Thank you to everyone who participated in our Serve our Schools project as we continue to build partnerships with the schools in our Circles of Accountability, representing the gospel to every man, woman and child! We were able to deliver those backpacks, supplies, uniforms, and snacks you generously provided! We were also able to provide smoothies, breakfast, and cookies to the staff members at our school partners!. Most importantly, we were able to thank them for their service to our communities and pray with them as we demonstrated the love of Christ! Thank you for your participation and for your gospel influence in our community! Continue to pray for these relationships, that we would be able to proclaim the good news of Jesus.
Dylan was baptized at the Naples Campus on July 24th. This is his testimony.
I want to start out by saying that God is so good, and I cannot believe I am where I am right now. This time last year I was just stepping into the Christian life and discovering who God is.
When I was a boy, my family was a part of the Catholic church because that is what we did by tradition. I remember Sunday school and other forms of teachings where the idea of God was fascinating, but I never had a relationship with God. In 3rd grade, my parents separated and filed for divorce, and I lost all connection to the church and any hope of finding God.
My father remarried when I was in middle school and my mom remarried around the beginning of high school. Both of my parents underwent divorces again, and each separation became easier and easier. I had become so used numb to it. Whether it was the boyfriends and girlfriends or husbands and wives, I was used to people coming and going in my life and I convinced myself I was okay, which was the first step into a dark path.
I hit my lowest of lows when it came to my senior year. I had just finished performing at a football game and my mom was driving me home and she told me that her husband, my step father that I looked up to, had been beating her for the past two years. I had no idea how to think or feel. I was in complete shock. But I stayed strong for my mother like I had always tried to do, and called my dad for help. For my entire senior year, we ended up living with my dad and his girlfriend at his house, where my mom took my room and I slept on the couch. At this point of my life I became envious of every family around me, especially here in Naples where everyone could seem so “perfect”. I became very "me-centered” thinking that I was the only one who could solve my problems because of how I had been let down by so many others.
At the time I wasn’t aware, but I was suffering from extreme abandonment issues and didn’t know how to handle relationships in healthy ways. I looked to the world to ease my sadness and pain, partying with friends, trying to find satisfaction in women. But none of it made me feel better; if anything, it made it all worse.
Sadly, I couldn’t see any of this in the moment. I was dead, emotionally and spiritually. Then, by God’s grace I met a girl who invited me to her youth group where I heard a very heavy message about heaven and hell. It made me really think about where I was at in life and where I wanted to go after this earthly life.
I began praying again and attending church with my mom more frequently. I met more Christians and asked a lot of questions. One day I was in the car with my mom and I was having extreme anxiety and I shared that with her. She prayed over me and when she was done, this overwhelming feeling of peace passed through me and I began to cry because it was such an amazing feeling. I had come to the end of myself and I truly trusted in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I went off to college and joined a church, beginning to form my own faith. I didn’t feel like it was something I had to do, but a relationship that I actually wanted with God; I wanted to be a part of His family.
Of course, I still have struggles and failures, but the way I walk is much different now with Jesus in my life. He makes me feel and know that I am worth it; because He died for me so that I could have eternal life. He reminds me every day that He loves me no matter what happens. Without Him, I would not be up here (getting baptized) today, proclaiming my faith and sharing my story. I can truly say I now have a mind, heart and eyes for the Lord. I have come to the understanding that God knows what is best for me and that even when it is hard to say, “OK God I’ll do it,” it is a more rewarding way to live. Whatever I do for the rest of my life, I know it will glorify God, be for my ultimate good, and focus on expanding his Kingdom.
An update from our missionary partners and dear friends, Luke and Alyssa Miller
Snake, snake, fish, fish.
This is how we answer, with a smile, when we are asked if we can speak Thai. It's a local phrase that is used to poke fun at foreingers trying (poorly) to speak the language. Usually we are met with laughter that we are "in" on the joke and use it against ourselves. I think that our last eight months would have looked very different if we weren't able to see the humor and joy in our clumsy-ness as we enter into a very different culture from the one we knew before.
