iCYouth: Life with Conviction (Makenna)

Thank you for your generosity to Immanuel. 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

There are moments in life in which you realize the magnitude of the change that is happening, the old ways that are being uprooted and the new dreams that are planting themselves firmly beneath your feet. I’ve been looking for the new thing that the Lord is doing. I’ve been stretching my heart far off into the unknown land that is the future, but Jesus continually calls me to do one thing of utmost significance: Be where your feet are.

We often wonder why we have the tendency to overlook the significant moments. We ponder how we could possibly have missed the grandeur of Jesus’ love when our flesh was frail and weak. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because we all too often become blinded by the glittery, worldly idea that we might become full by the existence of anything other than Jesus.

If there’s one truth that has resounded deep within my heart throughout the last several years of my existence, it’s this: The Lord calls us to live each moment with purpose and deep conviction. He doesn’t simply desire that we know the truth, but He also requires that we act on the glorious truths He has made known to us.

In John 15, Jesus talks to His disciples about the world— the things it’ll expect of them, the troubles that might plague them and the sin that will confront them. He says some startling things in this passage that I think we, as Christians, need to pay close attention to as we walk beyond the doors of our homes each morning to leave some sort of impression on our communities.

John 15, verses 18 and 19 say,

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

Jesus doesn’t promise that the world will be enthralled with us as we choose to pursue Him with every inch of our beings. Oh no— He warns those who desire to follow His lead and live lives of purposeful conviction that the world will hate them.

The world will neglect you, it’ll make you feel small, it’ll bombard you with lies, and it’ll call you to fade into the background and let someone else take charge of working for the Kingdom of the Lord. Fellow believers, it is a deep desire of mine to see each of us walking away from the things we place in between ourselves and God — the things that cause our eyes to fall from the only One capable of setting our souls ablaze with truth and life to the fullest.

Let us start today. Let us be intentional in the ways we walk— not as lost and lonely but as found and fulfilled. While we were off seeking a stunning life filled with empty wishes and hopeless dreams, our Heavenly Father had His heart set on a whole and restored group of followers who would willingly cast each earthly burden aside to exalt His precious and worthy name.

I think Charles Spurgeon said it best when he wrote,

“I cannot trifle with the evil that slew my best friend. I must be holy for His sake. How can I live in sin when He has died to save me from it?”

When our hearts are truly awakened to the deeply satisfying love with which the Lord has radically changed our lives, we must respond by pursuing closeness with Him and surrendering to His holy ways. Today, may we find ourselves completely drenched in the Presence of God and captivated by the infinite value of the set-apart lives He calls us to pursue.

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

ICYouth: He Spoke Her Name (Makenna)

Thank you for your generosity to Immanuel. 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

He is alive. He is not a dead God. He is not far from us. He is powerful and life changing. He is radically moving in hearts and minds. He awakens souls- He makes us braver and bolder. Jesus is alive.

Mary Magdalene stood out to me today. She was the demon-possessed woman. And Jesus appeared to her first.

Mark 16:9- “Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.”

Jesus had her heart. What I love about Mary Magdalene is the way that she came before Jesus broken at his feet. She anointed him with expensive perfume. She listened intently to the words He spoke. She just enjoyed His presence. She was in love with the One who set her soul free.

Then Jesus was put on a cross. You can only imagine the anguish this must have brought upon her soul. The one who cast those demons out, the keeper of the voice that her ears could listen to all day long, the One who revived her and freed her was dead. She went to His tomb three days later. He was gone, so she wept.

I can imagine the scene. Mary weeping outside of the tomb- probably feeling all the more hopeless, longing for her sweet Jesus. Flustered and afraid, simply wanting to adorn his body with spices and perfumes.

This morning my family asked me to read this account of Jesus’ resurrection, and I couldn’t get through it without bursting into tears. I really don’t think that this woman was all that different from you and me.

She might’ve felt like the One with whom her soul was deeply in love was far from her. The tomorrows that she had hoped for must’ve seemed quite distant and unrealistic.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” (John 20:15)

Little did she know that He wasn’t just the gardener.

What a reunion.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.”

“She turned to him and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).” (John 20:16)

icyouth blog 4.10.15I love exclamation points. She must’ve been so deeply moved, so genuinely relieved and so filled with hope as she heard the risen Savior speak her name out loud.

I just think of what that might be like—to hear Jesus speak my name. That must’ve been a beautiful sound.

That one exclamation point says it all. “Rabboni!” Her teacher had conquered death. And she loved Him. And His love for her wouldn’t be thwarted by death and the passing of time.

This meant forever with Jesus- the bright morning sun. The center of her being was awakened. She must’ve felt the weight of real, true, everlasting life deep within her soul in that moment. She had been fought for, and her glorious Savior had won.

You have been fought for. And sweet Jesus has conquered all.

If I could shout with delight in a blog post, this would be the time. Insert squeal of delight and pure joy. I have been fought for, and my Savior has won.

