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.”

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!

Coming Home

It might seem crazy to some to willingly pack up a 1 year-old in my 1st trimester of pregnancy and spend 2 hours in the car trekking across town just to spend a couple hours with a few, seemingly random, ladies, but that’s exactly what I found myself looking forward to every single week. Let me back up a bit. I had recently fallen head over heels in love with this amazing God-man named Jesus. I was a member of a wonderful church and I was devouring every teaching. I had at least 10 different versions of the bible and I was desperate to know every single thing about, and to spend every single moment soaking in, all that I could find out about this Jesus of mine. I was completely enthralled, and being an introvert by nature, I spent a season so fully satisfied with the Bible, books, songs, and quiet times (as much as I could fit with a 1 year-old anyways). I was so full of this new love that I couldn’t imagine needing anything else but Him.

But, SHIFT happens.

That amazing church I was going to at the time had well over 15,000 people attending on a weekly basis. It was genuinely difficult to connect with people on Sunday mornings, and for a long time I was ok with that, until I felt myself longing to know more about these people I would be doing life with…forever. That is what led me to stepping out of my comfort zone (#introvertsunite) and getting in the car. I found myself happily packing up diapers, toys, snacks, and all the things we would need to make this 2-hour roundtrip journey to find out what small group was all about.

That’s where I met Nicole.

I didn’t know what to expect when I rang her doorbell for the 1st time. I mean, this was a total stranger that I had found in the small groups section of the church website. The door opened and her vibrant energy preceded her. Nicole greeted me with a genuine smile and open arms; you would have thought we were long lost friends by the way she welcomed me in. There were a couple of other women at her home that day. All were equipped with stocked diaper bags for their little ones- we were all around the same age and in the same season of life. The next few months would bring us into close relationship as seeds were planted in our hearts, tears were shed, triumphs were celebrated, and obstacles were overcome- together! Nicole made her home a safe space for us. She invited us to dream. She sparked vision in our lives. She cultivated community. She was the most honest and authentic person I had ever met. This was small group, a place to feel welcome, to connect, and to grow. This was community.

I was intrigued and inspired.

I would soon go on to lead a small group. Nicole and the other women I met with became my support team.  We encouraged each other as most of us went on to cultivate and create these safe spaces of community for other women. These women became more than people I passed by on Sunday mornings. They became my friends.

They became my sisters.

Fast forward a couple of years (and a couple more children) later, and I found myself living in the suburbs of Los Angeles. It was a whirlwind cross country move that completely turned my world upside down in some ways, and right side up in others. I spent the first 2 years in L.A. desperately struggling to manage three children age three and under, trying to be a somewhat decent wife to my husband, battling and losing the fight with post-partum depression. My passion for my greatest love had only intensified in the storms of this season of my life. Jesus was my greatest strength and my ultimate comforter through all of the craziness, but I was not thriving. I was barely surviving. My wonderful husband was, and still is, amazingly understanding and compassionate. He gently nudged me to get out of my solitary space, my comfort zone, and meet new people. I found myself bottoming out after my 5th move in less than 5 years. I don’t know how I didn’t see it sooner, but I suddenly knew one thing for sure.

It was time to find community.

After much google searching and YouTube videos on churches in the area I found Pastor Jude Fouquier and The City Church. Up and dressed in our Sunday best we made a short drive to the Agoura campus to check it all out. Through the double doors someone nice pointed me to the children’s check in area. I swear the lady at the check-in table had a smile that lit up the whole lobby.  She was this beautiful blend of warmth and bubbles. There it was again, a genuine smile and open arms. She introduced me to her equally radiant red-headed friend and they promptly invited me to the moms’ city group that very week.

I went.

I’ll spare you all the details, but there were laughs, lots of tears (from me) and this overwhelming sense of love and belonging. I didn’t know these ladies at all, but in just a couple of weeks their prayers, encouragement, and support would completely alleviate the depression I had been fighting. I felt like the clouds parted, and once again I was surrounded with love from these wonderful ladies who were as in love with Jesus as I was. I had no idea that the bonds that I would form over the next year of meeting for city group would be some of the most encouraging, purpose driven, thought provoking, and inspiring connections I could have ever imagined.

