Wendy Nowak | Director of Chapel Kids
I’ve always been a big fan of good surprise moments. I feel loved when someone plans something special with me in mind. I get excited about exploring new places and finding something interesting around a corner. I like a surprise outing with friends to change up my day.
My husband is especially great at giving surprises – from his surprise proposal on Christmas Eve 1992 in front of our families to surprise trips and parties through the years. There is something so wonderful about discovering something special has been planned carefully by another and then given to you as a gift.
I am a longtime believer in a God who rejoices in surprising us with His rich, unexpected gifts. I believe that we rejoice in surprising others, because He first surprised us. God’s greatest surprise of all until now, is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead to save and redeem those who believe. And more surprises await us in glory. Things not yet seen. But things as real as life itself.
The God of Great Surprises – July 2019
During the last week of July, God poured out surprises over many lives during the week of the Green Student Ministry trip to the Yucatan.
There are so many stories. For now, I have a few photos and surprises to share with you. I challenge you to watch and pray for His good surprises in the world for His glory! Are you waiting on Him in eager expectation?
This young man came to saving faith in Jesus after the team from The Chapel in Wadsworth extended an invitation to trust Jesus. He was one of 8 to receive Jesus the week before our team came down. We have known him from the very first years of Chapel trips to the Yucatan. We have prayed over his life. He will have quite a story to tell one day. He wants to be a pastor because he wants to help those he sees in the community struggling with alcoholism and other addictions. Please pray as this young man is discipled in faith in Jesus.
It had not rained in Ichmul for nearly 6 weeks and their crops were dying. They are dependent on corn for livelihood. We spent several days with the women learning of their prayer requests for rain for their corn crops, for grief in their lives, for healing in hardship. We shared how Jesus turns scars into beauty marks, and how God turned Jesus’ scars and wounds into beautiful rescue and healing for us. We shared how He has provided for our greatest need: LIFE in Him forever. Then we got to surprise these families with some ‘daily bread’ in the form of 110-lb. bags of corn for each family to take home.
That very afternoon, on July 23, during our siesta rest, God opened the skies AND brought a downpour of drenching rain upon the land and people. It rained for nearly four hours. We whooped and hollered and knew we had to celebrate with the people, who got to see a sign from God that He is truth, that He truly is the provider, that He cares and loves them, that His Word is true. He reigns.
Exceeding Abundantly Above
Friends, God is the Over-and-Above God. The God who abounds in love and faithfulness. The God who helps us continue to abound in the work of the Lord. The God of the best surprises.
At the beginning of the mission trip week, the Holy Spirit prompted my heart with the word “abound” – from I Corinthians 15:58
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
The Greek word for abound in I Cor. 15:58 is perisseuó. Strong’s Concordance says it means “to be over and above, to exceed the ordinary (the necessary); overflow; to excel still more.
As we ran through the streets of Ichmul celebrating the rain with the people, I saw literal abounding in the work of the Lord. I saw the Spirit overflow in the next generation as they bounded through the streets to celebrate our God.
And these stories are not the half of it.
That week had Ephesians 3:20-21 written all over it: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
The Greek word for “far more” or “exceedingly” is hyperekperissou. These words describe God’s ability to bring superabundance on our behalf for His glory – surprises beyond what we can ask or think.
You cannot out-abound our God in your service to Him. He helps you and I as His church to abound steadfastly in His work all the while He himself hyper-abounds to us on our behalf in love and faithfulness and surprising overflow for His Glory. He is the Great Giver and Provider of every good and perfect gift. And He wants to use His church mightily to call people to His family of believers as we share the mystery of the gospel. This brings eternal good and glory to His name.
Will you trust Him? Will you call on Him and allow Him to lay upon your heart His will and agenda for today?
Will you pray that the people of Ichmul will receive the teaching from God’s word that fell like rain?
Will you pray for the person you love to know Jesus? Will you wait with expectation for Him to surprise you with His abounding faithfulness?
This fact should come as no surprise to us: the harvest time is upon us. God is moving among people to know Him forever.
What’s your part today in sharing God’s love and faithfulness with another? I hope and pray He hyper-surprises you today!
“I am the Lord. There is no other God.Isaiah 45:5-8 (International Children’s Bible)
I am the only God.
I will make you strong
even though you don’t know me.
I do these things so everyone will know
there is no other God.
From the east to the west they will know
I alone am the Lord.
I made the light and the darkness.
I bring peace, and I cause troubles.
I, the Lord, do all these things.