We have so much more to learn but are encouraged by our progress. Here is a quick overview of our Thai abilities!We can read, write, and have simple conversationsWe are beginning to understand what motivates people to make choices and deeply held beliefsWe both have dreams in Thai
While the majority of our day is still spent learning language, we have begun to participate in PYF respite events in youth homes throughout Chiang Mai. We are beginning to be able to connect with students, share our stories, and see more and more why God has called us here.
This past Saturday we helped serve at a youth home for orphans in elementary, middle, and high-school. It was impactful for us to see how the students faces would light up then they realized we could speak Thai! It was almost as if we were invited into their world in a deep and more personal way.
Family Update... How Has it Been?
Luke & Alyssa- As parents, raising children overseas is both exhilarating and frightening all at the same time. A simple joy would be watching Psalm and Shepherd experience the world in a new way, learning things we would never think to teach them in the states. Frightening, when Psalm runs in the house and locks the door because there is a foot long poisonous centipede in our yard!
In all seriousness, the last eight months have been a mix of emotions from deep sadness to extreme joy and peace. In May, Alyssa experienced a miscarriage which we still continue to grieve. Being thousands of miles from family and friends added to the intensity but we felt a great comfort that we can't explain. As difficult or stressful as some days may be, we rest in God’s peace and are continually reminded of his faithfulness day in and day out.
Psalm & Shepherd- Psalm (สดุดี, Sadudee) and Shepherd (พิทัก, Petak) both are beginning to speak Thai and Psalm is always asking to learn more. They enjoy playing outside and spending time with friends. Psalm’s favorite thing to eat is kuaytiaw, a noodle soup that many people eat for lunch every day. She wants to open a “noodle shop” one day and be a professional Thai dancer. Shepherd eats absolutely everything including fish tails and congealed blood-- popular foods mom and dad haven’t quite found the appetite for yet. We love that they are on this journey with us!
There have been many times over these past few months were we could feel God protecting us and strenghtening us. He is so worthy of praise. Please continue to remember our family in prayer-- we thought it might be helpful to share some specific prayer requests with all of you.
1. Please pray for our health and safety. Protection from disease, animals, and while driving.
2. We are searching for a more permanent home. Please pray over our search!
3. Educational decisions we need to make for our kids.
4. A home church. This is so, so important to us!
5. Psalm, as she begins language classes soon. We are really excited that she is asking to do this!
6. Genuine friendships and community.
Thank you for joining our family on this journey! We are always encouraged by you and we wouldn’t be here without the love, support, and encouragement from such an incredible community. We are eager to press on with our language learning, serve the youth of Chiang Mai, and proclaim the good news of Jesus in Thailand!
-Luke, Alyssa, Psalm, Shepherd
This month our Summit Kids are studying Psalm 23 along with us and we have prepared a special Family Worship guide for parents to use in discipling their children at home! We are excited to provide this resource and hope that it is profitable in growing in your intimacy with God as a family! You can access a digital copy of this guide below.
By Darius Pyle
Earlier this month, all three of our Summit Campuses came together with Riverside Church to put on a Student Camp outside of Gainesville, FL.
As 150 middle and high school students began to pour out of the buses at Lake Swan Camp, so did their questions: “Where are we sleeping?” “When can we go tubing?” “Can I ride the golf cart?”
From our Friday arrival to our Tuesday departure, we laughed through nonstop face-painting, leader-pranking, slip-n-sliding craziness. Through every moment of it, we got to see God working in the hearts of these kids, helping them to understand and love Him. We watched as existing friendships deepened and new friendships formed.
Throughout the week, students and leaders were exhorted and encouraged by the Bible teaching of Jesse Stewart, the twin brother of our Naples pastor and elder, Josh. Each day, Jesse opened God’s Word and taught the students what it means to love Christ and follow Him. Jesse challenged the students to allow God to break down walls in their lives, walls that separate them from enjoying deeper relationships with our Savior and with the people in their lives.
