How do I see God at work in my generation?

Written by Raegan Feuerbacher
 

I have several friends that I follow on social media that are doing some real kingdom work. There’s a girl I graduated with who is going to Europe this summer to do mission work. There are other people I know who are graduating from the school of ministry at a local church here in Southern Indiana. They’re taking Matthew 28:19-20 seriously and they are fired UP about Jesus. It has to be one of the most amazing things to watch. I may not be close friends with each of them, but their lives are an inspiration. God is at work in this generation. How are they doing this?

 

I think we can get caught up in all of the negatives that come with having social media. There are a lot of them. Just the other night at dinner with friends, we were discussing how different life is now because we’re all on our screens. People can say whatever they want because they’ll never have to say it to someone’s face. It can be exhausting. You know what I’m talking about. There are a lot of pros and cons that come with social media and I am not here to debate them. It’s a significant part of our lives today whether we want to admit it or not. One of the biggest pros about it is that we can easily share things with people. Now, that can be good or it can be bad. What I see in my generation though, is that people are using it for good. Their captions and posts reflect their relationship with Jesus. They’re not pushing Jesus on people; they’re sharing about Him unashamed. They are sharing how He is working in their lives and the excitement and passion they have about their calling is palpable. The love they have for people is plainly visible.

 

We live in a culture where we are being encouraged to live our lives without letting the judgment of others bring us down. I wish more people treated sharing the Gospel that way. It can be hard not to think about what others might say. Many people have been hurt by the church, so they may be hard hearted towards Christians. What is a way you can tell and show people about Jesus without saying a word? Love them. Show people you love them. It’s not our place to judge other people. We aren’t God, and we never will be. 

 

I see God at work in my generation by the love that we are giving other people. For me, I will give and give and give until it runs me dry. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I see people unashamedly sharing the love they have for Jesus Christ, and they are sharing that love with other people. They are living and breathing the greatest commandment we’ve ever been given. John 13:34, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”

 

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When Bad Things Happen

Written by Lu Emily

When the world is dangerous, seek God’s safety and peace. Connect to the shelter in the storm. Zephaniah 2:3 – “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what He commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.”

Back in December, Pastor Tony said something in one of his sermons that has remained with me: There is never a good time for bad things. There is never a good time for someone to die. There is never a good time for a pandemic or a tornado or a fire that kills. There is never a good time for a loved one to be assaulted or a child to be tortured by a parent who should love him instead.

Since Adam and Eve’s fall and expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the world has been dangerous. The first family had the first murder. You would think when there are less than half a dozen people on the earth that murder wouldn’t happen. Yet Adam and Eve felt the loss of two sons—one in death and one who would be forever estranged. There were no winners and no peace in those moments.

In 1996, we lost our youngest child in an accident in the blink of an eye, doing a family activity at home. She was two. I thought my life was over. Through it all—through Stat Flight taking her to Kosair Children’s Hospital, calling my husband at work and asking him to meet me at the hospital, telling our parents and two older daughters she wasn’t coming home—I was tortured. I was sure Jeff wouldn’t forgive me for losing one of our children on my watch. It was a slap in the face to see our five and three-year-old daughters realize Mommy and Daddy couldn’t always protect them. I felt so powerless.

I was mad at myself because I didn’t do the one thing I should have done: I never once prayed to God to save her. I used to beat myself up over that. But in those days, I was the one who needed saving. She was already safe. Even though I believed in God, and I was saved in the sense of having accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, I was not humble enough to realize how much I needed Him in all aspects of my life.

Nothing is more humbling than finding out just how powerless we are to stop bad things. That accident awakened me to my need for God. Casey’s short little life—and her death—have shaped how I view the world and where I look for peace and safety. Those things come from God, and we come to Him by being humble. Humility is letting God be God of our lives. Anytime we take control and try to run the show, then we are not humble.

