God First

A WILD Devotional

Every New Year, I make resolutions. This year I only made one, “Put God First in Everything I do!”

My family has been attending City Church since 2013. We loved our Sunday services, but our quality time with God was light throughout our week. Last year, a sweet friend started planting seeds, giving me desires to go deeper. My husband and I decided to do the “grow classes.” In the end, we were signed up as greeters. I was so nervous…but why? I love people! I love to smile and give compliments! This should have been so easy for me. When the enemy saw me putting God first, he planted fear and doubt in my mind, in an attempt to try and stop me. 

But no, this year was going to be different. I printed this verse, taped it to my bathroom mirror, and began reading it often:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

On March 4th 2018, my husband, son, daughter, and myself were baptized as a family. Gods plan was coming together. I joined a City Group and starting unlocking gifts I held inside of me. I was asked to do WILD, but I was still too nervous. I had commitments that conflicted, and decided I wasn’t going to take the class. God had other plans. In my group, a new friend mentioned she was trying to be intentional. She was working to quiet herself long enough to hear from God. I realized I wasn’t giving Him the time and attention He desired from me. The next day I read my Bible, sat quietly, and asked what He wanted from me, and there He was. He was so clear. He said, “take the WILD class.” He also told me not to worry. He was going to give me the peace I was always praying for. 

Prayer:

Lord, help us to always seek you. Help us to hear from you often, in whatever way you want to speak to us. Help us to be obedient, and to put you first. Thank you for the wonderful plans you have for every one of us!

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Marcella Berglund has been a wife to David for 16 years. She is a mom of two amazing kids. Her family started attending the City Church when her son started school at City Christian, during his 2nd grade year. He is now in 6th grade, and their daughter is in 1st. Marcella loves being a wife, mom and friend. She also loves cooking, baking and hosting people in her home. You can find her and her husband serving on the greeting team at the Ventura campus. 

Grandma’s Faith

I was thinking the other day about what it means to live big and the thought of legacy crossed my mind. I was thinking of my grandmother who passed a little over a year ago and what her life was about. She died right before Christmas and I traveled alone to Seattle to attend her memorial service just after the new year. She was ninety-six and had been looking forward to heaven for a little while.

As I sat in her service, her pastor, who was many years younger, began to tell stories of her life. My grandfather was a chaplain in a hospital and not always available to attend on Sundays. When they started attending this church after moving across the state (to be close to their grandchildren) she informed this pastor that she would be in church every week with or without my grandfather. And she was. He told how she started a group for Norwegian immigrant women and their daughters that grew from two to ten to over forty women. She was joyful and faithful and loved Jesus deeply. When we’d stay at her house for sleepovers, she would pray traditional prayers over us, like “Jesus Tender Shepherd Hear Me.” She’d play cheerful hymns on her piano at Christmas for all of the adult children and grandchildren who filled her home. Her joy filled my young life even in seasons of heartbreak. Her hair was white as snow and her face so full of wrinkles, but I always thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever known. She left such a legacy for me.

When Tom and I were married, my grandparents began to intentionally pass things on. One day they gave me a photocopy of the front page of my grandmother’s Bible where my great-grandmother had written a precious note. It holds these words:

Dear Judith,

God’s word is our great heritage,

and it shall be ours forever;

to spread its light from age to age shall be our chief endeavor:

Through life it guides our way,

In death, it is our stay;

Lord grant, while words endure

To keep it’s teachings pure,

Throughout all generations.

With love from Mother, Christmas 1946

My great grandmother was a Norwegian immigrant whose own mother never spoke English. I can imagine her faith was required during many moments of her own life. All of these women in my family, including my own mother, shared the defining characteristic of bright, red hair. When I think of these women who joyfully passed down a passionate love for God’s word to their daughters, I am inspired to do the same. I’m so deeply grateful for this heritage, but I’m also well aware that there was a woman at some moment in my ancestry who was the first one to believe in Jesus. The fruit of her faith has outlived her!

Regardless of whether we have natural children, God puts in every feminine heart the power to nurture and love and care for those who need an inspiring word, a guiding hand, an example of strength and unwavering faith. When we receive the unbelievable, selfless love of Jesus, He puts so much in our hands to give and then He multiplies it beyond what we could imagine.

Maybe you’re the first in your family to believe in Jesus and become who He created you to be. Imagine the women many years from now who will look back and thank God for your faith! Maybe you’re discouraged and feel like your love for Jesus isn’t shared by your children. I’m praying today that God will show up and reveal Himself to each one of them. He has heard your prayers and treasured your tears. He will not give up on them!

Let me leave you with this picture from Psalm 78:6-7:

For perpetuity God’s ways will be passed down

from one generation to the next, even to those not yet born.

In this way, every generation will have a living faith in the laws of life

and will never forget the faithful ways of God.

