World Outreach: What to Wrap Today

starWith Christmas quickly approaching, let us take time and remember the purpose of the holiday. Jesus reminds us in Psalm 46:10: Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

When we follow Jesus we “realize that we are truly incapable of controlling life, we must surrender our will to God’s will. It may be a matter of finally saying we trust Him. This will open the door so that we may experience the fullness of all God wants and has for us. After all, He is our Creator and has a perfect plan for us when we let Him orchestrate it.”

God wants no greater present than our presence. What a glorious gift to unwrap this holiday season. What gift from God did you find or experience this past year? What gift do you hope to give or share?

The Monday After: Christmas Wrappings: Wrapped in Mystery {Anita}

You know that Sunday feeling, right?

We leave church inspired by and filled with  Truth, encouragement and passion on Sundays … and somewhere along the course of the day, after the music fades and our cars leave the parking lot, pieces of the message tend to fade, too; somewhere along the way, we often lose that Sunday feeling. 

The Monday After {the Sunday Sermon} is our attempt to carry the Sunday message into Monday mornings by walking together and sharing how what we’ve heard on Sunday morning is making a difference in our Mondays, our weeks, our lives. Each Monday, a voice from the pews will give personal perspective to the words we soaked in on Sunday. 

So follow along each Monday as we seek to integrate that Truth into our daily lives; leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

The Monday After Sunday, December 16, 2012: Christmas Wrappings: Wrapped in Mystery

By Anita Everly

My heart was already pained early last week. A friend’s news regarding a heinous act of two teenagers in her neighborhood left me feeling kicked in the gut. Another day a personal pain too difficult to keep composed drove me away from the dinner table in tears. And the truth of the darkness of this world set in thick as fog over me, well before the tragedy of Friday morning became yet another reality of this fallen world.

I was desperate for God’s light, here and now, and begged Him to show me the good.

For a moment, the darkness seemed bigger than God.

I forgot the part of John 16:33 when he said: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Even so, He sought me.

I checked my email mid-week, and a reminder was there of Emmanuel. God with us.

And in the midst of my funk and the scurrying about at home, the words from the Christmas music in my CD player belted louder than any others all day, “O Come O come, Emmanuel.”

“Emmanuel. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

God with us.

I’ve sung those songs hundreds of times and read the words with belief in them, but it started to salve over my hurting heart like brand new. That’s just how amazing the truths of God are! They can be like new to an old girl like me and speak great hope into a week in the life.

In the midst of the messy and broken and evil, God IS with us.

It didn’t take long for Him to remind me of His constant presence. The next morning my son ran downstairs and said with excitement, “Mom! Come look at the sunrise out my window!” Anxious for a glimpse of joy, I quickly ran upstairs with him to capture the majesty of our Creator through the little window. My son was beside me in awe of His sunrise.

God with us.

On Friday morning as I dusted, I noticed the manger scene arranged by my son. The plastic figurines were scrunched up so close around Jesus, the sheep right at His head. I marveled again at the pure love and ease of a child, snuggling everyone up as close as possible to Jesus. Shouldn’t we all want to be that close to Him all the time?

As I paused to look at the figurine of Jesus, I was struck by the familiar and the unfathomable, all intertwined in one.

He was fully man and fully God.

Here on earth.

Emmanuel. God with us.
Even when His human form was no longer tangible.

Songs continued to play throughout the week and He reminded me over and over of His presence in this world. Hope. Peace. Joy.

The arrangement of the song “Holy, Holy, Holy” by Matt Maher says:

From the cradle to the cross, God with us. God with us. For this broken world you love, God with us. God with us. You gave up Your only son, God with us. God with us. So that all would come to know our God with us.

And the Christmas song by Francesca Battistelli, “You’re Here,” sung so beautifully by Jacqui yesterday morning, was one I had been singing throughout the week. This song reminded me:

You could have left us on our own

But You’re here.

Hallelujah, You’re here.

Hallelujah, You’re here.

God with us.

You are here.

That in His great love He would step out of eternity to be with us is amazing.

And that He meets me at my place of need in very specific ways in the ordinary of my day — through an email, a sunrise, a plastic figurine or a song–that He is that personal to bring me hope, peace and joy is nearly unfathomable.

But that is the mystery of Christ.

Emmanuel. God with us.

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.

The Monday After: Christmas Wrappings: Wrapped in History {Sheryll}

You know that Sunday feeling, right?

We leave church inspired by and filled with  Truth, encouragement and passion on Sundays … and somewhere along the course of the day, after the music fades and our cars leave the parking lot, pieces of the message tend to fade, too; somewhere along the way, we often lose that Sunday feeling. 

The Monday After {the Sunday Sermon} is our attempt to carry the Sunday message into Monday mornings by walking together and sharing how what we’ve heard on Sunday morning is making a difference in our Mondays, our weeks, our lives. Each Monday, a voice from the pews will give personal perspective to the words we soaked in on Sunday. 

So follow along each Monday as we seek to integrate that Truth into our daily lives; leave your thoughts in the comments below so we can create conversation and encouragement!