“Sky above, make victory fall like rain.
Clouds, pour down victory.
May the earth receive it.
May salvation grow.
May victory grow with it.
I, the Lord, have created it.
This same young man who was saved the week before we came, was joyfully baptized during our ministry week by Pastor Marcial. We watched and cheered and celebrated.
This mom of three boys got to be housed in a dorm among 25 females. Can I admit I was a little nervous to be surrounded by so many females? On top of that, this non-crafter was asked to be part of the women’s ministry and hammock crafting. God surprised me with special doses of girl-time and even extra time with two young ladies who gave up opportunities to do other types of ministry that week because they saw the importance of truly getting to know the women in this group, and desired to share life with them. God moved among us.
Our kids and adults were specifically prompted to pray for and share the gospel with the soccer players on Eli’s team.
And this one hit home: Surprise!
God took care of a specific need at home in our family that week. While some our family went to Ichmul and some family were home, God showed up on my kids’ behalf and gave us a blessing beyond what we knew to ask or pray for. Some surprises come after a long desert season of unexpected hardships, pain peaks and foggy valleys. There were many cries for help and wisdom. And God was there in the midst working out His plan. O, magnify the Lord with me!
Kali Brandon | Director of Local Outreach
…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2
What a beautiful description of our Savior and His example for us in service. One of the things that stands out to me in these verses is what Christ endured because of “the joy that was set before Him.” If we are honest, there are times when serving others is not easy, even for those who thrive doing it. However, when we look at Christ and His example, we see Him push through much more than average discomfort or selfishness because of “the joy that was set before Him.”
Following the example of Christ frees us up to serve without fear. No, it won’t always be fun, and you may not always be appreciated. However, these are not biblical reasons to serve. Whether our service be surrounded by joy or pain, fear or fearlessness, our eyes should always be fixed on Christ. He is the reason we serve, and it is in Him that our joy is ultimately found. I’m grateful to serve Him alongside my brothers and sisters here at The Chapel in Green. May we continue to remember that the “joy set before Him” is real for us as well as we seek out opportunities to serve God and others.
Jamie Fuller | Servant Coordinator
Son of man, groan before the people! Groan before them with bitter anguish and a broken heart.Ezekiel 21:6 (NLT)
Here, we see God command the prophet Ezekiel to cry out in grief in front of the people over coming judgement. This was not just hunched shoulders or simply a sad face. This was a complete physical display of brokenness over sin and it’s consequences.
Almost two years ago, while at work, I received word that my dad had passed away suddenly. There was no wrestling with how I was going to respond. My soul was crushed and I physically fell down on the nearest couch in the Atrium. In front of my coworkers, I lost it. Crushed under the weight of death and grief-stricken, I began to sob. I couldn’t fix it.
There have been a couple of other times in my life, due to my own failures or watching someone I love struggle with sin that I have felt a response like that. Crying out to God in humility and despair. Oh, how I wish it didn’t take me so long to get there.
More often than not, when it comes to our own sin or being burdened for those who are lost or in bondage, I think we are guilty of having more of a “bothered” response.
Sin and its results just agitate us like a gnat. It’s like getting annoyed and just moving to another spot, like we do when someone next to us is chewing too loud (you know you’ve at least thought about doing that!) or we just elbow the sin, like I do to my husband if he is snoring and I want to make it stop for a while.
Maybe we’re just bothered enough to offer up a checklist prayer but not ask and persist fervently over that thing. Bothered but not broken. Swatting the sin away but not surrendering.
Why do we need to be unable to try hard enough or fix it before we cry out to God for change and deliverance for ourselves, those we love, or for a world that needs Jesus?
There are people in the Bible like Hannah, who was crying out to God over her barrenness so much that she was thought to be drunk (1 Samuel 1). Mordecai who tore his robes and went throughout the streets in grief (Esther 4:1). David who wrote Psalm 51 in response to his own adultery. Nehemiah who was broken-hearted over the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:4). These people knew where their help came from. They knew they were doomed in their own efforts and that the way to freedom was through a broken, desperate plea to the Great I AM.
Look at the difference between these words:
Bothered: worried, disturbed, upset
Broken: smashed, shattered, crushed, in bits and pieces
I’m asking myself and I challenge you too. Are you bothered or broken?
Bothered delays, but broken depends.
We can tolerate bothered for a long time. We can accept status quo. We can walk in bondage and unbelief. Or we can be broken. If we’re honest, broken is scary. Who wants to be broken?
But I submit to you that being broken is the way to being whole.
