The Monday After: Healing Grace {Sheryll}

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, April 28, 2013: Healing Grace {Listen HERE}

By Sheryll Belonga

When I was a young girl, I used to play a game where I would pluck the petals from flowers.  The goal of the game was for the last petal remaining to reveal that I was liked by a particular guy.  A silly game, of course, but it revealed where my heart was and who held it.  Sometimes if my fate didn’t  end well with that last petal I would pick another flower and do it all over again hoping the end would result in my favor.  I refused to give up until I got what I was seeking.

Although those days of petal picking are over, we all still struggle with being liked.  We want to know we are accepted.  We allow others to determine our worth and what we are able to do.  And in doing so we’ve allowed others to break us.  Some of those breaks are still present today.

Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”.  Words can hurt deeper than anything physical because they attack our heart.

Pastor Joe’s message spoke to the little girl inside of me that has never stopped longing for acceptance.  She still wants to be liked by everyone because, after all, isn’t it the opinion of others’ that matters most? Acceptance by others means being valued, and if I am valued then I can do anything or so I’ve thought.  As I listened to the message, I was reminded that my way of thinking was all wrong.  We’ve been taught to live only for Christ, but sometimes we forget that.  In his message, Pastor Joe reminded me of what God thinks of me.

I am accepted!  Psalm 27:10 says, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.”  I have heard this verse many times but the meaning of it was missed.  It tells us that even if the ones who brought us into this world, those who should accept us more than anyone, that if they toss us aside, God is there.  God is where my security remains.

I am valuable!  My life was worth someone’s death, and not just anyone – but Jesus.  Now if that doesn’t shout valuable I don’t know what does.

I am capable!  The Bible says that I can do anything through Christ who gives me the strength, but the key is through.  You must go through Him to have strength but first you must know Him.  If you don’t know Him, that is have a relationship with Him, then you have no idea the strength you could possess.  If you have any doubts of your relationship with Christ talk to someone today.

I heard someone once say, “Live for an audience of one”, which means live to please God and God alone.  I must admit that is hard to do when feeling the acceptance of others can be so addictive, but with an addiction comes the desire for more.  I don’t know about you, but constantly chasing that high is a never-ending battle.  Isn’t it good to know that Christ’s acceptance is instant and unconditional?

I know it won’t be easy to change our thinking but we can, it will just take practice.  Pastor Joe gave homework for this week so here it is: everyday tell yourself that you are accepted, valued and capable.  Everyday practice believing what God says and let your belief influence your behavior.

Sheryll Belonga is wife to Jurrell and homeschooling mom to their three great boys. Her hearts desire is to glorify God in all she says and does in spite of life’s daily happenings.

ICYouth: Provision {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

This July, I have the privilege of going to San Diego with some students and leaders from iMPACT. I’m so excited to love others, serve those in need and be the hands and feet of Christ alongside my best friends. After last summer, I’m anxious to see how God continues to use what we learned at the SEMP evangelism conference, a trip that changed my life in more ways than one.

For me, missions and service have always been on the top of my list: nothing brings me more happiness or genuine joy than loving on a person in need. Be it on a day-to-day basis or during intentional trips such as those we take to Chicago, my heart is filled with joy as God is glorified.  My heart for this trip is truly to love others as Jesus did and see God glorified through acts of service.  I hope my team and I leave the week with changed hearts—hearts that continue to yearn to serve whoever God may be putting in our lives.

However, this trip and all it entails seemed in jeopardy as 2012 drew to a close. My mom lost a large sum of her income over winter break due to certain circumstances in her work, which meant that affording this trip would become a much bigger struggle than anticipated. Obviously, my parents said that they would do their best to send me, but there was still some apprehension. And, of course, I could help pay, but I myself would not have been able to do so completely. However, I know that God put my heart in this trip for a reason. My parents said we would wait until I heard back from my support letters before we made any other decisions regarding the trip.

Through these letters, God poured His blessings out and totally provided.  He had laid it on friends’ and family members’ hearts to be generous in regards to this trip. I am in awe and was reminded of God’s faithfulness as He provided everything I needed financially. The coolest part was having my mom see that God really does provide, despite skepticism and apprehension.

I was overjoyed in the fact that this all happened, especially in such a short time. Faith in Him to provide for me, in addition to a large amount of prayer, led to a manifestation of my hopes. I am so humbled to see the people in my life give so generously and am beyond blessed to have a God that hears my struggles and allows me to do His work despite my weakness. I cannot wait to wait to be serving the Lord as a result of His faithfulness!

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.

Local Outreach: Love, INC. {Immanuel Church Unleashed}

Because of your generous giving lives are being changed! Here’s a story of how God is at work through Immanuel people in our own community! Thank you for your generosity!

by Cyndi Pleasant, Immanuel attendee and co-leader of the Love INC ICU team

Listening to Pastor Joe’s sermon and hearing the words from Isaiah 61 a few weeks ago, resonated with me after a day of volunteering with members of the Immanuel family and our partners from Love Inc.

Once a month several people from Immanuel come together to deliver basic necessities and the Love of Jesus to families and individuals that are starting out in an apartment or home after a time of loss and despair. Entering an apartment with only a chair and a lamp … a hospital bed to sleep on because that’s what you were given upon leaving the hospital after surgery, the emptiness of this apartment became quite noticeable. It made me aware of how much I have, and how much I have that I could live without. Yet even without a couch, a dresser or a coffee table, there is thankfulness for no longer having to live in a shared living arrangement where personal space is a coveted commodity.

