ICYouth: Diehards for Christ (Grant)

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 Grant Everly

I am a huge fanatic. When it comes to sports, I’m a dedicated and zealous watcher, especially when it comes to cheering for my most favorite teams. At iMPACT on Sunday we closed the Crazy Love series by discussing the idea of being obsessed with God. The concept is one that has convicted me, but also given me a lot to wrestle with.

One of my favorite sports memories was when a friend and I went to a Bears game. It was the first and only NFL game I’ve ever been to, and it was a tremendous experience. There was one sequence of events I remember especially well and now find particularly applicable to a more spiritual realm. There was a play in which Bears returnman Devin Hester ran a kickoff back for a touchdown. What I remember so distinctly is my reaction to his return, and the reaction of the rest of the fans at Soldier Field. Without any regard for what I looked like to those around me, I stood up and began yelling at the top of my lungs as it became apparent Devin Hester was going to score. As someone who’s not necessarily prone to show emotion outwardly, this type of reaction was a bit peculiar. The even crazier thing was that as I stood up, the entire crowd, almost in unison, did likewise and everyone began to cheer wildly. There were no reservations and worries about how we would look. We were fanatics.

When I look at my life and how I act while worshipping and following after God, I often find myself staying seated in the stadium of Christianity, numbing any urges I may have to stand up and cheer. I nullify the zeal that begins to stir in me in regard to worshipping God. I don’t know why I do this. Perhaps it’s because I’m afraid of how I’ll be perceived; I wonder if those in the seats next to me will stand up and cheer with me.

As I’ve compared my passion for something as futile as sports with my passion for God, I’ve found that I’m rarely as vulnerable with and committed to the God of the universe as I ought to be; the idea of being a fanatic of Christ has convicted me. In all honesty the idea of being a fanatic for the God of the universe is quite frightening. When I think of a fanatic I don’t necessarily think of someone who is logical and who has calculated what they’re doing. I think of someone who has a tendency to ride the mob mentality present in other fans and not really cheer out of a personal longing, but more so out of a sense of adrenaline-driven euphoria. I want my faith to be well tried, articulated and from a very honest place, yet I also want to be a fanatic and not hold back in my pursuit of Christ. I’ve really struggled to reconcile these two concepts. That is until I applied the metaphor of being a sports fan again.

I am a diehard UNC Tar Heel fan and have been for quite some time. My fandom isn’t flighty; I stick by UNC regardless of their record. I’m not a fan because of the exhilarating feelings I get when UNC wins a close game. I’m not a fan because those around me are fans. I’m a fan because I love UNC, and after many years of cheering for them, I’ve found them to be the best choice for me. You could say my fanaticism for UNC is characterized by devotion, consistency, and articulation, not infatuation and capriciousness. I hope the same is true of my faith.

While I grow in my love for Christ and become more of a fanatic for Him, I don’t  have to compromise on the more brain-driven aspects of my faith. I can be obsessed with following Christ, but not be overcome by a form of spiritual infatuation and flightiness. In Romans 12:11 Paul says:

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep [our] spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

Today, let’s get even more zealous for God than we do about the teams for which we rise to our feet and cheer. If we’re going to be fanatics, let us be fanatics for the Head of the ultimate team.

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.

Small Groups: Stories of Renewal, Service and Love through 40 Days in the Word

40 days

by Laura Forman

Rarely do we participate in something together, everyone as an entire church community. Sure, most of us come to services weekly. Outside of Sunday mornings, are we ever truly on the same page? The answer is yes — if you’re in an Immanuel small group!

40 Days in the Word, a devotional method of Bible Study by Rick Warren, has inspired new ways of reading, interpreting and applying God’s words.

We all come to the Bible with our needs, and Joan Boyce is no exception. She has two grandchildren, ages 4 and 7, battling Sanfilippo syndrome- a rare, progressive and fatal disease. The experience has focused Joan on the power of God’s word, prayer and Bible study.

“God has used my grandbabies to literally re-align my thinking of who God is through his word,” Joan explained. “I’ve been in the word for many years; I found for me this (40 Days) was a refresher course, helping reestablish new ways of looking at the word and how it can be applied. It’s like fresh, cool water I’m taking in.”

Joan describes her experience in 40 Days as “wonderful”.

