A Fresh Start is Possible

We’re two weeks in to Our Great, Big, Family Story and we’ve covered 28 generations of descendants of Jesus from Abraham forward.  Where last we left off in the lineage we weren’t in a very great spot.  “Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.  This was at the time of the exile to Babylon.”  

Yep, you heard that right.  Exile.  Babylon.  Things are in shambles.  The people have ignored God and his desires.  The kings did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord.  The law was forgotten.  The covenant seemingly abandoned.  The kingdom is divided and conquered.  The Temple is destroyed.  They’re all carted off to a foreign land where they’ll live out the rest of their days.

I wonder what was going through their mind?

I know what I’d be thinking: “God… um, I know I screwed up, but can I have a second chance?  Pretty please?”  

We fail.  We fall.  We falter.  We make mistakes, and do things we regret.  If only we could get another shot.  A mulligan, a do-over.  A second chance to make things right.

Here’s the good news.  The very next line in the lineage of Jesus goes like this: “After the exile to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel.”

After the exile.  Life goes on.  There is a second chance!  It’s easy to miss the significance if you just skim past it like I usually do.  And yet there it is, a perfect encapsulation of the Gospel message two thirds of the way through a long list of unpronounceable names.

Our God is a God of second chances.

We don’t know much about the last fourteen generations immediately preceding the birth of Jesus.  But what we do know shows us just how good this good news is.  The people of Israel return to their land.  The Temple is rebuilt under Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel.  They all give it their best effort to follow the commandments, observe the Sabbath, and love God and neighbor.  They get their do-over.

Were they perfect?  No.  Are we perfect?  Hardly.  And that’s why Jesus is born.  Because God is a God of second chances.  And third, and fourth, and seventy-eighth chances too.  That’s the Good News of Advent.  We can begin again.  We can start over.  

Is it time for you to ask God for a do-over?  There’s no better time than right now.

“The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah:  ‘Look I am sending my messenger before you.  He will prepare your way, a voice shouting in the wilderness: prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.’  John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins.” (Mark 1:1-4)

See you Sunday,
Pastor Derek

Our Great Big Family Story

I’m sure you’ve had those moments in your life when everything is going great, but then out of nowhere the tides turn.  It’s crazy how one instant you can be on top of the world, and then the next you’re plunged into the depths.  

It can happen with the littlest things, an offhand comment from a friend or a co-worker can blindside you and change everything.   Suddenly your day goes from good to bad.  A tiny mistake you make can have the affect of a snow ball barreling down hill and just get bigger and bigger with every passing moment.  Maybe one minute you’re enjoying a lovely family dinner but the next you’re overwhelmed by sadness thinking about the one who isn’t there anymore.  Or perhaps it’s that subtle temptation that draws you in and completely derails all the progress you had made.

And those are just the little things!  That’s not even mentioning the big things that can transpire in life that have the same impact but to the nth degree.  A diagnosis.  An accident.  A death.  The loss of a job.  The betrayal of trust.

In the worst of these moments it can be easy to wonder, “Where are you God?”  “How long will this go on?”

And yet during this season of Advent we are reminded of a great promise.  The promise that God remains faithful in his covenant to us no matter what.  That’s right: No. Matter. What.  

What better news is there for us to hear?  What more could we possible need?

This Sunday we’ll continue Our Great Big Family Story and pick up where we left off in the lineage of Jesus with King David and the line of his successors to the throne.  No story more easily exemplifies the sudden shift that can happen in a storyline than this one.  Yet, this story is also a story of incredible, unconditional, miraculous faithfulness on the part of God in spite of all that goes wrong.

“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”  (2 Samuel 7:16)

See you Sunday,
Pastor Derek

Faith Promise

When I first came to Wheatland the Faith Promise initiative was new to me. The whole idea that God would plan to bless me financially so that I would bless the mission of our church was foreign to me. I didn’t really understand what that meant initially. I heard phrases like “God will bless you unexpectedly” or “God will bless you with an unexpected windfall” in order to give it to the Faith Promise initiatives but I truly didn’t believe it. I have received unexpected financial blessings in my life but always used them for things I wanted. I had not thought of giving it away. I had always considered a surprise like that as a reward.

Bill and I prayed the first year. We agreed on a number. We put that number on a Faith Promise card and turned it in on Faith Promise Sunday like everyone else. The next week we received a check in the mail from our mortgage holder for the exact amount we put on the card. We had overpaid something when we purchased our home. It was a refund—an unexpected blessing. Some might call it a windfall. 

At first we were stunned. We were alarmed that we overpaid that much. Then, we felt alarmed that God would be meddling so intimately in our lives. I mean we love to pray for personal healing, relationship issues and stuff that needs prayer. But, when it comes to money, Bill and I usually keep that separate. Like we allow God plenty of room to lead, guide and direct us with our personal lives but not with our money. 

