Posts

Starting New Chapters

This past weekend, a number of Ignite Monmouth members walked across the front lawn of Monmouth College for the last time. Amid the clapping and picture taking, tears and goodbyes, these former students are now college graduates.

They started a whole new chapter in their lives.

They said goodbye to the place they called home for four years, to venture out into the unknown.
They are leaving dorm rooms for apartments.
Cafeterias for kitchens.
School work for desk work.
And security for the hope of employment.

A new chapter has begun.

Read more

Greater

This past weekend, twenty eight students from Monmouth College, Knox College, and Joliet Junior College gathered together for the Ignite Encounter Retreat. They took time away from school, put aside homework and work, and spent the weekend seeking after God.

There were speaking sessions focused on rejoicing in all God does in our lives, the need to lay a solid foundation on Christ, learning to speak God’s word over the dry bones — or impossible situations — in our lives, and an ending devotion challenging them to take what happened at the retreat and bring it to students in need of Christ’s love. There were multiple times of worship, opportunities for prayer, many conversations amongst students, and some very genuine encounters.

While every encounter retreat is powerful, during this semester’s retreat God did something greater.

  • One student heard God speaking to him for only the second time in his life.
  • Another student found the courage to face the issues in her life and seek God’s healing.
  • Another student realized there were dead areas in her life and found the determination to see them come back to life.
  • Multiple students found answers to questions they were wrestling with for awhile.
  • Some students discovered the power of fully worshipping God.
  • One student received healing in her foot during a discussion session. We didn’t even pray over it, but by the time the session was done, the pain was gone in her foot.

But one of the greatest moments of the retreat happened Saturday night, as students took time to pray for their schools — and the graduating seniors took time to pray for the underclassmen to continue building upon the work already done at their school.

Greater.
God promises to do greater things when we wholly surrender ourselves to Him.

The students on the Ignite Encounter Retreat experienced something greater this weekend — in their lives, in their relationship with each other, in their relationship with God and, ultimately, on their college campuses — and so can you.

God doesn’t call us to be perfect, to know everything there is to know about Him or the bible, to have all our “stuff” together. He simply asks us to give Him ourselves — every aspect of our lives — so He can do something greater in us.

No matter what you’re facing, no matter what circumstances have risen, no matter what areas in you life feel dry, dead, or impossible, in the hands of our great God, He can take whatever we give him and make it into something greater.

But it starts when we unashamedly and fearlessly seek after Him.

The Names of God

I was reading through the Old Testament this past week and I found a Scripture that caught my eye. I was gearing up for Christmas, so I had sought out some old favorite Scriptures in the Old Testament that, I believe, point forward to the coming of Christ. Isaiah has a lot to say about Christ, and so naturally that book was the first one that I turned to. In Isaiah 9:6, it reads:

“For to us a child is born,
To us a son is given,
And the government will be on His shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

This verse is usually used to connect the Old Testament to the New through Christ. I made a mental note of this and almost turned away when the names of God at the end of the verse caught my attention. These four names are given to Christ, and yet I had only ever acknowledged them – I had never consciously thought about what they meant.

As Wonderful Counselor, Christ offers guidance and direction to our lives. He is ready and willing to show us His plan and how to prosper, if we will only seek Him. His advice is extraordinary, it is astounding, and it is full of Him. When we need it, He simply listens to our cries. He is our Wonderful Counselor.

As Mighty God, Christ saves us from disaster and fends off our enemies. He is all-powerful and guards us on all sides. He will protect you from the things that seek to destroy you and He will lift you up when times are hard. He hears your crying during times of trouble and sweeps in like a mighty wave to save you. He is our Mighty god.

As Everlasting Father, Christ is always with us. Even when we cannot feel Him, He is still by our side. He never leaves, He never falters, He never fails. He is faithful, and is always ready for us. He existed before us and promises to take us into forever with Him. He is our Everlasting Father.

Finally, as Prince of Peace, Christ calms our hearts and minds. When our minds are tossed by the busy-ness of the world, He brings us rest. When our hearts are torn and mangled by the ones we love, He grants us healing. In the stormiest of days, He whispers peace into our souls. He is our Prince of Peace.

