The Monday After: Forgiving Like Jesus {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, January 27, 2013: Forgiving Like Jesus — Listen.

by Andrew Kelley

As Pastor Bryan spoke, one major act of forgiveness came to my mind: I thought of the time I felt compelled to call the person who had molested me when I was 9 years old.
God had already done some hefty healing in my heart and soul, but when I was 20 I felt God tugging, saying call him and tell him you forgive him and that you love him. I did, and it felt like the last piece of the puzzle had just been placed.

The parable of the unforgiving servant still reminds me of myself sometimes. Yes, I feel completely forgiven and free of the part my story, but then I think about all of my sins — the ones I’ve already committed and the ones I have yet to commit. Even as I walk with Christ in His freedom, I have my flesh to contend with until I go to be with Him forever. Its truly amazing that my Master, my King would take upon Himself my debt.
To go further, it’s my entire lifetime of debt — not just the debt up till now. God knew my whole timeline before I was born and sent His Son to die for me in that sin so when I, in the future, would come into a relationship with Him, I would step into an abundant life. My lifetime of sins or debt would not have been payable. That right there is truly priceless. Then I think about the fact that Christ did that for every single human from the time He died until He returns. That is really, really hard to wrap my mind around. That’s one of the things that make Him Magnificent; it’s why I call Him my Savior.
Even though there wasn’t really any sorrow at the end of Pastor Bryan’s message, I couldn’t help but linger on 2 Corinthians 7:10; it’s a short but monumental piece of information.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
It shows us the correct mindset when it comes to forgiveness. His forgiveness is unlike anyone and that’s what makes Him the One and Only.
I pray we make a point to forgive those certain people in our lives as Christ first forgave us. We won’t know God’s amazing freedom if we don’t.

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. 

Small Groups: Connecting Us to Each Other and to God

by Laura Forman

For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them. Matthew 18:20

Nothing nourishes the soul as much as time with God. We are spiritually fed through quiet moments in God’s word, prayer and meditation, Sunday morning services, singing in worship and reaching out with the love of Christ to a hurting world.

For many of us, the journey stops here. While we realize Christian community is important, intentional meeting often ends up overlooked because life is so full already. However, something special occurs when a small group of  Christian brothers and sisters gather. Authenticity happens, accountability, encouragement, connection, guidance and indeed…God.

With the next Small Group Connection coming up February 1, Amy Hodson shares how the Immanuel small group experience has enriched her life as well as her husband Graeme’s life.

IC: Did you have any reservations about joining a small group?

Amy: We did not because we had been involved in small groups at two prior churches before we moved to Gurnee last January.  We find real value in building Godly relationships and community through small group ministry, and being new to Immanuel in May, it was a wonderful way to connect within the church body.

IC: How has being in a small group impacted your faith?

Amy: Significantly.  God has used small groups to reach us in very particular ways.  In our first experience in Ohio, the small group study was generally linked to the sermon series and served to reinforce and delve deeper into the scripture and discuss application of God’s Word to our lives in a personal way.  Our Michigan small group began meeting shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008.  God equipped that group with a ready sense of fellowship – we clicked – and brought together other couples who had been through cancer or serious illness before and simply surrounded us with love, encouragement, honesty and Godly fellowship.  We spent one series working through Mark Gungor’s Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, and it was fantastic to laugh together and discuss as friends how God wanted to grow our marriages.

Our Immanuel Small Group is coming together in a similar way.  As we have shared our stories over the past few months, we have drawn connections and grown together in fellowship.  I really value the time we spend together in prayer as well as the diversity of experience gathered in one room.  Our group ranges in age from early 40s to late 50s, and the breadth of experience gives the group a great deal of spiritual depth.

IC: Have you seen evidence of God working through your particular group? How?

Amy: Yes, in a few key ways.  First, as members share their “stories” we see evidence of God’s faithfulness to his children demonstrated in the paths of individual lives.  Second, we have seen God answer many prayers we have raised together.  Finally, for Graeme and I, God has answered the prayer we’ve prayed for community and fellowship as we continue to transition to a new home, church and community.

IC: What about your group do you look forward to?

Amy: Well, the short answer is more of Rose and Mark Boothe’s (group leaders) wonderful cooking and hospitality!  Mark rocks those chocolate chip cookies!  On a more serious note, though, we are looking forward to deepening the friendships we’ve begun to build and to growing together in faith.  As we move into the “40 days in the Word” series, we are looking forward to studying scripture as a couple (something we miss the mark on!) and as a group.  Finally, we also look forward to the laughter—as a group we laugh a lot and that is such a blessing!

IC: What would you say to others thinking of joining a small group?

Amy: DO IT!  God will bless the time you spend together!

To read more about the February 1st Small Group Connection or the upcoming series 40 Days in the Word, click here.

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

ICYouth: Overcome with Compassion (Grant)

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By Grant Everly

Recently I’ve found myself quite convicted in regard to my outlook on evangelism. Sharing my faith has always been a very essential part of my walk, and I’ve always loved having the opportunity to share with others what I’ve found in Christ. However, recently God has renewed my passion for sharing my faith, and I’ve also found Him refreshing my outlook on the entire matter.

Many times when we think of sharing Christ with others we limit the matter to just “fixing” those around us. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll focus on the overwhelming love of Christ, but often it stops at a very removed “let’s fix you” place.