God challenged me and inspired me all at one time. He does that a lot. Why would God care deeply about all areas of my life and not care about our finances? We had been so careful about paying bills on time, saving for emergencies and living within our means we’d become legalistic with our money. I think we gave money the power by thinking too much about it. Moving. Purchasing a home. Selling all we had to move to Oswego. Getting a great mortgage interest. It all worked well for us. But, I think back now, we were trapped by the Money Monster. I remember thinking pretty highly of ourselves that we had done so well. We had lived frugally for so long we learned how to beat the Money Monster all by ourselves. We even compared ourselves to others by comparing interest rates. I usually felt smug as I knew we had the lowest interest rate. We had excellent credit. We were ‘golden’ our agent reminded us.

Friends, generosity is the furthest thing from our hearts when we live like this. Our God is a generous God. He created everything. It’s all his. He ‘owns the cattle on a thousand hills.’ (Psalm 50:10) God created and then he gave it away. Nothing to hold on to. God is generous to a fault some might say. Jesus in his final actions and words expressed God’s truest nature as he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30) Giving is what God does best. We, who are made in his image, become more like him by being instruments of his gifts, grace and generosity.

So, I have a challenge for you as we prepare for our Faith Promise weekend this year. Maybe you’re like me when it comes to praying about personal things and not about your money. Maybe you’ve worked really hard at saving, preparing and caring for your financial needs. Have you become legalistic about your income? Do you account for every penny? Do you say ‘no’ more than ‘yes’ and limit God in how your needs are met? Then, here is the challenge: pray. Sincerely seek God’s direction and voice. Listen: write down the number on your Faith Promise card. Act: turn it in. Then be faithful when you receive. Let this Faith Promise season clear out the frugal clog that’s damaging the system. We must act first. This is faith. This is how we grow. This is how we mature. This is how we do greater things than we would ever have imagined.

So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgment. God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. But there’s so much more. Let’s get on with it! Hebrews 6:1-3 The Message

See you Sunday,
Pastor Jen

My Top Five

I felt convicted. It was the kind of conviction that inspired me to act.

I attended the Exponential Church Conference this week at Yellow Box. Church planters and multi-site church leaders from across the nation were brought together for a holy infusion and for a good kick in the pants with regards to getting the gospel message out to those who are in need of it. A question was asked during one of the morning sessions that gripped my heart.

Who are the top five people you are praying to receive Christ as their personal Lord and Savior?

I currently have a list of prayer requests I receive from dedicated prayer warriors at Wheatland. I pray for the people and needs on the list. I pray for our church. I pray to and with God throughout my day. I talk with him like he’s sitting right next to me. Sometimes I argue, kick him in the shin and run away to the laundry room to get him to stop talking. But, truthfully, I haven’t prayed diligently for anyone to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior in a long time.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians is always great salt in my wound when it comes to feeling God’s pain, especially when it comes to lost people. The Galatian church had been set free to receive an amazing gift in the gospel of Jesus Christ but they had been lured away by interesting informational things of this world like great theological debates, rational thinking and fitting into society. Like Paul, I don’t believe Jesus came to inform us. I believe Jesus came to transform us. Paul’s words always cut through the gristle of my mental acuity and linguistic gymnastics. Read this passage but hear the message as one hears a plea from a passenger in your car as you head the wrong way down a one way street:

“How can you be so foolish! You began by God’s Spirit; do you now want to to finish the work in your own power?” Galatians 3:3

The same danger lurks in our hearts and in our churches today as it did in Galatia. Charles Kraft states is this way: We are imitators of the Galatians in the American church. We practice a form of Christianity so strongly influenced by our Western Enlightenment world view that we know little else but to turn to naturalistic, human-technique-centered methods for problem solving, healing or direction. Kraft suggests that our Enlightenment progress, serving a better society and the quest of discovering underlying truth in rational order replaced the awe inspiring work of the Holy Spirit. We traded supernatural experiences for being in control. Reason became king instead of the risen Son of God. 

So what does this have to do with our Faith Promise series or our Wheatland value of Missions?

Everything. We send people and resources all over the world every year. We do that because Jesus Christ calls us to do so. Without a robust mission ministry we would be tempted to go the way of other declining denominational churches that have little or no influence in the world. As for me, and my household, we will serve the Lord! Joshua may have coined the phrase but I want to live it out every day of my life.

Leading people to the salvation knowledge of Jesus Christ has to be the main thing. We cannot fall victim to the 'gods of the age' or begin to feel like there are other things that are more important than the gospel. Discipleship is crucial for each follower of Christ. We work very hard to help Christians grow up in the gospel at Wheatland. That also means staying in vital relationships with people outside our Christian circle of influence and with people who are far from Jesus.