Jesus knew.

I would have been completely content to just have Jesus. To be filled to the point of overflow with his love that he was so generously lavishing upon me. I had no idea that loving him meant there was more. Loving him granted me access to his amazing family. Loving him rsvp’d me to an eternal seat at the royal table. Loving Jesus gave me VIP access to those he loves with the same passionate intensity with which he loves me.

In the depths of his love for me I found family.

My heart has expanded in ways I never knew were possible. Innately, loving my husband and children is easy; they are mine and I am naturally invested in them. But, this new found ability to love and be love, to welcome, encourage, champion, and support people because of our common bond in love with Jesus is mind blowing. My small group leader in Atlanta would suddenly pass away not long after our move to Los Angeles, but she opened my heart to community, and I could never thank her enough. The lovely ladies from The city church moms’ group have become my forever friends, my sisters. My heart burst with passion for my Jesus, and because of Him I am excited to welcome any and all.

To pull out a seat at the table.

Where we are all connected.

Where we all belong.

 

Won’t you join us?

 

img_0064_0Linda Edwards is wife to Bernard and mother two three amazing children. She is passionate about seeing women discover their destiny in Jesus and connect in community. You can see her smiling face at the Agoura Campus of The City Church serving on the worship team, in City Kids and at her City Group.

Fasting? You Can Do It!

If you read Pastor Becky’s recent post or or attend the City Church regularly, then you know that our community is in the midst of a 21 day season of prayer and fasting. We love to take this space together every year to connect with God and ask Him to do what He does. We pray together and we agree together for miracles to happen. It’s a wonderful reminder that God is the center of our lives and a chance to invite Him to be the center of our year.

There are many examples of fasting in the Bible. Most importantly, Jesus himself fasted for forty days in the wilderness before he began teaching and preaching and healing people. Jesus taught that there are times to fast and times to feast together. Both are valuable and important. Our lives are not meant to be lived in a constant state of fasting but when we take a season and do fast, we experience God in a powerful way. Fasting is a reminder of our dependence on God, that He alone is our source! When the enemy came to tempt Jesus to use his power to turn stones into bread, Jesus quoted a scripture from the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament and said, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:3-4 NLT). God knows we will live our very best and fullest lives only when we are completely dependent on Him!

Maybe you’d like to join us this year. It’s not too late! Just ask God what you should fast. Sugar, meat, bread, coffee, alcohol, etc. are all good options to start with. It’s usually good to give up something you like. Some people give up one meal a day or fast for a certain time period during the day. If you’re planning to do an extreme fast, it’s essential that you consult a doctor. When the Bible mentions fasting it is always in reference to food, but we also make an effort, during this time, to simplify our lives so that we can listen and hear from God. Maybe there are some non-essential, time-consuming activities you could suspend during this season. I told God I’d probably hear him better if I gave up  work or caring for my children (ha- kidding!) but that didn’t fall under the nonessential category. I have, at times, given up shopping , social media, television, fiction books, etc. in order to clear my mind and make more time to pray and meditate on scriptures in the Bible. It’s amazing how we can experience God when we just make some space for Him in our brains!

Maybe you’re already fasting, and you’re in the midst of it. Don’t give up! We’re all in this together. I’ve had moments of failure and days with great God experiences too. To encourage us all to finish strong, I asked some women in our community to send in their stories from past seasons of prayer and fasting. Let them encourage you! And, if you have a request for God this year, post it in the comment section of Pastor Becky’s post so we can pray for you as well. We believe God is going to do big things this year.

XO,

Bethany

“I have practiced fasting since I was 12 years old. I gained the ability to tell my body when it was going to eat, and not the other way around.  In High School I had been fasting a week when I ran and beat my own time, running the mile. This self discipline helped me during times of traveling and ministering.   There were times we had to minister for hours before we could grab a meal.  I also felt a closer connection to the Lord and the ability to hear the Holy Spirit.  I would fast to spend time with the Lord, get free in a particular area, contend for answers to prayer, and to engage in spiritual warfare.”