As part of the study, each group must plan and complete a “Micah 6:8” service project.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8 (NLT)

Immanuel staff member Hyacynth Worth and husband John are in the process of preparing to adopt an older orphaned child from Eastern Europe. Having hosted her over Christmas, with the help of New Horizons, they shared their adoption dream with their small group.

“They were so giddy when talking about it, like a young person talking about a first love,” group member Chesney Leafblad said.

When it came time to decide on a service project, the Worths were unable to attend.

“We were throwing around a couple of ideas, but they were uninspired. None of them were perfect. All of a sudden we started talking about them (the Worth family) and the journey they embarked on,” Chesney shared.

The group deliberated and asked, “Why don’t we have an event to help them fund their journey? Perfect, we thought, it was exactly what we wanted to do”.

Chesney believes, “It’s about seeking out opportunities to serve- instead of it falling into your path- sometimes you have to be proactive to find ways to serve. It may be totally different than anything you’ve ever done.”

Love Walks: Mile for Mile will take place in May. The walkathon and bake sale will be kid-friendly, as the group has a combined sixteen children. With a goal of raising  $10,000 toward adoption fees, the group believes in doing their best and “letting God take care of the rest.”

Trusting God means trusting his Word; loving God means loving his Word.

Bible Professor and Immanuel member Michael Vanlaningham, writing from Israel, sums it up well:

“We must be people of the Word. How can we hope to remain confident in God during hardships if we do not know His power and goodness? How can we avoid moral and spiritual mistakes and foolish, sinful decisions unless we know what they are? The Word of God is sufficient for us to know God and enjoy Him forever.”

Amen.

Hear more stories from our church-wide study of 40 Days in the Word during service on Celebration Sunday, March 23. If you missed it, learn about 40 Days in the Word here.

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

The Monday After: Integrating God’s Word into Our Lives {Anita}

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, March 16, 2013: Integrating God’s Word into Our Lives

By Anita Everly

Perhaps you’ve heard of a few little movies by the names of Braveheart, Pearl HarborThe Man in the Iron Mask and Secreatriat?
Randall Wallace is the screenwriter for the award winning Braveheart, the story of William Wallace and his struggle to lead Scotland to political freedom.
A friend of mine had the opportunity to hear Randall Wallace speak at a conference recently.  Do you know what his big secret was to becoming a great writer?
Doing it.
Yes, that’s it.
He mentioned that he prepares to write the night before. He lays out his clothes, gets his coffee ready to hit brew and prays for the morning ahead—the night before. And when morning comes, he slides into his clothes, brews the coffee, prays again and starts writing. And writes every single day. Even if there are no words, he writes: nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing over and over. Soon the words and captivating stories come alive again through his fingertips. He has learned the art of integrating writing into his everyday life by preparation and execution.
In 40 Days in the Word, Rick Warren suggests the same thing for Bible reading. Preparing the night before: getting to bed earlier, laying out our Bibles and whatever materials we need, and opening it all up to be ready to slip into our time with God. I think he even mentioned getting the coffee ready, too.  {Thank you, Rick and Randall.}
If you are struggling with getting into God’s Word, this is something that might help tremendously. My quiet times had been inconsistent and good attempts to get them done later in the day did not happen many days. Rick Warren mentioned this so I tried it the next day, and it’s worked wonderfully well since. It’s pretty hard to go all day ignoring, forgetting or being interrupted in our attempt to read the Bible when it’s all opened up and ready to go.
If your days are easily interrupted by events or even precious people in the hours before dawn or work begins, this might be of help. Or maybe it’s taking your Bible and devotionals to work to do at lunch. Or setting it up on your bed in the morning to do right before you go to sleep. Whatever suits your learning and lifestyle.
Whatever will work, we just need to do it.
And just like Randall Wallace with his writing, there may be days we read and don’t hear a lot from the Lord. But if we keep at it, it doesn’t take long for us to recognize what God wants for us right where we are and with exactly what we need. His Words to us come.
Even if you are a pro at consistent quiet times and the actual doing it is not an issue, perhaps going into deeper study, journaling more, praying more deeply, listening to God or memorizing scripture can be areas where preparing ahead can provide more fruitful accomplishment in integrating God and His Word into our lives.
As far as God’s Word goes, we cannot build our lives on it, feed on it, live by it, grow through it, act on it or trust in it if we don’t read it.
When we prepare and execute a plan for being in His Word, He is faithful and quick to permeate us with His truths.
And that is the ultimate freedom!