Jesus, we pray you would use us to be vehicles of your love and your truth to the next generation. We pray our faith would extend beyond ourselves and into the lives of many, many others. We pray we would pass on a legacy of faithfulness and life to everyone we meet. We love you Jesus!

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Zero Missed Calls

I think a lot of mothers dream about the day they have a daughter and can have that best friend relationship. Her daughter tells her absolutely everything that’s going on in her life and no secrets are kept. I know that isn’t a reality for everyone but I’m fortunate enough to consider my mom my best friend. Now don’t get me wrong, she’s still definitely my mother and I’m always reminded of that when she calls me from 1,000 miles away to make sure I got home safe. When she asks if I’m out at night by myself. I usually respond “Mom, I’m fine!” I’m so thankful for her. If you’re a mother of a daughter I pray you too can have a close relationship.

When I moved from the Seattle area to Ventura for Bible College, three and half years ago, not much changed in the relationship between my mom and I. It’s typical we talk on the phone and FaceTime a few times a day. So, this past December 4th when I called her in a panic at 9:30pm while I was nannying, she answered the phone like she always did. I explained to her that there was a large glowing fire I could see in the distance and I wasn’t sure what to do with two sleeping kids. She calmed me down in spite of being two states away and she gave me that comfort that only a mother can give. I made the decision to take the kids and leave. That night the Thomas fire blazed through the city of Ventura and the house where I work was lost as well as the car I had left behind.

Who’s that first person you call in time of need? The person that you can be completely real with? The person who knows you so well but loves you anyways? The person you want to share your absolute worst moments with, but also your best? My mom is amazing but I believe that God is the truest form of that person. Life can get chaotic, it can sometimes seem like too much to even handle, but I really believe that it’s in those moments that we get to see the character of who God is so clearly. His comfort and peace is like no other. His voice can calm even the most intense storms.

In the months following the fire, God’s peace has been so real to me. Every time I call on Him and hear His voice, I am given that reassurance that He is in control. Everyday he reminded me that He would take care of everything and it has been so incredible to see God work in my life in this situation. Someone I didn’t even know let me use their brand new car while I looked to purchase one. Countless people sent me encouraging texts and I am so thankful for every person God placed in my path. I was so blown away by the generosity of the people around me. Just last week I was able to purchase a car that was way better than the one I had lost because of people who had given so generously to me. Isn’t that so like God’s character? He provides all we need and more!

I‘ll admit it, I hate answering my phone. I would much rather someone text me so I can respond when it’s convenient. But I’m working on getting better at it, I promise! When I call my mom she picks up 99.9% of the time (its not quite the same for me, sorry mom!). How much more does our Father God care and listen to us?! He’s ready and listening 100% of the time. I’m so thankful that God NEVER declines or blocks our calls! Psalm 18:6 says “But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.” Jesus wants to be the first one we call upon in times of distress. There is so much freedom and peace that comes when we cry out to Him and let him carry our burdens. Its something I constantly have to remind myself of, that I don’t have to carry my issues (Psalm 55:22). Its so easy to get caught up in the struggle of life and forget that we have a direct line to Jesus. He sympathizes because He experienced life like we do, He’s always there and He isn’t going anywhere. He wants us to tell Him everything: our concerns, our excitement, our frustrations. That constant communication with Him causes us to become closer to Him and rely on Him more.

Can I encourage you to place God as the first person you call on in times of need? He’s always listening and available. When we try to deal with our problems on our own, they seem to get heavier. Remind yourself daily that God is for you, and he’ll carry you through every season of your life. 1 Peter 5:7 says “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” When I truly sit and meditate on this verse it blows me away. The God of the universe cares and loves you specifically. Call on Him today, and let Him take your worries and replace it with His perfect peace.

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Ashley Lundgren grew up in Edmonds, Washington and when she was 19 she moved to Ventura, CA to attend California Coast Bible College. She graduated from CCBC in 2016 and is currently a nanny. She loves serving at the City Church and leads a High School city group and helps weekly in City Kids.

My BIG 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Hears You

There is so much to be said about the power of prayer. Countless books, sermons, teachings , and podcasts on how to pray, what to pray, and why it is one of the most significant parts of our faith. From the book of Psalms, to the Lord’s prayer modeled for us in the Gospels, prayer is simply a conversation with our Heavenly Father. The most profound prayer we will pray in our life is the one where we respond to God. It is the prayer of salvation, inviting Jesus into our lives and hearts, and being divinely grafted into the family of God. This is where our journey and destiny begin. This is where we witness our first miracle, the miracle of a new life with Christ. Even the angels celebrate as Jesus says in Luke 15: 10 “ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

