Genesis 5020

My Story for His Glory

To Be Continued Part 5 April 12, 2013

Filed under: Jolene's Gensis 5020 — Melissa Finnegan @ 10:06 am
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What’s your Genesis 5020?

I miscalculated and this is Jolene’s last week with us. So will you be next? I need another story, God needs more glory. Email your stories to: 5020genesisstories (at) gmail (dot) com

I hope those who have been visiting to read Jolene’s story will continue to check things out here on the blog. There are some amazing stories to share, maybe it’s yours!

Let’s finish up with Jolene’s Genesis 5020.

book-textbookWe had a great group of students for that initial study, many who came consistently every week.  We had a video teaching and then my husband would take the high school students and I took the middle school students for small group discussion. 

This is quite ironic in a way only God would plan, because before I was married I had spent a year in middle school youth ministry and quickly decided those kids drove me nuts and it wasn’t for me!  Now I found myself with a heart for those slightly awkward, loud and talkative middle school students that showed up every Sunday. 

We had lots of good discussion and fun just hanging out together.

Other times I felt like a complete and utter failure.  Who was I to do this youth ministry thing?  I wasn’t trained or hired to do this.  Were we really helping these kids and pointing them to Christ, or just filling time on a Sunday morning? 

I was reminded through a study of Experiencing God (Henry Blackaby) that God doesn’t call us to do the things we think we can do in our own human strength and wisdom.  He calls us to do the great things we can only do through His strength flowing through us.  And that is exactly where I was with youth ministry. 

It would have to be God because I surely didn’t feel it was me.  I don’t like to fail or take risks and this was risky and I felt responsible for speaking truth into those precious student’s lives.  But God was up for the challenge and I stayed obedient, although sometimes reluctantly and with sporadic complaining!

It is now over a year and a half since we started that first series with our students.  When it was coming to an end they started asking if we could continue meeting.  So we have, and it continues to be a stretch for me, but also a huge blessing. 

I have grown to love those kids and look forward to seeing them on Sunday morning and being challenged by their enthusiasm and questions!  I still feel inadequate, but know that God is equipping me to do what He has called me to do.

As I was thinking of how to wrap this whole thing up, I just couldn’t come up with anything that seemed to work.  After pondering and praying for a couple of days God spoke. 

This story is not finished yet.  God continues to write my story as I grow in my relationship with Him. 

I am sure there will be other circumstances on my journey with Him where He will turn what was intended for evil into something precious and good.  That journey is not always easy, but I rest in the promise that the hard times have an eternal purpose.  They are part of a story greater than what I can see with my earthly perspective.

So this seems like a more appropriate ending – To be continued…

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 2 Corinthians 2:17 NLT

Thank you so much for sharing, Jolene. Your ending was perfect, God is still writing your story.

Would you mind taking a minute and leaving a comment for Jolene? Thank her for her honesty and sharing her heart. I know this wasn’t easy for her but I know so many have been blessed by her story.

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Growing Part 4 March 29, 2013

Filed under: Jolene's Gensis 5020 — Melissa Finnegan @ 11:51 am
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As you know today is Good Friday. I wanted to share a song with you that has been speaking to me recently. The tomb is empty and our hearts are alive. Let’s live like it’s true. We have victory through Christ who overcame death. Check out this song and come alive today. Click here. Have a blessed Easter!

Before we jump into  today’s post I wanted to let you know I will be taking next Friday off. Although I will probably have internet access I want to focus on my family while we have a mini-vacation. We will get back to Jolene’s Genesis 5020 on April 12th.

We have a few more weeks of Jolene’s Genesis 5020 but I want to start putting it out there that your story matters and I would love to have your story on this blog.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a Genesis 5020 from someone who left elem3nt  and have them share how God has used that for good? How maybe a life would never have been touched if you stayed? Just a thought.

I will take anyone’s story who feels God calling them to share. Don’t listen to the voice that says, “You’re story doesn’t matter.”

For a long time Jolene felt she had nothing to share but God told her otherwise and I can tell you healing is taking place between her and people who left elem3nt. They are reaching out to her, it’s amazing to hear the things she is telling me. All God, all for his glory. That is the reason for this blog; to offer healing and hope and share our stories for God glory. It’s all about Him.

What’s your Genesis 5020? Share with me at: 5020genesisstories (at) gmail (dot) com

grass-13333554902L7As the healing and growth continued, we went through a sermon series on the Holy Spirit. Our life group also studied Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God.

I felt something waking up inside me like never before.

I had known of God all my life, and even accepted Him as my Savior at a fairly young age. Now it was like something new was growing inside me. I felt a desire to know God more intimately and feel His presence in my daily life.

That is the privilege and power we have as believers – God’s Holy Spirit living inside us and guiding us every moment. I had never really understood the Holy Spirit, and maybe never will completely, but I felt my faith going deeper.  I found myself daily asking the Spirit into my life to guide and direct.

He moved and God spoke through that still small voice.

Then we started an extended series on IDOLS, and that is when it really started to click for me. We talked for weeks about different things we have in our lives that we place before God.

One Sunday we talked about our church being an idol. That is exactly what I had done.