Psalm 51 tells us: The sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite heart.
Let’s stop swatting sin and start surrendering self.
Let’s stop being bothered and be broken.
After all, we have a Savior who was broken for us.
Father, give us soft hearts. Don’t let us settle for bothered. Sin is serious and the enemy wants us to be flippant, hopeless, and calloused about it. Make us sick over sin. Help us to be broken before you. Help us bend the knee and bow our heads. Replace our distraction with desperation. Pride replaced with your sufficiency and power to bring about change and deal with sin in our lives. Thank you for being broken for us. Amen.
Amy Troyer | Director, Special Needs Ministry
I have recently found an app on my phone called BIOY (Bible In One Year). I know there are a lot of different reading plans out there, but I really like this one. Each day, I choose to have the daily passages read to me, along with the commentary. I love opening my Bible in the morning, sitting on the front porch with a cup of coffee, birds singing, and following along with the passages for the day.
“Your Face Reflects Your Heart:” This was the title of a recent daily reading. The pastor’s commentary started with, ‘Some people’s faces radiate love and joy. Their smile puts us at ease and cheers us up.’ If we think about it, I am sure we can all call to mind someone like this that we know.
He then went on to say that ‘others may have a rather sour expression on their face that can make you feel very uncomfortable.’ Again, I think we could bring someone to mind that has these characteristics.
A happy heart makes the face cheerful.Proverbs 15:13, NIV
I want always to be someone who radiates love and joy.
What about the times when we aren’t happy, and our face looks less than cheerful? We have all, at some point, put on that fake smile and kept moving through our life and responsibilities, when what we really felt like doing was maybe just going back to bed and pulling the covers over our head and pretending like no one knows us or sees us. Even when we manage to hide our hearts from those around us, God can still see it:
Even Death and Destruction hold no secrets from the Lord.Proverbs 15:11, NLT
How much more does he know the human heart!
God is interested in our hearts, and He takes notice of the things that weigh us down. He cares deeply about our lives.
Can your heart be full of joy despite your outward circumstances?
Yes, because joy comes from the heart and is not necessarily connected to outward circumstances.  We cannot acquire this on our own or by gaining what the world’s standards of joy would be. Real joy originates with God’s presence in our life. We can achieve this by staying close to the Father who gives us a faith-filled heart and His joy.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.John 15:4, ESV
We will still have hard days and outward circumstances that want to take the joy from our hearts and faces, but if we remember Jesus’ words in John 15:11, then our faces will reflect more of the biblical joy that is in our hearts:
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.John 15:11, ESV
Dale Saylor | Pastor, Spiritual Maturity
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.Galatians 6:3
When we relent and finally accept that we’re designed for community with others, we nearly always start with the wrong criteria for choosing which people. We often plot and single out folks that are cool or rich or connected or well-educated or who’d be good to know from a work perspective. And, if we don’t fall into those traps, we choose people that are just a lot like us. We each think, subconsciously almost, “If I’ve got to devote myself to a handful of other folks, I’m going to make sure they have some strategic value to me—worldly value, to my career or to my social standing—or, at the very least, they’re people who won’t challenge me or make me uncomfortable.”
Such plotting is a mistake. It’s driven by pride—that we somehow know better than God how these communities should come together. We must instead follow the blueprint given us by our King, Jesus Christ. He never once used this “strategic value” analysis. Throughout the Gospel, he spent time with people who God the Father wanted him to know—people with whom it made no sense to spend time, from a worldly perspective. Adopting this blueprint, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight…” [Romans 12:16].
So what do we do? Start by praying that God will connect you with others who are willing to commit, surrender, and be willing to be transparent.
The group that you find may be nothing like you expect… and that’s good. The groups we create ourselves, based on worldly criteria, aren’t worth our time. The groups that God creates for us are worth everything! Make an effort to get connected.
Stay faithful and finish strong!
Jamie Fuller | Servant Coordinator
All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.1 Corinthians 13:12
As I was dwelling on what I wanted to share to encourage you with this week, I had some clever spiritual analogies. I even began to write about the callous I have on my foot due to running. (Yes, I have an analogy for that. Ask me sometime. About the analogy, not to see my foot. I will spare you all of that.)
Instead, here is something I’ve been thinking on…
I think most of us should have a social media status of “still figuring it out.” Jesus can see right through an act anyway, and a little imperfection can open doors to pretty amazing friendships. You don’t have it all together, and neither do I. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we could all relax, be ourselves, and talk about what it’s really like to wrestle out issues of faith? What if we invited the Holy Spirit into our everyday interactions and listen a little closer to those around us? This can seem intimidating and even like a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort and risk.
