Finding Rest

A WILD Devotional

Surrender is something that I think sounds easy to do at times, but can actually be very difficult. I’ve come across many areas in my life this week that I  realized I needed to surrender to God. I became keenly aware of my own “busy-ness.” I have a desire to love others and serve others, to help where help is needed and to constantly be growing. While these are all good things, they can quickly become dangerous things if we aren’t careful. I have a tendency to say yes to everything just because I know help is needed or because I’ll get the chance to love others. Sometimes I’m just striving to prove my love to God. However, I spend way too little time with myself and with God and way too little time resting. By not allowing myself this time and continuing to do things the  way I’m doing them now, I’ll eventually be running on empty, unable to give out anything, and that’s not beneficial to anyone.

God had completely wrecked my Tuesday morning in the very best way. In an inaudible voice, He told me that I needed to learn to accept the love and blessings He gives me, as a gift to be cherished for myself, not just something to be shown to others. He also spoke to me that I don’t need to  strive  because I already have his undivided attention and unconditional love available to me, whether I do anything or not.

Hebrews 4:9-10 talks about this, “So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world.” (NLT)

I’m so thankful to God for creating this rest and for Jesus who made a way for me to enter into this rest by dying on the cross. He’s made amends for my failures and promises to help me. Now I can serve and love from what I already have, not what I’m trying to achieve.

Hailey O BrienHalley O’Brien is a first year student at California Coast Bible College. She has a passion for people and a passion for music. Encouraging others and speaking into others is important to her because she loves to see people grow into their potential. She loves to be around her family and friends and enjoys frequent trips to Disneyland. In her spare time you may find her songwriting, snacking, or telling really corny jokes.

My BIG 28

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Mat. 19:26 NIV).  

For those of you who read my first post titled “Twenty Eight”, you will know the significance of this number in my life.  In my post, I explained how my unusual and frequent encounters with the number 28 are a special way that God reminds me of His loving care and presence in my life.  What I left out of the “28” post is my most special and favorite 28 of all; my BIG 28!  Actually it is a 28 that first and foremost belongs to God and my parents; a 28 that was truly an impossibility in my mind and in the minds of countless others; a 28 that can bring me sobbing to my knees with inexpressible gratitude and unthinkable joy; a 28 that will be treasured in my heart as long as I live.  

What is this BIG 28 you ask?  It is the resurrection of my parent’s marriage after 28 years of divorce.  It is the glorious display of Jesus’s power to call to life that which was dead.  It is the unlikely rescue out of difficulty, darkness, and despair beyond what many can imagine.  It is the miraculous rebuilding of a relationship and family established by God in Heaven.   It is the undeniable witness that through the power of the Holy Spirit, every relationship is capable of healing, forgiveness, and restoration.  It is the celebrated victory over hell and every wicked plan of the devil.  It is comfort and peace to my soul.  It is roots and stability.  It is a legacy for generations to come.  This 28 is truly beyond anything I can describe!  

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written:  “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord”” (NIV).  

Only God could take such a foolish 28 and turn it into my cherished boast of His love, care, and kindness over my life.  When I hear my parents share the story of their miracle marriage from their own lips, it settles the reality that we live in, that God “is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV).  When Jesus went to the cross and was resurrected, it demonstrated to us that nothing is too hard for him. Dear friends, our God is a BIG, BIG God and He can do the impossible!  THINK BIG, BELIEVE BIG, EXPECT BIG. Your miracle is happening!  Yes and Amen!

Amy MukesAmy Mukes is the wife of Eric Mukes and together they have four amazing children whom she teaches at home.  She is passionate about education and literacy and also desires to equip parents with practical tools to raise their children with the gracious love of Jesus. Amy is currently developing a City Group that will be filled with experiential, interactive learning where parenting skills and family life will increase and flourish under the Gospel of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. To find out more about City Groups, click here.