I had placed the institution of the church up on a pedestal above my relationship with God. When my church fell off that pedestal I had a crisis of faith.

What I had to realize was that my faith was a personal relationship with Christ, not based on what was happening at my church. My church will never be perfect, because it is made up of imperfect people, including myself.

The important thing is to keep cultivating that personal relationship apart from just Sunday worship.  The church definitely plays an important part in a believer’s life, but it should not be the only basis or measure of our faith.

In the midst of these lessons God was teaching me and as I started to feel an internal shift.

Our church embarked on a church wide teaching series.  This study included full programming for all ages.  Announcements were made at church about new groups forming and my daughter asked if there would be a group for her.

We did some investigating and found there was youth curriculum for the study.  At this time, we did not have a youth pastor or any formal programming for middle or high school students.

After my daughter asked several more times about a group, I suggested to my husband that we do the series for our youth on Sunday mornings.  He quickly agreed as he has always had a heart for student ministry.

I never thought it was my area of giftedness or ministry.  But I had always wanted us to do some sort of ministry together because I thought it was a blessing when couples served together.  So here was a perfect opportunity.

I felt totally inadequate but followed through and we started the group.

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:3-4 NLT

 

Forgiveness Part 3 March 22, 2013

We are back with part three of Jolene’s Genesis 5020. If y0u missed the first two parts click here for part one and here for part two.

hands-with-heartsI continued to cry out to God. I was trying to be in His Word more, to find comfort in the scriptures. 

I remember reading a passage in Daniel for a Bible Study, it talked about the sacred articles of the temple being carried away and used for unsacred purposes.  I felt like that was what was happening to our church.  Our precious members, my friends and family, were being carried away. 

I literally and physically cried out to God!  I did not understand!  I didn’t even know what or how to pray!  How could we be going through this?  How could it be beneficial to growing the kingdom of God?  Why?  Why?  Why? 

To God, I probably looked like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum when they don’t get their way.  And that is probably more accurate than I would care to admit!  Because in reality I just didn’t see the bigger picture God had planned.

God was slowly changing and growing my personal faith, while He was doing the same for my church.  I was being forced to rely more on Him and my personal relationship with Him.  Just as our church was being forced to do the same. 

Deep faith and trust were beginning to take root.  Our human efforts were failing , what was left except to fall back on God?  Why did we have to fall so far to do that?

  I remember another conversation with an elder’s wife.  She suggested that our church was going through this time because we had become prideful.  Prideful?  Ouch!  That hurt!  Yet I could see truth in the words she spoke.  I had become prideful in my church being the “it church” in town.  My perspective on what makes a church successful had become pretty warped and was in desperate need of adjustment by God.

At the end of the summer of 2011 we had a church body update, the first of many to come.  But this one was significant.  In my opinion it was the beginning of our healing and growth as a church body.  

There was a request for forgiveness for mistakes made in the past and hurt that had been caused to people along the path we had chosen as a body.  Acknowledging the hurt we had been through together was like turning a corner.  We admitted mistakes, made apologies and began the journey of forgiveness and healing.

This topic of forgiveness is one that has come before me many times over the last year.  After that church meeting we began a prayer emphasis – praying individually for each member of our body.  And we intentionally included those who had left our church family. 

That convicted me, because I hadn’t realized I harbored some feelings of resentment toward those who had moved on.  I realized this was wrong and prayed God would bless those who had left and the churches they were a part of. 

I also began to realize the power of prayer, not just as a way to present our requests to God, but as a two-way communication that He uses to speak truth back into our lives.

Forgiveness came up again this past summer as I listened to a song on the radio by Matthew West called “Forgiveness”. 

It has such powerful words that speak of forgiving even when we don’t feel like it or we feel the person doesn’t deserve it. 

I had just ended a long phone conversation with a friend.  During that conversation I realized again that I was harboring resentment toward individuals that had caused strife in our church before leaving and had also caused pain to some of my immediate family. 

As I was stripping wallpaper in my kitchen, that song came on the radio and I wept at the way God planned that moment.  He was speaking so loudly to me and stripping away unforgiveness in my heart just like the paper coming off the walls in my kitchen. 

I had to forgive in order to move forward with what He had planned for me and for our church family.

In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. Matthew 6:14-15 The Message

Examine your heart as I examine mine. Is there any unforgiveness that needs to be stripped away from you today?

 

Something Great…Where? Part 2 March 15, 2013

Filed under: Jolene's Gensis 5020 — Melissa Finnegan @ 10:09 am
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Welcome to part two of Jolene’s Genesis 5020. Miss part one? Click here.

pretty-churchDuring the summer of 2011 I hit rock bottom and was ready to move on myself. 

The problem was, God had not released us to go.  I tried to push the issue.  I asked my husband many times that summer “Isn’t it time for us to go too?” 

How can we stay at a church that has so many problems?  Look at the other churches and how they have it all together – they have all the ministries that our family needs!  The grass was looking so much greener on the other side of the street!

 But God spoke in so many ways that it was not our time to leave.  My husband didn’t feel it was our time to go.  But I wanted to go – so I pushed the issue. 