Right now, the world lacks humility. Throwing tantrums on airplanes, yelling at customer service staff, fighting over COVID-19 responses, letting differences of opinions ruin relationships, engaging in road rage, or just cursing under your breath at the driver in front of you—it all comes from a lack of humility. When people treat personal desires as rights, they act like others don’t matter. This is not humility, and it is not loving others as God loves them. Any lack of humility is a form of hate and pride.

As long as we don’t humble ourselves and seek God with our whole hearts, bad things will increasingly continue to happen, and honestly, we’ll be doing some of them. That is a daily struggle for all of us. Sometimes there are still areas of my life that I don’t give Him. Or I start listening to my self-opinion more than I’m listening to God’s thoughts. But the truth is, there is no peace or safety apart from God.

Instead of demanding what we want, let us humble ourselves and ask what He wants. Because the only way to change a world full of pain and turmoil is to wholeheartedly turn to God.


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The Curiosity of an Almighty God Who Would Reach Out to the Worst of Sinners

Written by Toby Long

“Some of the branches of the cultivated olive tree have been broken off, and a branch of a wild olive tree has been joined to it. You Gentiles are like that wild olive tree, and now you share the strong spiritual life of the Jews. So then, you must not despise those who were broken off like branches. How can you be proud? You are just a branch; you don’t support the roots—the roots support you. But you will say, “Yes, but the branches were broken off to make room for me.” That is true. They were broken off because they did not believe, while you remain in place because you do believe. But do not be proud of it; instead, be afraid. God did not spare the Jews, who are like natural branches; do you think he will spare you?” (Romans 11:17-21 GNTD)

A cousin posted a message a few years ago that simply said, “worst sinner ever.” It created a topic of conversation for several people and really stuck in my head. I had a shirt made with that message on the front, but added to the back of it, “saved by grace.” We certainly have a God that loves us no matter what. As a father, I can only wonder how hard it must be for God to watch us make mistakes and still maintain an unwavering love for us. What a great example Our Father is.

Worst sinners; an interesting phrase. What makes a sinner particularly bad? Is murder a greater sin than theft? In our society, laws are put in place to follow which should produce a moral character set to which we all should live by. God on the other hand sees sin as sin, no degree of sin (“Whoever breaks one commandment is guilty of breaking them all.” James 2:10). Sin is what separates us from God, and through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are able to be forgiven, completely forgiven. God keeps no record of sin, and for that I am grateful beyond measure. So to wonder what God thinks of the “worst sinner” shows our human limitation and takes away from the amazing love that God has for us. 

In Romans (11:17-21), Paul makes a comparison of Jews and Gentiles using an analogy of an olive tree. He explained that the original tree had a branch broken off and a wild branch was grafted/transplanted in its place. Sometimes we may feel that we don’t fit, but God has a plan for us, all of us. The branches of the tree are where the fruit is picked, but the life and essence of the tree is provided from the roots. God should always be the foundation of our lives. “Rooted in Christ…” is more than a motto, but a reminder that it is not just how we live that matters, but what gives us life and how we show and share that to others.

Our God is an awesome God. You 80’s Christian’s just smiled as you recalled the song by Rich Mullins.  To understand the essence of God is beyond my ability, but I praise God for the chances that I have to learn more about Him. I am grateful for the leadership and teaching that so many have shared with me at Wesley Chapel.


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Emptiness

Written by Jodi Pace

The sliding doors opened; the ICU hospital room was empty. The constant beeping of alarms fell silent, the wires rolled back to their original location. The bed stripped. The IV fluid and medication discontinued; the breathing machine unplugged. Emptiness lulled in the air along with uncertainty, heart ache, and fear.  As a nurse, I have too often had to tell family and friends that the room is empty, your loved one is no longer here. Through the tears caused by an empty room, I’ve seen relationships form, community grow, and pain ease. We often associate emptiness with sadness and doubt when in reality it’s a chance to catch our breath, reflect on our experiences, and open our hearts for even greater possibilities. The difficulty of losing someone rushes us to grief. We are exploded with emotion, often anger and frustration. If we allowed ourselves to be empty, find the peace in an empty tomb, we could find the joy in the beginning of something wonderful.

