the midst of such circumstances has happened or will soon.

And in the midst of these verses, something struck me: in these three short verses, Isaiah mentioned four times that Jesus was silent.

Silent.

He didn’t defend himself, argue, plead or justify.   He was silent.

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Moreover, he endured.  He accepted, tolerated and lived through the pain of every offense thrown at him.  Both of these reactions go against our culture’s way of reacting and are often hard to understand.

However, in 1 Peter 2:23 we find this:

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.”

Jesus entrusted himself to God.  He knew God had a plan for all of it and endured precisely because of that!

In our common terms, terms I believe are biblically sound, Jesus knew:  God’s got this!

What about when we’re in a winter of life?  Do we choose to endure knowing God’s got this and He has a plan?  And somehow, out of some of life’s worst heartaches and circumstances, He works all things for our good?

If Christ Himself did nothing wrong yet endured death on a cross for me, He understands.  Surely I can trust God with the dark valleys of my life.  But it takes just that, releasing ourselves into the Hands of the One who can heal.  When we’re in a valley, it may be the last thing we feel like doing, but it’s the answer to us experiencing Him exchanging our ashes for His beauty.

Jeremiah 29:13 says,

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.

This is a rock solid promise that when we seek Him, we will find Him.  He meets us where we are–and with suffering experience.

But as Pastor Joe, said, we have to stop and ponder the things of God.

We cannot fill ourselves with the mess of this world if we expect to be filled with Him.  We have to open His Word, pray without ceasing and be still before him, reflecting and listening.  Those things take intention and time.  The guidance, hope and healing are there, but we have to engage during the enduring.

There is probably no better week than Holy Week to lay it all down at His feet and be silent before Him, entrusting our circumstances and lives to Him, not just the difficult, but all the good, too.  He’s got it all, and we can entrust ourselves to Him in faith that He purposes His plan in us.

What are we willing to sacrifice this week to spend time seeking Him with all our heart?

He’ll meet us where we are and bring the Light.

They say it’s darkest just before dawn.

Hallelujah!  Here comes the Son!

 

Anita Everly is the wife of David and mom to their three sons.  She can be found watching the lives of her men unfold, creating a home, and encouraging other women in life and motherhood.  She is striving to live life on purpose because she is crazy in love with the One who is crazy in love with her.

ICYouth: On Community and Refreshment {Trever}

God is using your generosity to help change lives! Every Friday, we’re taking a peek at how God is working in the lives of our high school students. These servants of Jesus are walking daily by faith as they navigate the hallways and relationships inside their school walls and beyond. Our weekly series will highlight what God is up to in their lives in their voices. Leave them some encouragement by commenting?

by Trever Carter

Tired, anxious, weary, worn out, beat down: all are characteristics that are not typically true of me; lately, though, they have come to define me. Usually, I am all of the opposite. Be it resilient in the face of trial or positive when things don’t go my way, I am traditionally the one to climb out of the other side of the valley fairly unscathed. But the thing is, this is not the first time in the past two months that these foreign traits have been true of me.

Last month, prior to the WinterXtreme retreat, I had gone through one of the hardest weeks of my high-school career to date.  I was so busy with school, sports and the people around me that I quickly became overwhelmed, boiling over to a state of complete helplessness and apathy.  After a few failed tests, horrible practices and big arguments with my family, I went into the retreat weekend crying out to God. And I think that is just what He had intended for me in the week leading up to WinterXtreme.

After the circumstances and events of this past weekend, I have felt I’m in a similar place. Beginning last weekend, one of my best friends started what has been a rough few weeks full of pain and emergency room visits because of a concussion.  One midnight phone call about a hospital visit had kept me up all night, and an after-practice text had nearly left me in tears as I worried. At the same time, a friend had shared with me that a family member’s illness had progressed to unfathomable extremes.  Not to mention, practice for a spring sport has been running me into the ground and school work has kept me there.  I’ve barely had time to take a breath.

As this all ensues, I have been learning what it means to love a close friend in need when I myself am struggling. Sometimes, there are no words to say, nothing more I can do, even though all I want is to do more. I am realizing that sometimes you just need to be there for someone. That may mean being there for them in constant prayer or being there for them to talk to. Frankly, it could also mean sitting in complete silence, lending them your presence and letting them know you love them and you care.  The support system of my friends has truly left me in awe. Prayer and comfort have flooded in, going all directions, and people are there for me when I need them, just as I hope to be there for others when they need me.

At the end of it all, I am left crying out to God for help, possibly louder than I did in February prior to our retreat. I cry out because I need Him. I’m in dire need of Him to refill me with His presence, to give me the words to say and to comfort those around me. I need Him to lift me off of the ground and restore me. As I learned last month, God allows me to become beat down when I can grow from the situation. So I am on my knees, ready to listen to anything he has to tell me. God is in charge. He has his plan, and we all just need to trust it.

I pray we all realize that God has His reasoning for everything, and maybe we just need to lend Him an ear to hear what He has to say.  I pray that we all, especially myself, find a break in the clouds and busyness of life to spend time with our Creator, to slow down and be replenished.

565825_494718303883308_1511035050_nTrever Carter is a sophomore at Grayslake North High School. He enjoys running, playing lacrosse, and photography. He also likes to write, serve with the church, and spend time with his friends.

