ICYouth: Thinking about the Holidays {Trever}

Thank you for your generosity to our one-fund, Accelerate. Because of your geneorsity, we are able to share stories of how God is changing lives! Every Friday, one of our student bloggers shares how God is working in his or her life. Leave some encouragement by commenting?

by Trever Carter

The smell of pumpkin pie wafts through the air, various cakes and desserts line the counter tops and crock pots sit in the fridge, ready to be pulled out and turned on. I sit in the front room of my grandparent’s house, brainstorming a Christmas list to appease my urging grandmother. The annual Black Friday and Christmas ads sit sprawled across the floor as my mother plans out her shopping route. We all know she won’t get to any of the big sales she wants, but it’s her time to spend one-on-one with her mom, and that is why she enjoys going.

I love Thanksgiving because it’s a time where everyone expresses their gratitude — gratitude that sometimes sit dormant or go unsaid all year. While receiving thanks from someone is a true blessing, giving one almost tops that. A heartfelt note, phone call or even text message truly goes a long way for both giver and the receiver. By the time this is most likely read, it will be the day after Turkey Day. But what’s a better way to start the Christmas season than giving thanks to the people in your lives?

It is such an easy time to shift our views and realize how much God truly blesses us. It’s almost a path set out for us, so why not seize the opportunity. I am thankful for my father, my mother who holds my family together and does everything for me and also for my brothers who keep me laughing and are constant support. I am thankful for Immanuel and the family that I have there. I could not imagine spending a Sunday anywhere else. I am thankful for the adults in my life: my youth leaders who are like second family to me and my youth pastor, all of whom have shaped me into the Man of God I am today. I’m thankful for my friends.  Lastly, but certainly not least, I am thankful to the God who wakes me up each morning, decides to give me breath and provides all of the afore mentioned things for me.

The other thing I love about Thanksgiving is that it is the beginning of such a joyful time of the year. The tree goes up, the lights turn on and the general atmosphere shifts as people prepare for the celebration of the birth of our Savior. It is a time of togetherness and community and love; I can’t wait. As gifts are given, carols are sung and time is spent together around the dinner table or the living room. As the snow and lights produce a sense of beauty, I pray that everyone encounters the God of genuine love, joy, peace and happiness this holiday season.

TrevernewheadshotTrever Carter is a junior 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.

Accelerate: Gratitude, Generosity and God’s Grace

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me

-Oceans by Hillsong United

by Laura Forman

Thanks and giving are two words that have merged in a new and wonderful way for me this year. They are clearly directions to which we are called as Christians. Gratitude and generosity- is it possible to experience one without the other? I believe the answer is no.

This is my family’s first year at Immanuel, our new church home. Recently, we have been blessed with the opportunity to grow our faith in two important ways: by cultivating gratitude in the midst of difficulty and giving financially despite uncertainty.

It was an act of clever planning that the Accelerate offering, with a record-setting goal, was scheduled the same day as the Thanksgiving Stories service and our annual Worship Night. November 24 was a day to “worship, honor and thank” God for His faithfulness, a time to give back.

That morning, I was one of the brave, sharing my story of personal challenge this year and how God held my family through it all. I expressed gratitude for God’s plan at work in our lives, for Immanuel, for Pastor Joe. Like you, I shed tears at the hearts of our church family poured out in thanksgiving.

To joyful lyrics and impromptu dancing, my husband placed a carefully written check into the basket, one with its own story.

Hebrews1315Earlier this month, while praying about our contribution to Accelerate, we followed through on a decision to financially support a Kenyan pastor planning a mission in his home country. David sent the amount, which in his words “stung a bit”.

In spite of David’s job insecurity, and in the midst of my own career change, we opened our hands to give …  and soon after, received. The very next day we were told of an unexpected utility credit. The amount? The exact sum given to Pastor Davis Juma of Kenya.

We applied the surprise windfall toward our Accelerate offering. God reminded us in a clear way that we are built for generosity, that we can trust Him because His ways are greater. The sting didn’t last.

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7 (NLT)

After witnessing God’s grace at work in Immanuel and beyond, having opened my hands a bit wider that morning, it was time to praise and worship. An evening of music, prayer and silent moments with God culminated a day of breakthrough.

