“I Can’t Hear You?”

A WILD Devotional

How can you believe in a God you can’t see?

If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably heard that question floating around the subject of belief.  When pondering the question myself I figure– well God uses many forms of communication; He shows us He’s real by appealing to our other senses. Similarly, a blind person wouldn’t believe they exist in isolation just because they can’t see the environment around them, they will communicate and experience through other means and methods. But then Romans 10:17 crossed my mind;

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (NKJV)

This brought up the question; what if you can’t hear God? For most people, the seed of their faith is planted when someone (or God Himself) tells them about the word and what He has for them. Most of the message taught encourages you in the fact that God wants to form a relationship with you, He wants to communicate with every one of us. And He does, as we read the Bible but in that book we also see a multitude of scenarios in which God spoke something into existence or spoke to people. So Christians and non- Christians alike get frustrated when they can’t ‘hear’ Gods voice about a. As a result, their trust may start to waver because God isn’t doing what He’s known to do, speak – but is speaking all there is?

Something I have learned on my walk is that God loves diversity and that encompasses varieties in communication. He loves to utilize the entirety of His creation, and that means He likes to speak through things like music, or nature and so much more! However, if I do ever slip into thinking that His silence equates to absence I must rely on faith -the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11 NKJV) and I encourage myself with the ending of Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV) “He will not leave nor forsake you” He never has and He never will.  Just like when you’re in a relationship (platonic or romantic) you learn how to enjoy each other’s presence in silence, or read between the lines of someone’s disposition- The more you develop your relationship with God, the more you can understand Him even in his silence, and the more you trust Him in your chaos. 

God loves you so much and wants that relationship so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross. He is and He will communicate with you and help you to know what to do in life. If you want to experience more of that, join me in this prayer:

Jesus, I believe you want to speak with me both through the Bible and beyond. Open all of my senses to know how you are leading and directing my life. Amen.

IMG_0573Roniyah Shasanmi (pictured with her mom) is 19 years old and a native of Upper Norwood, England. She’a an artist and loves expressing her heart creatively. She’s currently studying cultural anthropology at community college. Roni has been attending the Agoura campus of The City Church for a couple of years. She loves serving on the worship team and in Generation Church.

Power and Love

I pray that from his glorious unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down in God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how log, how high and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  –Ephesians 3:16-20 NLT

Um, mic drop anyone? 

I was feeling overwhelmed the other day. I was deep in that tension of knowing who God is and yet looking around and trying to figure out which task I should start in that particular moment. Do you ever have that? You feel fine while you’re busy but then you have a space of time (and a list of BIG tasks- like finding a new home, preparing a home to sell, scheduling kids activities for the looming summer vacation, finding childcare for a ten day ministry trip, various projects overseeing a number of people etc.). I wasn’t sure what to do but I knew I couldn’t WASTE the time I was given. There is just so much to do! 

I started thinking about this verse and tried to encourage myself. I had a memory that the NKJV version says God is able to do “exceedingly, abundantly above” what we can do through “His mighty power that works within us.” I closed my eyes and thought, “okay, mighty Holy Spirit power, work! I need exceedingly, abundantly above, right now.” I felt like I needed to read the scripture, and so I went to my Bible app and looked it up. I read the whole chapter. I read it again in a different translation. I sat down in a quiet moment and asked Jesus to help me understand what it means. 

I wrote about Mary back in December, how she “treasured and pondered” the words that her son, Jesus, spoke to her. I wanted to treasure and ponder this scripture and understand it. Treasuring and pondering takes time and patience… I sat and I read it again and I began to write out what I thought it meant. In the scriptures before, Paul was talking about his life and the privilege of taking the message of Jesus to the gentiles (non-Jewish people). I just watched, “A.D. Kingdom and Power” on Netflix and the series illustrates the context of Paul’s experience from the book of Acts. Paul was preaching not just to a people from different culture from his own, but the oppressive ruling culture that was keeping the Jewish people under their thumb. American Christians often think of missions as going to people who have less money or resources than us. God sent Paul to a group of people who believed they were culturally superior to him, who had economic and political power over him. Basically, they were racist, classist and xenophobic but they were spiritually hungry and Jesus used Paul to meet their need for God. Wow! Paul would have had to understand this mighty power. He had to access it constantly. 

However, the thing that impacted me most about this passage is the source of the strength and power. When Christ lives in our hearts, it says our roots will grow down in God’s love and keep us strong. It’s the love of Jesus that nourishes the root system of our lives. Underneath everything we say and do that is visible to those around us is the root system that determines our strength and existence. A tree that has deep roots can stand for centuries while a tree with shallow roots can be easily knocked down. Our roots are sustained and strengthened by the love of God. 

In that moment, as I pondered, I remembered experiencing the love of God deeply, for the first time. As a twelve year old, I began to believe that God loves me, that He designed me and knows me uniquely, and that nothing can separate me from that love. I was changed in a million ways and am still becoming who I know He created me to be. At every moment of challenge, at feeling overwhelmed, I am reminded that it is His love that defines us. It is not our success, our own expectations, the opinions of people who give our lives value. In seasons of insecure adolescence, academic achievement, ministry fulfillment and challenge, marriage, motherhood, throughout my life it has always come back to His love. 

If you need this mighty power to accomplish something too big for you today, remember His love and let it surround you and bring you peace. Be defined by His love for you and believe that He decided you are worth the sacrifice of Jesus. He will make you complete with His love. 

