Faith in Christ Brings a Hope for the Future

Written by Becky Perkins

This week, while moving boxes from storage and getting Christmas decorations out, I found a box of old college papers from my classes while at Taylor University. Included in those papers was a prayer journal from November 1977 through January 1978. My prayer journal had the normal college student requests and concerns, such as guidance on finals that next month, an internship I was doing at a church in Marion, relationships between the girls in the dorm, and requests for a great Thanksgiving break with my family. One prayer item was prayer for the Lighthouse ’78 mission team, which I was to be a part of during the entire month of January. I had never been on a mission trip, never flown in an airplane, and never been out of the country. It was going to be a month-long mission trip, and just the thought of being in another culture was welling up feelings of both uncertainty and excitement inside of me.There was definitely some anxiety about all of that in my prayers. I have always carried a lot of anxiety, had my feelings hurt easily, and worried about what people thought of me.  My faith in God is what always has gotten me through those times of self-doubt, fear, and anxiety. Keeping prayer journals has helped me to see where God is working in my life and know He is listening.    

 

My prayer journals today still contain anxiety, fears, doubts, hurts, and many worries, but with different circumstances and in a different environment than in 1977. When I go back and read old prayer journals, they remind me of King David. My prayers start out with complaints, grievances, self-pity, and concerns, but after talking with the Lord, the prayers end in praise of who Christ is in my life. There is just something about having the freedom to go to the Lord in truth and tell Him everything going on inside of my head and heart that makes the peace that passes all understanding kick into my soul. The Lord does not get offended by anything I might say to Him nor does He get shocked by my words. He knows it all and has my best interests in mind when I come to Him. The thanksgiving that I find myself saying over and over to Him in the midst of the hurt, uncertainty and doubt, takes over and gives me hope for the future. I cannot imagine walking through this life, living in the world that we live, and in the uncertainty of times we are seeing around us, without Christ in my soul and mind to give stability.

 

I started serving in church ministry through an internship in 1977 while I was a student at Taylor, and I have served in four different churches in a staff position since that time to the present. I have experienced broken friendships, hurtful conversations, and fear for the future.  It has been turning to God’s Word, spending time in prayer and petition with Christ, and getting outside of myself, that turns my thoughts to thanksgiving and gives hope that it will all be alright in the end. Church relationships take much strength of body, soul, mind and spirit.  During hardships and anxiety, my body, soul and spirit become weary. Sometimes, it takes me getting away with God and having some heart-to-heart times to gain perspective. Reading passages of scripture while in prayer and reading those scriptures back to God helps so much to gain strength and find a hope. There is life on the other side of the struggles.God will never leave his people.The Lord wants to renew our lives, if we will allow him to do the work that we cannot do. 

 

Isaiah 40:27-31 says it all: “Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’?  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”


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Faith and Thankfulness

Written by Nancy Predmore

I wasn’t always a positive person. I was more the glass is half empty rather than half full.  Looking back, those times when the glass was half empty, my faith was half empty as well. I always believed in God, that was never a question, but I rarely read my Bible, even more rarely attended church, and offered half-hearted prayers when I needed something. I was not a good example of anything at this point, and I certainly wasn’t making disciples or even being Christ-like in any aspect of my life.
 
But then something happened. God started answering those half-hearted prayers. I was struggling with infertility in my late 30s. The doctors told me that I would need medical intervention to become pregnant, which wasn’t in our budget at all. And then I became pregnant. The doctor called that pregnancy a miracle…and then I miscarried. A friend sent me scriptures to read. I looked them up and I read. For the first time in a long time, I started to actually read my Bible and listen to God instead of telling Him my plans. I got pregnant again, and I had an easy pregnancy and had a true miracle baby. I started to think that maybe my glass was half full.
 
After we had Delainey, I thought that life would be great. My faith was stronger, but the Bible and prayer were not part of my life again. Then, we had a crisis in our marriage. We almost didn’t make it through that intact. God had other plans, way better than anything I could have imagined. He heard my cries…even though I hadn’t been faithful in doing the work to become more like Him once again. We did the work to strengthen our marriage. We found a church. I started to live my faith in a real way. I read the Bible, I prayed…really started talking with God, I served at our church. I was feeling pretty good about life. The glass was starting to look half full again.
 