Each night, students would leave the teaching sessions and gather with their small groups to enjoy deeper, more personal conversation. For me, this small group time was the best part of camp. The guys in my group really opened up throughout the week, sharing honestly about anxiety, shame, and many other things that make it seem difficult for them to pursue God. There seemed to be a common thread among them: they felt like their relationships with God were like a rollercoaster, always going up and down, as if God is pleased with them for a while and then disappointed with them just a few days later. This is a common lie that Christians believe, and I was sad to hear it was infecting the lives of so many guys in my room. Throughout the week, we discussed the truth that for those of us who have trusted in Christ for salvation, God is eternally pleased with us because He is perfectly pleased with Jesus, who has covered us with his precious blood. His relationship with us is not a rollercoaster. It’s unwavering, unchanging, perfect love forever.
One sixth grade boy shared with our room how God has uniquely cared for and shaped his family in the past few years as one of his parents has undergone treatment for cancer. He expressed how he knows God loves him because he has experienced God’s personal care for him. He told us that he wants to follow God with his whole life, saying he desired to “get baptized as soon as possible!”. As our time progressed, another young man who is in eighth grade began to understand God’s love for him and the grace He offers to those who trust in Him. On our last night at camp, he asked Jesus to be his Savior, experiencing God’s grace and forgiveness in a tremendous way!
These are just a few stories from one of many small groups that met at camp. I praise God because He was present at Lake Swan, drawing students to Himself and transforming their hearts, all for His glory!
Week one of Sports Camp was a huge success! Here are a few pics of our first week.
On Friday, May 17, our three congregations gathered to record Summit Church’s first live worship album. We sang original songs composed by worship leaders here at Summit - songs that recount the Lord’s activity and tell of his glorious grace. It was an exciting opportunity to capture the voice of our church and to document the songs of this season.
Why record a worship album?
At Summit, a core aspect of our worship gatherings involve singing. We believe that music is a means of grace that God employs to draw us to himself, teach us about himself, and grant us the opportunity to respond to him through singing. If you’ve been a part of our worship gatherings, you’ve likely experienced God’s grace in the moments we sing together. Truly God is “enthroned on the praises of his people.” (Psalm 22:3)
Over the last few years, we’ve had a growing conviction to write songs that contain the theology, mission, values, and story of God’s activity at Summit. Throughout history, God’s people have composed such songs. You can find examples of written songs in both the Old and New Testaments. In fact, the largest book of the Bible, the Psalms, is a collection songs.
Recording a worship album is an opportunity for us to document the activity of God in this season. The songs we recorded are ones we are currently singing in our gatherings. When we release the final project, we hope that over the years we can look back and be encouraged by the work of God in this season.
But we also hope that as we listen to these songs in the future, we’ll be inspired to follow God in greater measures of faith. God uses music to strengthen and exhort us on our journey of faith. I have experienced many moments in my own life where singing to the Lord with other believers sustained my faith and encouraged me to draw close to him even when I didn’t feel like it. Paul wrote that we should “admonish one another...singing songs, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Col 3:16) We pray that these songs do that for our church.
We have a little more work to do mixing, mastering, and releasing the project, but are aiming for a release in early fall. Over the summer, we ask that you would pray for our worship team in a few ways:
- Pray that God would inspire more songs at Summit. We hope and pray that he continues to give us fresh songs that tell of his activity here.
- Pray for Gospel Influence. We’re thankful to have seen songs from some of our worship leaders reaching people in SWFL and beyond. May our songs represent the gospel to every man, woman, and child who hears them.
We are looking forward to releasing these songs, and are praying God would use them in powerful ways for his glory.
The gospel of Jesus Christ radically transforms ordinary lives. Watch this story we shared on Easter of two lives who have been rescued and redeemed.
By Michael Kumher
We had been attending Summit Church for about a year and a half and we were struggling to make connections with people. That’s when we made the decision to join a Community Group.