So, during the Advent season, I plan to help us stay focused on the main thing: the gospel of Christ. But, you don’t have to wait for me. Write down the top five names of people that are close to you but far from God. Pray for them daily and when God prompts you to do something like invite them to church or lead them into the full knowledge of Jesus as their Savior, do it!  Do not let one more day go by without adjusting your Christian perspective—that lost people matter to God and are the main thing.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. Galatians 6:9 NIV

See you Sunday,
Pastor Jen

Beyond

“I’m afraid Jesus is going to call me to leave everything and become a missionary.”

I’ve heard this common phrase among Christians for most of my life. I remember missionaries visiting the churches I attended with my parents during my growing up years. They were from exotic places like Katmandu, Cairo, Dhaka or Algiers. They were nine feet tall, spoke thirteen languages and were so incredible skilled at missionary life they could construct a dwelling place with string and a paper clip. In that abode, they memorized the bible, cooked meals from scorpions or bugs, taught VBS and lead people to believe Jesus Christ as their savior with their whole heart. That’s my recollection of what I knew about missionaries or missionary life until I came to Wheatland.

I’ve travelled to several of our long term mission partners since being appointed to Wheatland in 2013. Bill and I traveled to Jordan to learn more about our efforts with meeting the needs of Iraqi and Syrian refugees. My hunches were confirmed about Christianity in the Muslim world. I learned what a MBB was and how people who follow the rules of cultural Islam can be misunderstood. I discovered many believers in Jesus underneath head coverings both in the Muslim world and in the Jewish world. But, those friends would never tell people about their faith in Jesus publicly.

Bill and I traveled to India with a Wheatland team. We all participated in leading an International Leadership Institute National Conference in Nellore while we simultaneously led a Women’s Conference, Youth Conference, Children’s Conference and Pastor’s Conference. We drove from the coastal city of Nellore through the central part of India to Hyderabad. I became fascinated with the sheer number of people who live in India. I was astounded by their concept of personal space. I saw things on a motor scooter that would shock and amaze you. My personal favorite was a goat wedged between two men. Bill’s favorite was two men balancing four full-sized tires on a moped. We witnessed how our Soy Milk ministry changes the lives of children. I attended the graduation ceremony of a Women’s Sewing School where a woman who could not read or write learned to do so because she saw a way to learn a trade and provide for herself and her children.

I travelled to Tanzania with a a larger Wheatland team. I had the privilege of meeting Mwenge Muyombi during his previous visit to the US. So, I knew the caliber of person we would be dealing with while in Tanzania. He did not disappoint. Neither did Africa. The ministry in Kigoma is supernatural. Widows, orphans and the elderly are cared for and Radio Joy transmits Christian music, programming and world news to almost 2 million people. Wheatland provided much of the financial resources necessary to build a community center that is truly used as a common place for Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths and beliefs.

I know our mission partner in Poland personally. He visits our home and we eat dinner together at least once a year. He is compelled by the gospel to teach leadership essentials to the next generation in Europe. He is also a unique believer, in that, he is Wesleyan in a predominantly Catholic culture. He leads a church that has needed a home for years. Many young leaders look to him for more than guidance. I consider him a spiritual father much like Dietrich Bonhoeffer was to so many of his disciples.

None of our missionaries are nine feet tall. Some speak many languages. I know for sure that none of them would ever build a dwelling place with string or a paper clip. As a matter of fact, our mission partners are regular people who love Jesus Christ and the people the serve. They struggle with personal issues with an ever-increasing faith. They overcome incredible obstacles and some live in fear of their lives. We will have the privilege of hearing from one of our missionary couples this Faith Promise season who continue to work in spite of excruciating personal tragedy. You may know of one missionary’s story of being attacked by a man with a machete in his car and lived to tell without a scratch on his body.

I was inspired by the scripture from Hebrews 6:1.Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God. Wheatland has heard from many of our partners doing outstanding work for the Kingdom of God. I believe it’s time to move beyond the elementary stage of learning about the far off places through videos, pictures and visits from those who serve in the field. I believe God is calling us to go beyond. I am praying you get a Holy Spirit infusion that wakes you up in the middle of the night with your heart breaking for people whom Jesus loves in some distant land in a far away place. I am praying for your life to change drastically and that you alter your life in such a way that a missionary would want to come learn from you how you meet the needs of those you’ve been called to serve. I am praying for God to challenge us all to go BEYOND.

See you Sunday,
Pastor Jen

History of the Stained Glass Window

Have you ever looked closely at the stained glass windows in our Sanctuary and wondered what story they are trying to tell? Well, there is someone very special in our church who knows all about it. Meet Ms. Jan Keeley. It was her grandma and grandpa who commissioned the windows for the church. She has an amazing story about how her family, the Kemmerer Family, helped start the church many years ago

In 1852, the beginnings of our church started in the cozy living rooms of German settlers, like Jan’s great, great grandfather David Brown, Sr. As the humble congregation grew, Mr. Brown donated land in 1861 for a school that also hosted the little congregation on Sunday Mornings. Many years later in 1907, they built a big wooden church, but sadly in 1927 it burned down. The next year in 1928, a new brick church was built on Route 59, and Mr. Brown’s granddaughter Susie and her husband Reuben Kemmerer, Jan’s grandparents, commissioned the stained glass windows, which were dedicated in 1936.