-Carole Kornreich, Agoura Campus

 

“The first time I went on an extended fast was the time my neighbor, who never spoke to me, came over crying, informing me she was pregnant, but wanted an abortion, because she was concerned about her marriage. She told me when she prayed, the Lord told her to come see me.  It was the second day of my 3 day fast.  I didn’t even want to continue the fast.  I mean I wanted to but I was irritable!!  Haha.  When the Lord sent Diane over, I began to understand the depths of fasting.  It wasn’t just for myself.  It was to loose the chains of those who are bound like Isaiah 58 (CEV) reads.  Fasting is not about pleasing myself.  It’s about what verse 6-8 tells us:  

(Isa 58:6)  “I will tell you the kind of day I want–a day to set people free. I want a day that you take the burdens off others. I want a day when you set troubled people free and you take the burdens from their shoulders.

(Isa 58:7)  I want you to share your food with the hungry. I want you to find the poor who don’t have homes and bring them into your own homes. When you see people who have no clothes, give them your clothes! Don’t hide from your relatives when they need help.”

(Isa 58:8)  If you do these things, your light will begin to shine like the light of dawn. Then your wounds will heal. Your “Goodness” will walk in front of you, and the Glory of the LORD will come following behind you,”

Esther fasted and went in before the King to plead for her nation.  Daniel fasted for God’s will to be done for the nation of Israel to return home.  In Acts, they fasted and prayed for the right men to send out to evangelize the world and thus Paul and Barnabus began their ministry!  In Joel, God asks the people to fast in repentance and turn back to Him.  Anna lived to worship God by fasting and praying from youth. Jesus told the disciples that certain strongholds are only broken by prayer and fasting. When we give up the desires that our flesh craves, and prayerfully seek the Lord, He will meet us, and set us free. Our minds become clear to hear his voice as we make decisions. God will use us and draw us deeper and closer to Him.

That’s what the Lord did for Diane back in 1991.  She came to my door, and the Lord delivered her.  She had her precious baby, Hannah, and Diane and I became good friends.  She gave her heart to the Lord and her Hannah, who is 24 now, follows Jesus also and easily shares her testimony of how her mom almost gave her up, but the Lord sent her to my door.  God knew I had had an abortion when I was 19, so I had a special grace to minister to Diane from that place of sorrow and pain.

Then there’s also Raul.  Raul has been in my family since he was in daycare with me at one year of age.  He calls me mom and he is a son to me.  Raul called me up one time and told me that he went to school with Hannah and she was ministering to him in Christ.  He let me know that she had told him about me, how her mom came over and she said it was because of my intervention that she is alive today.  We all know it’s God, and God chose to use this girl.  

So you see how God plays the best chess game in the universe!?!  He took the most tragic thing that I ever did, and not only used it to bless my neighbor, creating a lifetime bond, but also to bless my son Raul!!  

What a mighty God we serve!!”

-Kathy Hageman, Ventura Campus

The Freedom of Forgiveness

Forgiveness. It is at the core of our redemption, it is the foundation on which our faith stands (Ephesians 1:7); yet I struggle with it constantly. I wrestle with its depth and its implications. I want it for myself, but I grip it, bury it, lord it over others when it is time to release it to its rightful owner. I thought about the power of forgiveness as I walked my dog late one evening. I asked God, “Why is it so hard to forgive?” When I contemplate my frustrated response to difficult situations, I try to step back from the triggering event and get to the ‘why’ of my reaction. As I prayed that evening, all of my past hurts played like a slideshow in my head. Every hurt felt tied to my worth. Therefore, every time I forgave, I felt like I was saying I wasn’t worthy of better treatment.