We were just getting to know most of the folks in our group when we had a pretty difficult situation come upon us. We reached out for prayer and our Community Group supported us in so many ways, helping us as we walked through a difficult time in our lives.
Being in a Community Group has been a place for us to know and be known. It’s an environment where we grow in our relationship with the Lord and with others. Experiencing how people, some who barely knew us, stepped out in obedience to the Lord, changed our perspective and helped us to see our need for life in community.
This past Fall, we were excited to have the opportunity to help start a Community Group in East Lehigh. It has been incredible to grow and learn together as our relationships have formed and deepened. Not long ago, my wife and I were made aware of an urgent financial need that one our families was burdened with. We shared this need in our Community Group meeting on a Sunday evening and asked our families to pray and see what God would have them do. In less than 24 hours, our Community Group stepped up and was able to meet the financial need in its entirety! We were so taken back by the generosity of those in our group and so moved by this love and concern for Christ’s body that we wanted to share it with you.
If you’re not part of a Community Group, please understand that we weren’t designed to endure our struggles alone or live isolated lives. Instead, as part of a community of Christ, we can celebrate, grow and live together, experiencing through one another the generosity and care our Father has for his children.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
This weekend, we celebrated the opening of our new sanctuary at our University Campus! God continues to be so gracious to us! It’s our prayer that this place would continue to be a launching pad for ministry; a place that forms God-glorifying, gospel-centered, missionally-driven disciples, and sends them into our communities so that every man, woman and child would have repeated opportunities to see, hear and respond to the good news of Jesus Christ.
An update from our missionary partners and dear friends, Luke and Alyssa Miller.
As we enter our 4th month in Thailand, we are encouraged and strengthened by you and your desire to see Jesus lifted high among the nations. Living in a nation that is <2% Christian is a powerful and constant reminder of the desperate need for true hope and wholeness found only in Jesus. While it feels like we see and experience darkness on a magnified level, we are also happy to report that Jesus is alive and on the move with believers in Thailand. We are hopeful that the Church will continue to grow, spread, and multiply.
For the last four months, we have been learning to speak, read, and write Thai. We will continue to go to school, practice our Thai within the community, and work alongside Prosperous Youth Foundation. In a season of learning the language and culture, we are reminded of Paul’s words to the church in Corinth:
“To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:20-22)
Our desire is to become like the Thai, so that we can reach the Thai. To our surprise, that doesn’t happen overnight! We are in a season of “becoming like” which is probably the most difficult thing our family has ever tried to accomplish. Although it’s hard and will take much more time, making Jesus known is so worth it.
Our family is doing well and we are enjoying our new home. Psalm and Shepherd are making new friends and have learned how to integrate rice into their daily diet! Alyssa and I are enjoying our Thai classes and are eager to keep learning. We love our neighborhood, and continue to build relationships with the people around us. We have developed a deep love for the Thai people, and each day we feel a little more “home”.
Please continue to pray for our family. Pray for strength, rest, and peace. Pray that we continue to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus when we are tired and weary. Pray for our health, and especially our lungs as our city is currently experiencing the worst toxic smog in the world. Pray for Psalm and Shepherd as they continue to adjust to a completely new life. Pray for Alyssa and I as we continue to learn, grow, and minister together.
We are so thankful for our Summit Church family. Thank you for walking alongside our family and thank you for partnering with us as we serve in Thailand.
Luke, Alyssa, Psalm, Shepherd
Hello from snowy, upstate New York!
This week, two teams consisting of 25 students from IGNITE have dedicated their Spring Break to serve alongside two of our church partners: Missio Church in Syracuse and Restoration Church in Buffalo. Our hope with the trip is that students grow in their personal intimacy with God as well as their understanding and personal participation in the mission of God to reach every man, woman, and child with the gospel.