Mark 16 verse 6 tells us “Do not be alarmed, Jesus is risen, he is not here.” Mary and Martha were afraid. “They ran trembling and bewildered, the women fled from the tomb, they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.” We’re afraid to find ourselves empty because we are worried we won’t be able to find something else that fills us up the way we are used to.

Emptiness should not be feared; it should be embraced. The goal of meditation is to find an empty space, a chance to start anew. A chance to welcome change, an opportunity to fill ourselves with patience and grace, and not the usual anger, so often triggered by fear. We have so much available to us, even at our fingertips, that emptiness is unknown and considered a negative emotion when we should view it as refueling our tank. When King David was scared and knew he was in over his head, he offered his “broken spirit”, and God forgave him (Psalm 51:17). David was empty, and humbly renewed his faith.

Our schedules are FULL, soccer, gymnastics, swim and scouts consume our week, lodged between full time jobs which never seem to stop even after hanging up the lab coat for the day.  Everyone tells me “I’ll miss these days” when ironically each day seems to be busier and more chaotic than the day before. If I allowed myself to feel empty, would I be able to appreciate the toddler giggles and the Hot Wheels in my shoes? If I came to Jesus with a broken spirit and an empty soul, instead of wish lists and complaints, would I be able to hear His forgiveness, His comfort? Allow yourself to sit in the silence, to unplug, to not have the urge to fill the void. Do not be afraid of an empty room, an empty tomb, for there are greater possibilities ahead. Healing follows emptiness. Growth follows fear.


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Preparing the Way

Written by Dawn Boling
 

“Whose crazy idea was it to put the alphabet in math? I have enough trouble with just the numbers!” said one of my students in 7th grade math class.  I have the challenge of trying to transition these 12 year old brains from general math into Algebra, and that is not an easy task.  Students generally understand why 2+2=4; that makes sense.  But then when you throw in those x’s and y’s, many begin to get quite confused and frustrated.  “Why do we need to know this?” is the comment I often hear.  It’s difficult to give them an answer to this question that will satisfy them.  

My response?  “You can’t see the future; you can’t yet be sure what you will be doing as an adult.  My job as your math teacher is to help you become prepared for any path that you may take.”  I remember having those similar feelings as a child when I first learned Algebra, and maybe you can relate too.   

One of the ways I introduce Algebra is by showing my students a clip from the movie The Karate Kid.  Mr. Miyagi (the karate sensei) is teaching his student (Danny Larusso) the techniques of Okinawan Karate to help him defend himself from bullies at his school.  During his first few sessions, Mr. Miyagi had him use specific methods to wash his car, paint his fence, and sand his deck.  Of course Danny is extremely frustrated because he just wanted to learn karate, not do this man’s chores.  However, after completing all of these chores, which took a couple of days with aching repetitive work, Mr. Miyagi demonstrated how these methods of repetitive work had actually built muscle memory that developed innate karate skills in Danny.  He was quite amazed and continued to come back for more lessons.  By the end of the movie (Don’t read this next sentence if you don’t want a spoiler alert!!) Danny wins the local karate championship.   

Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, and I try to prepare the way for my students’ journeys to high school and beyond, and Mr. Miyagi prepared the way for Danny’s karate success, Jesus is always preparing the way for our path as well.  So many things he asks us to do may seem to have little meaning or purpose at the time.  But Jesus knows what is down the road for us, and He also knows what we will need when we get there.

He asks us daily to build our spiritual muscles by spending time with Him in prayer, reading His word and telling others about Him.  He is preparing us for the plan that He has for our lives; the plan He has had for us since the beginning.  

God gave us His Word to prepare our way.   He gave us the Bible to teach us who He is, and He gave us Jesus, to be our example. And not only does He prepare our way, but he provides everything we need along the way.  [2 Peter 1:3 God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and for godliness.]

And where does this “way” lead?  To a place better than meeting John the Baptist at the Jordan River.  To a place better than finally understanding algebra. To a place better than the winner’s platform at the championship karate tournament.   Following Jesus’ path leads us to an eternal life with Him in heaven. Even when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, know that it is there.  Jesus is the light [John 8:12], and He is always there [Matthew 28:20].  Everything He asks us to do helps keep us on that path; the path that leads to eternity with Him.  

