The Monday After: Jesus: Savoring Jesus {Sheryll}

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, May 25, 2014 : Son of God, Son of Man {click HERE to listen!}

By Sheryll Belonga

In my life I have been passionate about many things, but at this moment I am most passionate about one thing: making cakes.

A long time ago I decided that I would learn to bake. I researched and practiced and kept at it until I achieved success. It wasn’t easy, but it has become a part of me and is something I am now passionate about.

I eat, sleep and breathe cake recipes, cake designs, cake tips and anything cake-related. If I am asked to make a cake for someone, my mission in life then becomes that cake until the day I hand it over to them. I think about it before I go to bed, when I awake in the morning and during the day. Baking and decorating cakes bring me joy, and it gives me life.

The other day my husband told me that my passion was obvious from the words I spoke. I realized that I have allowed this one thing to have a strong controlling feeling over me that forces me to action.

So I thought, “What would it look like if I developed a passion like that for God?”

Think back to the time when you feel in love with your spouse. If you are single, think of a time when you felt in love with someone. Let’s look back at the days of note writing and flower petals. Those days where you would write “do you like me” on a piece of paper and excitedly await for the answer. Go back to the days where you would pick the petals off of flowers. If you happen to choose a flower that caused you to not have enough petals to land on the answer that you wanted, you would start again with another flower not giving up until you had the answer you desired.

When you realized that the feelings were mutual you couldn’t wait to see that person. Your heart skipped a beat at the mention of his or her name. You were intently focused on that person when together. Your conversation was about him or her and that person was in your every thought. A strong controlling feeling had come over you that moved you to action. When this occurred as you grew older the action that comes about is the desire to commit your life to someone. You then make a conscious decision to devote your time to making a relationship with them work.

Now imagine it being God. You don’t have to ask Him if he likes you. You don’t even have to pull the petals off of flowers to determine His love. Knowing that the feelings are mutual you can just allow passion to take over, but there lies the problem; you can’t allow passion to take over because you have not allowed passion to develop. Passion starts with an interest and is fueled by effort put toward it. The more fuel you have the more passion develops. Eventually it is full grown and it a strong controlling feeling that moves you to action. In order to have that passion for God we must make a conscious decision to enter into a relationship with Him. These are the steps we can take to make that happen:

Before going to bed at night, talk to Him. When waking up in the morning, be with Him. Going throughout your day, think of Him. Allowing the words spoken to be lead by Him. Let the places you go be guided by Him. Let the walls you’ve built through business and the distractions of life come down so that He can come in. It will take time and it will take effort but it will be so worth it. Soon you will have a strong controlling feeling come over you that will move you to action.

Are you ready for some passion in your life?

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: Worn Like a Pair of Blue Jeans (Makenna)

Thank you for your generosity to our one-fund, Accelerate. Because of your generosity, 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

She was worn like a pair of old blue jeans. She saw the bravery that she had created for herself wither away as weakness flooded her once invincible heart.

Those last two sentences seem to be an accurate description of myself in the last few weeks. Worn and dry. I believe that I might not be alone in that. You see, I feel as though I’ve snapped as a result of carrying all of my burdens and putting forth effort to muster up enough strength to keep moving forward, to keep on smiling every morning even when it’s Monday.

At first, I was frustrated. I just didn’t know why I was feeling so drained; so insanely pressured by life. Then the Lord caught my attention in the midst of it all, and He called me to ask myself a very hard question.

“How much am I relying on God to take care of me in the big and the small? How inadequate is my own strength?

I understood quite immediately that my human efforts fail, and my weariness was a result of my own independence. My blindness to my great need for the Lord had kept me from looking like Him.

Pride gets ugly, folks. It gets really bad. Just when you think you can juggle it all, you find yourself tripping and falling because every ounce of courage and bravery that you have produced on your own is insufficient. You may look at yourself and see the consequences of lacking dependence. All of a sudden, your patience is gone, your love for others has diminished, and the celebratory way in which you once went about living is hidden. The results of self-dependence can be devastating, but they can surely be reversed.