Both Missio and Restoration are situated nearby major universities, so a main point of emphasis so far this week has been to evangelize on those campuses. For the past three days, we have partnered with campus ministries at the University at Buffalo as well as Syracuse University to engage students who are not yet saved. On Tuesday night at the University at Buffalo, we served alongside a ministry called Bridges International, which seeks to present the gospel to every international student who attends the school. Since nearly 25% of UB’s student population in international students, it’s a tremendous mission field. That night, after evangelizing and reaching out to students all day, we had the opportunity to worship alongside those students and experience a taste of heaven as we worshipped Jesus alongside people from every nation and tongue!
As we prepare to take on the second half of our week, I’d ask you to continue to pray in three specific ways:
1. Pray that the gospel would take root in the lives of the people we had the opportunity to evangelize to at the University at Buffalo and Syracuse University.
2. Pray that our students would be encouragement and blessing to Missio Church and Restoration Church, and pray that God would continue to transform hearts and lives in their respective cities.
3. Pray that our students would catch a glimpse of the mission of God in these cities and that it would stir a desire in them to join him in his work at FGCU, in Estero, and the rest of Southwest Florida.
We are so grateful for your love and prayers,
Stephen Johnson, Ignite Director
We are incredibly grateful to Summit Church and all who supported the Back to School backpack event for Nicaragua. We are amazed at what God continues to do in the community of Esteli, Nicaragua. Through your giving and the help of countless others, we were able to reach the goal of 150 backpacks. Iglesia Bautista Fusion was able to bless those families and kids as they begin a new school year.
Most of the population of Nicaragua already struggles financially, but with the turmoil in the last year, the hardships have only been heightened. The economic strain is felt for parents to provide the most basics such as back to school supplies for their kids. Although the backpack and supplies giveaway was great, the vision behind the event was so much greater. Those families were able to come and hear the Gospel truth and take away a sense of love that the church has for them and their kids. The team of Iglesia Bautista Fusion connects and loves on that community and those kids every week and so this event was another opportunity to meet physical needs but also bring the Hope of the Gospel
Thank you for your generosity and know the impact made was not just physical, but eternal!
-Al and Sarah Gomez
My grace story is one with many twists and turns and is scattered with leaps forward and shoves back. It's a story that ultimately leads me to realizing that what I personally can do for my life is nothing in comparison to what God has for me.
Though for a long time I have been a believer, I used to be more of a fan than a follower. I observed and considered what God wanted me to do, but I stood on the outside looking in rather than fully submitting to what God had for me and living it out. I was halfway in and halfway out. I knew God was good and had a plan for my life, but I couldn’t fully commit to the idea that what he had for me right now was better than what I could create for myself through my own actions and understanding.
I finally decided that something needed to change. I no longer wanted to be temporarily fulfilled with what I thought were the answers to my happiness. I didn't want to live the shallow, prideful, and meaningless life I was living. I wanted the deep, wide, and eternal peace that only GOD can provide. I wanted to live with purpose. I wanted God to use me for HIS glory.
For the past year or two, I have not lived a bad life in terms of being a “good Christian”. didn’t commit the outward sins we hear about most, but at the core I was relying on myself. I was doing things to glorify ME, and my identity was in things other than God. I saw God as someone to consult, rather than the person in control.
Upon discovering my mentality of living partially for God and all for me, which got me nowhere, I decided to surrender.
I’m now surrendering my identity as a runner, my identity in how I look, and all the other parts of life that pull me away from God…so I can be closer to God. I surrender my gifts, my voice, my thoughts, and all the good things in my life to God. All of it. Good and bad. I am surrendering every single day.
This last month and a half has brought some of the most challenging times of my life, yet I have never felt so at peace and fulfilled as I do now. I pray daily that God would use me as a light to those around me, and that he would give me the right words to say. I pray that God would use me to glorify HIM and that I wouldn’t focus on things that glorify myself. Again, I surrender.
It is amazing how much weight is lifted when you allow God to carry the load. I am definitely a work in progress, but each and every day I am waking up with the intention of glorifying God and surrendering ALL of me, to Him. I can feel God on the move in my life, and I am so excited to continue growing in my faith and living out HIS purpose for me.