Then Jim got transferred to southern Indiana…a small town. I didn’t want to go. I fought. I fought Jim, I fought God. I cried…raged really. I went to a dark place. But this time, I kept reading my Bible. I kept praying. We found a church to become involved with eventually. God kept putting people in my life who had faith. Those people were showing me God’s love in so many ways. Slowly, I came out of that dark place. My faith that had been so small was growing. I went on an Emmaus Walk and my faith bloomed. God knew what I needed (He always did), and I was finally ready to listen.
 

We have had several other challenges since then, but because I finally started to listen to God, I have been in better equipped to face them. I have even learned to be thankful in the struggles because I know that God has a plan. Now, when the challenges start coming, I look at them differently. I pray through them. I ask others to pray with and for me. I read scripture.  My faith is allowing me to finally be thankful in all things, not just the things that I want to happen.  Because of my faith in God, I am able to see the glass as half full!

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18


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Intangibly Tangible Faith

Written by Kaylan Caufield

John 20:24-29

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I’ve always had the notion that, as a twin, people always look at us and immediately compare us to one another. Whether it be to figure out who is who or to differentiate us in some way, Raegan and I are always being used as a baseline for the other. As of late, it’s been “Are you the married one?” or “Do you have the ring?…nope, so you’re Kaylan”. In those instances, Satan attempts to capitalize and magnify the feelings of loneliness and singleness that I am often reminded of outside of those interactions.

Before this summer, I was in a dark place spiritually. Recently graduated and having left my job of 3 years, I was lost. I wasn’t in the Word every day and I wasn’t living a life that honored God. I, like Thomas, was extremely doubtful. I was also heavily focused on worldly things – money, status, image – you name it and it was probably at the forefront of my mind. And here I was about to leave for a summer to work at a camp where I was supposed to help lead others to Jesus. How in the heck was I supposed to do that when I couldn’t even take time for Him on my own?

Those who know me best know I do not have the spiritual gift of discernment. I can hardly tell left from right most days and in order for me to understand some things I practically need a neon LED sign showing me the way. When it comes to Jesus, I pretty much need the same thing. However, He doesn’t exactly work that way. Or so I thought. After coming home from camp, I took a step back to process the events of the summer and to figure out the looming question of, “Where do I go from here”? It was in that moment where my unbelief – my doubt in how mighty and great God is – became faith. Just as Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28) after seeing the wounds upon Jesus’ hands, so, too, did I stand in complete awe at the beauty of what I experienced during my time at camp. It was an intangible yet tangible moment of how the Lord worked through me during the summer to not only help change the lives of others, but to change my own life, too.

We don’t have Jesus physically in front of us to prove who He is or to show us the roadmap of our lives (granted, the disciples didn’t have their roadmaps, either). Yet, we have divine moments in our lives where we can’t deny that Jesus is who He says He is. We also have small moments that accomplish the same if we only slow down enough to observe them. I am not the same girl I was before I left for camp and I won’t be that person again. Since coming home, I make it a point to be in the Word every day and take a moment to be grateful for what God is doing in my life (big or small). At times, I also try to discern what His purpose is for me (still working on that last one, but who isn’t?). By keeping Jesus first, my faith has gotten stronger and I find myself looking for the peace only He can provide, not what I thought the world could.

A friend I worked camp with told me afterwards, “I’m so proud of you for doing this”. When I asked her why she said, “Because you got to be Kaylan. You got to be your own person and stand on your own. You weren’t tied to anyone or anything”. And she’s right. I wasn’t “Kaylan, so & so’s *insert the connection*”. I wasn’t identified by the ring (or lack thereof) on my hand or by the person I know. Do not get me wrong; I love Raegan and I love being a twin with everything in me. But, I struggle with identity just as much as the next person, especially since I have someone who looks just like me walking the same halls I do. This summer showed me that I am my own person, regardless of those things. It also showed me how wildly in love Jesus is with each and every one of us and why he made the matchless sacrifice to die on the cross for us.

Jesus’ interaction with Thomas shows that the resurrected Jesus is full of love and graciousness and gentleness to His people. May He remind us of those things in both the big, tangible moments and the small, everyday ones, too.


