The Monday After: God’s Glory, Our Comfort {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! 

When you give lives are being changed and stories can be shared! Thank you!

The Monday After: Sunday, March 3, 2013: God’s Glory, Our Comfort

By Marcus Wolfe

Today’s message came from Isaiah 40, which is famous for several of its often-quoted passages.  First, in verses 3-5 we see verses that are repeated in the New Testament when speaking of John the Baptist (Matt 3:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4-6). In verse 8, we are reminded of God’s Eternal Word:

“The grass withers and the flowers fade,

but the word of our God stands forever.”(NLT)

And finally one of the most often-cited verses (commonly on posters complete with graphics) verse 31:

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.”(NLT)

So how are we to take these into our own lives?

We are reminded in these passages that there is Everlasting Comfort, the Everlasting Word and Everlasting Strength.

God’s comfort is available.  Sometimes that comfort comes in personal redemption while other times it is knowing God is in control.  Recently, while reading Scripture, I have been struck by how much this theme comes up (that of the ultimate justice of God) – it’s laced throughout the Gospels and Revelation as well as the Old Testament.

In the end, God is justice and we as believers in a messed up world can take comfort in knowing that God IS in control and in the end He WINS.  Isaiah prophesied this very idea 150 years before the fall of Babylon, even before Judah had been sent into exile — that God’s people could take comfort in knowing He was in control, that He indeed would lead His people and that His Word, although not yet accomplished would come about.

We as 21st Century believers have the benefit of hindsight in seeing indeed God’s Word was true and faithful to Israel.  So how much more should we know that God’s Word is everlasting!  I don’t know about you but to me that in itself is comforting.  Of all the doubt and uncertainty out there, I can trust and rely on God’s Word to be true and faithful.  That does not mean I do not struggle with allowing it to take hold and guide my life, I still resist its claims on my life – that I should simply be able follow the maxim “the Bible tells me so.”

And, finally, I should find strength in the Lord.

“We should not be content to be ground dwellers,” Pastor Joe said. “You have a different calling.”  Am I allowing this promise of strength to encourage me to new heights of trust and obedience, or am I still living a life of repeated days amounting to very little.  Am I living by faith and using my gifts for His kingdom purposes, or am I afraid to step out and be bold?  Do I dream of great purposes, or am I content to allow life to happen, always afraid of where God might take me?  Am I in the game, or am I a spectator?  There is strength in Him if only I am listening for His voice.

That I should take comfort in the Lord and know that His Word is faithful and true and through this be built up and encouraged to do His work and to be His child.  I hope I can allow this cycle of encouragement and comfort to lead me on.

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.   

The Monday After: In Whom Do You Trust? {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! 

Because of your generosity to Accelerate, we are able to partner with God in His work of transforming lives and have stories, like this one, to share. Thank you!

The Monday After: Sunday, February 10, 2013: In Whom Do You Trust?

By Marcus Wolfe

On the way to church I was listening to Erwin Lutzer of Moody Church present a message centered around Hebrews 11.  Then Joe presented his message on Isaiah 7.  These two messages dovetailed nicely, complementing each other as my soul was challenged about living by faith.  From Hebrews 11:13-15, I was reminded of the great heroes of the faith; but not all received in their lifetime what was promised to them.  Then in verses 35-38 I was reminded that some heroes died not having been rescued, and it is believed one of them was Isaiah; yet they each had tremendous faith.

In Joe’s message he asked:  “What impossible things are going on in your life?” and “Are you trying to get out of them on your own or are you trusting in God?”  In Isaiah 7, Ahaz was determined to do his own thing even after Isaiah had told him of God’s deliverance.  Part of that deliverance was the prophecy of the coming Immanuel from a virgin birth — God’s ultimate deliverance.

So today I am reminded of two important things about faith.  First, just because I have faith does not mean things will turn out rosy, at least from my Earthly “I-don’t-want-pain” perspective. And conversely what I may consider an undesirable outcome is not necessarily a sign of poor faith.

Second, am I trusting in myself, or am I trusting in God?  As I think about it and am reminded from Scripture, even if I do try and handle life and its challenges myself, will my efforts make any difference to the outcome?  The answer seems to be NO, as shown from Isaiah 7.  I am left then realizing I can struggle with issues on my own or I can trust God.  My efforts won’t change the outcome so why not rest in God since He does know the outcome. Even if the outcome isn’t what I want or hope for, isn’t it better to be with God in this than not?

Hasn’t He promised to be with me no matter what and isn’t being with Him the best thing for me?  After this past year, I can say YES!  Being with God in the hard stuff is definitely better than not being with Him.  Several years ago when I lost my job I was not resting in God and, in hindsight, handled the situation rather poorly — dynamite and bridges comes to mind.

This year, as we lost our home, I found myself much more at peace as we moved through the process and trusted God.  The resulting move has even turned out to be a blessing   No, things may not end as we want and we may experience pain and suffering, but even those are far better done with God than without Him.

So what are your impossible things and who are you looking to be your savior?  How will you respond to your impossible situation?

By Matt Redman

“Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name”

Easier said than done, I know, but it’s worth striving for.

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.   

The Marriage Course: A Perfect Gift

by Marcus Wolfe, Immanuel attendee

We committed early in our marriage that we would do something for our marriage every year to keep it strong — be it a conference or speaker, a retreat, a book read together or a seminar.  While we have not quite managed to do something EVERY year we have done things many years, and several years ago that something was The Marriage Course offered at Immanuel.  We did this not because our marriage was in trouble but because we wanted to keep it strong.