By Erica Irwin
Ten years ago, I had a lot of hang-ups. I had no idea what it meant to follow Jesus and did not have a church home. The few church experiences I had left me feeling offended and judged when it came to tithing and financial giving. My unbelieving heart was hard and guarded.
By the middle of 2009, we found ourselves in a huge financial disaster. And in the midst of selling and losing all of our earthly possessions I was heartbroken. I loved and treasured all the bright and shiny things of this world. They defined my success as a person and seeing them all slip away was just too much to handle. As we were preparing to move out of our first home and into a small apartment with our almost two-year old son my sweet husband suggested that we start attending church. My response back to him was, “how is that going to help?”.
Eventually I agreed to try it out and we landed at Summit Church’s University campus one Sunday morning in September 2009. I immediately knew that something was different in that place and left feeling surprisingly comfortable and at home. I didn’t know it at the time but God was at work in my life. Over the next 6-8 months God continued to break down walls in my heart and I began to immerse myself in God’s word. I saw my sinful heart for what it was and began to see my need for a savior. In June 2010 I was baptized alongside my husband and gave my life over to Christ. I was once in darkness but now was given new life because of what Jesus did for me on the cross. I still am in awe of the way God worked in my once hardened heart.
We continued to struggle financially and when it came to tithing and giving I was unsure of how to release the control. We were now expecting our second child and drowning in medical bills. I knew that God was calling us to consistently give of our finances and was asking me to surrender them to Him. I just didn’t understand how we were supposed to pay our debts while also being generous givers. I was trying to work to control it all and searching for a solution.
My husband kept pursuing me and kept trying to get me to see that our giving wasn’t something that we did if and when we could. He kept reminding me that we give of our first fruits and then we handle the rest. I still didn’t trust that it would all work out but I agreed to follow his lead and hoped and prayed that something big would happen. And then God showed up and boldly proclaimed His presence in my life. He began to make His plan clear to me in a series of events and in the end, my husband had been given enough overtime work to pay all of our medical bills to the exact dollar of what was owed to bring our baby girl into the world. I knew in that moment that I had seen a true act of God in my life. He heard our prayers. He knew our needs. He provided for and cared for us in mighty ways. It was no longer my money. I was at peace right where we were at.
God broke through the walls around my heart and I was able to surrender all to Him. I felt incredibly blessed even in the midst of the few earthly possessions we had and knew I was rich in heavenly treasures. I felt heard by my Creator and all I wanted to do was follow Him and live under His teaching. It hasn’t always been an easy road. I often catch my sinful heart slipping back to that place of wanting to be in financial control. But then I remember that time when I was searching for something more in all the wrong places and how God boldly taught me that He is in control of every aspect of my life and how he has promised to love and care for me despite my sinful soul.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7
And so, as a daughter of a King, I will boldly proclaim His name for all my days.
This year we had such a blast at WAKE Camp! This time around we had 110 students and 25 leaders from all three of our congregations come together for a weekend of worship, fellowship, and fun at our Gateway campus. Things kicked off Friday night with outdoor games, dinner provided by Kelly Powell, then our first of 2 worship sessions. Gateway campus pastor, Adam Alexander, spoke from Romans 6 on Friday night, discussing the urgency of waking up to the sin in our lives and to the reality that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. As the worship team began to close out the session, students began to move around the room where leaders were spread out and made available to those who wanted to confess sins, pray, or talk. The Holy Spirit was working in the hearts of the students as our first night was coming to an end.
We had 12 families kindly open their homes for us to stay in, where devotions and small group times happened after the sessions. During these times, our small group leaders led the students through questions like "How have you been asleep to the reality of your sin?" and "What will look differently in your life as you are waking up to this reality?". Those conversations brought much of a WAKE-ing up to the need of God's forgiveness. Closing out the night, we took trips to Publix where some of the groups got a quick start on their scavenger hunt by getting team selfie's with Police officers and purchasing some of the items on the list for the weekend-long game.
