ICYouth: The Power of Story (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’d consider myself a more “intellectually driven” person. What I mean by this is that I love all things “thinking.” Especially in the realm of faith proof is huge for me; if I’m not continually questioning and better articulating my beliefs, then I begin to feel I’m cheating both God and myself in my walk with Him. Luckily, for critical thinking Christians there is a wealth of evidence for the existence of God in the realms of philosophy, science, history and morality. While all this proof is convicning, for many of my early high school years I missed out on one of the most compelling proofs of the gospel. That compelling piece of evidence is, ironically, the gospel.

Jesus Christ has the power to radically change people in a way that nothing else can. This past Sunday at both impact and the Sunday all-church service we were all witnesses to this as we watched our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ be baptized.

For many of my earlier years as a Christian I neglected just how powerful the stories we heard last Sunday are. When we listen to the testimonies of people whose lives have been changed we are witnesses to the amazing healing and restoring power of the gospel. Christ brings wholeness in a way that nothing else in our world can. He brings healing to things we would often think incurable. He brings life to that which is dead. He brings joy to those who are beaten down and deflated. He brings peace to those struggling amidst a volatile and scary world. He brings hope to those who are crushed by doubt, and he brings restoration to that which is broken and battered beyond repair.

This is proof of God so compelling that it puts all doubts to rest. Christ and the message of the gospel do things that simply don’t happen naturally and thus provide the most convincing evidence for God the world has ever seen.

When better than this weekend, Easter weekend, to recognize the death that made healing, wholeness, joy, and peace possible. What better day to recognize the amazing and powerful evidence for God that we see in all of our redeemed friends and family.

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: Going Deeper

When Ken and Elaine Harju joined a small group, they found more than just community with other couples; they found a deeper intimacy with God and with each other.

“Ken and I now discuss the message all throughout the week,” Elaine said. “We’d never done that before. In being in a small group, we’ve learned how to discuss our faith more with each other. It’s been life changing. Before, Ken had his faith, and I had mine; but never discussed much. Being able to discuss the Sunday message during group has helped Ken and I share with each other in a more intimate way.”

The Harjus joined a small group that already existed when they first came to Immanuel, and they were welcomed into the thriving community, expecting to be in it for the long haul. Nine years later, they feel like it was one of the best decisions they’ve made.

“It’s like being part of a group of best friends for a long time,” Elaine shared. “… Our group has turned into a place where people can confide in each other, sharing their fears, hopes, dreams and issues each person is going through.”

The Harjus have been able to grow in their faith through their small group because they know “what happens in our small group, stays in our group,” Elaine said.

But intimacy like what the Harju’s group has experienced takes time to develop, she honestly said; people who are interested in joining a small group would do themselves a great service to begin it with patience and dedication.

“The group has to form a bond,” Elaine said. “And you need to give time together to bond and develop relationships. The group has to get to know each other before can really get into the other dynamics.”
The patience and dedication to the group has proven extremely worthwhile for the Harjus, and Elaine encourages others in the Immanuel family to get into a small group this fall.
“It’s so important,” she said. “If someone needs something … the group is like your extended family. Not only can the group grow together as an extended family but they also can grow together in the body of Christ.”

Are you interested in being in a small group? Now’s the time to start thinking and praying about making space in your life for entering into connectedness. If you’re thinking about joining a small group see more information about our Small Group Connection event or email BryanB@immanuelhome.org. 

Small Groups: The First Steps

At first, Jim Wido didn’t know whether he actually wanted to be in a small group.

“I had some anxiety about it,” Jim said. “I grew up Roman Catholic, and I wasn’t exactly sure what  a small group was.”

Nonetheless, though, when Jim and his wife Teyre were approached by another couple at church about joining a small group at the beginning of this year, Jim said he thought their family should give it a shot.

“There was an exit ramp,” Jim explained, citing that the group leaders shared each couple would be free to reexamine their commitment to the group after a few month time period. “That was inviting to me. I said to Teyre, ‘let’s see how this works.'”

Though new to the small group experience, Teyre explained that while she had been in women’s Bible studies before, she and Jim had felt the need to be involved with other families in church as a family themselves.

At the first meeting, Teyre said she immediately felt at ease.

“As we shared, we found we were all there for the same reason,” Teyre said.

And Jim? Well, he found the same.

“Our first group meeting was just couples,” he said. “And what I found was that we were surrounded by other people I liked to be around. It was good to see commonalities in our ages and in our kids’ ages, and it was good hearing about what people wanted for their children as they grow older — that we’re not just the oddballs. I didn’t know what a small group was until was in one. Now I realize it’s a community to support each other in good times and bad times and to support each other in daily life.”

Teyre shared that being part of a small group not only connected their family to other people in the church but it also better connected their own family.

“Being in a small group has helped Jim and I to be on the same page spiritually,” she said.  “When something is said and we’re both there listening at the same time, we’re able to hear each others’ interpretation … It’s helped solidify our marriage and how we raise our kids. We feel like we’re on the same page for our family.”

This month at their small group meeting marked the exit ramp time that at first was so inviting to Jim, but the family won’t be taking it for myriad reasons. Not only has the small group helped the Wido as a family, but it’s also helped Jim to remain in God’s word as he goes through his work week.

“For me, when I go to church on Sunday it’s like being washed with a soapy rag … it takes the dirt away and it leaves my heart soft toward God,” Jim said. “As the week progresses the heart, like a the wet rag, dries out and gets crusty. Small group has helped me focus throughout the week. It’s helped me stay in scripture so my heart always stay soft to the Lord during the week.”

Are you interested in being in a small group this fall? Now’s the time to start thinking and praying about making space in your life for entering into connectedness. If you’re thinking about joining a small group or would like to be a small group leader, email BryanB@immanuelhome.org. 

Celebrating Christmas: Unwrapping Christmas Advent Guide

Behind the scenes at Immanuel, we’ve been thinking about Advent and preparing our hearts for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Because that’s such a big deal, Pastor of Student Ministries Josh Peterson and Pastor of Family and Adult Discipleship Bryan Bicket called a special meeting to discuss how Immanuel can best help our families and individuals engage in Advent celebration:

So after discussion about trekking to Bethlehem was nixed, we decided instead to do what we’re already doing this Christmas season: wrapping presents, spending time with family, baking cookies, decorating and the like.

Our Advent guide, Unwrapping Christmas, seeks to bring intentionality into such Christmas preparations as well as place a major emphasis on joyfully preparing our hearts to receive the real gift of Christ wrapped in humanity.

Each Sunday, a new conversation guide will be accessible via our website; a printed guide will also be tucked into your Immanuel Life each week.

The conversation guide is designed to inspire intentional times of discussion anchored around the Sunday message so as to help bring the Sunday message into Monday morning and beyond. {Hint: the first week, we’re encouraging families to set up their nativity scenes during the discussion! So dig out that nativity box!}

Advent Services 

9 and 10:45 a.m.
Sunday, Dec. 2: Wrapped in Prophesy
Sunday, Dec. 9: Wrapped in History
Sunday, Dec. 16: Wrapped in Mystery
Sunday, Dec. 24: Wrapped in Humanity

Want more? We have a few favorite {free! online!} daily Advent guide resources:

Jesse Tree Advent Family Guide from A Holy Experience
Desiring God
Focus on the Family 2012 Online Family Advent Guide

Lastly, our Immanuel Advent Wreath Guide, found at our website, is perfect for adults or families with teens who want an additional resource intended to help them go deeper into Advent.

 “Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present.” – Edward Hays, A Pilgrims Almanac

May your Advent season brim with a deep awareness of His coming.