The paintings in the windows each tell part of a Jesus’ story. The Kemmerer Family is a farming family, and the windows represent the complete cycle of farming in a Biblical way.

* In the central window, Jesus is walking through a field of wheat with His disciples as in the account of “The Question about the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28; Matthew 12:1-8)

* If you look closely, you can see thistle weeds growing among the wheat. This reminds us of Jesus’ “The Parable of Weeds”. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)

* In the red medallion above, seeds are being scattered as in “The Parable of the Sower” (Mark 4:1-9, 13-20; Matthew 13:1-9, 18; Luke 8:4-8, 11-15), “The Parable of the Growing Seed” (Mark 4:26-29), and “The Parable of the Mustard Seed” (Mark 4:30-34; Matthew 13:31-32, Luke 13:18-19)

* In the left medallion, the sheaf bundle of grain stalks represents the gathering of the wheat and burning of the chaff or husks. (Luke 3:17; Matthew 3:12)

* In the right medallion, the windows depict the “Bread of Life”, which Jesus called himself. (John 6:35, 48)

Back in the days of the old brick church, Route 59 was a lonely country road. As a beacon of hope, the windows were kept lighted at night to help weary travelers find safe haven from a storm. The church door was always left open, and it became known as “The Church with the Lighted Window.”

69 years later, the population of Naperville was booming, and Route 59 was no longer a quiet country road. Plans to widen the road meant that the old 1928 brick church building would be torn down. In 1997, a new church sprang up on the farm of Jan’s Uncle Earl Kemmerer. That’s where we are today, and our address, 1852 95th Street, Naperville, pays homage to the year the early church settlers began congregating in their living rooms. The windows were carefully saved and moved here.

Jan wanted to give her parents a special reminder of the old brick church building. So she built a miniature one of her own. She made every tiny nook and cranny herself, down to the cross from her mother’s jewelry on the tiny pulpit. Of course, even the stained glass windows are lighted replicas of “The Church with the Lighted Window.”

Thank you to Jan Keeley and the Brown & Kemmerer Families for sharing their legacy with us!

Faith @ Work

It’s not just about you…

Being faithful in the workplace is not a cakewalk. Dealing with wildly different personalities, working in a sometimes highly competitive environment, and often facing ethical temptations is a challenge for a Christian to live faithfully. And then there is the uncivil behavior.

Have you noticed that we seem to be living in increasingly uncivil times? Whether it is on social media, on the highway, or in the line at the grocery store, there is a great deal of rudeness that we all experience. And it also happens at work. Have you ever been on the receiving end of rude or unethical behavior in the workplace? Or, more embarrassing, have you been the instigator?

Bill Hybels, senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, in addressing the subject of civility in the workplace at the most recent Summit event this summer, gave 10 guidelines for civil behavior by leaders in the workplace.

1.     Set the example of how to differ with others without demonizing them

2.     Model how to have spirited conversations without “drawing blood”

3.     Never interrupt others who are talking and do not dominate the conversation

4.     Limit your volume level and refuse to use incendiary or belittling words that are guaranteed to derail a discussion

5.     Set the example of being courteous in word and deed

6.     Never stereotype

7.     Apologize immediately when wrong instead of denying or doubling down

8.     Form opinions carefully and stay open minded if better information comes along

9.     Show up when you say you’re going to show up and do what you say you’ll do

10.    Set rules of respect for everyone in the organization and enforce them relentlessly

These are good. But, being a Christian in a work environment may be about even more than just being civil or “doing no harm.” Scripture calls us to a higher goal and over the next three weeks we’ll be taught from scripture about how to navigate the workplace both to help it improve and for us to find greater fulfillment. Want to see a difference where you work? See you the next three weeks in worship.

Rev. Roger Jenks

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone."                                                                                                                                                                             1 Thessalonians 5:11-14

Master Plan

"The ones who disappoint you need you the most." Jack Hyles

"Do the right thing." I wish I had a dime for every time someone said that to me. I’d be a very rich woman. Doing the right thing isn’t easy. I’ve had my share of sleepless nights. I’ve wasted countless hours of my days and nights constructing lists of pros and cons. Through lengthy consultations, I’ve exhausted my family and friends trying to discover the mystical answer of doing that which is right. Discovering what is ‘right’ is too often hidden deep below the surface of the well of my selfish desire. I’ve lost more than my temper trying to draw from that well. I settle for the reflection. I am unwilling to give into what is truly required because it costs me more than I am willing to give. So, I cheaply get by with doing that is sort of right, almost right or the worst thing…what I think is right.