So when you can see how Jesus’ way makes sense, when it is as clear as 2+2=4, rejoice in that.  And when you start feeling like life’s x’s and y’s are being thrown in with your numbers, and it just doesn’t make any sense, you can trust that Jesus will walk with you and continue to lead you in the right direction. [Isaiah 55:8-9 – For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.] Keep reading His word, keep praying, keep listening, and keep following.  It is much easier to see where we’ve been and where we are than where we are going, but Jesus has that under control. 

We all weren’t meant to be John the Baptist, karate champions, or Algebra experts, but we were all created with and for a purpose.  The only way to be prepared for our purpose is to follow the One who created us.  Even if we don’t know where we are going, He still knows the way! 

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

 

Oh, and in case you were wondering, it was Francois Viete (in the 1500’s) who is credited with first using letters in math.  Although I doubt you were actually wondering.

 


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Abiding and Bearing Fruit

Written by Rhonda Boyd Alstott

John 5:5-8 “I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

 

Most of the time, when I think of glorifying God, worship and praise come to mind, but in this last of the seven “I am” statements of Jesus, I find out that bearing fruit is another way that we glorify God.  This comes straight from the mouth of Jesus as he makes his farewell discourse.  In true Jesus fashion, he gives us an allegory of a vine and branches to make His point.  We cannot bear fruit unless we abide in him, and he abides in us.  He also gives the indication that not abiding leads to some pretty serious consequences.

 

So what does abiding in Jesus really mean?  The Greek word used for abide is meno and it means to remain, dwell, and continue.  Jesus is specific about this when He further says that His words are to abide with us.  There is nothing we can do of eternal value if we are not remaining in Jesus and letting His Word continue in us.  It’s the only way we can bear fruit.  It’s like Jesus is telling me that my relationship with Him is so important that I must safeguard it so I can fully abide in Him.  By doing this, I can grow more in Christlikeness and help further His kingdom.

 

Maybe the best way I can describe what abiding in Christ really means is to share what it looks like in my life personally:

*I am faithful to study the words of Jesus found in the gospels.  Though often challenging, these words give me concrete examples of who Jesus was and how He loved and dealt with those around Him. 

*Consistent prayer time where I am able to pray “your will, not mine”.  I am able to set aside my personal preferences for the better good of the faith community I live in.

*I am not motivated by fear and have peace knowing that there is nothing that I will go through that He is not there with me.

*My critical spirit demonstrated by contentiousness stays at bay.  This battle of my flesh is only won with my staying connected to Jesus.

*My motivation has less to do with a personal agenda and more to do with a kingdom agenda.

*I have a supernatural love for others that I don’t like, don’t agree with and don’t understand.  As much as I try to do this in my own power, it is a supernatural love that overcomes my personal thoughts and feelings and I in turn am able to pray for God’s best in their lives.

*I am able to forgive others as God has forgiven me. 

*I can work with others in the body of Christ to accomplish the greater good for His kingdom.

 

I could go on and on, but hopefully you get the picture.  Abiding in Christ enables us to grow up spiritually into disciples that reflect the true heart and nature of Jesus instead of selfish desires.  In Verse 12 of Chapter 15 Jesus commands us to “Love one another”. 

 

One of the Studies I have done in the past two years was Beth Moore’s Chasing Vines.  She gave us a list of questions that helped us see how we were abiding in Christ.  We were challenged to use them to evaluate the health of the fruit we were growing in our life.  I leave them with you for those looking for a great personal assessment:

*Is my heart growing warmer or colder toward people?

*Am I constantly in a bad mood?

*Am I increasingly exhausted?

*Do I get fixated on offenses, or am I willing to overlook most of them?

*Have I become harsher or gentler over the last year?

*Do I lose control easier?

 

May you abide in Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith

And May your fruit be filled with the love of Christ, to further His kingdom, not ours……


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