I’ve been having conversations with friends that have challenged me in so many beautiful ways. Conversations about parenting and letting go, prayer and healing, salvation and walking by faith. We’ve shared frustrations, cried, and pointed each other back to the Word of God. It’s so much easier to keep it on the surface, but I really believe that, when we create spaces for hashing out our questions in our homes and in our relationships, our faith can grow deeper and we can walk more closely with Jesus.
More than any other place, church can and should be a place where the worldly façade of perfection disappears because there is something greater in the perfection of our Savior. We can check our egos at the door and we don’t pick them back up on the way out. The Word of God shoos away the lies, and both young and old can lay down their fears.
We can aim for the church to be a place where little acts of love reign, we sing together at the top of our lungs to God Almighty, we really pray when we say we will, we high-five down the hallways, learn new names, celebrate steps of faith, grieve with the hurting, study His Word, give, learn, show up, slow down, serve, and listen.
Let’s do more of this! Let’s take the worthwhile risk to be real before each other and God. The church will be a breeding ground of grace, a healing space of freedom, a gathering of the growing. Even though none of us have it all figured out, we serve a mighty God who does and He is with us.
Kay Lynn Shetler | Coordinator, Chapel Kids
What are the things in life that make you smile? For me, it is a baby’s toothless grin, a toddler learning to walk, or a furry, playful puppy.
My three boys wanted a puppy for years, but until this past December, we felt our family life was too busy to take on this challenge. When we took in our goldendoodle, Belle, I knew that it would be work, but what I did not expect is that God would teach me some valuable lessons about my relationship with Him through her.
We brought Belle to our home when she was only 8 weeks old. She was just like a baby who needed us for everything—food, shelter, potty breaks, and love. Belle had to trust us to care and provide for her. She was dependent on us. How dependent am I on God for all my needs? He is worthy of my trust and wants the best for me. It is so easy to look to other people and things for my needs and to forget that God is there, just waiting and wanting to provide.
Belle loves doing a lot of things—playing catch, going on walks, and eating apples—but her favorite thing is just being with us. She gets so excited to greet us after we are away for the day, or when she first sees us in the morning after a night’s sleep. Her joy is just being in our presence. Am I joyful and content to just be in God’s presence? Am I waiting to welcome Him into my life every day?
Our puppy enjoys life. When she is playing with her favorite toy, nothing else around her matters. Belle is thankful for what she has at that moment and is not thinking of what she has to do next or what the future may hold. People often struggle to be thankful for the moment. We long for more or something different, and we forget to praise God for what He has already given and done for us. God has given me so much, and I want to be thankful each moment. Am I able to be thankful for the now? I am working to be more joyful and thankful for the present, so I don’t forget to enjoy the blessing God has already given me.
Belle gets so excited to go on walks and always wants to be the leader. She thinks that she knows what is best when going on a walk and will pull hard. Belle looks like she is walking me and not me walking her. She does not want to be led. However, on her own, she will get into stuff that would be harmful—poisonous plants, busy streets, or buzzing bees (yes—she tries to catch anything that flies). She does not understand the importance of being led. We purchased a Gentle Leader Headcollar which helps her learn to follow our lead. She does not like wearing it, but we want the best for her and need her to follow our path, not her own. Am I allowing God to be my gentle leader? He wants the best for me and can see what is ahead. I just need to put my trust in His leading.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.Proverbs 3:5-6
God can use everyday things, people, and even dogs to teach us eternal lessons. We just need to have our eyes open to see it.
Dale Saylor | Pastor, Spiritual Maturity
Do you ever feel like it is difficult to handle your own daily burdens as you travel on your spiritual journey? In Philippians, we read that we are to “take an interest in others too” [Philippians 2:4]. How are we to do that if we are barely keeping pace with ourselves?
The Jews in Jesus’ day completely understood what it meant to take care of one’s self and others – because they did this in their gardens. Gardens were groupings of terraced land which were stacked side-by-side (usually on a hillside). Each plot was separated by a stone wall and belonged to a different family. But if one family neglected their wall, a heavy rain could wash away their garden, as well as the gardens on either side of and below theirs. So families worked together to assist in repairing each others’ walls and to ensure that every garden was strong.
As they cared for the holes in someone else’s wall, their own walls were made even stronger. Likewise, when we care for the spiritual journeys of others in our community (or small group), the whole community is made stronger.