That rejoicing in the presence of angels over me, happened when I was twenty years old. For almost a year, I was on a search to find my purpose in life and my passion. I had a faint idea of who God was and wasn’t against the idea that He was the real deal, but I had no idea what I was about to encounter that would forever shift the destiny and course of the rest of my life. I was invited to a church because there was a special speaker coming by the name of Nick Vujicic. He is a man born without his limbs and he traveled all over the nation speaking boldly about the goodness of God. He spoke in a way that moved me to my very core. At the end of his message, he asked anyone who felt a tug on their hearts to come to the front of the church altar because that meant God was speaking to them and that they could respond by inviting Jesus into their lives. I had to respond. There was no way I was going to leave that place without surrender. In that moment, I began to encounter the love of God so strongly that I left a new and whole person. Even though I had no training or teaching in theology, I became so aware and hungry to learn more about prayer and I set out on a journey to grow in my new passion.

I became the first Christian in my entire family. I was a young girl on fire for God and zealous to share my faith with everyone around me. I was eager to learn anything I could and I loved church and gatherings where I could grow through fellowship. Yet, I found myself disquieted and shrunken down when it came to professing my love of God to my very own family, especially my mother. Perhaps she  didn’t quite understand me and the journey I was on. Maybe she  thought I was going through one of my  “phases” and even in the moments I was undaunted by sharing about Jesus, her heart was hardened. The more I wanted to reach her, the farther away we slipped from understanding each other and the more strife and resentment built up between us. I made a decision to be persistent, determined , and even relentless to see my mother walk in freedom and truth. The first thing I had to do was surrender her to the Lord. The weight I was carrying was not mine to bear. Jesus says His burden is light and His yoke is easy. I followed with declaring the promises of God and standing on the Word like they did in Acts 16: 31, “They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you and your family will be saved.” And lastly, I just simply believed and thanked God for it as if it already came to pass. There was no pressure on me to work at it, I had full assurance and confidence as I allowed the Word to take root and grow in my very soul and spirit.

Every moment I could, I would plant seeds of faith and love until I could see softening in areas where her walls stood securely. Whether or not I could see the progress, I felt at rest that God was doing a mighty work. Seven full years later, in this very church where my husband and children have planted our roots, and the place we call home, we had a special guest speaker come on a Sunday morning to speak boldly about the goodness of God. A man born without his limbs who traveled around the world to inspire others and speak fearlessly about the love of God. Seven years later, with immovable tireless prayers along the way, my mother turns to me and asks me to walk with her to the front of the church because she can not shake off a tugging in her heart and she must respond to Jesus and what this same man (Nick Vujicic) is preaching. In the most epic way, God allowed me to witness this miracle as it came to a full circle that morning. I could almost hear the shouts of rejoicing in heaven for what had just transpired. This response to Christ set into motion the life God intended for my family as my father, soon after, also committed his life to Jesus. Not only that, but my sisters and brothers, as well as their families have all decided to follow Jesus. My parents are planted in a local church and they love their community.

Maybe you are still contending for someone in your life, that relative, friend, spouse or child. Maybe you even pressed a pause button on praying for this person because they continue to make decisions that are detrimental and it looks hopeless. Maybe this person has  disconnected even more strongly as you began to wage on their behalf. Remember these scriptures on your journey and believe in our BIG God:

Psalm 17:6 “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.”

Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer “

1 John 5:14 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

I want to encourage you to pick up right where you are, or to forge ahead with great faith that you too will witness the miracle of new life for this person. God has not, and will not give up on you. God hears your prayer and will answer!

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Margaret Thompson is a mother of four young boys and wife to Brent. They experienced God in a powerful way and are passionate about sharing the love of Jesus with people who don’t know Him through friendship and City Groups. Margaret loves to pray and helps to lead the prayer ministry on Thursday nights at the Ventura campus of The City Church.”

When Life Throws Curve Balls

A WILD Devotional

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5.  

Last year, I resigned from my Director position at a very prestigious resort. On that day, I had an overwhelming sense of peace and calm. Never in my life had I taken such a risk with the unknown. However, I knew everything was in God’s hands. I knew I couldn’t reason with myself. I had to put my worries on God’s altar. I had poured my heart and soul into my career, given them all of me. I put in very long days, even weekends and holidays. I never complained because I knew that came along with working in the hospitality industry and I truly enjoyed what I did. Needless to say, my husband was at home caring for the children and ensuring things on the home front were handled. While he never said it, he was never sure when I would walk through the door. Some nights it would be timely,  but as the job responsibilities increased, my days grew longer. Eventually, I would even miss tucking my kids into bed at night.