We must step back and be still until He is our one desire once again. We must stop relying on our ever-inadequate strength, and allow ourselves to fall back on God’s faithfulness- forever recognizing that His truth is enough, and that our tomorrows are taken care of along with our todays.

If that seems quite impossible to you at the moment; if you’re struggling to release the clenched fist that the “know-it-all” in each of us has created, there is one more truth that can be held to constantly. He is who He is. Let that be enough for your letting go.

When Moses was unsure about God’s plan, and the Lord’s words didn’t seem to be quite enough, he began to ask questions.

“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? He said, ‘But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:11-12)

The plan seemed too crazy. The path seemed uncharted, and the future seemed unsure. It’s easy to see that Moses was hesitant, as we so often are in life. His questions continued.
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘what is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” (Exodus 3:13-14)

I must confess that I did a double take when I read those sweet words. He is the kind of God who just simply says, “I am who I am.” There is so much authority in those five words. That sentence is like a breath of fresh air, a call to be still, and a humbling command to do as He says and be content. He just is who He is, and that will always be more than enough.

So often, the troubled soul turns to itself to heal wounds, when the need is for someone much mightier than any human being. That’s when it’s time to turn around and run hard towards the “Great I Am,” and be renewed by His strength.

It’s dumbfounding that we can say that our God simply is who He is, and that’s all that needs to be said. It’s as if His power, love, and grace is inexplainable and unprecedented. There is no way to explain who He is in a way simple enough for the human brain to comprehend, while simultaneously capturing all that He is in comparison to all that we are not. That is a beautiful thing. For that reason, we need only be still and receive His love. He is who He is. That, my friends is the kind of God who is enough. He is enough for every need. He is enough for every weary soul. There is no need to be worn any longer.

“Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8)

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

The Monday After: The Strange Embraces of Jesus (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, May 18, 2014: The Strange Embraces of Jesus {Listen Here}

By Anita Everly

I decided to take Pastor Josh up on his triple dog dare and came home from church to fill five Dixie cups, one for each member of our family. As he encouraged, these full cups are to represent the Living Water of Christ we are to intentionally “pour out” onto those we interact with each day, more fully embracing those outside of our comfort zones in the same way Christ did.

I thought, “Piece of cake!” I’ve already been convicted over the last few years that those weekly trips to Walmart were an opportunity where I could shine the light of Christ. I could offer a smiling face to my cashier after standing in line for minutes on end. No one is cheerful after standing in line at Walmart; that would be noticeably different.

Or the guy at the bank. He’s a nice kid and I’m there every 1st and 15th of each month with my Dave Ramsey-like cash withdrawal. He knows me by name now! Slam dunk.

Pouring out more Living Water all week long, not a problem.

Then, I thought of the verse: “The second [greatest commandment] is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Mark 12:31

The second greatest commandment. Loving my neighbor. Something I often find hard to do.

He knew some of our neighbors would present challenges, or that we’d just rather not take the time to invest in them. But yet, He commanded us to love our neighbors, often the very opposite of what our self-centered culture would rather do.

Loving that neighbor who squabbles over the property line. Or the one who mows his lawn just when you sit down to dinner on the deck. Loving the neighbor with the kids she never watches. Or the one who really does want to Rock and Roll All Night and party everyday.

Yes, those. All of them. We are commanded to love them.

But, you see, it’s more than the literal neighbor, too. It’s also the gossipy co-worker you see everyday who you’d rather dodge. The boss who undermines you and takes credit for your accomplishments. The manager who says your work is never enough and never any good either. We are commanded to love them, too.

And what about that sister who said what she did at Christmas and you’ve let it steep in bitterness and distance? Or the brother who refuses to help your aging mother? Yes, we are commanded to love them.

That’s all a bit harder. Getting out of my comfort zone will actually mean pouring out the love of Christ to people I cannot easily leave. It’s the ones I see daily, share space with, and to whom I’m bound by blood.

But it’s also in those relationships where, if I’m willing, I can show my weaknesses, be vulnerable and authentic with others. It’s with these people where I can lay down my pride and put on patience and love to show that my life is different because of the change that Christ has made in my life.

