My BIG 28

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Mat. 19:26 NIV).  

For those of you who read my first post titled “Twenty Eight”, you will know the significance of this number in my life.  In my post, I explained how my unusual and frequent encounters with the number 28 are a special way that God reminds me of His loving care and presence in my life.  What I left out of the “28” post is my most special and favorite 28 of all; my BIG 28!  Actually it is a 28 that first and foremost belongs to God and my parents; a 28 that was truly an impossibility in my mind and in the minds of countless others; a 28 that can bring me sobbing to my knees with inexpressible gratitude and unthinkable joy; a 28 that will be treasured in my heart as long as I live.  

What is this BIG 28 you ask?  It is the resurrection of my parent’s marriage after 28 years of divorce.  It is the glorious display of Jesus’s power to call to life that which was dead.  It is the unlikely rescue out of difficulty, darkness, and despair beyond what many can imagine.  It is the miraculous rebuilding of a relationship and family established by God in Heaven.   It is the undeniable witness that through the power of the Holy Spirit, every relationship is capable of healing, forgiveness, and restoration.  It is the celebrated victory over hell and every wicked plan of the devil.  It is comfort and peace to my soul.  It is roots and stability.  It is a legacy for generations to come.  This 28 is truly beyond anything I can describe!  

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written:  “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord”” (NIV).  

Only God could take such a foolish 28 and turn it into my cherished boast of His love, care, and kindness over my life.  When I hear my parents share the story of their miracle marriage from their own lips, it settles the reality that we live in, that God “is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV).  When Jesus went to the cross and was resurrected, it demonstrated to us that nothing is too hard for him. Dear friends, our God is a BIG, BIG God and He can do the impossible!  THINK BIG, BELIEVE BIG, EXPECT BIG. Your miracle is happening!  Yes and Amen!

Amy MukesAmy Mukes is the wife of Eric Mukes and together they have four amazing children whom she teaches at home.  She is passionate about education and literacy and also desires to equip parents with practical tools to raise their children with the gracious love of Jesus. Amy is currently developing a City Group that will be filled with experiential, interactive learning where parenting skills and family life will increase and flourish under the Gospel of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. To find out more about City Groups, click here.

Keys to a Lasting Marriage

February 14th is right around the corner.  This is the day we choose to celebrate love.  Everyone want to experience romantic love, but not everyone wants to put in the effort it takes to turn one day a year into a lifetime of investment and caring for the person we chose to marry.  Many young couples are willing to put energy into preparing for the Wedding Day, but put little thought and preparation into the lifetime of marriage.  If I’m honest, my first years of marriage to Jude  were difficult simply because we didn’t spend the time and energy necessary to prepare for our marriage.  We went from being friends to being engaged and married three months later!  Jude proposed to me over the phone and I was the one who called him!  A lot of what we learned about marriage was from watching other couples in our lives who seemed to make marriage look so easy.  Well, we have now been married 31 years and have been through every season a married couple will face and we are still together by the grace of God. Sometimes marriage seems like a piece of cake, full of amazing memories and laughter and other times we have to “fight for what’s left.”  

When you have been married 31 years, other couples always ask, “What is the secret to having a lasting marriage?”  Here are a few things I have learned over the years, that may be helpful as you pursue your dream of a happy marriage that lasts a lifetime:

Remember Marriage is a COVENANT NOT a CONTRACT:

Matthew 19:6 ESV “So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.”

For Jesus followers, marriage is about God joining us together. We make an eternal commitment before Him to LOVE our husbands. If we look at our marriage as a conditional agreement, and our spouses fail at something, we want to break the contract. But God offers us His “overwhelming, never-failing, reckless,” covenant love to draw from. The Bible is a love story in itself, one in which we broke the contract, and culminating in a beautiful marriage celebration as we, the church, become His bride. When we receive the undeserved love and forgiveness of Jesus, He fills us with the power of HIs Holy Spirit to love our husbands without keeping score. When we make the decision to grow old together, we don’t make quitting an option, knowing that God is able to help us in every area of weakness.

Be Grateful for the Marriage God gave you!

I Peter 3:7 “Husbands, you must in turn treat your wives with tenderness, viewing them as feminine partners who deserve to be honored, for they are CO HEIRS with you of the  “divine grace of life” so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

Our marriages are a gift from God. We must view our marriages as an “inheritance” or “gift” to be cherished rather than something we are owed.  Think about it, when we work for something we “expect” to get paid.  If we won a lotto ticket or got an unexpected Inheritance we would be grateful for what we received.  Remember, our husbands chose to love us and be committed to us unconditionally. Is there any greater gift one human being could give to another? I encourage you to be thankful for your spouse because he is a gift to you.

Remember we are better together.  Fight FOR one another not against one another!  

Ecclesiastes 4:9 “Two are better than one because they help each other succeed” NLT

It’s so important to  reflect on the value that our husbands bring to our marriages.  Your husband may be very different from you. Jude is certainly very different from me! Sometimes it’s easier for us to value only the qualities we work to have but countless studies have shown that teams whose players have diverse gifts always have increased effectiveness.  As we make a decision to stop and appreciate the gifts, talents and perspective that our husbands have, we will end finding better success together.  We will often discover better ways of doing things that would have never occurred to us! Remember you started this race with the same vision. You are on the same team going in the same direction trying to accomplish the same goals.  

Remember, everyone has struggles in their marriage but marriages are worth fighting for!  If you are in a desperate place, if you have experienced the heart break of divorce, God sees you and loves you. Please don’t feel you have to fight or figure it out alone. Our church is full of people with beautiful stories of God redeeming the ugliest moments of strife and disagreement into redemptive and joyful and lasting love. This is our year of believing BIG and God is able to do a big miracle in your life and in your marriage. Join a City Group, attend our XO marriage conference in March, reach out to a pastor or City Group leader. We are here to help! Let’s choose to celebrate love and marriage all year long!

I believe in you!

XO

Becky Fouquier

 

Fasting? You Can Do It!

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

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

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

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

XO,

Bethany

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

-Carole Kornreich, Agoura Campus

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a mighty God we serve!!”

-Kathy Hageman, Ventura Campus

Believing BIG in 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January, 1992

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to BIG things in 2018!

XO,

Pastor Becky

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

Yes & Amen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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