The Monday After: Encountering the Holy: A New Day

You know that Sunday feeling, right?

We leave church inspired by and filled with Truth, encouragement and passion on Sundays … and somewhere along the course of the day, after the music fades and our cars leave the parking lot, pieces of the message tend to fade, too; somewhere along the way, we often lose that Sunday feeling. 

The Monday After {the Sunday Sermon} is our attempt to carry the Sunday message into Monday mornings by walking together and sharing how what we’ve heard on Sunday morning is making a difference in our Mondays, our weeks, our lives. Each Monday, a voice from the pews will give personal perspective to the words we soaked in on Sunday. 

So follow along each Monday as we seek to integrate that Truth into our daily lives; leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

The Monday After Sunday, March 17, 2013: Encountering the Holy: A New Day

By Dawn Kelley

Last year I had the oppertunity to write out my biblical mandate — verses that God has prompted me to live by over the years.
The main verse was Isaiah 61. This one really spoke to my heart, as both a reminder and a conviction that Jesus has invited me to join Him in this amazing journey of flavoring the world with joy. God gives incredible joy!
The verse that spoke most to me was verse 2 which reads,
“He sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the favor of the Lord has come.”
Pastor Joe’s reminder was that this time — the age of grace — will not last forever. There is an urgency in the call to share the gospel!
He has called me to help people to see that Jesus is the comfort they need for mending their broken hearts, and that He has the keys to their jail cells! As Christ followers, we are the salt of the world, and our flavor is joy!
I am in a place where I need to re-evaluate if I am answering that call at this point in my life. I’m finding that as we live our lives re-evaluation is something that we must re-visit often. So my challenge this week is to be intentional in sharing the gospel with others. Perhaps it’s time for you to reevaluate to?
I pray this message is one to which we cling.

Dawn Kelley is the wife of Andrew and the homeschooling mother of four, Jaden, Niya, Makayla and Aiden. She loves to read and write in her spare time, and she currently uses a personal blog to share her adventures in motherhood and womanhood.

ICYouth: Doubting Your Walk {Tyler}

Every Friday, we’re taking a peek at how God is working in the lives of our high school students. These servants of Jesus are walking daily by faith as they navigate the hallways and relationships inside their school walls and beyond. Our weekly series will highlight what God is up to in their lives in their voices. Leave them some encouragement by commenting?

by Tyler Brooks

Walking through life as a Christian can feel like a daunting task. Each day presents new challenges to overcome, new spiritual growth to be made. But far too often we fail at these expectations. We fall short of God’s desires (Romans 3:23) and see ourselves as these worthless, inadequate beings. The challenges in front of us turn into mountains with never-ending peaks. We fall into this downward spiral of self-hate and inadequacy. We simply doubt our walk as a believer.

But I am here to say, “Stop!” Stop doubting who you are as a Christian because you aren’t “perfect.” Granted, I’m not saying stop caring about your failures. I am simply saying stop letting your struggles define you as a believer. Our weaknesses should motivate us to pursue Christ more, not cripple our relationship with Him. It is our job to be a light unto the world. If all we do is pity ourselves because of our meagerness are we showing the world a proper representation of our Mighty Savior?

As believers we should have a striking likeness of Jesus. His life should live in us—through our words and actions. We should be pictures of Christ. When people look at us, they should see Jesus. The world should not have to guess and wonder, but they should know at once that we have been with Him. Therefore we should not judge ourselves based on our failures, rather focus on showing the world God’s love through spreading the Gospel.

As a believer it should be our desire to resolve the areas in our lives that lack Him. However, those areas should not dictate who we are as Christians. If that were the case and our goal was to rid our lives of failure, we would simply be climbing a never-ending staircase. At no point in our lives will we feel we reach the status of a “perfect Christian.” We are constantly slipping up, making it over one mountain just to see another one staring us in the face.

But you see, a relationship with Christ shouldn’t be this daunting task. It should be joyful! It should be a relief knowing we have Christ in our lives! So why do we let these struggles dictate our relationship? Diluting it with our failures?  We must stay optimistic and rejoice in our successes and pray for guidance when we fail.

To spend our entire relationships with God focused on your failures is somewhat illogical. I see it like this: in baseball, pitchers tend to be subpar batters at best. They specialize in striking people out, thus preventing people from getting on base. They still work on batting but realize it is always going to be a struggle. They know where their strengths lie and they use that to their advantage and to the best of their ability. Just because pitchers lacks the skills to be a good batter, doesn’t make them a bad baseball player. They are still remarkable players. People don’t judge them on their weaknesses, but see them for their strengths. Likewise, Christians will not feel they excel in all aspects of their walk with Christ. But just because they feel inadequate in areas doesn’t make them “lousy believers.”  The goal as a believer should be pleasing Christ with all you do. Colossians 3:17 says “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

I challenge you to start seeing your walk in a new perspective. Stop focusing on the negative and focus on His will. If you believe in Him with all your heart, those areas that you feel are ‘mountains to climb’ will become easier with God leading. Sometimes it just takes a change in perspective. Adjust your mindset from feeling like a mediocre Christian to a ready and willing Christian where Christ will do big things through you!

IMG_0212-2Tyler Brooks is a senior at Warren Township High School; he’s involved with numerous student ministries along with the Tech Team during Sunday morning services. He also shoots videos for the church and other because his passion is photography/videography!