I have battled insecurity my entire life. Growing up in a home where children were to be seen and not heard, I rarely had a voice. Decisions were made for me and there was little room for hurt feelings. “Grow thicker skin!” was my dad’s mantra. I wasn’t taught how to express myself in a healthy way. The message I received from my parents was that I had nothing of value to offer. I wasn’t worthy of being heard. When I was old enough to be heard, I made sure I was the loudest and the meanest. When people questioned my approach, I’d say, “I’m just being REAL.” As if that was enough to excuse my bad behavior. Since then, God has done such a work in me. Three solid years of therapy with a woman who loved me like Jesus and prayed for me like Paul, enabled me to face the brokenness of my past with the Word of God. I learned to believe in the worth that God established for me on the cross, when Jesus decided that I was worth dying for. Knowing helped me to understand why, without it, I was sabotaging all of my friendships and why I struggled to trust anyone. In therapy, we talked a lot about how pain had shaped the way I viewed relationships with people. When I encountered conflict, it triggered responses that came from that pain rather the reality of the new situation. By making me aware of that flaw in thinking, she taught me how to respond from a position of the Truth I know, rather than a reaction to the things I feel. That clarity of mind enabled me to separate my worth from situations of conflict because I knew (from God’s Truth) that I was valued.

It softened me. I learned to respond out of love when I was hurt because I no longer felt the need to defend my worth. It enabled me to extend the benefit of the doubt because my thought life had been renewed, no longer reacting to the wounds of the past. God continues to do work in me. He continues to teach me that I’m not too much, that I am enough. My battle with insecurity has helped me to recognize longing in others and how to create space for it as we learn how to have that need met by God (Philippians 4:19). As women, we can compete and compare. Sometimes we distrust, lack compassion, and lack graciousness. It’s not because we’re heartless monsters. It’s often because we don’t know how to offer ourselves freely. Sometimes I feel so busy protecting my heart – my worth. This isn’t to say that there isn’t genuine love and encouragement and openness in our community, because there is. But there is also pain.

I remember, so vividly, drowning in my own pain. I remember acting out of it and at times, in moments of conflict, I catch myself slipping back into old ways of thinking and responding. I have spoken too harshly, backed out of a conversation, minimized myself, given a look instead of grace, and talked over others whose opinions I didn’t agree with. In those moments, I was either exerting or preserving my worth. It is in that space where my feelings are hurt that I misunderstand someone, or I react with self-righteousness because it’s difficult to see beyond myself (James 3:14-16). Sometimes I forget that my worth is already secure. Sometimes I’m terrified that if I’m open, if I’m vulnerable, someone will swoop in to prove my deepest fears – that I’m not worthy at all. This terror comes on as a feeling and lasts like a spirit — a spirit of offense. Unlike regular offense, a spirit of offense is in direct opposition to reconciliation, to grace, to understanding, and to compassion. A spirit of offense refuses to make amends and keeps (not so accurate) records of wrong. It is one-sided and therefore eliminates opportunity for relationship. At its core it is a lack of forgiveness.

When we’re striving to preserve our worth, a painful event can confirm a lie as truth: I’m not worthy. But it’s not His Truth for us. When we live according to His Truth, we’re able to respond to pain with His forgiveness. That forgiveness isn’t a verdict based on evidence, it’s based on the abounding grace and mercy He has for us. It’s part of how we’re called to love. When we forgive, we are saying “Lord, you’ve already told me I’m valuable. I’m choosing to believe You and allowing them off the hook so I can get back to Your business. Heal me and remind me of Your Truth.”

The more often we forgive, the more opportunity God has to confirm His truth to us and His truth sets us free (John 8:32). He wants to release us from the grip of grudges and soften our hearts. We have access to a God who wants to turn us away from old thinking and toward a life of freedom and hope. That privilege is the right to know God and understand who we are and are intended to be. We’re able to appreciate the gift of salvation when we recognize that we are more precious to Him than rubies (Proverbs 3:15). He adores you. He wants to give you the freedom to live and think and love without fear. Allowing Him to heal you as you release forgiveness is unlike any bliss you’ve ever encountered. It’s in that place of complete surrender that we grow and in that place of growth that we’re able to experience more of Him. Forgive.

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.

Believing BIG in 2018

The theme this year for our church is one simple word, BIG.  I love what Pastor Jude says: We think BIG so we can believe BIG, so that we will live BIG.  We serve an incredibly BIG God. I love the scripture Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord.  ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you can imagine.  For just as the heaven are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.’”