So, what is the outcome of my accumulated years of searching for the answer to the enigma of ‘what is the right thing?' How does it apply to the big picture whether I am single, married, widowed or divorced? Is there ever a ‘right’ answer?

Yes. There is always a right answer. You must discover for yourself that doing the right thing begins with self-sacrifice. It is situational. What was right once will not be right now so rules or legislation don’t work. Forgiveness is powerful. Wisdom is expensive. Redemption is God’s handiwork. The Spirit continues to hover above the dark waters of the human heart yearning to do the will of God as the arduous work of creation unfolds uniquely within us and we are fashioned into the men and women God longs for us to be.  

Here is a sneak peak at the early stages of the message for Sunday. 

1. Stay humble before God.

2. Do not act on your human nature.

3. Live with an accountable community of Christian believers.

4. Redemption comes from outside myself.

Read the story of Ruth for yourself. I believe the characters got it right. Their actions were painstakingly and laboriously constructed from the blueprint of our Master Architect. Their choices were part of the master plan and contributed to the redemption you and I receive through Jesus Christ. They affect you and I personally because they did the right thing.

“Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel!” Ruth 4:14

Something Greater

“Do you ever get the feeling that there’s something greater happening here, it’s like our hearts are part of a bigger story.” Matthew West, lyrics to Something Greater

I think most of us get bogged down in the day to day stuff of life and fail to see the big picture. It takes discipline to remove myself from the urgent tasks of the daily routine to get to higher ground and take a look around. The air is clear. The breeze whisks away the fog. I can see for miles above the tree line. Suddenly, the arduous climb toward the top fades into memory as I let go of the challenges and embrace the wide open landscape in front of me.

Marriage can be like a major expedition to a mountain summit. It can be too easy to get overwhelmed in the immediate crux because it’s right there in front of me. I will easily forget the big vision when I get stuck and cannot move forward or backward. The urgent demands are bred from necessity. But, I have to remember that my daily crags are part of a bigger story. I need constant reminding of the big picture. Marriage is more like reaching the summit of a single mountain that belongs to a mountain range. Marriage is never a single narrative. It’s directly connected to a long line of previous peaks, plains, hills and valleys. Those are the people, places and experiences of our life. Whom we encounter is just as important as what we encounter along the way.

We’ve been studying the book of Ruth. We discover the type of person she is in the first two chapters as her Godly character is being formed. Chapter three includes a very dramatic sequence of events that reveal the character not only of Ruth but also that of Boaz. Matthew’s gospel reminds us that Boaz’s mother was Rahab the prostitute. (Matthew 1:5) Scripture suggests Boaz was not married. It alludes to the fact that Boaz was a relative—a kinsman redeemer. He was a respected man of worth. He was an older man. Why did he remain single into his maturity? Why did he decide to make the hill climb solo? 

Tim Keller writes, “My wife, Kathy, often says that most people, when they are looking for a spouse, are looking for a finished statue when they should be looking for a wonderful block of marble. Not that you can create the kind of person you want—but rather because you see what kind of person Jesus us making.”* We are all ‘in the making.’ Jesus is at work making us holy. Remember, God’s ideal in marriage is about holiness. The chisel and hammer belong to him. The most important work is what Jesus does is within us.  We don’t even get to make the marble. He does that too!

As we gather for worship Sunday, we celebrate holy communion. We recall Jesus' arduous hill climb to Golgotha. The achievement on the mountain was preceded by a epic story that included a strategy, implementation and work that stretched across the universe to eventually include me and you. We could call it the grand saga of holiness. That would be too easy because I could leave that story out there like the story of a hill climb and never allow it to penetrate the crevices of my own heart. But, if I allow that grand adventure to seep into my heart, my soul finds refuge. In the broken places, I find Christ. His holiness fills in my vacancy. He makes up for my lack. His grace is sufficient. I remember then, as I gaze across the panorama, that I belong to the great and powerful unfolding drama of God. The person who’s been along the path with me from the beginning was Christ himself, chipping away at the marble creating a masterpiece. It’s good to be at the summit. I can see eternity from here.

“...these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Isaiah 56:7 NIV

Marriage Myths

Myth: a widely held but false belief or idea.

Myths are dangerous things. They tempt us to believe anything is possible. We succumb to their power to coerce us to think, feel or believe differently. Driven or clouded by body chemistry or emotions, we tend to gauge everything on how we feel about a particular person, situation or occurrence. Myths are dangerous. They deceive us. They allow us to believe in something that isn’t real. I believe the spiritual life is all about becoming real-the real person God intended us to become. For most of us, it takes years of serious work to get to ‘real.’ But, I assure you, the journey is worth it. Just ask the Velveteen Rabbit.