Now that I have been unemployed since May, I have realized that God really does have a plan. If this would have happened even two years ago, I don’t think I would have been able to trust in God; I didn’t have the relationship with Him yet. Not only that, but I would not have been able to see the beauty in cherishing every moment with my children. I was always so career focused and my patience would have been short. While being a mommy is not an easy task, I have been able to embrace this time.  It’s the simple things: doing school drop off and pick up, being able to attend school events, attending daytime mommy groups and getting all the love from my little ones. These are the things that I hold dear to my heart right now. I would have never expected to still be out of work at this point, but I have kept believing in Him. I know “my God will supply every need of [mine] according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19. I continue to pray for grace and patience to see through what God has planned for our family.

If you are wrestling with a big decision this year, one that you know is right but comes with a lot of risk, let me encourage you that you can trust God to provide for every need.

Join me in this prayer: God, you see my life from the beginning to the end. You know what’s best for me better than I know for myself. Thank you, Jesus, for the work you did on the cross, so I can truly rest and value the things that matter most. Help me to make the big decisions that you want me to make. Help me to see and believe for all that you want me to have. You see it all and know it all. Thank you. I trust you. 

Erin Watson

Erin Watson is mother to two great kids and wife to Leonidas. Erin loves to use her gift of hospitality by helping
out with women’s events and groups. She’s also actively involved in a City Group for moms with small kids. You can connect with her at the Ventura campus of The City Church and by following her @teamwatson33 on Instagram.

Raising Kids

I can’t believe how fast time flies!  I just turned 53 in October and all three of my boys came for Thanksgiving with their amazing wives and my incredible grandson, Jack. We now have another grandson on the way, thanks to Jake and Nancy.  Their baby is due May 13th, two days after Jack’s 2nd birthday.  Oh does that bring back memories!  All three of my boys were born two years apart and boy was it a whirlwind!  One of the most memorable, overwhelming moments of being a mom was when my oldest son Jude was four, Jonathan was two and Jake was just an infant.  Jude was climbing on my back, Jon was pulling on my leg, Jake was wanting to nurse and my husband was wanting me in the bedroom (if you know what I mean ;).  I was thinking to myself, “Is my body not my own?”

I remember feeling so overwhelmed in this season of my life.  It could be so easy to just “get by,” on a daily basis but I had to stop and remind myself that this season would pass quickly. If I was going to be effective, I had to remember I was called by God to steward the lives of these three young men who had a purpose and a call before time began.  This became a reality to me when I was in the hospital right after I had my 2nd son, Jonathan.  I had this moment with God where He impressed on me this thought, “You don’t know who you have in this son, raise him well.”  Wow, it sobered me to think of the responsibility God graced me with to raise these young men of destiny.

If you are a parent, an aunt, a teacher, or even a friend to someone who has kids, you have the same privilege and opportunity to help nurture the destiny of a young human being with a divine purpose. If you are a mom, you don’t have to wonder if you have what it takes, God chose you to be the mother of that child and He will give you what you need to accomplish the task.

Every time I felt overwhelmed with the chaos of kids and wanted to react negatively toward them, I would remember this moment in the hospital.  Trust me, I needed that reminder because Jon was a very difficult, sensitive child that needed his mom to be patient with him.

The three boys are now all in the ministry with families of their own and doing well.  People often asked Jude and I how we raised three boys who love God, love His church and are doing what God called them to do. Like everything in life, we committed our children first to the Lord.

Proverbs 22:6 (TPT) was one of our guiding verses:

“Dedicate your children to God and point them in the way that they should go, and the values they learned from YOU will be with them for life.”

The Amplified version says;

“Train up a child in the way he should go (teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents}, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

I believe these three keys can help you to be an effective parent:

  1. “Dedicate your child to God.”
  • This is not a one-time dedication, this is recognizing they are not our kids; they are God’s and we just have the privilege of being a picture of God to them!
  • Ask yourself, “Who would my child say God is by looking at my life on a daily basis?  Is he kind? Is he consistent? Is God attractive to my child?”
  1. “Point them in the way that they should go.”
  • We must teach our children that God is their source of wisdom and will. If they see us believing God, becoming who God calls us to be and building His kingdom, it will inspire faith in them.
  • One of my favorite thoughts from the recent parenting series is that our children are “seed full.”  They are full of potential that God has placed in them and our job is to help identify what is in them and help them nurture and begin to discover who they are and what God has called them to.  We water the seeds with our words and by teaching them to seek God for themselves.
  1. “The values they learn from you will be with them for life.”
  • Our children will not just learn from what we tell them but will learn more by how we live out our values.
  • The most effective thing you can do as a parent is to live what you want them to be! Live your life in such a contagious way that it would be hard for them to choose a less than satisfying life!

Trust me when I say, there are so many things I would have done differently as a parent. The next time I post on parenting I will tell you those things but today I pray that you will stop in the midst of day to day living and remember, you have been called and graced by God to parent your amazing children. We do our best to point them in the right direction, and even though the choice is ultimately theirs, we can trust our Heavenly Father to help us all along the way.

I believe in you!

XO

Becky