Our lives are going to be BIG this year as we tune our ears into God’s thoughts.  I love the verse before this passage, Isaiah 55:3, “Come to me with your ears wide open.  Listen and you will find life!”

Let’s tap into God’s thoughts so we can see BIG things happen. Let’s open our ears wide to listen to Him and obey whatever He tells us to do even if it sounds ridiculous and beyond our own ability!  This is where BIG happens!  Think of Noah in the Bible, God had asked him to build a boat and even gave him specific instructions how to do it.  This doesn’t seem like anything unusual because we see boats everyday.  But Noah had never seen a boat, or even rain, before!! It says about Noah in Hebrews 11:7 TPT, “Faith opened Noah’s heart to receive revelation and warnings from God about what was coming, even things that had never been seen!  But he stepped out in reverent obedience to God and built an ark that would save him and his family”

On the mantle of my fireplace is a sign my friend Lisa gave me that says, “Pray Big.”  Everyday when I wake up, this reminds me to not just pray small, safe prayers but to believe for BIG things!

My challenge for all of us this year to see BIG is to :

  1. Open our ears wide to listen to God.  Let’s walk with God closer by taking the time to not just list our prayer request but to listen for instructions from God.  Maybe He will ask you to do something that’s never been done like He did with Noah!
  2. Obey whatever He tells you.  Big things don’t happen until we activate what God is telling us to do!

One of the ways we can begin to see BIG things this year is to rehearse the BIG things God has done for us in the past!  As we go on this journey together, we are going to take the time to share more of the miracles God has done in our lives so that we can be motivated to believe for BIG things!

The following is a story of faith from my own life that I hope will stir you to listen and obey God even more.

January, 1992

Jude and I were living in Springfield, Missouri and I had a two year old and six month old.  Life was really good and easy for us there.  Our church loved us as their youth pastors.  It seemed like everything we touched turned to gold.  Exciting things were happening among the families of our church because of the youth ministry.  I had amazing friends and the cost of living was so cheap!  We had bought our first home here.  It was a brand new home that we paid $66K for.  Our house payment, including taxes and insurance, was $550.00 per month!  I remember thinking, “How can afford this?”  Ha!  Those were the days!

I could have stayed there forever and had a fun, easy life.  But, as Jude and I began to seek God about the new year, He began to nudge us to step out in faith to do something we had never done before.  One day, after an amazing youth service the previous night, Pastor Wendell Smith called us about the possibility of helping him start a church in Seattle, Washington.  We had never been to Seattle and barely knew Pastor Wendell.  We had only been with him a few times but God dropped the thought into our hearts that one day we would work with him.

As we began to “open our ears” like Isaiah 55:3 said, we began to tap into God’s thoughts and God’s ways.  I remember saying to God,  “If this is you, don’t just speak to my husband but speak to me.”  You see, in the natural it would have been a stupid move because we were not promised a job and the cost of living was double what we were paying.  We had built success in seven years of pastoring and this move would mean starting all over again.  All of our pastor friends thought we were crazy to even consider it!

God began to speak this thought to me, “You can either be comfortable or you can trust me and obey me and you will truly find your life.”

Once again, I was moved as I read my Bible in Proverbs 1:20-21 ESV: “Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets SHE raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:

This scripture confirmed to me that it was the will of God to leave all and move across the country by faith.  I know this scripture seems obscure and, at the time, I wasn’t sure what it all meant. I just knew that this was one of the same scriptures God had given Pastor Wendell and Gini to confirm that they were supposed to start the church.

Looking back on this scripture over 20 years later, I realize that one of the BIG miracles I received in Seattle was healing from stuttering.  It was the first place I was able to speak for God.  Wow, God thoughts are higher than our thoughts!  He knew what His plan was for me and, as we stepped out and sold everything we had, I saw a BIG answer to my prayers.

Our church here, in Southern California, is full of people with countless stories of God’s faithfulness. As we go on this journey together, it is my hope to both hear and share more of the BIG things that God has done in our lives.