As Christmas approaches, remember who Christ is. Remember who He is to you now, and all that He can, and wants, to be. He came into this world to save you. And you can call Him Marvelous Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.

With You

This past weekend as my girlfriend and I were leaving church for the 45 minute drive to Monmouth, a warning came over the radio. There were tornado watches in our county as well as all of the counties surrounding ours. She asked if we should turn back. Looking out the window, however, I noticed a rainbow in a blue sky. “Let’s keep going, but take a moment to remember God’s promise.” We continued.

Before long we heard another radio broadcast, this time informing us that there had been a tornado touchdown leaving massive destruction in its wake. After hearing this, we decided to pray for those affected by the damage. Yet before we could even finish our prayers the clouds opened and we found ourselves driving through blinding rain, hail, lightning, and winds. A semi was forced off the road. The car was only moving 20mph in a 65mph zone. We rounded a corner and found a truck completely engulfed in flames. My girlfriend started praying frantically for God to get us to Monmouth safely. The radio had no reception. We didn’t know what weather was still coming. We didn’t know how safe we were. The rainbow we had seen, the proof of God’s promise, seemed like the farthest thing away at that moment.

And then, for just a moment, the radio broke through. Love & the Outcome’s song “He Is With Us” come flowing through the speakers, but only long enough to get a few lines through. But for those few seconds the radio blasted the lyrics, “He is with us, He is with us – Always, Always, He is with us, He is with us, Our God is with us.” And then I started laughing.

I wasn’t laughing because I had finally snapped. The storm had not made me crack up in a fearful panic. I was laughing for joy – joy that our God was with us. He had heard our prayers. Though we were frightened and unsure about the future, God came down and whispered through the radio, “I Am with you.”

In the darkest, scariest moments of life, God is there. He does not leave when the road is tough or the path is hard to see. When the rain comes, and calamity strikes, God remains steadfast. Though the winds blow against you, and destruction looms on every side, God stands by your side. Do not get so caught up in the chaos of the moment that you forget about the peace that God offers.

It can be hard to find it. The wind and rain did not make it easy to hear past the radio static. The lightning and fire did not make it simple to stay calm. But when you put your hope in God’s hands and trust Him, He will rush in to deliver you. And, true to His promise, He will be with you until the end of the age.

Read it for yourself: Matthew 28:16-20, Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 139

There I Am

This past weekend the students from Ignite Monmouth attended an Encounter Retreat in the hopes of encountering God. There were speaking sessions focused on the fact that God is enough for our lives. There was a prayer workshop to train students how to pray publicly. There were nights full of all-out worship that left us with sore throats the next morning. And there were encounters with God.

Normally on these retreats, students experience God in several ways. They might feel His presence during worship, and find the strength to raise their hands to the heavens. Others might experience the power of God through the communal prayer they experience. Still more might hear the gentle whispers of God during the time of silence on Saturday. But this time, God manifested in a new way.

On this retreat, God made Himself known through us. Students began to open up about past hurts and addictions, and when they did, their chains were broken. Students who had been dealing with depression suddenly found themselves with a renewed desire for Christ. Others who had been stuck in addictions for months found support amongst friends. Even more found that with the support of the group, the chains that bound them to past pains were broken, and forgiveness was able to rush in. Truly this was how God appeared this weekend.

For Jesus told us that, “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” That was never truer than on this retreat. For where Jesus is, there is healing for the hurting, and forgiveness finally became a possibility for many. When Jesus shows up, there is freedom for the captives, and addictions that have plagued some for years suddenly paled in comparison to the freedom that Christ offers. In the presence of Jesus, there is strength for the weak, and students who were on the brink of giving up found themselves clinging to God for hope.

If you keep your struggles, your sins, and your pains to yourself, you will never find peace. If you keep those things in the dark, they will grow. But if you can find a support system to open up to, you can shed light on the once dark places and begin to heal. For where two or three gather in the name of Christ, He will bring healing. Do not keep your pain a secret any longer, for the path to freedom begins by opening up to others.

