What are you leaving behind in order to move forward with God?

Written by Sue Schmitt

 

Philippians 3:14. 
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. NIV

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. NLT

 

My picture of happiness is all of my children and grandchildren gathered around my table in the house. We are sharing a meal, and sharing our stories of love and laughter throughout our years together. There is no greater feeling than being with those you have loved and nurtured for almost 40 years. This is my wish, but not my reality. I have a broken family. Two of my daughters have chosen to exit my family. It is heartbreaking, and yet I hear God ask me to continue to pray and follow him. Can I leave behind the perfect picture that I thought was my family, and still follow God with love and joy?

I recently read Max Lucado’s book, You’ll Get Through This. He used parallels of the story of Joseph to illustrate how we suffer today. I can relate to Joseph. I have been cast out by my daughters. Joseph was sold by his brothers. He was only 17 years old when his brothers threw him in the cistern. He was 37 when he would see his brothers again, and still a few years later before he would see his own father. Sometimes, God takes his time. I haven’t seen one of my daughters in five years, and the other in a year. It feels like an eternity to me. Joseph never lost sight of God, and always remained firm in his faith.

Geneses 39:20-21 says, “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him: he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” Joseph endured slavery, exile, imprisonment, for over 20 years before he was reunited with his brother. When the opportunity arrived, he was without anger.

God took 120 years to prepare Noah for the flood, and he took 80 years to prepare Moses for his work! God wants us to trust him and defeat Satan. God can turn any bad situation into a teaching moment with a good result. Life is hard. Everyone has suffering and difficulties. If we keep our eyes focused on God, and His word, God will see us through the difficult times. God is our refuge and strength.

Maybe we need to surrender our wants, and ask God, what is it that He wants? Do you trust God enough to surrender your brokenness? Allow God to have the time and show you what He has in store for you. If we trust God to do the next best thing in our lives, the results are limitless.

Maybe you do not suffer from a broken family, maybe it’s a frustrating job, or a difficult school. Give it to God. Pray for his help, and guidance to leave the hurt behind you. What might God have in store for me that could be better than anything I could have imagined? What are the possibilities? God is limitless. You may be surprised!


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What is God Up To During the Pandemic?

Written by Becky Perkins

I was asked to write a blog. It was to be a blog without a theme, scripture, or focus. I was told to write what I wanted to write. I decided it was time to share what has happened in the life of a Director of Education at Wesley Chapel during a pandemic! Yes, it has been hard, trying at times, not easy, but in the midst of the struggle, God has worked and answered prayer.
 
Pre-pandemic, I remember telling our pastor that I was very concerned because we did not have many babies and preschoolers in our children’s ministry. I was concerned that this was the case because we did not have young parents in a class or a small group. I had been praying about that situation for a while and was looking for someone to fill a role of starting new classes and growing ministries. And finally, God spoke and I listened. I am sure God was speaking all along the way, but the “I listened” part was not happening. Once I listened, and obeyed what He was telling me to do, then God was able to start moving and doing a work that only He could do. You see, I was not willing to obey because it took some time and effort on my part, and I was not wanting to struggle through the growth process again of rebuilding groups and teams. 
 
During the pandemic, God has been bringing new people to Wesley Chapel. Yes, during a bad and hard time, God is working. Several of the new people are young adults with children. April 2021, a new Sunday school class was started, now called, “Growing in Faith”. The class began with about 8 people, and it has grown so much that they had to change rooms to handle the growth. With some personal training and direction, the class has gained 2 new teachers of the Word. God encouraged Faith Development leaders and individuals, who are starting their faith journeys, to pray for direction. A “Parenting Through the Phases” class has started on Wednesday nights, a new mom’s small group every other Thursday night, and He inspired team leaders to add people to the children’s ministry team, to the youth ministry team, and adult education team. I know that there are several other places these people could be on a Sunday morning, Wednesday evening, and during monthly meetings for these teams. The culture today calls for their attention to so many other places and needs. There is a reason these young adults are here at church. Why are they here and what is it that draws them to church?
 