Oh, that I might hear Him say my name one day. That I would live this life with Him in my heart. That He would die for me and defeat darkness.

He’s alive.

And that is cause enough for a massive celebration.

 

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

ICYouth: Building a Palace (Makenna)

Thank you for your generosity to Immanuel. 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

I often find myself caught up in waves of confusion and utter frustration when life doesn’t quite make sense to me. When things don’t go as planned and every effort I have made to hold my life together by the strength of my own hands falls through, lies wander into my mind. I find myself replacing the trustworthy promises of God with fear and apprehension.

I walk through dry and lonely desert lands of doubt, yet the promises of the Lord are all the more present in my life. They linger above me like enormous rain clouds filled to the brim with goodness. Recently, the Lord has allowed me to walk through difficult seasons in life in which He is molding and shaping my dreams and plans so that they look more like His. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about walking into the great unknown with the Lord, it’s that remembering His faithfulness to past generations and myself propel me into a state of constantly seeking truth rather than being overwhelmed by doubt.

As Christ followers, we can walk through life assured that the Lord has planned a glorious adventure for us to experience as we press into Him. The last few months have brought me to a place in which I have deliberately asked Him to pull me away from the vision I’ve had for my life and to instead guide me into an adventure so beautiful that only He could design it. There is great pain in letting go of past dreams and hopes, but on the other side of this pain is great joy as we watch the Lord fulfill His promises. One thing is sure in this life; the Lord follows through. He doesn’t change as our circumstances shift, and He surely doesn’t remove Himself from us when the weight of our own sorrows become too much for us to bear. For we serve a God who has experienced every pain we feel to the same degree, and if not, more. He calls us to seek these truths throughout our seasons of doubt and despair and find new springs of hope in His unfailing plans.

icyouth blog 3.13.15 cs lewisThe story of Hannah in the beginning of 1 Samuel challenges me to press into God when I feel weighed down by my troubles. We meet Hannah in the first chapter of 1 Samuel, and she is in a state of deep distress. She weeps bitterly and calls upon the Lord because He hasn’t allowed her to have children. She is mocked for her barrenness by those around her, and her heart is completely and utterly downtrodden. She feels broken under the weight of her own pain, but she holds to the truth that the Lord is faithful to walk through the hurt with us— He hoists us up off the ground and out of our sorrows. He asks us to come to His feet when fear sweeps over us like a dark shadow and our souls feel crushed by the trials with which we are confronted.

As Hannah walks through this valley, she finds herself continually praying to the Lord. She says in chapter one, verse 15, “I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.” This chapter documents her deep desire to return to God’s goodness in prayer and worship. She rises early simply to be in His presence— to experience the beauty of His nearness. Perhaps my favorite part of this entire story comes in verse 20 when Scripture declares that “the Lord remembered her.” God gave her a son and later blessed her with six more children. Deeply moved by the Lord’s faithfulness to her even in a season of great weakness, she worships the Lord throughout the next chapter by saying,

“My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.”

Her assurance of the Lord even in the midst of sorrow encourages me to bind myself to Him in the midst of my own doubt and sadness.

Church, let us find deep satisfaction and awe in the steadfastness of the Lord’s purpose. Let us seek His presence when we are confronted with doubt and overwhelmed with anxiety. May we love His plan and trust in Him even when life is foggy and the future is uncertain. For when we feel as though our dreams and hopes are slipping away from us He is creating a mind-blowing adventure. C.S. Lewis wrote, “You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage, but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Let us fix our eyes not on the ruins that lie around us as we undergo construction, but on the glorious palace He plans to bring to completion in us.

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

ICYouth: This Valentine’s Day, Remember This: You are Set Apart (Makenna)

Thank you for your generosity to Immanuel. 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

As I sat in my bedroom during my freshman year of high school and read the Gospel aloud to myself, I came to one life-changing and inescapable conclusion: the Lord calls His followers to a life set apart. I wept because this meant leaving things behind and humbly submitting to Jesus all the things I had found myself so desperately clinging to. It meant letting go of myself and allowing Him to fill every empty corner in my heart. It meant deciding to do the thing that appears to be most illogical in the eyes of this world simply because I know the Lord has chosen something different for me. It’s difficult to arrive at the turning point. There is pain in submission, but, dear friends, there is incomparable joy found in the moment we choose to release every inch of ourselves to a God who plans only good.

IcBlog -- how beautiful to come alive --Makenna 2.12.15You see, choosing life in Jesus isn’t a quick contract to be signed out of fear or obligation only to be left in the basement of the church building. Out of this choice to believe in the name of the Lord and His salvation should come a deep and burning desire to become more like Him. This means observing His ways and ultimately obeying His voice.

The Lord doesn’t wish to hold us captive in commanding us to follow Him with every area of our life, but rather, He seeks to set us free.

What a sweet blessing it is to no longer be under the power of sin and death. How beautiful it is to become alive in the presence of a God who desires our whole hearts!