God Hears You

There is so much to be said about the power of prayer. Countless books, sermons, teachings , and podcasts on how to pray, what to pray, and why it is one of the most significant parts of our faith. From the book of Psalms, to the Lord’s prayer modeled for us in the Gospels, prayer is simply a conversation with our Heavenly Father. The most profound prayer we will pray in our life is the one where we respond to God. It is the prayer of salvation, inviting Jesus into our lives and hearts, and being divinely grafted into the family of God. This is where our journey and destiny begin. This is where we witness our first miracle, the miracle of a new life with Christ. Even the angels celebrate as Jesus says in Luke 15: 10 “ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

That rejoicing in the presence of angels over me, happened when I was twenty years old. For almost a year, I was on a search to find my purpose in life and my passion. I had a faint idea of who God was and wasn’t against the idea that He was the real deal, but I had no idea what I was about to encounter that would forever shift the destiny and course of the rest of my life. I was invited to a church because there was a special speaker coming by the name of Nick Vujicic. He is a man born without his limbs and he traveled all over the nation speaking boldly about the goodness of God. He spoke in a way that moved me to my very core. At the end of his message, he asked anyone who felt a tug on their hearts to come to the front of the church altar because that meant God was speaking to them and that they could respond by inviting Jesus into their lives. I had to respond. There was no way I was going to leave that place without surrender. In that moment, I began to encounter the love of God so strongly that I left a new and whole person. Even though I had no training or teaching in theology, I became so aware and hungry to learn more about prayer and I set out on a journey to grow in my new passion.

I became the first Christian in my entire family. I was a young girl on fire for God and zealous to share my faith with everyone around me. I was eager to learn anything I could and I loved church and gatherings where I could grow through fellowship. Yet, I found myself disquieted and shrunken down when it came to professing my love of God to my very own family, especially my mother. Perhaps she  didn’t quite understand me and the journey I was on. Maybe she  thought I was going through one of my  “phases” and even in the moments I was undaunted by sharing about Jesus, her heart was hardened. The more I wanted to reach her, the farther away we slipped from understanding each other and the more strife and resentment built up between us. I made a decision to be persistent, determined , and even relentless to see my mother walk in freedom and truth. The first thing I had to do was surrender her to the Lord. The weight I was carrying was not mine to bear. Jesus says His burden is light and His yoke is easy. I followed with declaring the promises of God and standing on the Word like they did in Acts 16: 31, “They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you and your family will be saved.” And lastly, I just simply believed and thanked God for it as if it already came to pass. There was no pressure on me to work at it, I had full assurance and confidence as I allowed the Word to take root and grow in my very soul and spirit.

Every moment I could, I would plant seeds of faith and love until I could see softening in areas where her walls stood securely. Whether or not I could see the progress, I felt at rest that God was doing a mighty work. Seven full years later, in this very church where my husband and children have planted our roots, and the place we call home, we had a special guest speaker come on a Sunday morning to speak boldly about the goodness of God. A man born without his limbs who traveled around the world to inspire others and speak fearlessly about the love of God. Seven years later, with immovable tireless prayers along the way, my mother turns to me and asks me to walk with her to the front of the church because she can not shake off a tugging in her heart and she must respond to Jesus and what this same man (Nick Vujicic) is preaching. In the most epic way, God allowed me to witness this miracle as it came to a full circle that morning. I could almost hear the shouts of rejoicing in heaven for what had just transpired. This response to Christ set into motion the life God intended for my family as my father, soon after, also committed his life to Jesus. Not only that, but my sisters and brothers, as well as their families have all decided to follow Jesus. My parents are planted in a local church and they love their community.

Maybe you are still contending for someone in your life, that relative, friend, spouse or child. Maybe you even pressed a pause button on praying for this person because they continue to make decisions that are detrimental and it looks hopeless. Maybe this person has  disconnected even more strongly as you began to wage on their behalf. Remember these scriptures on your journey and believe in our BIG God:

Psalm 17:6 “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.”

Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer “

1 John 5:14 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

I want to encourage you to pick up right where you are, or to forge ahead with great faith that you too will witness the miracle of new life for this person. God has not, and will not give up on you. God hears your prayer and will answer!

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Margaret Thompson is a mother of four young boys and wife to Brent. They experienced God in a powerful way and are passionate about sharing the love of Jesus with people who don’t know Him through friendship and City Groups. Margaret loves to pray and helps to lead the prayer ministry on Thursday nights at the Ventura campus of The City Church.”

My Brokenness, His Strength

Ernest Hemingway once said, “We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.”

I have never found this statement to be more true. I cling to the scripture Psalm 34:18 AMP “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” We live in a culture that tells us that if something is broken, it must be fixed, thrown out, or even replaced. We see this in all aspects of life. From material things, to friendships, to even family members. Though here is my question: is brokenness really a bad thing?

Psalm 51:17 says NKJV “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart – these, O God, you will not despise.” From my perspective, if Jesus is near to those who are who are broken and desires those who are humble, why should we feel the need to ‘fix’ ourselves?  We are all consistently growing, changing, and living out our individual journeys in Jesus and I respect that. However, I want to introduce another train of thought. What would happen If we were to stop trying to ‘fix’ ourselves and make our broken parts whole again? What if we allowed Jesus to draw near to the broken parts of us as we draw near to him? What if we allowed the Father’s love to make us whole and complete – lacking nothing? What if we stopped trying to hide the broken parts of us and allowed God to use us in our brokenness?