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Growing in Faith and Relationship with Jesus and My Sister

Written by: Raegan Feuerbacher

We all know how it is with our siblings. We can’t stand each other when we’re living together, but when we move out and go our separate ways because of college, jobs, or something else, we become stuck like glue. Can you relate to that? My twin sister and I were close-ish before we graduated from high school. We shared a car, we shared our clothes (and still do), and we had five out of seven classes together. It wasn’t until we were living 1-1/2 hours away from each other that we truly began to get closer to one another.

I feel that my relationship with Christ is almost the same way. I didn’t truly understand what it meant to have a relationship with Him until I was in high school and in my early years at college. Even then, I wasn’t regularly attending a small group or Bible study. I wasn’t even studying my Bible when I was alone in my dorm room. I wasn’t connected to Jesus.

Face Timing my sister became a regular occurrence while walking from class to class or when I needed someone to sit with me while I worked on my homework. You see, I’m a “social worker.” I need another body in the room with me while I’m attempting to do anything productive so that I am, in fact, productive. Now, we text each other every single day and often FaceTime or call more than once.

In the same way, we’ve challenged each other to spend time with Jesus in prayer or in study. My sister spent the summer away doing ministry for FUGE camps and came back on fire for Christ. It inspired me to get off my lazy bum and start studying the Word. We would text each other to check in when we had completed our Bible study or our prayer journal. Her return from camp got me to grow closer to Jesus in a completely different way.

Don’t get me wrong. I attend church every Sunday and serve in some capacity in one way or another almost every week. There are times when that helps me feel closer to Jesus. Other times, and if I’m being honest, most of the time here recently, I haven’t felt closer to Christ doing those things. They’ve become habits, albeit good ones, but they aren’t challenging me to grow. Since implementing a nightly prayer in my prayer journal, I have felt myself become more aware of Jesus. I see the little things that I might’ve missed before. I don’t always run to worldly things to address my anxieties (progress over perfection, y’all). I pray about them.

I had always wanted to grow in the prayer area of my faith journey. It wasn’t until my twin sister inspired me to do so that it happened. I’ve gotten closer to Jesus, and I’ve gotten closer to my sister. I talk to her every day, and I talk to Jesus every day now. We’re all on our own journeys to get closer to Jesus. Even those of us who are seasoned Christians are striving to be closer to Jesus, and one day, not on this side of heaven, we will be closer to Him than we could ever imagine.


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Cracked not Broken

Written by: Mike Seaton

On January 12, 2022, I was asked to write this blog on the following topic: “After reading Matthew 14:25-33 on the Sea of Galilee, how has your faith grown?” The due date was October 19, 2022 (the day I am writing this). If I had written this earlier, it would have been much different. I believe God wanted me to write it at this moment.

Today is the seven-year anniversary of the tragic death of our beloved son, Michael. Our family still grieves our loss. Shortly after Michaels’ passing, I made a promise to God that I would commit to a journey of faith with Michael. That has not changed.

Approximately three years after that commitment, I felt called by God to visit the Holy Land. My wife, Suzanne, and I traveled to Israel with Pastor Tony, other Wesley Chapel members, and guests. My daughter, Ashley, gave me a journal to use along the way. The following is the note Ashley included in the journal:

10/1/18

“Dad,

I couldn’t be more excited for you. This day I have prayed for – long before you even realized. I know of God’s goodness, enduring love and relentless pursuit because of your walk. Your decision to just say “yes” and lean into the path he has called you to is an inspiration to my faith. I look forward to the day I get to tell the boys of how their Pa sought after Jesus with all his heart – and there he found a God that blessed him with supernatural peace that brought light into the darkness.

I pray that this journey not only shows you the ground that Jesus walked – but also shows you his character. His depth of love for you – his constant grace and his relentless desire to be in a relationship with you. To save you from the valley and take your hand to the high places of joy, freedom, restoration, and complete fulfilling love.

Dad thank you for being such a wonderful, loving father to me. But most of all thank you for deepening my relationship with my heavenly father by your own walk and decision to say “yes” – even in the uncomfortable.

I love you!

Ashley”

I made notes each night in the journal of the places we had seen that day. On October 6, 2018, I wrote:

Today we went to the Mount of Beatitudes. Here, Jesus preached to his disciples the “Sermon on the Mount.”

Next, we went on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee! WOW! One of my favorite things so far! I read Mathew 14:25-33 for the group. “Jesus walks on water!”