Sometimes sharing God’s love is hard. And often, it’s not so much about what others need to have as it is what I need to give.

People like the Samaritan woman cannot be filled up with the Living Water of Christ if we are not willing to go beyond what we would normally do to share this amazing Love.

It means extraordinary love in the most ordinary places.

Let’s tip the buckets of Living Water everyday and see what happens.

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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: Radical (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

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working my way through both the book of Acts and David Platt’s book, Radical. Both have ceaselessly convicted me in regard to my often lackluster and self-seeking mentality when it comes to my walk with Christ.

In fact, just tonight I was reading Radical. There was a paragraph in it where David Platt introduces the concept of us being the object of our own faith. He writes, “The message of biblical Christianity is not ‘God loves me, period,’ as if we were the object of our own faith. The message of biblical Christianity is ‘God loves me so that I might make him- his ways, his salvation, his glory, and his greatness- known among all nations.’ Now God is the object of our faith and Christianity centers around him. We are not the end of the gospel; God is.”

Too often I find Platt’s words to be true of me; I make myself the object of my own faith. It’s not something I want or try to do. In fact it’s just the opposite. I truly long for God and his purposes, but I continually find a way to make Christianity about me, as opposed to glorifying God.

As I’ve been reading through Acts, I’ve repeatedly been struck by the early Church’s dedication to prayer and longing for the Holy Spirit. When tough decisions came about they prayed. They continually desired for the Holy Spirit and relied on him to supply their power; clearly this approach to Christianity worked out pretty well, as the early Church multiplied amidst the face of an oppressive Roman empire.

My guess is that if we all honestly scrutinized our own faiths, we’d likely find that we too often lack the desire and hunger for the Holy Spirit that the early disciples had. We neglect the most powerful thing God has left us with, and in the process, we forget about the entire message of the gospel, which is to unquestioningly and unconditionally love and serve God. God’s love for us is lavish and amazing, but we can’t stop with the focus resting on us. We must make God the object of our faith and in the process greatly rely on the Holy Spirit.

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.

iCKids: A Lesson from the Orange Conference

A few weeks ago, volunteers and leaders in from iCKids attended the Orange Conference, a strategic children’s and student ministry resource for churches, pastors and families. Dawn writes about her experience below.

by Dawn Kelley, Immanuel attendee

What’s next?

I have been challenged this week beyond what I could have imagined. I came into the Orange Conference not expecting much. I went in with an open mind and heart to hear from God. I new I would hear some great speakers and learn one of the most effective way to put on a great family experience. I also came to the conference in a place of uncertainty, unsure of my physical health, knowing that once again my life was about to change. So, what do you do when you know your world is about to be rocked … naturally you freak out! Well I was coming in to Orange freaking out … and what does God do? He rocks it even more except He gives me this amazing peace in the midst of it all.

As I sat and listened to Reggie Joiner speak, in which he began his message with some personal things he has been dealing with, he spoke some words that went straight to my heart. He said whatever you are going through —  surround yourself with people. The people you came with — talk to them. At that moment I couldn’t help but smile at God’s provision. He provided three families from my small group at the conference who could come around me with relief and prayer support. At that moment I knew I needed to share with them and and allow God to hold me. He held me in the words spoken, the prayers offered up to heaven and the constant support of two of my closest friends. I felt God’s arms wrapped so tightly around me and a peace that surpassed all of my understanding. At that moment I knew all would be well, but that didn’t keep the fear from creeping in.

I wanted God to remove my fear and help me to trust Him completely. God quickly reminded me through the words of Jon Acuff that my fear would remain and that what I really needed to do was to pray for God’s boldness to trump my fear. Jon Acuff said, “Why would God remove the one thing right now in my life that keeps the line of communication open between us.” So instead I began to pray that God would give me the boldness to not let my fear take over as I enter this new stage of my life. Leaving this conference I am not left wondering ‘What next?’ I am left with the amazing feeling that no matter what is next God said yes.

He said yes to my mess, drama, laughter, my joy.

He said yes to me.