Our typical week was to do our homework for the course together on Thursday evening and then go to the class on Friday night.  The Friday night get-together became a glass of refreshing water in an otherwise hectic and busy week.  It was something we looked forward to each week — both the class and our time together doing the homework.  We carved out date night for 7 weeks, compete with food, drinks and quality time together.

marriage course logo NEWEach Friday night when we arrived, very friendly greeters gave us name tags and took our drink orders for later in the evening.  Then we were free to mingle for a little while and enjoy the scrumptious appetizers and beverages that were provided each week — and each week was different!  Soon we would make our way into a room that was filled with small tables, decorated with tablecloths, candles & small vases of flowers. Each couple sat at their own table.  This was important, as it created an intimate and a very non-threatening environment.  We would then watch a video of a couple from Britain with a charming accent, along with short interview clips of other couples who had taken the course or people interviewed on the streets about the topic of marriage for that week.  Often the video was quite entertaining as well as informative.  While we have been to quite a few marriage seminars and classes in the past, this course offered some new insights and some old information presented in a different way that helped make it new again.

A couple times each evening, the video was stopped to give us all time to work with our spouses on the topic of the evening.  We all had workbooks to help guide the conversations.  Sometimes the dialogues could get a little challenging, and other times they were pleasurable.  But they all helped us learn more about our spouses and helped us understand their background, point of view and desires better.  And again, none of this was performed as a group exercise….  Every couple discussed things as a couple and everything was kept private between the two.

During the last section of the video for the evening, delicious desserts and gourmet drinks were brought around for us all to enjoy.  Again, each week was a different treat — how did they do it week after week!

Each Friday evening we left the church with food for thought about our own past and current behaviors, as well as those of our spouses.  We were armed with methods for discussing difficult topics with our spouse and for breaking down barriers that may have once stood in the way of intimacy.

If God is nudging you to take the course listen to Him.  He knows what is coming up and what you need.  For us,This course came at an especially stressful time for both of us, and it actually strengthened our marriage. Later in the year we were stretched even further as a couple as we faced foreclosure on our home.  We went into that scenario a stronger, more committed couple because we had just finished The Marriage Course.

God has had us both on a whirlwind of growth the last two years, but as we look back on it we recognize the time really started when we agreed to listen to that still voice calling us to this course.  From there we went on to do Vantage Point 3, a spiritual journey together in the Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 and Jessica went to Mexico on a short term trip in the Summer of 2012.  All of these have strengthened us, but they have also required we step out in faith and obedience to what we felt God was calling us to do.  So we encourage you, if you are feeling this MIGHT be for you – then IT IS!  Listen to God’s calling and invest in your marriage.

Click HERE to register for The Marriage Course! The next session beings January 18, 2013!

Because of your generosity to Accelerate, we are able to partner with God in His work of transforming lives. Thank you!

The Monday After: A New You in the New Year {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, January 6, 2013: A New You in the New Year

By Marcus Wolfe

As I think about Joe’s message I am struck with the thought that 2012 was a banner year of change. We did Vantage Point 3 together, she went on a mission trip to Mexico and she made plans to finish school to become a nurse, a venture she started about nine years ago. It meant we took a long look at our health and lost fifty pounds each. And we lost our home.

But as we saw this past year and all its changes through God’s eyes, our eyes have been opened to the blessing 2012 has been. It was a year of creativity, conviction of values and courage; it was a year of trusting in God’s providence.

One thing Pastor Joe said that has very much been true of our lives was how we can live the same life over again 12 times each year. While a year like 2012 was filled with changes, we certainly don’t want the opposite — reliving the same life over and over for 12 months. We are intent on the idea of keeping momentum, including embracing changes.

Pastor Joe asked us to reflect on how life could be different in our families, finances, relationships and faith?

Last year, Vantage Point 3 helped me understand that our spiritual life is not about having made a one-time decision; rather, our spiritual lives are a daily decision. Life with Jesus is like being in a marriage with my wife.  Yes, there was my wedding day when I said “I do,” but my marriage is based on the thousands of acts and decisions since then that wedding day. In similar fashion, I have a date when I accepted Christ, too, but my walk with Jesus is about more than just one day and decision — it’s about the millions of thoughts and actions since then, the daily decisions.  During this process I also learned to let go of the past and realize God can and even wants to use me today.

And that’s where I’m left pondering Joe’s ending point from yesterday: what would I attempt for God if I knew I wouldn’t fail?  How would I be outrageously courageous?

For me it meant a quick decision in December to have knee surgery so that I could go into 2013 with better mobility than I have had in at least the last three years.  It has meant submitting applications to new schools when I wasn’t getting enough days at my present school as a substitute teacher, which required courage as there is comfort at my present school.

It is also means I am trusting God to provide full-time work by the end of this year. If my wife is to finish nursing school at some time she will have to quit working full time and the pressure will then be on me to meet our needs.  Where will this come from?  I have trained to be a teacher and like the job but teaching jobs are hard to come by now and very competitive. It’s my wife’s turn to reach for her dream, so how can we get there?  Am I willing to get creative in employment and work outside of education?

If we want 2013 to be a hallmark year, I must ask myself whether or not I am willing to pour into others in the way I have been led?  Can I trust enough to start things even without knowing how my job situation will work out?  And no matter how things do work out can I have the faith to look at things through God’s eyes and trust Him in all things?

Can I trust in God’s providence?

If our life in 2012 was any indicator, the answer would be a resounding yes.

Because of your generosity to Accelerate, we are able to partner with God in His work of transforming lives. Thank you!

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.   

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.