The joy we shared as we spoke about Jesus’ love for these recipients of used furniture and household items was by far the best part of the day. We gave out Bibles and prayed together before going on to our next delivery. We encouraged joining in worship with a nearby church and offered names of churches in their area. On we went after big hugs and even bigger smiles.

In the words of Pastor Joe: “The deepest joy, the longest lasting joy comes when we join hands with God in the mission to serve the poor, the needy and those in bondage.”

Joining God in this mission of sharing the joy of knowing Him truly does bring the lightest step and the deepest joy. If you haven’t had this experience you truly haven’t lived. We are blessed to be a part of a church family that offers so many opportunities to join together in this mission.

If you’d like to be involved in an Immanuel Church Unleashed project, visit our website and learn more!

The Monday After: Sufficient Grace {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, April 21, 2013: Sufficient Grace {click HERE to listen to the sermon}

By Anita Everly

I’ve had several big life events show me just how much God’s grace has been sufficient for me in those circumstances.  God has grown me to a point that it’s relatively easy for me to surrender to Him what is too overwhelming for me to deal with.

However, it’s the everyday things where I tend to neglect His sufficiency and instead, rely on my own power.  We all have a to-do list longer than our day and a transcript of thoughts running at full speed from the moment our feet hit the floor to when we lay our heads down at night.  What do we do with all this?

When life is just … life do we rest in His all-sufficient grace?

Or do we turn on our electronic devices to be swept away from the routine of life to check social media feeds and view beautiful pictures of more interesting people and places?  Perhaps we make plans to make a regular day more exciting by going shopping or hitting the drive-thru because we deserve a little treat for self.  Or maybe we go for a run, hit the gym or plug in the tunes to deal with the grind of life.

(Believe me, I’m typing through the plank in my own eye right now).

Through this Outrageous Grace series, God keeps directing me to Proverbs 16:3.  “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”

I have a responsibility:  To commit to the Lord my daily tasks and decisions.

That takes discipline and time with Him, most beneficially first thing in the morning.  When I do this, the Word promises that He will guide the path and He will work it all according to His will and His best for me.

I also landed on Psalm 37: 7 this week:  “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”

In our instant, high-speed culture it is hard to wait, much less patiently, for anything.  And for me, that includes the Lord.  In the daily, immediate things of life, that is often hard.  But if I have spent time being still before Him, committed my day to Him and continued our conversation throughout the day, the waiting doesn’t seem as long and His answers become clearer.

Romans 12:2 offers that very promise:  “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Yes, God is enough and He shows me through His Word how to practically experience His sufficiency over my own.

When His Word is truly a light for our path and we have committed each day to Him, sought Him throughout the daily decisions and filled our minds with Him instead of the distractions of life, we are equipped to rejoice in our sufferings because we know that He’s got it!  Those very moments are when our lives show the world how big Christ is.

God is enough. Every moment of today. His grace is sufficient for us all.

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: Following God’s Voice … even to China {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

As my senior year of high school comes to an end and summer peeks just around the corner, the season for change is rapidly approaching. It’s the time of year when some of life’s most monumental moments happen, life’s biggest changes occur. It is a transition period, gradually easing you into your next step of life. For me, this period is more then just “the summer before college.” It is the summer my life will change for forever. The year that I will experience God in a way I have never felt or seen. A summer where my faith will be put to the test and my willingness to serve stretched to its limits.  This summer I will be serving Him for two months in China.

If you would have asked me where I’d be and what I’d be doing over the summer a few months back I probably would have given you the typical college student answer. Working. But little to my knowing God had bigger plans for me. He knew I needed to take my faith to the next level, and He knew when and where to do it. While hesitant to give up what essentially pans out to be my whole summer, I knew God was calling me to this trip the moment it was introduced to me. I’ve always had a heart for missions but never would I have expected Him to test me in the way He has.

My decision did not come without serious prayer, but when I knew, I was certain without the shadow of a doubt this is what He wanted me to do. Being the only member from Immanuel Church going made leaving behind my secure summer that much harder. But knowing that I’d be teaming up with two other churches and seven other amazing students on this spiritual journey helped to ease my reluctance to go. And now as the time windless down to just one month away from leaving I could not be more excited.

I am now ready for change. I am ready for Him to light my path and point me in the right direction. The coming months are going to knock my routine world off its axis, but I’m ready! No matter what He has in store for me I am ready to serve. Whether it be in China or college I know He is there supporting me along the way. We all must trust in His ultimate plan, for only He knows our future. Only through Him will the right path be shown.

Of course with change come sacrifices, new opportunities, and new decisions to be made. And because of my approaching trip to China I am sorry to say that this is my last blog post here. Because of the strict internet regulations in China I no longer can continue this amazing opportunity. I am extremely blessed to have been on such a talented team and am excited to see what God has in store for their future. While He has closed one door He has opened up another door for me – one that I am eager and excited to take. I pray this not only for myself but also for you — remember to ask God for guidance in your daily walks. When we stop and listen to Him, good things come and lives transform.

John 10:27-28    “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

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!