I believe that if we can come to the end of ourselves, embrace our brokenness, and invite Jesus into the cracked parts of our existence, God will use us. God will use the very parts of you that you saw as broken. 2 Corinthians 2:9 says NKJV “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in your weakness.” Our weak places are where the spirit can dwell and God can show up and show out.  

Lastly, let us remember the anomaly that Jesus is not afraid of our brokenness. Let us remember that he knows us better than we know ourselves, yet still chooses to love us with an all consuming love – broken pieces and all.

So, I challenge you today and everyday to not allow brokenness to hinder your life or calling. Instead, allow Jesus to use your brokenness as a perfect vessel filled with his miraculous love and grace.

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Sierra Fernald is a Los Angeles based lifestyle blogger, social media influencer, creative and lover of Jesus. She counts serving in City Kids one of the greatest blessings of her life as well as connecting with the women of The City Church and serving on the GC Agoura leadership team. She is passionate about impacting the lives of young people for eternity and loves being a part of what God is doing in her city.

Jesus, The Perfect Dance Partner

A WILD Devotional

Since I was in my mother’s womb, I have loved to dance. I have loved the ability to express myself through movement, show my heart through each step and impact an audience through my creativity. But, the one thing that has been my greatest passion in dance, is using my love of dance to draw closer to my Savior. Jesus has and always will be my greatest inspiration, greatest source of strength and the greatest comfort in my life. Every time I dance I purpose to invite the Holy Spirit to lead me to the secret place in my mind, body and spirit where I can solely focus on glorifying my Jesus.

But recently, I had a completely new revelation that has transformed my relationship with Jesus and given me a profound understanding of who my Savior is to me; and hopefully will give you a new perspective on who He wants to be in your life. My revelation was simply this, following Jesus is a lot like dancing with the perfect partner. When Jesus said, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), He was asking US to dance. He was asking us to go on a journey with him filled with highs, lows, trials and victories. Jesus is ready to lift us up, guide our steps and support our every move. The trick is, we have to actually let Him lead us!  When I let Jesus lead me, I find the flow of forward movement through life graceful and grace-filled. But, when I try to take the lead, everything becomes jerky, difficult and confusing. Because of this, I am grateful for the gentle cues my Perfect Dance Partner, Jesus, gives me; a light press in one direction, a swift yet smooth spin in another or simplify a still small whisper in my ear correcting my steps. Jesus is patient, supportive and constantly encouraging me to move out of my comfort zone. He is trust worthy, he never-drops me, and he lifts me higher than I could ever reach on my own.

Isaiah 30:21 says it this way:

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Living in this new revelation has truly helped me to draw closer to Jesus and finally trust him fully with every aspect of my life.

So my question is this… Are you ready to let Jesus take your hand and lead you through life? Are you ready to let Jesus be YOUR PERFECT DANCE PARTNER?

 

Tatiana (2)Tatiana Fernald is a professional dancer and is actively involved in the City Church Agoura campus. She has a passion for using movement and dance as a form of worship and connection with God and loves helping others to do the same. Tatiana is currently pursuing her God-given dream of opening a performing arts center for children and teens with special needs and physical exceptionalities.

I Am Enough

A WILD Devotional

“Who does God say you are?” Pastor says from across the room, in my W.I.L.D. (Women of Influence in Leadership Development) class. “What plan does God have for your life?”

I’ve been given 5 minutes to answer two questions that have had me perplexed for my entire life. So, I do what any good student would do, I “Google” it. Surprisingly, as I am typing, “Who does God say I am” automatically comes up in the search engine. Apparently, I am not the only one looking for that answer. I mean, I am a daughter, I am a wife, I am a mother…but does that really define WHO I am or does it describe the different roles that I play?

Scrolling through the results I see wondrous answers like “I am loved”, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, “I am a branch of the true vine”, “I am a whole new person, with a whole new life”:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLV)

THERE IT IS! Through Him, I have become a whole new person, with a whole new life. For the first time in many years, I have embarked on this journey of discovering who I am, and what God’s plan is for my life.

Through this wonderful “W.I.L.D.” (pun intended) experience I have found a way to identify my gifts, discover what my passions are, and grow more comfortable sharing these things with others. I have been able to grasp and believerealize that I am who I was created to be and that I am enough. I look forward to every week with these amazing women that are driven to grow in their faith as much as I am.  I find that every time these women share, I am empowered, inspired, and motivated to seek more of Him.