In fact, as we enter a season of 21 days of prayer and fasting on Monday, January 8th, let’s believe together for God to do more BIG things. I would love for you to take a minute and write, in the comment section* below, something BIG that you are believing for this year. I want to believe with you! Let’s pray for each other and celebrate His faithfulness as He answers us and takes us into another amazing year!

Here’s to BIG things in 2018!

XO,

Pastor Becky

*If you don’t see the comment section below, click on the title of this post so that it will open as it’s own page. From there you should be able to comment as well as share on your own social media accounts.

Yes & Amen

Hello there, my name is Anastasia Fomenko and I’m a wife and a mama. You may recognize me from the worship team at the Ventura campus. I love leading worship. The presence of Jesus has transformed my life, so there’s nothing more rewarding than leading people to meet with God where they can find true fulfillment for their life.

I also come alive when I’m helping people discover their value and purpose in life, which is why I’m passionate about small groups. All of life is built on relationships. We were designed to live in community, to know one another deeper than a quick “hello” on a Sunday morning or a nice comment on social media. My husband, Vik, and I have so much fun leading our young adults’ group. Sometimes I feel like hosting is my love language. It’s such a joy having people in our home, which we’ve rented in Ventura for the past few years. The dishes and mess afterward somehow feel comforting, knowing I could bless someone with a coffee or a meal and honestly, who doesn’t enjoy a good conversation?

A few months ago, we felt like God started speaking to us about purchasing our own home. We had no idea what that entailed, but asked God to lead us. We felt like some practical steps needed to be taken to open that door. As we began talking to realtors and lenders, reality quickly sunk in. It would take a BIG miracle for us to own anything in this season of our lives. The list of obstacles was long. Secretly, I was ready to give up but the truth is, I’m thankful to have married such a persistent man who dares to believe and doesn’t give up so easily.

One afternoon, I was driving home from picking up my daughter at school and a worship song, that we both love, came on. She started belting out the chorus as London loves to do, “Faithful You are, faithful, forever You will be. All your promises are yes and amen!” Suddenly, she said, “Mama, I can’t wait for you to get pregnant and have a baby in our new house.” Well, what you may not know is that we’ve been trying to get pregnant for a few years now. Suddenly I was in a pool of tears. The Holy Spirit was so gently reminding me through her words that every promise He has spoken over my family and me is, “yes and amen.” How could I ever forget His faithfulness? One of those promises was sitting in my back seat. When the doctor told us it would be difficult to conceive the first time, London came to us as a perfect little miracle. All of a sudden, no mountain seemed too great, no price seemed to high. Every impossibility became possible with the One who has me in the palm of His hand. “Rest in my promises,” I heard Him say in my heart. It reminds me of the verse in Psalm 116:7 (NLT), “Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me.”

I have seen too much of God’s goodness to doubt Him this time around. I believed God. I wiped my tears and ran inside to remind Vik what he already believed (ha!). In a matter of weeks, a condo became available that had dropped out of escrow (of course, because it was waiting on us). The price was almost too good to be true and the financing came together miraculously. With the year coming to an end, and the holiday craziness, it didn’t seem like there was much hope left. But isn’t it just like God to give us this Christmas miracle? We closed early in December and Vik went to work renovating and constructing. Our amazing home is coming together just in time for the New Year.

Can my story serve in this new year to remind you that your Heavenly Father is big and faithful? He does what we can’t do by ourselves. If He’s given you a promise, don’t let circumstances or impossibility take that away. I’m thrilled to believe and see more of those promises unfold in my family. His Word is truth and that’s the only truth we need to believe. I pray you experience your own BIG miracle this year! 💛

IMG_0100Anastasia Fomenko is mother to London, wife to Vik and a licensed pastor at The City Church. Together, Vik & Anastasia minister to our California Coast Bible College students and the young adults in their City Group. She offers voice lessons and inspires us weekly with her passionate worship on the Ventura campus worship team. She’s just ventured into songwriting and is set to release her first worship single early this year! You can follow her (and London) on Instagram and sign up for a City Group here.