There are millions of us wandering around the globe with painful yearnings that could be met if we spent less time seeking human companionship and spent more time seeking God. The illusive yet longed for love and state of fulfillment are outcomes of a right relationship with God. But, we look for them, as the song goes…’in all the wrong places.” We place an unrealistic heavy mantle onto the person we ‘love’ by expecting them to be our everything and to somehow complete us. We’ve been duped into believing we can find someone perfect that will help fill our emptiness, help define our purpose and destiny or help redeem our imperfections. There are a lot of us out there looking for a savior.

Sometimes the search for a savior is one that takes us down a road toward believing another human being can somehow save us from our current dismal situation. It’s like believing the fairytale we’ve heard a thousand times. A damsel in distress lives a tragic, unloved, unfulfilled life. Suddenly, a threatening situation occurs and she yearns for a Prince Charming to come along and save her. The prince shows up at just the right time and saves her! After a beautiful coronation and wedding, the royal couple rides off into the sunset to live happily ever after. The end.

While this dramatic story line works well for poets, authors and film makers, it’s not a plot line for living a life of grace and truth. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17) 

This Sunday we unpack some widely held myths about marriage. In their book Fit to be Tied, Bill and Lynne Hybles suggest there are four marriage myths: 1) marriage will end loneliness; 2) marriage will heal one's brokenness; 3) marriage will ensure one's happiness; 4) marriage is for everyone. I know there are many more myths. Honestly, we each inherit a lot of myth variations and deceptions when it comes to marriage and singleness. So this weekend, we’ve invited two well-seasoned professionals to share their insights with us. Pastors Terry Clark and Roger Jenks have years of experience and a wide range of insights to enrich us and encourage us on the road to living the life we’ve always wanted and having a marriage that fulfills every aspect of our hopes and dreams. See you in church.

I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:8-10 The Message

Singleness

“One clear difference between Christianity and Judaism (and all the other traditional religions) is the former’s entertainment of the idea that singleness as the paradigm way of life for it’s followers.” Stanley Hauerwas

Think about it. Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, was single. The Apostle Paul, the leading theologian who set the bar for how to follow Jesus Christ with your whole life and who set the pace for how the church would thrive in stressful times and in many different cultures, was single. Single adults cannot be seen as less fulfilled or lacking in some spiritual development if the two people responsible for the founding and leadership principles of Christianity were single. Yet, the church and almost every culture on the planet says differently.

Single people are constantly bombarded with statements like the following:

1. As soon as you’re satisfied with God, he will bring that special someone into your life.

2. You’re too picky. No one is perfect.

3. As a single person you can commit all your time to the church, taking care of mom and dad, job, justice issue, mission…(you fill in the blank).

4. Before you can marry someone wonderful, God has to make someone wonderful out of you!

Beneath statements like this is the underlying idea that somehow single people are deprived or live unfulfilled lives. As a pastor, I want to say, “I’m sorry.” I am sorry for what the church has said and done to make you think that you are not enough. I am sorry that the bible study groups tried to set you up on ridiculous blind dates—they were only projecting their own ideas onto you. I am sorry that the church has placed such an overt preoccupation on family, children and legacy without honoring singleness as a gift from God. I am sorry you feel like an outcast in society because within true Christian community you’re valued as a joint heir with Christ regardless of your marriage status.

Single people, you are enough. You were made in the image of God. Jesus died to bring us all into the Kingdom of God. Our Christian hope turns the church community into something profound. Our gospel beliefs create a bond with Jesus and with other Christians stronger than any other connection in the world. Our identity is wrapped up in Jesus. We are all valuable to him. We all sin and need redemption. We all can experience the amazing transformation of deep repentance which includes forgiveness and freedom. Single people, you are capable of having deep meaningful relationships with others. You have capacity to love extravagantly, openly and without regard to your marriage limitations. You are loved and lovable.

This Sunday we launch a new ministry and a new season of relationship building at Wheatland. The Big Picture: Singleness, Marriage and Me is a series that will help us discover together what it means that God created us to be in relationship with him and others. We can learn how to have great relationships whether we are single, married, divorced or single again after the death of a spouse. The Bible begins and ends with a wedding. Marriage is a big deal in the bible. So we will discover together some of the biblical precepts during this series. 'Married People' events launch September 22, 2017. Director of Children and Family Ministry, Chris Rechsteiner, along with Char and Arlyn Brower, are guiding us along the path of “Married People’ as part of Wheatland's Children and Family Curriculum. You can learn more about Married People on our new website: Wheatlandsalem.org. You can also go to Marriedpeople.org for more information. See you in church Sunday.

Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body. I Corinthians 6:19-20 The Message

20 Year Celebration

“The Bible makes it clear that every time that there is a story of faith, it is completely original. God's creative genius is endless.”  Eugene Peterson

Wheatland Salem Church has flourished to become a global influence for the gospel of Jesus Christ from the vision given by God to a small Evangelical community of believers in 1852. Wheatland has been doing ministry for 165 years. Many have gathered to praise God and to witness to their faith over the years. We are an instrumental part of that great vision. This Sunday, a portion of our Wheatland Story will be told. We will focus on the move from the Route 59 and 95th street location to the present day location in Naperville. Twenty years ago Wheatland moved into our facility at the corner of 95th and Book.

We’ve put together a worship experience that honors God for his faithfulness to Wheatland and honors the vision he instilled into those who choose to become part of the Wheatland story. There is no greater calling for a human being than to be included in God’s great work among the nations. Heaven is filled with countless thousands of people that believed their lives mattered in the scope of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of the world. Wheatland has been and continues to be part of God’s plan.

Here is the schedule for the Sunday morning activities:

Worship leaders meet at 8 a.m.for prayer and cue to cue team meetings.

Contemporary music rehearsals begin at 8:30 a.m.

Cornerstone Choir rehearsal at 9:00 a.m.

Faithful Men rehearsal at 9:15 a.m.

WSC Bell Choir rehearsal at 9:30 a.m.

Doors open to the Community Room at 9:45 a.m

Pastor Jen opens worship with a story of faith and vision at 10:00 a.m.

Wheatland Oswego and Wheatland Naperville faith communities will unite following worship to celebrate together in one place. Some call it an old fashioned Church picnic where everyone brings a dish to pass. Others look forward to the Tailgate party. Inflatables and games will be available for the kids. Live music will be played by our own Wheatland House Band. Fans can watch the Chicago Bears game together under the big tent. More importantly, God will be there with us celebrating. He’s the real reason we’re doing all this.

I look forward to being part of this next season of ministry with you. God’s unwavering love and courageous vision for the church has not changed. Let’s honor him and continue to fulfill his plan, so that, years from now someone will tell our story too.

#changetheworld

"What do I get from following Christ?”

All of the sudden he looked at his shoes. It felt like all the air was sucked out of the room. The atmosphere became very uncomfortable. The clergyman standing in front of everyone smiled uncomfortably. He shifted his weight back and forth. He reminded me of a fourth grade boy who was asked to spell a word he’d never heard before.

The clergy leader sheepishly responded, “Well, the call to Christ is about sacrifice and service.” 

All I could think is “wrong answer!”

The group discussion went on. The defeated man left standing in the front leading the session became irrelevant. He could not honestly tell a group of seasoned Christ followers why following Jesus Christ was the most important, transformational, world changing decision a person could ever make. I personally grew more and more irritated. I hovered at the edge of anger for the rest of the meeting and am still simmering about it. As you can tell.

Friends. Knowing what we get out of the relationship with Jesus is the most important information we will ever need to know. More than that, we must comprehend it and put it into practice. Let it permeate our entire soul, mind and spirit. The Apostle Peter said it best:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, I Peter 3:15 NIV

Each of us will have our unique and power-filled answer above and beyond the countless theological reasons. What did Jesus do for you? Did he set you free from a life of sin and addiction? Did Jesus fill your soul so full to overflowing that he removed the isolation and longing to be loved and accepted? Did Jesus save your soul and give you an inheritance that can never be taken away? Did Jesus speak your name and all of the sudden your life had meaning and purpose? Did Jesus reveal a specific vision for your life that only you can fulfill?

Once we know what we get out of the relationship with Jesus, we are commanded to live into it with our whole heart. We are not to live half-heartedly or from day to day with nothing to show for it. Maybe that’s why I was so angry about the clergyman’s answer. Call it a righteous indignation. I believe he had an opportunity to invigorate and ignite a group of people who were trying to make a decision about a direction the United Methodist Church is called to go. He could not tell us the reason for the church’s existence or purpose. I expect more from church leaders.

Sunday we celebrate holy communion and wrap-up the Wheatland University series. Expect to hear some invigorating, inspiring words about Jesus Christ and why we follow him. Expect to be part of a church that makes changing the world seriously. 700 widows received an amazing surprise in Ujiji, Tanzania this week because of Wheatland’s generosity. Plans are being finalized for our 20-year celebration, September 10, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.. This is an event you do not want to miss. God provided much needed cash so plans are being finalized to fix, replace and improve our facilities at both campuses. Wheatland Academy teachers were freshly anointed and prayed for as they prepare to teach more than 200 preschool children. Covenant Classical School has been in full session for weeks imparting a Christian education for 150 grammar school leaders. Wheatland Student Ministry and WSCKids ministry has set a course of being more intentional about living into our Christian inheritance every day. Christ followers who call Jesus Lord at Wheatland initiate their fall small groups, courses and classes. Expect more. I know I do. See you in church Sunday.