Please join me in this prayer: “Lord, thank You for Your love. Thank You for reminding me that I am who You say that I am. Thank You for calming the waters in my life to open this door for me to experience Your goodness. I pray that other women feel encouraged to take this journey into discovering their gifts and passions through You.”

Luhrs_Family_13Atalie Luhrs is wife to Bryan and proud mother of six amazing children (Quentin, Zoe, Zali, Zannah, Quincy and Quaid). They are actively involved in the Agoura campus in Generation Church, women’s ministry and administration. Atalie is passionate about caring for people, administration and organizing events. Keep an eye out for Atalie’s City Group coming soon!

The Power Available to Us

A WILD Devotional

Most of us want to reach out and help people who are faced with difficult circumstances. To a certain extent I’m able through my own abilities and talents take care of people’s needs.  There is a difference when I’m empowered and anointed by the Holy Spirit. I can partner with Him and operated at a level that brings real and lasting change.

This scripture tells us how this works:

“ And my language and my message were not set forth in persuasive (enticing and plausible) words of wisdom, but they were in demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power”, (a proof by the Spirit and power of God, operating on me and stirring in the minds of hearers the most holy emotions and thus persuading them). (1 Cor. 2:4 Amplified)

When I was in 8th grade I shared with my science teacher my testimony of being miraculously healed from a broken back and two fractured pelvis bones. He was so touched that he gave his life to Christ that day.  In that moment God used my words but the Holy Spirit’s power transformed the teacher’s life.  

I’m not the only one who enjoys this experience; there were 63 million Spirit filled believers in 2014.  And that number is expected to grow to 800 million by 2025. There is an outpouring worldwide!  

Let’s pray:

“Holy Spirit, you are the one who empowers us to walk in the gifts that touch and transform those whom we encounter. I choose to listen and act as I hear you direct my conversation, my day, my choices, and my life.  Where I walk you’ll be with me. Thank you for your anointing on my life”. 

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Carole Kornreich and her husband, Dale are active members of The Agoura Campus of The City Church.  Over the course of her life, Carole has led mission teams in twelve African countries.  She has trained and mentored those who need direction and support.  She currently works as a Ventura Superior Court Mediator and an Executive Job Coach for Lee Hecht Harrison.  Carole is gifted at walking individuals through change and conflict, and launching them into their destiny. Dale & Carole host City Groups and are active welcoming people every Sunday. For more information about the Agoura campus go to thecityagoura.com.

When Life Throws Curve Balls

A WILD Devotional

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5.  

Last year, I resigned from my Director position at a very prestigious resort. On that day, I had an overwhelming sense of peace and calm. Never in my life had I taken such a risk with the unknown. However, I knew everything was in God’s hands. I knew I couldn’t reason with myself. I had to put my worries on God’s altar. I had poured my heart and soul into my career, given them all of me. I put in very long days, even weekends and holidays. I never complained because I knew that came along with working in the hospitality industry and I truly enjoyed what I did. Needless to say, my husband was at home caring for the children and ensuring things on the home front were handled. While he never said it, he was never sure when I would walk through the door. Some nights it would be timely,  but as the job responsibilities increased, my days grew longer. Eventually, I would even miss tucking my kids into bed at night.

Now that I have been unemployed since May, I have realized that God really does have a plan. If this would have happened even two years ago, I don’t think I would have been able to trust in God; I didn’t have the relationship with Him yet. Not only that, but I would not have been able to see the beauty in cherishing every moment with my children. I was always so career focused and my patience would have been short. While being a mommy is not an easy task, I have been able to embrace this time.  It’s the simple things: doing school drop off and pick up, being able to attend school events, attending daytime mommy groups and getting all the love from my little ones. These are the things that I hold dear to my heart right now. I would have never expected to still be out of work at this point, but I have kept believing in Him. I know “my God will supply every need of [mine] according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19. I continue to pray for grace and patience to see through what God has planned for our family.

If you are wrestling with a big decision this year, one that you know is right but comes with a lot of risk, let me encourage you that you can trust God to provide for every need.

Join me in this prayer: God, you see my life from the beginning to the end. You know what’s best for me better than I know for myself. Thank you, Jesus, for the work you did on the cross, so I can truly rest and value the things that matter most. Help me to make the big decisions that you want me to make. Help me to see and believe for all that you want me to have. You see it all and know it all. Thank you. I trust you. 