At that moment, with my hands raised, singing, I glimpsed the connection between thanks and giving – it’s the flow of love from and to God. I’m grateful to return a small portion of what I’ve received, in faith.

We are so thankful for the excitement surrounding the special Accelerate offering taken this past Sunday! That said, we’ve got a lot to celebrate, so we’ll be announcing the total in person this Sunday. You won’t want to miss it! See you Sunday morning at 9 or 10:45 a.m.! Thank you for your generosity and for following the Lord where He leads!

100_1824Laura Forman is married to David and they live in Gurnee with their five children. She is a fitness instructor, freelance writer and can be found at church or www.lauralisaforman.com.

The Monday After: Thanksgiving Service 2013 {Andrew}

You know that Sunday feeling, right?

We leave the church building inspired and filled with Truth and encouragement on Sundays … and somewhere along the course of the week, pieces of the message tend to fade and we often lose that Sunday feeling.

The Monday After {the Sunday Sermon} carries the Sunday message into Monday mornings by sharing how what we’ve heard on Sunday morning is making a difference in our Mondays, our weeks, our lives. Because of your generosity to Accelerate, we are able to share these stories! Thank you!

The Monday After Sunday, November 24, 2013: Thanksgiving Service

by Andrew Kelley

When I was a little boy, learning to say please and thank you was a lot harder than just playing with Legos or riding my bike around the farm.

I’m happy to share with you that I’ve got this whole “say thank you when someone gives you something good” thing down now at the age of

Here, I’ll share some of those with you:

I’m thankful to my dad and mom for raising me in a Christian home and doing their very best as they trusted in God.

I’m thankful for certain friends who were there for me when I was in my worst state and stayed until I could go the distance on my own again.

I’m thankful for my wife and all her adorning splendor; she’s such a gift from God, and she is my sunshine. I can’t truly express the love I feel from her other than its pretty close to the Love that Christ has shown me over and over. She loves me for me and all that left over stuff no other woman in the world would love.

And lastly, just like I save my favorite part of dinner for last, I’m thankful for the very best on my list — my God and my Savior, Who has held me so tight I wouldn’t run anymore and who caught me before I fell on the rocks of life time after time. He is the reason I live and am alive today. He is the reason I am here now.

So, yeah, I’ve got this thankful thing down.

Kinda.

I’m still kind of like that kid who would rather play Legos or ride my bike around the farm when it comes to saying thanks for for the trials in life. And now that I’ve gone through a few, I can tell you the learning curve isn’t so easy. As I’ve reflected, though, on the trials, I am so thankful for the people who God Himself has placed along my path to help guide me.

Apparently, I’m not the only. I heard a lot of those expressions of gratitude yesterday — people thankful for others who came along side them.

As we recall many of the thankful people that came up and shared things they had never shared in front of so many, I see my God’s paintbrush painting our family picture. So many said they were thankful for their small group or friends or family or pastor. I am a strong supporter of community within the body of Christ because I saw, as you did I’m sure, the bonds that are made and the love that is shared when people come together to support each other in hard times. In all of this and what was spoken during both services, I believe the Church is stronger and our trust in our Saviour has gone deeper.

A few people stood out from second service. They sparked some more meaning and a broader perspective for me. Children came up and thanked God for things that may have been more cute than meaningful for some and then some came forward to reveal things that they really had a hard time sharing; it moved some so deeply. They gave thanks for what mattered most to them individually, and it shows me to be thankful for all things at all times like we are instructed to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I want to end with my favorite thanksgiving story, shared by Dave Anderson. Well, perhaps it’s more something he quoted from his dear wife, who shared it before she met her King face to face.

I am probably most thankful for this truth: “If I live, I win; and if I die, I win.”

I believe this was Sue Anderson’s “version” of Philippians 1:21

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

So, yeah, I’m learning to be thankful for it all. Because when we see it all from the bigger picture perspective, we know God is working all things together for our good and His glory.

Andrew and Dawn

Andrew Kelley is husband to Dawn and father to four wonderful children; he and his family currently call Immanuel and Zion home. 

Accelerate: Hosting Self-Discovered Truth with Micro Alpha

Chances are you’ve heard about Alpha, if not experienced it firsthand.