First, I must mention, that every one of the people I talked with after their first visit to Wesley Chapel came back because they felt so welcomed and recognized by the greeters, hospitality, children’s desk servants, and others in the worship service. They feel drawn to Pastor Tony’s preaching style. I have learned they desire to know how to be good parents, they have a need for friends their own age who are searching as they are, and they want to know what God has to say to them concerning their careers, family, and the world around them. They are not much about a denomination or the organized church. They are about the reality of the world they are living within, and they are about serving other people who are in need. They desire to make a difference in their own lives, the lives of their family and in the world around them. The biggest thing I have noted is their desire to study from God’s Word and know what it says to them. They don’t necessarily want to be told what to do and believe, they want good open discussion without criticism and with care of each other, so that they can form their own beliefs. They show a love for the Lord that is authentic. In the midst of this movement from the Lord, a couple young men have felt that God is calling them into ministry! How exciting for we at Wesley Chapel who are watching this movement.

 

Does this generation of the 21st century do ministry, read scripture and lead classes as we did in the 20th century? Absolutely not. Let me share what I have had to learn. I have had to learn how to get into their world, into their backgrounds, and get to know them in a personal way, as the people they are on a day by day basis. I have had to learn how to talk with them, not talk at them. I am learning to do a lot of listening, keeping my mouth shut and really listen. I allow them to ask me questions, then I answer. Most of the time, people need to talk to hear themselves. In discussion and listening to one another, they figure out what God is saying to them. You see, the younger generation was not taught as we were taught in school. We sat and absorbed information in a classroom, memorized the information, and repeated the information back on paper for a test. Sometimes the information stuck and other times, we just learned for that period of time. The younger generation have sat in classrooms that encouraged discussion, listening, and how to figure out the information that was being taught. They have formed their beliefs and opinions from organized self-discovery. I have had to learn how they communicate. Texting is the favored mode of communication, emails are too long, and they don’t get on a computer to read and work with lengthy emails. They communicate, purchase items, do banking, and do all of their business from their phones. I am sure they are not doing it perfectly, but did we do it perfectly in our generation? When developing leaders, we have to let them struggle through the wealth of information, experiment with it, not change their actions and how they learn. We must allow them to figure it out in God’s timing how He would want them to transform into men and women of the faith. They soon figure it out and they will administer the information and beliefs to grow along on the Discipleship Pathway of their lives.

 

God is at work in the world around us, it just looks different from generations past. I am reminded of the scripture, “In the last days God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams”. (Acts 2:17) It is the young men and women who will see visions, they are the ones with the hope for the future.

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Stubbornness

Written by Cindy Music

When I was asked to write a blog on a time when God broke through my stubbornness my first thought was “I’m not sure that He has, that He usually just goes around it”. After some prayer, soul searching and conversations with myself, the Holy Spirit took me back 20 years ago.

 

Twenty years ago, my friendships and relationships were centered around church. I had dropped or at least minimized my time spent with family and friends who were not Christians. I didn’t attend parties where there was alcohol. I didn’t attend a milestone birthday party of my nephew because it was at the casino (I didn’t want to contribute money to a place I didn’t support). I didn’t meet friends out at bars for drinks. I didn’t want to be a part of the lives of life-long friends and family that were openly becoming part of the LGBTQ plus community. If someone didn’t live the kind of lifestyle I thought they should (like mine), I spent as little time with them as I had to.

 

I thought I was doing what God and my peers expected of me. Keep in mind I only hung out with people who were like me.

 

Move forward a few years. I was introduced to someone that was kind, giving, fun to talk to and laughed about the same things as I did. We would hang out, go to movies, to the zoo, or just talk on the phone. One area we weren’t alike was this person was not a Christian. In fact, not a believer. When I realized this, I began to change how I saw this person. We’d meet at the movies and I would bolt as soon as I could. I didn’t linger in conversation or have dinner afterwards. You can see the pattern starting again.

 

One evening during my prayer time, the Holy Spirit was very clear in telling me, if I was the only Jesus this person ever saw, I had done a pitiful job. I had been everything but Christ like. In fact, I had given this person so many “Christian” restrictions there was no room for Christ’s love and acceptance to come through.

 

So, what do you do with that? I called and apologized. I confessed that for someone who claimed to be a Christ follower, I had not shown Christ’s love. What I found out in the conversation that night was this person had been turned off by churches because of how Christians had treated them. This person had long hair and heavy metal t-shirts. When he went to church, he was told how he needed to dress, act, and present himself. He had to fit into their box in order to be accepted.

You see, God used a non-believer to open my eyes to see people how He sees them. Recently, this person’s friend asked me if he goes to church or shows any interest in knowing Jesus. My reply was, “My husband will not be one who comes to know Jesus by walking through the front door of the church. It will be through the back door. Where people accept him as he is, and walk through life being Jesus to him.” A lot of damage has to be undone before he will be able to see the authenticity of the Christ followers who love and see him as Jesus’ does.