The Monday After Sunday, December 9, 2012: Christmas Wrappings: Wrapped in History

By Sheryll Belonga

Know Jesus, know peace. No Jesus, no peace.
In his sermon yesterday, Pastor Joe said, “A relationship with Christ is foundational to all pursuits of peace.”
I love that statement; it is very simple yet profound.  It basically tells us that in order to have true peace you must first have a relationship with Christ and without that relationship as the core everything else we attempt will fail.
This reminded me that if I don’t place Christ first in my life each day then my day will be lacking peace.  I can plan my day to be void of stress, but unless I give my day to my Lord I will not have that all-encompassing peace.  I can attempt to be the wife and mom that I think I should be, but unless I allow God to direct my words and actions I will not have peace in my marriage or in my relationship with my kids.  I can make my home warm and inviting, but if Christ is not there I won’t have peace in my home.  We ensure we enter into that peace through spending time with God.
Yesterday, Pastor Joe reminded us that only a heart delighting in God can receive His peace.  To delight means we take pleasure in something or someone — we find joy in it.
When was the last time you delighted in God?  When was the last time you sat back and just basked in His presence and allowed Him to fill your heart with peace? 
John 14:27 says,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”
 There is nothing this world could ever offer us that compares to the peace we find in Jesus.
At Christmas, especially, we are reminded of Jesus Christ and His birth.  We are reminded of the peace that came to Earth long ago and still remains should we seek Him.
And Christmas reminds us of the point of it all.
The point of it all is a renewed faith in the One who came into the world to save us. Jesus Christ was born so was so that we could have a path straight into Heaven through a relationship with Him.
The point of it all is to recall all the reasons why we are to love our neighbor and show mercy to those around us.
The point of it all is to remember where we truly find peace especially while living amid busyness and chaos.
My hope this year is that as we remember to keep Christ in Christmas we will also remember to keep Christ inside of us.
And that in Him we will find peace.

Sheryll Belonga is the wife of 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.

The Monday After: Christmas Wrappings: Wrapped in Prophecy {Marcus}

You know that Sunday feeling, right?

We leave church inspired by and filled with  Truth, encouragement and passion on Sundays … and somewhere along the course of the day, after the music fades and our cars leave the parking lot, pieces of the message tend to fade, too; somewhere along the way, we often lose that Sunday feeling. 

The Monday After {the Sunday Sermon} is our attempt to carry the Sunday message into Monday mornings by walking together and sharing how what we’ve heard on Sunday morning is making a difference in our Mondays, our weeks, our lives. Each Monday, a voice from the pews will give personal perspective to the words we soaked in on Sunday. 

So follow along each Monday as we seek to integrate that Truth into our daily lives; leave your thoughts in the comments below so we can create conversation and encouragement!

The Monday After: Sunday, December 2, 2012: Christmas Wrappings: Wrapped in Prophecy

By Marcus Wolfe

“We can have hope today about tomorrow because of God’s promises yesterday.” -Pastor Josh Petersen

Isn’t it amazing how God orchestrates events and circumstances in our lives for maximum impact all while conforming us to the people He wants us to be?  Though I have been the rich recipient of God’s blessing and provision lately and have seen Him come through for us, there has been a lack of true driving hope in my life.

I have the assurance of salvation, which leads to eternal life in Heaven, but this notion of Heaven and eternal life hasn’t been driving me; it wasn’t filling my mind and heart constantly,

Actually, it really wasn’t even on my radar.

Then at the last men’s discipleship group of the year, Pastor Joe spoke about the new Heaven and the new Earth.  It got me to thinking that I really needed to understand this place called Heaven better; it is, after all, the ultimate location and destination of our hope.  At that men’s group, Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven was a suggested read, so the next day I ordered the book, the devotional book and the study guide to the book.

I knew my understanding of Heaven was woefully inadequate and I wanted more, I wanted to understand Heaven better so it could impact my daily life now with HOPE for the future.  Those books came this week and I started reading about Heaven, which is OUR hope as believers.

Noted nineteenth century theologian J.C. Ryle is quoted in the opening lines to Randy Alcorn’s book:

“‘Now surely, if we hope to dwell for ever in that ‘better country, even a heavenly one,’ we ought to seek all the knowledge we can get about it.  Before we go to our eternal home we should try to become acquainted with it.'”(5)  Alcorn writes a few pages later:  “What God made us to desire, and therefore what we do desire if we admit it, is exactly what he promises to those who follow Jesus Christ, a resurrected life in a resurrected body, with a resurrected Christ on a resurrected Earth.”(7)

Just as the predictions of Jesus’ nativity were hope to the people of His day, and ours too even now, so should his second coming and our future in Heaven be our hope for us today.  And  because both are prophecies of Scripture, these things that WILL happen.  They allow us to “have hope today about tomorrow because of God’s promises yesterday!”

As Isaiah 9:7 says:

“His government and its peace will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!”

Now isn’t that a government you would like to see!  I sure would.  And then also promised:

Revelation 21:1-27, and Revelation 22:1-5 detail what to expect in this new Heaven and new Earth and new Jerusalem.

Revelation 21:6, points out this IS prophecy so it WILL come true.

Much like Josh’s words to us today, “Then the angel said to me, ‘Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true.  The Lord God, who inspires his prophets, has sent His angel to tell His servants what will happen soon.” Revelation 22:6

There’s that word WILL again.  

The Old Testament isn’t the only place of prophecy and the Jews weren’t the only ones spoken to about what WILL happen. God’s prophecy is alive and well and meant to encourage us to hope just as much now as it was to them then.

He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20

The Return of the King is not just a movie; Jesus IS coming back!

Can anything give us more hope than that?

Marcus is married to Jessica and is currently a substitute teacher at Zion Benton Township High School.  They care for any number of guinea pigs (currently two).  In his spare time, Marcus enjoys reading, computer games and shooting.  His ministry passions include working with senior adults and the sick, and growing with other men, as well as helping Jessica with whatever ministries she is involved with at the time.