Erin Watson

Erin Watson is mother to two great kids and wife to Leonidas. Erin loves to use her gift of hospitality by helping
out with women’s events and groups. She’s also actively involved in a City Group for moms with small kids. You can connect with her at the Ventura campus of The City Church and by following her @teamwatson33 on Instagram.

Being Brave

Being Brave is Scary

Have you ever heard the song “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel? You may recognize it from its anthem bridge- “You make me brave, you call me out beyond the shores into the waves.” Never have these lyrics become as real to me as when I was asked to lead others in singing them for our recent women’s event, Beautiful Stories.

When I was first asked to lead this song, I felt my heart drop to my stomach. I’ve never been in an elevator that shuts down and plummets ten stories, but I imagine it’s a similar feeling. “No way, God. My voice can’t hit those notes!” I found myself on my bedroom floor, explaining the situation to God, when suddenly, He brought to memory a request I’d made only a week beforehand for Him to stretch me in my worship.

I think that so often in my life, I wish the stretch could be comfortable. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply grow in our relationship with God from the safety of the shores? Venturing into the waves seem so uncharted and so unsure. And yet, I’ve found that it’s in these times that God grows our faith the most, because we can no longer rely on our own abilities. Suddenly, we just have to trust that God’s got us.

In Deuteronomy 31:7-8, Moses encourages a rising leader, Joshua, who also had to face daunting circumstances as he took on the responsibility of leading the nation of Israel: “Be strong and courageous…The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (NIV).

Let these words wash over you today. Declare them. Pray them over yourself daily. Join me in making this your battle cry every time fear tries to hold you back from stepping out in faith, knowing that whatever your story might be, God is forever faithful!

As for my story, I sang the song. I’m pretty sure that my voice cracked towards the end, but I sang the song. And you know what? God showed up. The Holy Spirit moved that night, and my faith was stretched.

So, here’s what I’ve determined- being brave can be scary, but the God who calls me out on the waters if faithful to help me walk on them.

xoxo Victoria

IMG_4649Victoria Baca grew up in northern California and is overjoyed to now call Ventura home! She graduated from California Coast Bible College in 2017 and is spending a third year as the college’s Resident and Housing Director. Victoria is passionate about worship, youth ministry, and missions. Find her small group for college girls here, and join to do life together!

No Fear

A WILD Devotional

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:18 (ESV)

At age 19, God ignited my heart with life-changing faith. So, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work! With a genuine passion to know Jesus better, I attended church nearly every time the doors opened. I listened to Christian radio and read volumes of Bible commentaries. And life seemed to go down a pretty comfortable path for a while. So, what was my conclusion? Do right and God will do right by you.

It was many years later that God taught me my most important faith lesson.  It was well after I had married, had two teenage children, and was trying my best to use my life to honor God.  It was at a time when my comfortable path took a sharp turn! I found myself on an uphill climb, then careening towards a jagged cliff! I cried out to God, wondering what I’d done, and what I hadn’t done to bring about the “death” of everything I cherished. It was the lowest point of my life, when my marriage was failing and I would soon be divorced.

In the middle of this crisis, I went to a women’s retreat. The speaker was so raw and real. She shared that we often believe lies about God that affect how we think and feel. Later she asked each woman to spend some alone time with God. I found a soft pad of grass to lie down in … and there I opened my Bible to First John 4:18.  It was like a window had opened and a fresh breeze rushed in. God’s Spirit whispered to mine. He told me through His Word that I wasn’t being punished. Jesus had already taken the punishment for all my sins. And nothing I do or don’t do can ever lessen God’s incomparable love for me or take away His unlimited grace!

God was not loving and cherishing me because of my good deeds, or taking his love away when I did wrong. And the same is true for you.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you that you always love, always protect!  You never leave us. You never forsake us. You make a way through the wilderness and a road through the desert. Your love redeems heartache and sin, disasters and even death through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!

Yvonne Noblitt Bio Photo

Yvonne Noblitt has attended City Church Agoura for the past two years, and serves on the greeting team. As a professional writer, she has enjoyed a career in radio and magazines, Christian education and ministry. She has a passion for sharing God’s love and grace with people of all ages. Currently, she is the Director of Creative Services for Roger Kemp and Company, a media agency that creates, produces and distributes Christian radio programs. Yvonne is married to Randy Noblitt, and together they have a blended family of five adult children, two daughters-in-law, and one grandchild. In their spare time, they love to travel, bicycle and hike, while exploring the beauty of God’s great outdoors!