Next, we visited Capernaum where Jesus called “home.” He lived there in Peter’s house. He prayed and taught in the synagogue.

Then we went to where Jesus fed 5,000 with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread.

Last, but not least, I was baptized in the Jordan River by Pastor Tony. This was part of my faith journey with Michael. It was a good day but it made me sad.”

The Beatitude I recorded was “blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” The last night I wrote this summary:

“Truly, a trip of a lifetime. Each day was filled with more powerful revelations than the previous. My journey started walking in the footsteps of Jesus and ended walking with him. My faith has certainly increased as has my knowledge of the Bible.

Suzanne and I shared something very special together. It makes our love for each other stronger. We have made many new friendships during this journey. Tim and Susan Schmitt, Pete, Carol and Rene Miller, Holly, Sue, Bonita, Laura, Lisa, Ahnya, Diane, Dan, Samantha, Pastors Dick and Jim, Jackie, and many others. Friends in God.

Pastor Tony has been the major influence in helping me find God. For that I am forever grateful. My journey of faith continues. May God guide me and show me the way!!

Amen”

Upon returning home, my faith was real, alive, and growing. For the next several years, I loved coming to worship, teaching a small class on Sundays, and attending Ron Van Tyle’s class on Wednesday nights. On Saturday, March 5, 2022, I attended a Pray Through to Breakthrough Conference hosted by Sue Nilson Kibbey. The conference was captivating and inspirational. With my new Prayer Journal and five-minute egg timer, I set up a prayer room in my basement. Two hundred and fourteen prayers later, and I am still going strong. I have learned prayer makes a difference! My faith was at an all-time high.

Then, shortly after the Prayer Conference, I witnessed some church division while serving on the Servant Leader Board. It worsened over time, and I realized there was a deep divide among our congregation. The ensuing disaffiliation vote occurred and our church split. I have lost friends that I love. My faith has been cracked but not broken.

On October 19, I was at Mount Saint Francis sitting on the bench at the lake. This is a place I’ve been many times in the past, reading scripture, asking God to help me with my grief and renew my faith. I know God is here because he has been here before. Thank you, God.


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Finding the Joy in the Doubting

Written by Heather Perkins

“God never gives you more than you can handle”, “we suffer for the gospel”, “this life was never promised to be easy”, or how about “get over it, it could always be worse.” We hear these sayings all the time in our faith walk journey, and they are meant to help, but sometimes these sayings can bring us further down and make us feel worse in the long run. These words literally made my faith walk so low and depressed that I doubted God and doubted the point of going to church and believing if this was the life that I was meant to live. I would hear everyone talk about having joy in the hard times, and that they are joyful no matter what because God had their backs. I never could find the joy in the hard times. All I wanted to do was shut myself up and not care.

Let me start at the beginning. Over the past few years, I started realizing that I was in a pit and cycle that I could not seem to get out of. I had little confidence in myself and doubted if I was supposed to be an educator and if I was in the position in life that was meant for me. Now, do not get me wrong, there were a lot of great things happening, but I could not see them in the midst of other things. I had an amazing group of girlfriends that I never had before, had a full-time job for the first time where I got good benefits, a new house that I could afford by myself, a wonderful family who helped me when needed, and a good part-time job that provided extra money. God was blessing me all over the place, but I was still not where I needed to be. I was trying hard to keep going and finding my joy, but I kept asking God why I was not happy and joyful in everything. I just could not figure it out. Then, one Sunday afternoon in 2020, I got a message that changed everything for me.

My friend’s boyfriend messaged me her mother’s phone number and told me that I needed to call her. I will never forget that afternoon in Target’s parking lot. I called her mother, and she said that Melinda was dead. I honestly do not know much of what happened after that and for months, I was in shock and just could not wrap my head around what happened. I took days off of school and slept more than ever. When I reached out for help this time, I had some help me out a lot, but I also had a lot of people tell me that I just needed to move on and get over it. To be honest, that caused me to spiral at that point. I started asking God a lot of questions. Everyone told me something different, and the whole concept of death and life became a jumbled mess for me. I started really doubting God in the midst of all of this, and that doubt became anger and despair for me. I took a look around me and at everything going on, and I remember thinking that this is not what life is supposed to be like. I am not called to suffer for the gospel, I am not supposed to lose friends this young, I am not supposed to hate parts of my life that I know were God-filled and where God intervened to help me make this life I am building. My faith really was shaky at best, and I began to doubt God at every turn; the anger/frustration is something I cannot begin to describe. I put in application after application trying to make changes in my life but I kept hitting roadblocks at every turn. I knew I needed to make these changes, but I was getting more frustrated with God in the process because nothing was changing. (If you read my last blog, I started really listening to music around this time, and I started trying to make better decisions; music was my life vest at this point in my life.)