Through fellowship and an introduction to Christianity, Alpha invites us to “explore the meaning of life” and  meets seasonally at Immanuel Church. Micro Alpha, on the other hand, is designed to literally meet people where they are – in our communities, our neighborhoods and our homes – on a very small scale.

Pastor Joe Boerman and his wife Deb dove into hosting their first Micro-Alpha this fall, and when asked about the experience, Joe was quick to note, “I wish we had done this sooner.”

When asked about the Micro Alpha, Pastor Joe was quick to note, “I wish we had done this sooner.”

IC: What led you to host a Micro Alpha?

Joe: I was the first one to feel God’s invitation to do something in our neighborhood. We’ve lived on our block for 25 years, and I felt a nudging from God to explore spirituality with our neighbors. Deb and I were both feeling independently that God was calling us to take this step.

Deb: I felt the need to reach out to our neighbors, beyond our church, where I’m most often teaching Christians. I felt God was directly leading me and I said ‘okay’ to Joe.

IC: What makes Micro Alpha unique?

Joe: Beyond the small group setting, it seems to speak to people where they are, whether they have church or spirituality in their background or not. There are other materials that assume a Christian background coming in, but Alpha doesn’t – it builds from the ground up, laying a foundation. The best truth is truth that is self-discovered. The videos are done in such a way that there is a lot of self-discovery.

So many times when Jesus or his followers got together, there was a meal or breaking of bread. A very big part of Alpha (and Micro Alpha) is the sharing of a meal and it’s a great way to begin. We’ve found it breaks down barriers and helps people get beyond their own boundaries in sharing. It’s a commitment, but really worth it.

Deb: It’s been very comfortable and enjoyable. There are some people that would never go to a church Alpha, and Micro Alpha meets a need for people that have been hurt by the church. They like this setting.

IC: What advice would you give someone interested in hosting a Micro Alpha?

Joe: We have found people are open for community. They are open to spiritual discussion, as opposed to someone giving all the answers. My advice would be to do it sooner than later. And if you have fears about it, do the thing you fear. It has become a very enjoyable group that we look forward to meeting with every week.

Deb: I told our neighbors we’d be talking about the meaning of life from a Christian perspective. I was blown away that they said yes, that they come every week and [by] how interested they are. Just do it. It’ll just work out, especially the dinners. It’s not hard. Actually, the hard part is not answering their questions!

IC: What role do you see Micro Alpha playing at Immanuel?

Joe: Our group ends in a month, and they’re sad it will to be over soon. They’re already asking if they can do this again, and invite other neighbors.

We will continue to have the all-church Alpha. I see Micro Alphas as the future of Immanuel because there are so many people that will not come into the doors of a church building, but they will go to a neighbor’s house. That’s a lot of people. In order to reach them, we have to go through the home into the neighborhoods.

Deb: My vision is that our neighbors will someday want to host a Micro Alpha in their own homes with people they know, that it would pyramid. So what’s the future? I’m not a prophet, but I see that it could keep going.

IC: Speaking with participant Mike Lombardo, what’s your favorite part of the course?

Mike: The interactive approach. It’s is designed for the guests to interact, and that matters as much as the course itself. The video mediator (Nicky Gumbel) will ask if there are any questions, which is typically when the learning starts. The course and the guests are a magic recipe that results in a wonderful learning experience and furthers you down your path with God.

IC: Would you recommend this course to others?

Mike: I would, for a variety of reasons, especially if you’re trying to find direction in your life. Having a relationship with God and then discovering God’s direction for you is a lifelong journey. Many courses are designed to leave you with answers to equations or start you down a new path. If you walk away fulfilled that’s wonderful. However, if you walk away with questions, like most nights, that’s even better.

On Sunday, November 24, Immanuel will be taking a special offering with the hope that $75,000 will be given. This amount has never been given on one Sunday during Immanuel’s history.  None of the money collected that week will go toward operating expenses; all will go toward mortgage reduction, global ministry (India anti-human trafficking) and local ministry (micro Alpha).

Eighty percent of the money collected will go toward reducing our mortgage so as to more quickly free up ministry money. Ten percent of the money given will go toward local ministry — specifically toward the investment of Micro Alpha.  

100_1824Laura Forman is married to David and they live in Gurnee with their five children. She is a fitness instructor, freelance writer and can be found at church or www.lauralisaforman.com.