There was a worship event at the church up the road, the one that many families from our church were now attending.  They had the strong youth program and rockin’ worship I was looking for.  So we went to the worship event. 

I told myself we were going to “support” our friends who were there.  To let them know we still cared and loved them.  But if I am honest – I was going to check it out. 

I wanted to attend the church that had it all together, not the one that was falling apart.  So we went to the worship event and it was the most awkward church service I have ever sat through!  And I truly believe it was because the Holy Spirit was making me completely miserable because what I wanted was not in line with what God wanted. 

The worship was great – fantastic music and singing.  They even sang my favorite worship song.  But I was absolutely unable to worship that night.  The words were empty and I was miserable. 

They ended the service with communion and I just sat in my chair, unable to participate because I felt so uncomfortable and disobedient.  My husband felt the same way and we left knowing that was not where we were to be.  God was making it clear we were to stay with our church family through the mess.

 That summer was a time of searching for me – searching for understanding that did not come immediately. 

My life group was a lifeline during that time.   Together we wrestled with the issues facing our church. We didn’t understand why, we were just trying to get through to the other side. 

One couple in particular, was so encouraging and supportive during this time. They had been where I was. In fact, they had previously left our church and ended up coming back. They encouraged me to listen to God’s voice and what He was saying, not what my selfish human desires were saying. 

I was so conflicted – I wanted to be obedient and stay – but I wanted to attend a church that could minister to my needs and the needs of my family.

 God spoke to me another time through a worship team member. At that time we were traveling between our two campus locations each Sunday. 

I clearly remember being in the van that Sunday with a team member – his family had left our church for a time and had recently come back. He was sharing why they had come back – that God had told them something great was going to happen at elem3nt church and they would not want to miss out on being part of it! 

I was blown away!  How could this be true? It sure didn’t feel like God was doing anything other than splitting our church up into a million pieces! 

Yet that one brief conversation gave me hope for a future that was bigger than what I was seeing at that time. If God was going to move I didn’t want to miss it!  But I was doubtful at that time.

I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. Matthew 12:6 NIV

I found that verse above and thought that speaks to what Jolene is talking about. It isn’t about the church building, something greater than a building is moving in our church, it is God, the Father, Holy Spirit, Jesus.

 

The Pruning-Part 1 March 8, 2013

Filed under: Jolene's Gensis 5020 — Melissa Finnegan @ 11:11 am
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I am so excited to share our new Genesis 5020 with you.

For the next few weeks we will hear from my dear friend, Jolene Nofzinger.

I met Jolene when we started attending elem3nt church. She was on worship team when I joined and I soon discovered she was an avid reader as well:)

Although I met Jolene in 2000, it wasn’t until about four years ago that our relationship grew deeper when I joined the lifegroup she was in. She was one of the first people to hear my Genesis 5020 as God had commanded me to share with our lifegroup in 2010.

As I stated last week her story is very different from what you have heard so far and I am so glad for that. I hope it will spark a fire in you to share your story on this blog.

Read on and be blessed.

pruned-trees Genesis 50:20 is a little different – I grew up in the church, was always the “good girl”, a pretty obedient and compliant person who never really went through a rebellious time in my life. 

Growing up in the church we would periodically have “testimony time” where people would be asked to share their story of how God saved them or how He was working in their lives.  While I enjoyed hearing other people’s stories, I feared being asked to share mine, because I didn’t feel like I had a story that was good enough or dramatic enough to share. 

Well, God has been writing a whole new chapter in my walk with Him and it has taken some dramatic turns. It was not exactly what I had in mind… But God has showed up in an incredible way!

I have attended the same church for most of my life – A church that my grandparents, parents and siblings have also attended. A church that my husband’s grandfather pastored at one time. The church that brought my husband and me together, where we were married, dedicated our children and call our spiritual home. 

Our church has grown and evolved over the years through God’s faithfulness and blessing. We have had wonderful pastors with visionary leadership and skilled teachers of God’s Word. 

Several years ago we were at what I thought was the  top – Our attendance was growing, we had a dynamic teaching pastor, a great worship experience (something near and dear to my heart), the biggest youth program in town – our church had it going on! 

And then God decided our church needed a little pruning…

That began a turbulent time in our church life. We went through a change in name and became multi-site, which caused some folks to leave. Over the course of about a year we lost several key pastoral staff for various reasons – with many in our church body following them to their new ministries. 

We lost volunteers for ministry and we were struggling. We had no youth program, something that was of great concern as my daughter was quickly approaching the age where she could be a part of youth group. Both my husband and I grew up in wonderful youth programs with great leaders and I never, ever imagined that wouldn’t be a big part of my kids’ church experience. 

Our tight-knit life group was impacted through these losses as well and faced a difficult season of adjustment.

I don’t want to dwell on the details of this painful time of “pruning” for our church. Nor do I want to point fingers or come off as judgmental of those who chose to worship elsewhere during this time. I had many conversations with dear friends and even some family members who left.  They felt God telling them to move and they obeyed – and that was the right thing for them. 

They will always be treasured brothers and sisters in Christ.  However, it did not make the parting any less painful.

He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. John 15:2-4 NLT