XO

Bethany

Focus

A WILD Devotional

As a child, I learned to play volleyball. I played it all through school and whenever I could during my free time; it became a very strong passion of mine. I had a very good coach. He taught my team and I a lot about volleyball and life. During our games, he would always have our whole team say, “Next point,” whenever we lost a point. He wanted us to forget the last point and focus on doing our best for the next point and the bigger goal of winning the whole game. Many of my teammates, including myself at times, would be so focused on what went wrong from the last point, that we weren’t prepared and doing our best for the point we were playing for in the moment. If we didn’t adjust our focus on what was ahead, we would get stuck on our mistakes and often lose the game.

I have found that this correlates so much to following Jesus. I tend to beat myself up a lot when I feel as though I’m not doing things right or thinking about all the other ways I could have done something better. I dwell on the things of the past. I continue to fail and I often just don’t understand why things aren’t improving. I know that I want them to and I try so hard to improve and move forward, but my focus is on the mistake, the failure, the past. I often don’t even realize I’m doing this. In Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV) Paul says, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Wherever my focus is, that is where I stay. The only way to move forward is to look forward and take steps that way, instead of moving backwards or just standing still. If I focus on my past, I will stay in the past. If I focus on my failures, I will not grow. When I focus on Jesus and what He’s done for me, who He says I am, I experience this in a real way. I let go of the past and step into who He has made me to be. 

Where is your focus? Are you focusing on the past, who you used to be? I encourage you today, look to Him and enjoy everything He has for you!

IMG_3629.jpg

Tori Munson is a second year student at California Coast Bible College. She’s passionate about studying her Bible, loving people, and building the local church. 

Protected by Silence but not Deaf

A WILD Devotional

When the baby was eight days old, [neighbors and relatives] came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him.  He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is
John.” Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.

Luke 1:57, 61-64 New Living Translation

Zachariah was temporarily mute and used gestures or writing to communicate during this time until he “could speak again”.

When I initially read verse 62, I laughed at the thought that Zachariah could be thinking – “um… I can hear you, I just can’t talk!”. It also made me realize that just like “the neighbors and relatives,” we often assume limitations or consequences from shortcomings. Yes, Zechariah was mute, but there’s a silver-lining.

I could perhaps think that Zechariah was punished for doubting, but what I see is the Father’s protection so that he could not speak death into a promise given by God. Is not life and death “within the power of the tongue?” (Proverbs 18:21)

Though complaining may bring some satisfaction, and very short-lived, it drags me further into a hopelessness that becomes harder to fight. I choose to surround myself with life – listening to the Word, worship songs, etc., until what pours out of me is life.

When I am given a promise from the Lord, if I can’t speak life into it, then I protect it by being silent and getting around those that will speak life into it. By remaining silent and actively listening to life spoken into this promise, I allow myself to get stirred up and the desire to complain or give up lessens. After all, it’s just for a time and not forever that I have to bite my tongue – isn’t that worth it?

Every word from God is precious. When we receive Jesus and believe in Him, the truth of what He says and does, we become who we were created to be!

Join me in this prayer:

Father, help us protect what you have spoken to us and to others. Keep us from critical words against ourselves and each other. May Your Word be the life we speak and may our silence in times of doubt be protected by those around us that love you and fear you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

image1Cindy Andrade lives in Los Angeles and finds joy and fulfillment in helping receive their God-centered breakthroughs. She’s a big believer of celebrating victories as no victory is too small. She finds beauty in the process of overcoming the difficulties of life while looking for the silver-lining in situations and holding on to the Father’s love as a lifeline. She has recently joined The City Church Agoura campus and is looking forward to encouraging others in this community.

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.

EF2F9168-571D-44A6-ABA4-7C7FEF3AC10E
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!

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.

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!

 

Twenty Eight

Has God ever winked at you? Could there be a unique way He is revealing Himself in your life? I was born October 28th, 1980, and it wasn’t until many years later that I recognized how God was speaking to me personally through the number 28. About a decade ago, I began to notice that I would often check the time exactly on the 28th minute of the hour. This caught my attention and amused me greatly. Could God be winking at me? Could He be affirming me and reminding me of His constant presence in my life? Eventually I shared my experience with my husband, who attributed these occurrences to a subconscious phenomenon. That was code for, “I think you’re a little crazy.”

Over the years, my encounter with the number 28 has expanded far beyond the clock. In fact, my husband now acknowledges and celebrates these unique encounters with me. A cashier says, “Your food will be ready shortly. Your number is 28.” An unfamiliar girl approaches me and asks, “Can you help me find my last scavenger hunt clue? It’s number 28.” I repeatedly open my email box to find 8,228 unread messages (don’t laugh!). I am writing this post on the 28th day of the month. In 2008, I turned 28 on the 28th. While traveling dark, unfamiliar Michigan highways, I looked to find my next exit was 28. How much further to go? 28 miles. What street to turn on? 28th St.

On and on it goes. It’s as if my attention is constantly and continually being wooed to the number 28. Some may call it coincidence, but I believe it is Jesus. He is wooing me, seeking me, and finding me in the everyday moments of my life. He is bringing comfort and clarity to the dark, challenging places and reminding me of my significance in the seemingly insignificant and mundane. He knows me intimately, loves me deeply, and is teaching me to practice His presence always.

In the Bible we read, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!” (Psalm 139: 17-18 NLT).

Dear Reader, I pray you know the deep love of Jesus and the unique way He’s pursuing you. Your experience may not be exactly like mine but I guarantee Jesus wants you to know how much He loves you. How might God be winking at you?

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.