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: Falling in Love (Makenna)

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 Makenna Nahorniak

People really like to fall in love. We like the pull of gravity, we like the feeling of weightlessness, and we like the safety found in the comfort of deep affection and irrefutable adoration. Society thrives on red roses and slow songs, hoping to feel a small fraction of the immeasurable love that is consistently poured over us by the Lord. We like to be in love, but we hesitate to fall in love with the King.

HeLoves Us Cross CardsThere is much to be said about the love of God- its width, its depth, its height. It is real. It’s not like the storybooks. It’s so much better. It is in fact, a love that cannot be experienced apart from Him because it is so spectacularly unquenchable, abundantly satisfactory and entirely unmatchable that no earthly love has a shot at measuring up.

It doesn’t even come close. If love is so desperately coveted in a world so filled with adoration-seekers, why is the one love so bottomless and fathomless often pushed aside as if it weren’t so strikingly beautiful? And why does that love- that calls to us- demanding full attention, receive so little in return?

The truth is, His love demands amazement. It instigates captivation.

Captivation comes from being small before the Lord- when we allow ourselves to see God as He is- in all of His awe-inspiring majesty. Then we crumble and fall down at His feet, and we love dearly and truly.

I won’t spoon-feed you a million reasons to fall in love with Him. You don’t need me to persuade you. He speaks for Himself. The life-breathing, replenishing and accurate Word of God will articulate His character. Just look outside your window; the sun in the sky is the work of His hand. Or look at your own body; your beating heart was woven together by the same hands that carved the Grand Canyon. He is creative. And He reaches for you. It’s time to reach back. Let’s fall in love.

And what does it mean to fall but to descend freely by the force of gravity.

Freely. Without holding back. It’s letting go.

Show up with a wide-open jaw.  Let it hit the floor. Just be there. It’s time to be present with Him. You will probably fall in love. His love has a way of consuming.

Let that love infiltrate your being. Let it be the oxygen in your lungs, the blood that pumps through your veins. Let Him be the lifeline, the only worthy cause. Ditch it all, and simply fall. You can certainly let those walls that have kept you away from this lavish love crumble. They can be destroyed. The Lord is in the business of remaking. His love leaves no room for barriers. His love leaves no room for fear.

Lamentations 3:22-26 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

It won’t run out; it won’t leave you; it remains. His love is enough and it is better than life. It doesn’t get any sweeter than that. His love demands loving back.

He is jealous for our hearts.

Let’s fall in love.

Makenna Nahorniak is a junior at Christian Life School. She enjoys leading worship, singing, reading, writing and using her words to encourage others’ hearts. 

iCKids: An Investment

Thank you so much for your generosity to Accelerate, our one-fund generosity initiative! Because of God’s goodness and His people’s generosity, we are able to share stories of how He is at work at Immanuel, in our community and around the world.

by Robyn Ondo, special contributor and Immanuel attendee

For the past few years, Ben (husband) and I have become acutely aware that with our personalities and that of our son Noah, we would need some help. We started praying for key people in at Immanuel to take an interest in him and speak into his life. The past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about his development. In the past couple of months, we have seen him developing greatly in his leadership skills. This was affirmed today when I received a text from a friend. Part of the text read, “By the way, someone (man) mentioned your Noah to me and what a beast he was at basketball but even more impressive was what an amazing young man of sportsmanship he was.”

I see this as a result of many influences in Noah’s life. One is through iDENTITY and his connections there. However, since this is Noah’s first year in iDENITY, I even more see the impact of the Upward Basketball team and children’s ministry on him. I appreciate that the leadership of Upward has embraced Noah and allowed him room to grow. His coaches allowed him some leadership on the team and his fellow team mates respected him. He also has enjoyed serving there.

In light of mine and Ben’s focus on developing leaders, especially in the Enriching year of Vantage Point3, it’s exciting to see the potential in the iCKids ministry. Whether it was planned or a by-product, Noah has learned and been embraced in the emergence of leadership. As you take a look at these ministries and their effectiveness at achieving their purpose, I wonder how much more we can capture the leadership potential of our young people if we think strategically about incorporating leadership development of the students into that purpose. Either way, I appreciate how people involved with iCKids have spoken into Noah’s life and I pray that God will continue to prompt such quality adults to particularize Noah throughout his adolescence.

To learn more about the iCKids ministry, click HERE!