Whose wall are you caring for today? Be conscious of other members in your small group. It is so very important to get connected and stay connected.
Stay faithful and finish strong,
Jamie Fuller | Servant Ministry Coordinator
Luke 9:18-36 describes the Transfiguration of Christ. This is when Jesus took three of His disciples — Peter, John and James — up on a mountain with Him to pray and then appeared in radiant glory before them. This happened long before special effects, so their response is not surprising. Whoa, Nelly, they were scared.
Rewind to about 8 days before this…
Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”Luke 9:18-19 NIV
And then He asks them a personal and direct question: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
I love how Peter answered without hesitation, “The Christ, the Son of God”.
Jesus immediately starts to tell them about the things He would suffer, that He would be killed and then raised to life on the third day. He tells them what the sacrifice of following Him will look like, that they should not be ashamed of Him, and that there are even some standing there that would see the kingdom of God before they died. (Get ready Peter, John, and James!)
Now, let’s go back up to the mountain, to the moment of Transfiguration.
I’ve read this story many times before, but recently realized that not only did Jesus reveal His identity to Peter, John, and James through His glorious appearance, but this event confirmed to them, who He was not. Sometimes we need to see the contrast to realize there is no comparison.
He showed them that what the crowds were saying wasn’t true. Elijah and Moses were there standing with Jesus and if that wasn’t enough, The Father’s voice confirmed it. While Peter was speaking, God interrupted him to echo back the truth he had proclaimed earlier. A cloud enveloped them and God spoke:
“A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.”Luke 9:35 NIV
He showed the three closest to Him who He really was and who He was not at the same time.
How awesome is that.
What about you? Who do you say Jesus is? Who do the crowds around you say He is?
Look at what He is doing in your life and you will see not just who He is but who He is not. You will learn to listen to Him. Like Peter, you will see more of what you already believe to be true.
He is for us. He is not against us.
He is the same, yesterday today and forever. He is not changing like the shifting shadows.
He is peace. He is not confusion and fear.
He is the Good Shepherd and He is not leading me astray.
He is truth. He is not a man that He should lie.
He is alive. He is not dead.
He is ever-present and near. He is not distant.
When I see who He is, I will see who He is not.
All else will fade away.
“When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone.”Luke 9:36 NIV
Ryan Shumway | High School Ministry Director
Remember when Elijah was in the presence of God? Unless you have been reading through 1 Kings lately, you may need a memory refresher…
I’m not talking about when he raised the widow’s son from the dead, or prayed for three-and-a-half years that it wouldn’t rain. I’m not even talking about when Elijah was battling the prophets of Baal and they weren’t able to call fire from the sky to consume their sacrifice after an all-day affair of crying out, false worship, and engaging in religious behaviors (of course those efforts didn’t work – after all, Baal isn’t real!), while Elijah prayed a simple prayer of faith and stepped back to watch God display His power. In response, God sent fire from heaven to consume not just the sacrifice but the entire altar, stones and all, and even the ground around the altar.
But I’m not talking about any of that. I am talking about what happened right after all of these events: the encounter described in 1 Kings 19:9-19.
9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but theLord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”1 Kings 19:1-19
We see here that God can call out to us in many ways. He is very capable of “showing up” in big miraculous ways where we say “WOW!” While I love these moments, it’s not the only way that God speaks to us and shows up in our lives. From this account, we see that God also shows up in the quiet, in whispers, or in unexpected ways. I think the cool thing about those whispers from God is that they cause us to really lean in and focus so that we are able to hear what is being said.
I would challenge you to join me this summer, hoping that God shows up in big expected ways, leading us to greater faith and greater peace in our lives and in the lives of those around us. But I also want to encourage you to lean in and really listen to what God has to say. I had a friend who always used to say, “In order to hear the whispers of God, we must be close to Him.”
Use this summer as an opportunity to, hopefully, get out of your normal routine and listen. God may be trying to draw you close to share something with you. He may be trying to restore your spirit like He did with Elijah. He might be calling you to care for and love on a neighbor, family member ,or friend. He may be calling you in to remind you how much He loves you. Perhaps He desires to share a part of His plan for your future or will call you to pour into someone else’s life, like God did for Elijah and Elisha.
No matter what He has for you, I believe that God is calling out to all of us. Sometimes we find Him in a majestic pillar of fire, proving that He is real. Other times, He gives us a mere whisper to remind us of His plans. Let’s head into this summer expecting to hear from God and ready to follow through on what He calls us to.