Then one day during VBS, a teacher whom I highly respect told me about a job opening at her school. Having known who the teacher was that I would be replacing, I knew that if I were to get the job, it would be a hard walk. I decided to take this risk and apply for the job. I mean, what did I have to lose at this point, right? I was unsure about anything with this job, but I was becoming desperate for something new, and the deadness I was feeling inside needed to change. God and I were not on great terms, but I decided to take this risk. At the time, I did not know if I wanted to ever teach secondary school; I thought I was just an elementary school teacher. Teaching secondary actually made me really nervous and uncomfortable. Was I good enough in music to teach music to the older kids?

When I pulled into the parking lot of the school, there was an interesting presence and feeling that overtook me. When I walked up and rang the doorbell, a man in shorts and a button-down shirt answered. He reminded me of a big teddy bear, smiling and full of good energy. It ended up being the principal who I was to interview with. I immediately felt peace, and I loved doing the interview. I left feeling good about myself and knew that if this was not the job for me, I needed to take a step back from education. It just felt so right. It was weeks before I heard anything back, and I started to brace myself for the next school year thinking it was going to be the same. Not to go into much detail, but things happened over the summer that led me to realize that I did not want to go back to the old job. I started praying and talking to God again. Even though I really doubted that praying at this point was going to make any difference, and I doubted whether God really cared about my feelings, I still prayed and made myself trust that God had a plan (the music was my saving grace). Remember, I was being told that we are supposed to suffer for the gospel, and it was on me to help the depression and hurt go away. I had to just get over it because my faith was not strong enough right now, which created the doubt that I had in God. I was still mad and frustrated with God, but I needed a change.

Fast forward: I got the call from my current school that I got the job, and I may have cried in front of the principal. Did God actually come through and was he being faithful to me even though I really doubted he cared at this point? In my doubt and frustration, I took the step that I was unsure of. I felt my hard heart start to change, and it was like ice was being removed from my whole BODY and SOUL. After I got the job, I started talking to God more and started telling him my doubts and frustrations, and it was like he was clearly telling me “I had this the whole time; it was my time not yours. You were right, you were never made to suffer. Even though you doubted and were angry with me, you still did what I wanted you to do.” I do believe that God used my doubt, frustration, and anger to lead me to where I am today. I got so desperate that I made the change in blind faith, but I did not know that is what I was doing. He placed music, people, and situations in my path for my greatest adventure yet. I still have issues that I have to work through, but I am now working through them in a healthy, God-centered way. I am not trying to do it all by myself. I would have never thought that I could love Music Education again, love teaching secondary as much as I do, lean on administration and my colleagues and working as a team toward a goal, developing relationships with students and working on creating a safe place for students to write, feel, and share what they are needing. I never thought I would enjoy being home with a cat to love on as much as I do, going out with friends when we miss each other, texting and calling just to hang, and hanging with family during fun times. The list goes on and on. You CAN find joy in the hard times and the struggles, but I have found this only happens when you are living the life that God wants you to live. It is like you know everything will be okay even though you are struggling.

Even in the doubting, frustrations, and anger, God can transform us and teach us amazing things. The problem is that a lot of times we do not take the risk, so in desperation, we make those changes, and all along God was there helping and shaping the next part of the adventure. It is not a fun road to go down, but sometimes these roads need to happen to get us to the point where God was wanting us all along. I have always said one of the best things that has happened to me is my friend’s death. Do not misunderstand me. I miss her so much that some days I just sit and cry. There is a giant hole in my heart and life that I cannot fill due to her passing. What I am saying is that her death started me on the road that led to my desperation and doubt so I would make important changes in my life. Now I realize that it did force me to ask the big faith questions and understand this life journey that God wanted me to take. It made me who I am today in the place I am today.


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