Saturday, our final full day, began with breakfast and a video devotion for our small group time. Questions such as "are you awake to the reality that God is the creator and owner of all things?" and "what if you woke up tomorrow and only had the things you thanked God for today?" watered us and steered us towards thanksgiving and adoration for our loving God. Some groups spent the rest of the morning checking off more things on the scavenger hunt list with trips to Sanibel Island, Chuck E. Cheese, and the airport. We headed back to the Gateway campus for lunch and the beginning of our WAKE Games tournament. Students were divided up into teams that spread out across the campus and competed in several different events including knock-out basketball, corn-hole, face painting, cupcake decorating and laser tag! Within each team, pairs of 2 teammates went from event to event, racking up as many points as possible for their team. We saw God move incredibly through this time by keeping everyone safe, filling our afternoon with fun, and creating new friendships. Afterwards, it was time to head to our host homes for showers and free time.
Later on, the groups met back at the Gateway campus for dinner provided by Mission BBQ before our last worship session began. Adam recapped the teaching from the previous night and transitioned into Ephesians 2:4-10; delving into the radical love of God for us even when we were dead in our trespasses. Throughout the night I was reminded of the powerful display of repentance from sin and full trust in God at last year's WAKE camp as students went to the front of the stage and kneeled at the foot of the cross. As the session ended, students from different campuses said goodbye to their friends, new and old, and headed back to their host homes for small group time. The questions for the night were centered around waking up to God's grace, living as an ambassador of Christ, and spurring each other on in the good news of Jesus.
As WAKE 2019 came to an end, our groups packed their bags in the morning and headed to their congregations’ Sunday service. We praise God for His faithfulness and love for our students and the way He used this weekend to make disciples that represent the Gospel to every man, woman, and child.
By Orlando Cabrera
I’m not one who necessarily loves road trips. In fact, if given a choice I would always pick getting on a plane and getting to my destination as quickly as possible. My wife, on the other hand, grew up taking long road trips to everywhere in the continental United States; seeing almost every land monument our great country has to offer. We couldn’t be more opposite when it comes to that. However, over the last few years we have engaged in taking family road trips, and I have to admit they have been a ton of fun and the memories made were nothing short of awesome. Yet, all of this got me thinking about my spiritual walk with the Lord. You see, a lot of times I just want God to take me wherever He is leading me in the quickest way possible. Other times I want God to do whatever He is going to do in my life as fast as He can do it. In these seasons, I’m not necessarily interested in stopping to smell the roses or marvel at some amazing natural wonder along the way. I just want out of the car, so to speak.
And I’m probably not alone in that.
In fact, I know that I’m not alone.
We see in the Book of Psalms, the psalmist asking “How long O Lord?” and we see a similar cry in Habakkuk chapter 1. My kids often ask me, as their Dad, and as the one who is driving the vehicle, “how long until we get there?” so it may seem like a fitting and logical question. But the issue comes when the question is rooted in restlessness and struggle, leading to doubt that seeks to rob you of joy and peace, rather than a question that is rooted in longing for a place, promise or person. You see, there is no way around it for any child of God. This walk with the Lord is a journey and it’s a journey that is walked out in faith. It’s a journey that does end for the believer in Christ in a definitive destination; victoriously at home in heaven in the presence of the Lord Himself. But, it is still a journey filled with what can feel like lots of uncertainties that can leave us asking “How long O Lord?”
I have two children and both of them share these same realities; they have to trust in their father to get them to where we are going, to take care of them on the journey, and neither of them can take control of the wheel…What they can differ in is their perspective of the trip.
Now I’m sure you can see that some of this is just me teasing, but there are some similarities here in my journey with the Lord. I am confronted with a decision to trust in my Father’s ability to get me safely to the place He is leading, care for me as we travel, and understand that He is far better equipped to lead my life than I am. But, it is also up to me to guard my perspective and my feelings regarding the journey and the worthiness of the One leading me.
In this season, I have felt the Lord graciously meet me in my “How long O Lord?” moments and reorient me in such a way to bring me back to a few certain truths.