 

I continue the process of restoring old relationships with friends and family that I had once passed judgement on. I have learned that I cannot make disciples of Jesus when my only relationships are with people just like me. Since I started allowing God to transform my stubbornness into openness and grace, I love having relationships with people who don’t always think or believe like I do. These are the people that God uses to broaden my knowledge and life experiences. I am learning how to be a part of someone’s life and still be what God wants me to be. When I am focused on the direction God is leading me in, I don’t have much time to judge others on where they should be.

 

I am working hard at meeting new people from all walks of life. I can’t know what others are going through unless I walk along side of them. What great experiences I have had in recent years. I like getting to know people and what their life experiences have been. It helps me grow in my faith and what better way to share Jesus than with someone.

Yes, there are still times that God goes around my stubbornness and uses someone else to accomplish His mission. Sadly, those are opportunities that I have missed seeing God at work. I have no one else to blame but my own selfish ways.

Life is too short to miss out on God experiences. I will continue my faith journey, knowing God isn’t finished with me yet.


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Hope Does Not Disappoint

Written by Ahnya Evinger
 

Disappointment. If I am being honest, this is only the tip of the iceberg of emotions that barrage me once a month when I am reminded that I am not a mother, yet. Hope. It is what keeps me saying “yet.”

In 2016, the summer my husband and I decided we wanted to start our own family, I listened to a sermon on Romans 5:1-5, and I loved the line “Hope does not disappoint.” God impressed upon me that this was a scripture to carve into my soul, to write into the rhythm of my heart. I was unprepared for the importance of the words in my life at the time, but over the last six years, I have clung to the knowledge that hope does not disappoint.

Paul is very clear in Romans 5:1-5 that hope is not something that comes easily, though. Hope is a product. The scripture states, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand, and we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that our suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” These words of encouragement and affirmation have battled my doubts and fears. Paul speaks of justice, faith, peace, and grace before he even gets to hope. (I’ll have to save that for another day, another blog.)

Paul reminds us to rejoice in our sufferings. I don’t know about you, but when I’m suffering, my first natural instinct has not been to feel or show great joy. Being joyful in the midst of suffering takes intentional practice. I have had to reframe my perspective to focus on gratitude instead of pain in suffering. Paul provides us with a reason to rejoice. He explains that the eventual product of suffering is hope. Suffering first produces endurance. Endure is “to suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently”; endurance is “the power of enduring a difficult process or situation without giving way.” Why are we able to endure without giving way in the midst of suffering? Because Jesus is our firm foundation and cornerstone. Like he calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, he can also bring peace to my soul when wave after wave of pain and suffering seem to crash in over me. I know because I continue to experience Him working through every situation in my life. Endurance produces character, and character produces hope. When we endure without giving way, God has an opportunity to shape and mold our character. God is able to develop our qualities in the likeness of Jesus. Through this experience, we become a people with expectation and desire for Jesus to be glorified, living in hope.

As a little girl, I remember being amazed by rock ledges overlooking bodies of water. I remember being frightened that the rock would plunge into the water under my weight. Consider a rock jutting out along the seaside, battered by waves every day. Every day, the rock is hit with wave after wave after wave. When will the stony edge succumb to the power of the wave and be swallowed by the sea? When the storm rages, will it be the end of the rocky coast? No, the rock endures, but it does not emerge the same in its features. The pounding water has eroded the rock, and over time, it changes and evolves. Likewise, God uses our suffering, our endurance, to erode parts of us, to better serve Him. We can live with the expectation that Holy Spirit pours God’s love into us each day. God’s love is poured, reminding us of its constant flow. We know with certainty that just as our blood pumps through our body, God’s love radiates from our hearts.

I continue to cling to the words “Hope does not disappoint” as I wait with expectation for the miracle of children in my life. Joe and I know from six years of waiting that a child is a miracle. We are grateful for a compassionate doctor who is alongside us on this journey. We are grateful for the multitude of prayers spoken on our behalf. We are grateful that in our suffering, God continues to mold us into the likeness of Jesus.


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Prayer

Written by Pat McKain

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. Scripture: Eph 1:15-21 (ESV)

 

There are many different ways to pray. To name a few, we can pray to commune with and praise the Lord. We can pray to petition God for needs around us. And we can pray on someone else’s behalf. It is this last way on which I wish to focus.

 

Intercession is defined by Oxford Languages as “the action of saying a prayer on behalf of another person.” Our Scripture from Ephesians talks about “remembering you in our prayers.” So how do we intercede for others?