Résumé

This past weekend, the students from Ignite Monmouth went out into the local community and served at the Jamieson Center. They were actively heeding the call of Christ to serve the needs of the hurting and needy in their local area, the surrounding community, and in all the world. They were the hands and feet of Jesus.

But why were they serving?

Some were there to rack up service hours – three hours on a Saturday morning will help with a semester’s required service hours. Others were there because they were hosting it; if they did not show up then they could not expect others to either. Some may even have been there just out of a desire to help others.

What all of the students may not have realized was that they were building God’s résumé in the local community. God brought each of those students to Monmouth College for various reasons, and over the weekend He chose to include them in His plan to reveal Himself to the city of Monmouth. Because these college students woke up early on a Saturday and served at the local community center, God has been glorified. People who ask will now know that the hands and feet of Jesus have worked at the Jamieson Center. The résumé of the Holy One has been updated.

To do so, the only thing these students did was reach out.

Where do you need to reach out?
Who in your city needs healing, food, or shelter today?
What are you doing to address that need?

Do not let another day go by. Step out and start helping the hurting in whatever capacity you can. You can talk about Jesus and prove God all you like, but people are looking for healing. People will believe in God when they feel His healing hand upon them, and they will trust in Christ when they feel His arms wrapped around them. Hearing, “God loves you” is hard to believe if He does not seem near.

So start serving. Enable God to work in your community through you. When employers look for a new hire, they do not look for someone who can talk a big game – they look for someone with the experience to do the job. In the same way, people are not looking for someone to tell them about God, they are looking for someone to SHOW them God.

And now the only question left unanswered falls on you.

Where will God work next?

Read it yourself: Matthew 25:31-46, Acts 1:8

Just Pray

Praying is one of the most difficult struggles for Christians today.

Reading the Bible can be tedious, but when we see the Bible sitting on the table, it reminds us that we need to read. Sin is a huge challenge, but we KNOW that we are not to participate in it, so we fight to stay away from sin.

It’s different with prayer. There is no physical reminder to call us to pray, and forgetting to make time for prayer is a very easy.

Even still, the biggest issue we have with prayer is that we do not know how to do it. Jesus taught us one prayer, but sometimes that prayer can seem rehearsed and ineffective. Other times, we have specific needs and thanks to offer God, but we are unsure how to do it. Worse still, there are times we feel as though God is not answering our prayers – either He is not listening or He feels distant and unconcerned. Our prayers go unanswered and we feel as though God never heard them in the first place. Prayer is hard!

But it does not have to be.

God wants us to call out to Him, and He does not care how we do it. He just wants to hear from us. Your prayers do not need to be eloquent pieces of work; they just need to be heartfelt. Your prayers do not need to cry out for the salvation of all souls; they just need to be an honest presentation of your heart to God. He is waiting to hear your voice today, and when He does, He will rejoice that you contacted Him in the first place (Ps. 141:2, Matt 6:7).

Even if you do not know WHAT to pray, God still wants to hear from you. Just open your heart and start talking. If you can think of nothing else to say but Jesus’ name, then cry, “Jesus!” with all you can muster, and trust God. The sweetest prayer comes not from the best words or asks for the nicest things, but from the heart that earnestly seeks to touch God.

Do not believe the lies any longer. God is waiting on the edge of His seat to hear from you. He longs to hear your voice. He looks forward to when you contact Him, you just have to start talking.

Remember: God HEARS every prayer and rejoices, He just does not answer all of them the way we want. So start now. Have a discussion with the Lord of Creation and see what He has to say to you.

Just pray.

Read it yourself: 2 Chronicles 7:14, Romans 8:26, Psalm 141:2, Matthew 6:7

Trusted by God

Serving God is hard.

Whether you pastor a small country church, lead a mega-church, travel for missions, play worship, or simply tell a friend about God, serving God is never easy. It might bring joy, but it always costs.

Often, the cost can dampen even the brightest fire for God. When someone complains about the message that was given or the way a song was sang, feelings get hurt. Low attendance can humble the greatest confidence, and rejection can make it easy for someone to stop sharing the Gospel. Even in the greatest ministries, one failure can be enough to make people lose hope.

