Happy Thanksgiving: A Story of Redemption and Grace

Every Thanksgiving, we take the opportunity as a Church family to give thanks to God during an open-mic service the Sunday before the big celebration.

Immanuel member and attendee Lisa Stewart shared this year her incredible story of God’s grace and redemption in her life during just the past year, beginning with when her four-year-old son essentially forced her to attend church for the first time last year during Thanksgiving Sunday.

Happy Thanksgiving, Immanuel family!

Extra Strength: It’s Rejoice Always — Not Sometimes

We leave the church building inspired and filled with Truth and encouragement each Sunday … and somewhere along the course of the week, often we find ourselves in need of a little bit of something to help us through.

Welcome to Extra Strength: a mid-week pick-you-up for the soul. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for extra encouragement and challenge. 



Extra Strength for: Thanksgiving Sunday service.

In school I was taught not to use absolutes.  Words like “never” and “always” should not be used in a statement unless you are 100 percent sure that something always or never occurs.  Even then it is cautioned because there is always the possibility of change.  As a matter of fact, there is a phrase that says, “the only thing that is constant is change”.

Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”  Here in scripture we find that rule being broken.  Maybe Paul didn’t learn the same lesson that I did about using those absolutes.  Here he uses the word always as he instructs us not once but twice to rejoice in the Lord.  Paul doesn’t say rejoice sometimes when the situation is good or on a day when no change has occurred.  He tells us to rejoice ALWAYS.  Paul can use that absolute because God never changes.

Thanksgiving ImmanuelI looked up the definition of rejoice and it was defined as “to show great joy”.  Notice it doesn’t say to show great happiness. Happiness is something you feel when things “happen.”  Joy on the other hand is what you feel not because of something but because of Someone.  Joy allows you to smile when you world is turned upside down because of a change.  Joy allows you to wake up in the morning in spite of the tears you cried last night because of a change.  Joy is found not in the physical but in the spiritual.  Do you have joy?

Next Paul tells us in verse 6 that we should “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

We are to bring all our anxieties to him, everything, but we are to do it with thanksgiving.  Don’t miss that part of the verse.  We are to tell God that we are anxious because our rent is due, and then we thank Him for giving us shelter.  We are to tell Him that we are anxious because our child is sick, and then we thank Him for blessing us with them in the first place.  We are to tell Him that we are anxious because we need a job, and then we thank Him for being our provider.  We rejoice always because we have Him and in Him we find joy in the midst of change.  Do you have joy?

Paul goes on to say in verse 7 that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

In the midst of a change, when we rejoice anyway and cast our cares on Him, while thanking Him, He gives us peace.  This peace isn’t just a brief passing but it’s a lingering presence.  It’s the kind of peace you get that places a smile on your face and a warmth in your heart that not even you can understand at times.  The Bible tells us that it surpasses ALL understanding.  Not only does He give us peace but He allows it to guard our hearts AND our minds.  God knows that you are vulnerable in this state which leaves you open to the enemy but He protects you.  He guards your heart from being hardened and your mind from taking over.  It is in that peace and protection that we find joy in the midst of a change.  Do you have joy?

Lastly Paul doesn’t just preach it, but he shows us that he practices it too. In verses 10-13 he tells us that no matter what situation he has been in, he has learned to be content.  Don’t miss that.  Paul isn’t saying that he has been content since day one.  He tells us that he “learned” how to behave that way. He had an attitude adjustment.  In every situation he had another chance to learn. It was another chance to look not at his situation but at His Savior.  Even when he was successful he didn’t look at his rewards; he looked at his Redeemer.  It was in those times that Paul was able to find joy in the midst of a change.  Do you have joy?

In every testimony I heard on Sunday, there was joy. In spite of all they had been through they rejoiced.  In spite of what they were going through, they rejoiced.  In the midst of constant changes, they found joy.  Do you want joy?  Maybe it is time you adjusted your attitude and start having an attitude of gratitude. Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice.

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.




Be Challenged:

  • What can you give thanks for right now in this very moment? Thank God and then tell Him what you need. Rejoice in the fact that He is a God who hears us!
  • Make a “Thanksgiving Tree” during your Thanksgiving celebration; it doesn’t have to be fancy. Cut out leaves and pass them around to others, each writing something for which you’re thankful on your respective leaf. Shape the leaves into a tree on your dining room or living room wall. Rejoice and thank God for all He has done this year. If the tree is too much, take turns giving thanks to God around the dining room table.