 

So many times when people come and ask us to pray for them, we tell them we will. Sometimes we follow through on our commitment and sometimes we don’t. This is serious. Do we believe that God hears our prayers? Are we so focused on ourselves that we forget? Heaven help us. Or if someone comes across our path, we can ask them if we can pray for them right then. Many times, if we ask, they will say, “Yes.” There have been several instances when a server in a restaurant will seem burdened. We will tell them we’re going to pray over our food and ask if we can pray for them too. They have opened up and appreciated our prayer for their need.

 

How can we remember others in our prayers? In talking with a friend recently about this, she mentioned some very helpful ways to pray for others. She said we need to stop, listen, and feel their need. Empathy for others is God-given, and should be practiced. It doesn’t mean agreeing with or maybe even understanding, but feeling their pain and praying with them. When we pray, I believe the Holy Spirit acts. He knows what is right and how to meet their need. Our responsibility is to ask Him to be present in their need.

 

The remainder of the verse gives us direction in this. It reminds us to pray they will have wisdom and that they will be enlightened by the Lord. Oh that we would all have God’s wisdom and enlightenment! From this, we praise Him who has done immeasurably more that we could think or ask in bringing us into relationship with Him. (Eph 3:20)

What a gift to be able to pray for others and know He hears us.

 

We love You, Lord. Thank You for hearing our prayers. Amen.

 


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Spiritual Drought

Written by Jessica Carranza

When you read 1 Kings 18:41-44, Elijah goes to the top of Mount Carmel to pray for the rain to come after a severe drought had been brought upon the people of Israel. He sends his servant to look over at the sea seven times to see if anything was happening. At the seventh time, his servant describes a small cloud, the size of a man’s hand coming up from the sea. Heavy clouds came and it started to rain.

If you read Chapter 16, you can see why God brought a drought upon Israel. When Ahab took over as king of Israel, he married Jezebel (THE Jezebel), began to serve and worship Baal, and built a temple for Baal in Samaria. This made God angry, therefore he sent Elijah to let Ahab know there would be no rain, until God told him there would be. Jezebel had been murdering God’s prophets, so Elijah had to go into hiding until it was time for him to come back to announce the return of the rain.

I’ve known God all my life. I don’t remember a time when God wasn’t a part of my life. My mother was a devout Catholic, and I grew up going to church. I always admired my mother’s faith and looking back, the only thing that got us through the difficult times was my mom’s tremendous faith and prayer.

As an adult, I prayed, kept attending church whenever I didn’t have to work on a Sunday, and tried to keep God at the center of our family’s life. We did not go to church as a family, since Ernesto was no longer Catholic and I did not want to attend any other church. We were just not all-in spiritually. God was not at the center of our lives. Like Ahab and Jezebel, we had our own Baal at the center of our lives: chasing success, money, material things, personal gain, etc.

When God is not number one in your life, nothing seems to be right. There is always something missing. Looking to my mother as an example of what faith looked like, I started to think that maybe He just didn’t listen to everyone; my faith was nowhere near her level.

In 2018, when we were expecting our fourth daughter, I got this nudge that told me to move our family. Not only were we in a spiritual drought, neither of us had ways to move up professionally unless someone retired, quit, or died. I felt like we were trapped and like something was missing. When I told Ernesto that we should sell our house in Arizona and move to Indiana, he thought I had lost my mind or that this pregnancy had made me lose it. It was not an easy decision to leave everything I knew, my mother who had dementia, and our friends. The more we talked and prayed about it, the more “right” it seemed. The feeling of peace with this decision was the sign we needed to move forward.

Fast forward to today: we regularly attend church as a family, Ernesto and I go to Sunday school TOGETHER, our children are learning about God, and Ernesto and I are helping with the youth outreach team. We are both thriving in our career paths. Looking back, if God would have given us everything we prayed for at the time, we never would have gotten to this place we are in now, spiritually.

My spiritual life is much fuller. I find myself reading scripture every day, waking up with an attitude of gratitude, and praying. I read and study everything about God that I can get my hands on. My soul craves it.

When God brought on that drought on Israel, he did not do it to hurt them. They strayed away and looked for provision in all the wrong places. He needed to remind them that He is the one true God and that he would take care of them if only they would turn to him. God wants to give you good things, for you to find success, and live a good life, but these things cannot consume you to the point that they become your “Baal.”

May you always seek God first in everything that you do, recognize that nudge, and denounce anything that is a “Baal” in your life. Amen.


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