We know what we are supposed to do when we get discouraged. Call on God! Put your trust in Him! Believe that He has a plan for you! These are all great things to do, and anyone in a situation of despair should do them – but they do not bring encouragement. Waiting for God to answer one’s call tries the patience. Believing that God has a plan for you grants a future hope, but does nothing to assuage the present anxiety. We are not worthy or able to complete the task, so we must wait nervously and impatiently for God to come and lift us up.

But God sees things differently.

You ARE able and worthy to fulfill the duties that God has given you. You are in the position that you are in now because for a reason. God did not elevate you to a position of leadership so that He could embarrass or discourage you – He placed you there so that you could excel and bring Him glory! God gave you this opportunity because no one else could do it like you can. He has made you with a purpose, and He has entrusted you with the reputation of His Church. God’s hope for the Church is in you. He considers you trustworthy.

So, next time you begin to feel worthless or lost in your service to God, remember:
God believes in you.

He has placed you according to your abilities.
He considers you worthy of His name.
God trusts you.

Read it yourself: 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Jesus Pooped

Fully divine. Fully human.
That’s how we describe Jesus.

It’s been the popular way of understanding our Savior for over 1,900 years, and for good reason: it fits. Jesus was both God AND man.

For most of that time, we humans have been struggling to understand what this statement about Jesus really means. Battles over orthodoxy and heresy were fought on this point, and the challenge remains today.

The difficulty is not in the first half. Jesus IS God. He could have turned stones to bread, overthrown the Romans, or called angels to take Him down from the cross. We know that he had this power. We call on Jesus to rescue us from our sins, from our temptations, and even death because we know that He has the power to overcome all of these things. He did it once, and He promised to do it for us. Jesus has the entirety of the divine power of God in Him.

But Jesus was also fully human. It is this half of the statement that gives us trouble. To say that Jesus was fully human means that Jesus had weaknesses. Even thinking something like this feels like we are cheating Jesus out of His divinity – it feels almost blasphemous!

Yet, Jesus DID take on the weaknesses of the human condition. Throughout His ministry Jesus experienced intense cravings, powerful emotions, and all of the weaknesses of the human body – all so that He could fully redeem us.

He grew tired and needed rest.
He felt happiness, grief, and anger.
He became hungry and thirsty.

And if Jesus ate food, then Jesus pooped.

These two facts have many implications: Jesus got indigestion, stomachaches, headaches, muscle cramps, and all of the “minor” pains we experience, purely out of love for us.

Jesus DID come to take our sins and redeem us on the cross, but He also came to experience what we experience so that He could feel our pains, and through that feeling redeem us as well.

It is for THAT reason why we are able to offer ALL of our troubles to God – because through Jesus, God has experienced them first hand. God sees and comforts us when our hearts are breaking and our faith is weak. When our world comes crashing down, He wants us to turn to Him and allow Him to heal us.

He also cares about our little problems. When your stomach hurts, God wants to send healing. When your body aches from a workout that was too intense, God wants to send comfort. If your teeth hurt because you ate too much candy, God wants to ease the pain. We just never seem to offer it to Him. But He DOES want to help.

So, next time your stomach hurts, just remember: Jesus knows what you’re going through. Jesus pooped.

Read it yourself: John 4:6, John 19:28, Matthew 4:2, Luke 23:26, John 11:33-35, Galatians 3:13

God Moved

Our first day of ministry here in Czech is done and over with, and I’m still in awe of everything God did.

We’ve never had a first day quite like this one.

I had the opportunity to preach and pray for people at our partner church, Krestanske Centrum. The message God had laid on my heart for weeks for this church was how Pleasing God involved walking with him – allowing Him to lead fully lead out lives – and trusting Him completely. Afterwards, my team and I prayed for a number of people struggling with that same issue – people going through divorce, suffering from a chronic illness, believing God did not have a plan for them, struggling with doubt and hopelessness. Numerous times after our time of ministry, people came up to us to say they needed to hear that exact message.

God moved.

Read more