Our Prayer for the Monday After: Thanksgiving Sunday

TheMondayAfterPrayerEach Monday we’ll be bringing Sunday into the work week by sharing a prayer for the week based on the Sunday sermon. You can now catch the sermon blogs written by our blogging team Wednesdays, where they’ll offer a mid-week shot of espresso to help re-energize, encourage and challenge us in the midst of our work weeks! 


The Monday After Sunday, November 23, 2014: Thanksgiving Sunday

11.24.14 prayer


ICYouth: How You Treat Your Family Now Affects the Later (Erianne)

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 Erianne Thedorf

Family life is unique in each home. No two families have exactly the same people. Because of this, everyone has different experiences going home. Some cases involve coming home to an annoying little sibling, a “too cool” older sibling or nagging parents. In the more extreme cases, some people go home to an alcoholic, an abuser or even a mentally ill family member. Everyone’s experiences are different, but the amount of stress that family members can put on each other can be the same throughout all different shapes and sizes of families.

All of my life I have been looking toward the future. The only reason I used to think this way is because I couldn’t wait to get out of the house and into college. I didn’t want to hear the constant nagging from my parents about grades, chores or every other little detail in my life. I will admit that there have been a couple of occasions where I have reacted negatively to my parents for being who they are, but I’ve learned to act differently. If we respond to our family members’ actions in negative ways now, it can become a habit and that negativity might even lead on to our later families in the future. How we act to our sibling might rub off onto our college roommate, and how we react to our parents will not be acceptable to our future bosses. You might not think this, but how you respond toward your family now will affect you in the future.

To prevent a bad future from forming as well as bad habits, we must learn to do three things daily:

1. Treat people well. This includes everyone you know, and family is included! Treating people well in general will benefit you in the greatest way possible. So many relationships can prosper and be created from just treating other people well.

2. React kindly. I know it may be hard to do, especially when someone isn’t treating you the way you would like, but even Luke 6:31 says “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” It may seem like one of the hardest things you can do, but know that not only is it going to help you in the future, but it’s also making you a better person inside and out.

3. Believe in God’s purpose. Listen to Jeremiah 29:11 as it states, “For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and hope.” Live day by day knowing that God has a purpose for you, and you should believe firmly in that.

God has plans and a future set up for you, but you just have to know how to deal with your family now, so you don’t have problems in the future. I can personally say that I am no longer counting down the days till college, but focusing on the now, spending time with my family.

ErianneErianne is a Junior at Grayslake North High School. She enjoys books, movies, music and meeting new people!

Extra Strength: Be the Church {Gracie}

We leave the church building inspired and filled with Truth and encouragement each Sunday … and somewhere along the course of the week, often we find ourselves in need of a little bit of something to help us through.

Welcome to Extra Strength: a mid-week pick-you-up for the soul. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for extra encouragement and challenge.

Extra Strength for Baptism Sunday. 

Baptism Sunday is absolutely one of my favorite days at Immanuel.

Twelve people were baptized between the two services. Each person came out of the water and was greeted with a friendly hug and a roar of cheering because they had just publicly stated their outward expression of an inward change. Each testimony told a beautiful story of redemption and how Jesus meets us at our lowest lows and pulls us right out.

11-17-14 prayerIt was made even better that we had a special guest who works with Bright Hope. Vinita Grewel has been dedicating her life to working at abolishing the sex trade in India.

All over the world, even in America, people are being taken and sold into sex slavery. 29.8 million people, to be exact. They’re either kidnapped or willingly given up by their families because they are told their daughters or sons will have a better life and good opportunities.

What they don’t know is that they will be taken to a brothel and will be beaten and raped daily. When they get out, they often have no where to go.

“These girls are not accepted by society. They are not accepted into christian community. It’s high time for the church to come out and be the church, showing love and compassion.”

That quote is from people, whose names also cannot be shared, who are also working to abolish the human trafficking in India.

If that isn’t a call to action, I don’t know what is. As Christians, we are supposed to care for those in need, no matter how messy their past.

Matthew 25:35-40 says,

“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”

Even if it doesn’t involve directly saving someone from slavery, there’s always a way to help. Prayer is huge and always appreciated. When you give to Immanuel, you already support this anti-human trafficking initiative partnership with local churches and Bright Hope in Northern India. Not giving? You can begin giving to Immanuel and supporting this initiative by clicking here.

It’s time for the church to be more than a building; it’s time for the Church to be the Church.

Be Challenged:

  • Consider your own restoration and prayerfully ask God how you can be an ambassador of God’s grace and love to someone in your life. Maybe it’s your kids. Maybe it’s a co-worker. Maybe it’s your boss. Maybe it’s a stranger.
  • Ask God how He would have you respond to the information given about anti-human trafficking initiatives during the Sunday morning interview.