A few days ago I was reading in Matthew, specifically Matthew 9. Verse 36 says:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. “

On the surface, this verse is seemingly plain and insignificant, but there are two essential parts to this verse that I’m convinced are of utmost importance when it comes to our outlook on evangelism. The first part is one word: Compassion. Often I find myself lacking in this. It’s not like I’m intentionally lacking in compassion; it’s just that sometimes I get so caught up in what I need to say or do while sharing with someone that I forget just how much God cares about the person I’m talking to and how much He desires to know them. It shouldn’t be this way, though. In fact, I’d argue compassion may be the most powerful and essential component, aside from obviously being motivated by and in touch with the Holy Spirit, when it comes to sharing Christ.

We have such an amazing thing in Jesus, and this is pointed out, albeit in a rather indirect way, in the second part of the verse.

The second part of Matthew 9:36 explains that we are all sheep who desperately need a shepherd. Obviously the verse is referring to the compassion Jesus had, but I believe a huge part of us truly being able to exercise the greatest compassion we can is to place ourselves where we belong in the metaphor. We are sheep. Christ is the shepherd. We sheep happen to be outrageously stupid sometimes; but something that is so cool is that although we can be pretty dumb, we get to have an amazing relationship with the Shepherd. How does this not evoke great amounts of compassion in us?

Think about it. All of us humans are sheep, wandering around, desperately struggling to find the shepherd. You and I, however, happen to know the Shepherd, and the startlingly twisted reality is that we often just sit by while we watch the other sheep aimlessly look for Him. We sit in the Shepherd’s arms, unmoved, while the rest of the sheep around us are struggling greatly.

Why do we do this?

The world around us is reeling with hurt and we happen to know the remedy, yet we don’t share it. What kind of cruddy people are we? In the very moment when we should be overcome with compassion for the sheep who are desperately seeking a Shepherd, we sit by idly as if nothing out of the ordinary is going on.

A few weeks ago I was at an evangelism training and the speaker put a spin on Christ that I hadn’t quite heard before, but found to be quite powerful. He was talking about how Christ, amongst other things, came to bring peace. He explained that the Hebrew word for peace, shalom, conveys the idea of wholeness. Christ came to bring wholeness. Our world is so broken, but Christ came to make it whole.

In relating this back to us sheep, we all are in great need of wholeness, and as Christians, you and I know where to find it. Those around us are seeking it wherever they can find it, and this fact should make us overwhelmed with compassion. Perhaps the best thing we can do is to simply sit back, and reflect upon the people around us. That coworker of yours who is overwhelmed by the trials of this life, they’re lost and seeking. That family member of yours who is hurting deeply, they’re lost and seeking. That friend of yours looking for wholeness in all the wrong places, they’re lost and seeking, and you happen to know exactly where to point them.

Let that sink in. Allow yourself to be overcome by compassion for those lost and searching, and go forth to share with them that wholeness you’ve found. We can’t afford to be idle in this; the repercussions are too grave. So go, overwhelmed by compassion, and share with your fellow sheep about our amazing Shepherd.

Grant Everly is a junior at Warren Township High School and regularly attends church with his family and iMPACT on Sunday nights. He plays soccer, enjoys sports and has passion for learning more about Christ and growing in Him.

Tips for Getting Through What You’re Going Through {Sheryll}

Tips for Getting Through What You’re Going Through {click HERE to listen!}

By Sheryll Belonga

There is a familiar expression that says, “hind sight is 20/20.”  That simply means if I knew then what I know now things would be different. The reality is that most often our response is because we didn’t know better.  In order to have that “hind sight” we have to first go through the situation.

If I had not gone through depression, I would not know how God could be my strength through that. If I had not gone through that depression, I would not be able to understand another mom’s similar situation.  If I had not gone through the emotional breakdown that occurred I would not be able to share with you what I learned with the hope that it will help you.

Looking back at the sermon Pastor Josh gave, he noted four things we could do when placed into a stressful situation:

  1. We can push it aside and pretend it doesn’t exist. This was my first reaction.  Instead I should have acknowledged my emotions and fears as real and taken them to God.
  2. We can isolate ourselves from the situation and at times from others.  At times I did this as well.  Leaving home to run an errand or do anything with three little one can be a daunting task, so often times we just stayed in.  Instead I should have reached out to family more, specifically my husband, when I felt drained or needed help.  Note: there was only one Superwoman in this world and even she was fake.  Know your limits and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  3. We can play the victim.  This is the one thing I can’t recall doing.  I didn’t feel as though this had happened to me as much as I felt I allowed it to happen to myself.
  4. We go into survival mode and we just go through the motions.  We do just enough to get by.  I did that many days, and don’t get me wrong, sometimes that is all you can do.  But survival mode caused me to miss out on life.  I was so focused on my challenges and what I couldn’t do that I missed out on all that I could.  I was blessed to have three children. Three! Many women aren’t able to have one.  If I felt I couldn’t do anything that day because they just wanted me there then that is what I should have done.  Some days you have to let everything else around you go and just focus on living and enjoying life as a mom. Eat cereal for dinner if necessary. Wait a day to take a shower if the kids are under foot or put on a swimsuit and put them in tub too.  Just relax and breathe.

Pastor Josh also mentioned something we do as veteran Christians: we forget how big God is.  And it is in those times that we need to remember how big He is most of all.

Have you ever had someone bully you and in the back of your mind you knew who you would call for help?  After telling you helper all about this bully, they come to your defense. Then you stand behind them with your tongue poked out thinking, “nah!”  Can you imagine that?  Can you imagine that feeling of all your stresses from that challenge melting away as God goes before you and defeats them all.  Man, I wish I would not have forgotten how big God was back then, but I sure am glad I know now.

Hind sight is 20/20, and I am blessed to now have better vision.  It also doesn’t hurt that God has also allowed me to have a pair of glasses that assists me with this new found vision (literally).

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.