So what exactly does it look like to release ourselves to the marvelous purpose of Christ’s Kingdom? It all begins with picking up the life Jesus provided at the cross and simultaneously laying our own lives at His feet. It’s choosing to find sustenance in His promises rather than our own dreams, plans, desires and knowledge.

Jesus says some startling words to His disciples in John 15, but ultimately, as His followers, I am confident that we can find renewed purpose and calling in these difficult, yet highly important words of truth. Jesus begins in verse 18 by saying,

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

Hate is a strong word, but it’s an honest one nonetheless. The truth is that darkness trembles at the name of Jesus. Seeing as though this world is absolutely invaded by darkness, and Jesus is light, our sinful, fallen world isn’t particularly welcoming to the overwhelming sense of goodness He brings. Instead, the darkness flees. It may push back, it may persecute, but ultimately, this darkness is absolutely overcome by the brightness of Jesus. I have good news for you, fellow believers. We are called to carry the light of Jesus in our daily lives. The painful truth we need to come to terms with is that the world doesn’t voluntarily invite light to permeate the dismal darkness our sin has created. Scripture says, however, that Jesus has chosen His followers apart from the world— we don’t belong here— we belong with Him.

Scripture says, however, that Jesus has chosen His followers apart from the world— we don’t belong here— we belong with Him.

Let’s take this calling seriously, Church. Let’s continue to pursue light and a set-apart life despite the challenges we may face in making this decision. May we choose to spur each other on toward heavenly things. Let’s bring our faith into dark places though we may not always be invited. May we find our home in His Kingdom and press on as we seek His glorious plan and purpose.

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

ICYouth: The God Who Sees Us (Makenna)

Thank you for your generosity to Immanuel. 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

I am constantly bewildered by the complexity of the storyline God has created through each and every life— the value embedded deep within the existence of each person.

He passionately loves and relentlessly pursues both the seemingly put together and those who are so obviously falling apart. There is great comfort in knowing that God has not only full comprehended the subterranean, elaborate longings of our hearts, but He has fastened our passions and callings within the inmost parts of our beings. Yes, friends— there is assurance that we are known and seen and treasured by our Father. Isn’t this a lovely thought?

Surely it is, but how often do we find ourselves downtrodden by the way others have perceived us? There is pain and heartache in feeling misunderstood, unseen, less than suitable for the tasks God calls us to. We play into this on a daily basis by measuring the righteousness and merit in one another. We’re left with an incomplete and inaccurate assessment of ourselves and one another in this all-consuming struggle to know the details and cracks in each story.

What if I told you that our God, indeed, is a God who sees beyond the flaws in our character and into the beautiful things He is making out of us? One of my favorite titles for God is El Roi, meaning, “The God who sees me.” His ability to thoroughly examine the depths of our hearts— both the unappealing, dark areas of our naturally sinful beings and the unique ribbons of color He pieced together at the beginning of time through Hagar’s story in Genesis 16. It’s a messy story, but God has always been one to magnificently display His glory even while sin threatens to create chaos.

The Lord had promised Sarai and Abram a child from whom a great and populous nation would be established. As the couple approached old age, they became weary of waiting for the Lord to fulfill His perfect plan and purpose on His own time, and decided to take matters into their own hands. Sarai turned to her Egyptian servant, Hagar to bear Abram’s child. While this may have seemed like a wonderful plan at the time, God’s divine plan doesn’t require human assistance, but rather, it required trust, faith and willingness. Hagar shortly learned that she was pregnant with Abram’s child, but this hardly solved their problems.

Genesis 16:5 says, “And Sarai said to Abram, ‘May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!”

As the tension thickened, Hagar fled from her servanthood seeing as though Sarai “dealt harshly with her.” (verse 6) Just when things seem hopeless and beyond repair, the Lord steps in with His seeing eyes and sends an angel to speak to Hagar on His behalf. Verses 10-12 explain, “The angel of the Lord also said to her, I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.’ And the angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has listened to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”

I can imagine Hagar felt belittled and afraid before these promises from the Lord were spoken over her; before she took a moment to remember His continuous presence in her life regardless of the hardships she would face throughout her life. Scripture is clear; she returns to the truth that God offers in verses 13 and 14: “So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing.’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen Him who looks after me.”

Oh, how sweet it is to remember the Lord’s careful watch over us when we are caught in turmoil and desperation. While we wander and flee, His Words will find us and revive our hearts once again. He teaches us through stories like that of Hagar that He sees beyond the cracks, the unexpected twists and turns and the severe problems caused by mankind’s lack of faith. While we see the mess-ups, the failures and the dead-ends, our God, El Roi, sees who each of us is becoming.

Let us mirror His willingness to see past the garbage in our lives and call us into a life of pursuing holiness by encouraging those around us and bringing their potential in the Kingdom of God to the light through our words and actions as we move forward.

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