1.) Though the things that I walk through are; His character, His leading and His purposes are for good. (Romans 8:28, Psalm 23, Lamentations 3:22-26)
2.) Even through my doubts, restlessness and even, dare I say, moments of ingratitude, God is faithful to me. (2 Timothy 2:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:24)
3.) When I put my true faith and hope in God, He will sustain me and make sure that I am not disappointed. (Hebrews 10:23, Romans 5:1-5, Psalm 145:16-17)
Our spiritual journeys don’t come with a GPS that grant us an ETA, nor do they guarantee us alternate routes where we won’t experience the congestions of hardship and trials. Yet what the saved, redeemed, adopted child of God through Christ has is a certainty that every bump, pit stop, sudden slam of the brakes, and open patch of road is filled with divine purpose and enough of God’s grace and goodness to encourage us as we go. So may we “set our eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and may we neither wander from the path set before us nor grow weary in our journey; for our Guide, our Father, Friend and Shepherd is faithful. By faith may we journey on in hope, certainty and deep conviction…
Not to us, Lord, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.
We’re praising God for his provision of land in Collier County to build on in 2019! We just broke ground this month! Pray with us that God will use our Naples Campus as a launching pad for ministry to make disciples that represent the gospel to Every Man, Woman and Child.
By Orlando Cabrera
So, I have never been a big Christmas exterior lighting type of guy. I have mad respect for all of you “Clark Griswold” types who light up your house and front lawns so bright that passing planes mistake your home as a landing strip. Well done. I tip my cap to you.
I do love Christmas lights though and enjoy driving around looking at them as much as the next guy. But once we had kids, they really enjoyed exterior Christmas lights and wanted us to put them up on our home. So, every year I give it my best shot.
I’m grateful that I don’t live in one of those neighborhoods where everyone begins putting up lights in August. Again, no judgement. Where I live, the bar is set pretty low for me which I am grateful for. I’m also grateful that my kids are still young enough to enjoy and appreciate their dad’s feeble efforts at exterior illumination engineering. When we return home in the evening from an outing and the exterior lights are on they just love it. Sheer joy. Conversely, their responses are very different when the “little lights aren’t twinkling” or when something is not working with our display. I get questions and disappointment.
That got me thinking. Christmas lights are great and they do seem to brighten, pardon the pun, the season for many of us, and that’s great. But all the lights of Victoria Park don’t hold a candle to the greatest Christmas light of all, Jesus Christ. He is the light that this dark world of ours is in such need of. He is the illumination that our own sin-filled hearts long for and that the enemy attempts to shield our eyes from seeing (2 Corinthians 4:4). Yet the Father knew how desperately we needed this Light and so He brought it to us in flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. At times, our world feels like it must have in the days of Isaiah where the prophet stated that “the earth was filled with distress and darkness, gloom and anguish” (Isaiah 8:22). It’s against this backdrop that the Light shines the brightest, the darkness failing to overcome it (John 1:5).
Jesus is the light of the world. His light shines in our darkness and nothing in all of creation, on earth or under the earth, can overcome it or extinguish it. This Jesus is not only the Light we need but He alone can grant the life we long for. He alone is the One that is strong enough to bridge the chasm of sin that divided us from God. This Jesus, the true Light has come and he gives light to all who believe in Him.
This Christmas, my prayer is that we wouldn’t just stroll through neighborhoods marveling at the wonder of man’s engineering on lighted display, but that we would truly stand in awe of the grace of God who has sent the greatest light of all, Jesus Christ. My prayer is that those of us who have had this light shine into the darkness of our hearts, causing us to declare Him as our, would savor this light and continue to reflect it to others. My prayer is that we, the children of God, would continue like the wise men of old to follow this great Light with full conviction, excitement and desire to worship him; the One who was born in a manger, walked amongst creation, hung on a cross, died and rose again so that we could have eternal life. This is Christmas and this is where our hope, life, light, peace and joy are found, Jesus Christ, the light of the world (John 8:12).