And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 The Message

#pastorlife

“Jenny, remember this: we work six days and twenty-three hours to have the privilege of standing in front of a congregation for twenty minutes on Sunday morning to tell them what to believe about the bible and how to live out their faith. Learn everything you can about the people God gives you. It is a privilege to lead them.” Dr. Don Forsman, Tulsa, OK, 1994

Early in my career, people made jokes about pastors working for an hour on Sunday. I’ve been asked what I did all day by my own father. Most people have no idea what a pastor does until they really need one. When that moment comes, I believe we have to be ready.

Since August 1:

I officiated for three funeral services. One funeral family was from within Wheatland.

I officiated a wedding.

I helped a homeless lady.

I travelled to Nashville twice to fulfill denominational duties for the global UMC.

I attended the Global Leadership Summit.

I hosted the Tanzania Mission team at my home for dinner.

I hosted a vision cast dinner for a potential 2018-2020 project in my home.

I helped a couple plan a 50th wedding anniversary vow renewal ceremony.

I counseled several couples who are having trouble in their marriage.

I listened to men tell me their wives left them.

I heard an abused woman tell me she still loved her husband.

I helped an elderly couple make a major decision that brought them peace.

I cried with a mom who’s child is making choices that are contrary to their family belief.

These are some of the major events on my calendar. There are also daily church and weekly staff meetings. I practice the very early morning discipline of bible reading and prayer because I wouldn’t be able to sustain what I do without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. As Dr. Forsman proscribed, I hold the privilege of standing in front of this wonderful blessed congregation on Sunday at Oswego or Naperville in the highest regard. God has blessed me to be able to work alongside some of the most talented and gifted staff people I have ever known. I look forward to our shared future.

I was writing a funeral sermon today when God gave me an insight. Faith accompanies us along the line. The line eventually represents the life we lived between our birth and our death. Pastors come alongside people during some of the most defining moments on that line. Faith is what gets us to the altar or to the side of a casket. Faith sustains us in the dark times and in times of joy. Faith challenges us to travel beyond comfort zones and to become vulnerable with trusted friends. Faith helps us persevere when it would be so much easier to give in. Faith is meant to mature and grow. It is something we share.

Why am I telling you all this? I wanted you to know what this pastor does. It’s all preparation. I pray I am ready to come alongside you during your defining moment. Each defining moment of faith prepares us for the next. Maybe I will be the pastor you need next week. Or maybe you will be the pastor I need.

Lunch with a Missionary

(The following blog is the outcome from a conversation I had while having lunch with some of our Faith Promise partners. They live in a distant land sharing Christ in a culture that has become increasingly hostile to Christians and Christianity. I am sharing a story with you. My prayer is that you are inspired to pray a bold prayer and ask God to reveal to you how you may be called to respond. Maybe it's time for you to say ‘yes’ to God.)
 

Lunch with a Missionary
Our Faith Promise partner was completely captivating as she recalled her story. “We stopped at the traffic light at 75th & Naper Boulevard when a woman drove up next to us and rolled down her window. She motioned for me to do the same, so I did.” 

The motorist shouted, "You must be special people. I heard you talk at our church this morning!"

"No.” Our Faith Promise partner responded, “We are ordinary--reeeeally ordinary people."

"You are very SPECIAL people!" The woman insistently proclaimed. More vehicles started to accumulate. People waited anxiously for the light to change.

The missionary smiled but equally insisted. "No! Honestly! We are really ordinary people being obedient to God!"

"Exactly!" The woman proclaimed as her car was absorbed into the long stream of suburban vehicles headed East in her lane, "Most people are not obedient to God!”

What I learned about Christianity in East Asia.
There are an estimated 100 million Christian missionaries serving this East Asian country of 1.6 billion people. Most live in communities where there is an environment of suspicion. This atmosphere was left behind like wreckage from an abandoned airplane crash by the former
communist regime. It's perpetuated by the current concern for cultural or what is commonly described as traditional family values.

The young are not allowed to have 'ideas.' They are expected to finish school, attend college, get a job and fulfill their duty to their family. The young must sacrifice their dreams when necessary. All income is pooled into a family fund. They must support and serve the family as
their first priority. Problems occur when someone becomes a Christian. Christian beliefs threaten family traditions when young converts will not honor family tradition but choose to serve and honor Jesus Christ.

Public shaming is part of life. It is a disgraceful and painful weapon. Christians are singled out by family members and community people not necessarily from the government. Families identify Christians and publicly humiliate them in hopes of shaming them back into the family
fold. Christians are often ostracized by community leaders who publicly identify them as people who are trying to destroy long-held cultural family values and traditions. Sometimes the persecution is so intense, teacher contracts and students visas are cancelled because they are evangelizing too successfully.

Stability is cloaked in fulfilling undefined legalism and opaque cultural traditions. Riot police are part of life. Many riots erupt but are never reported or talked about publicly. Unemployment, underemployment, land grabs, government crack downs and merchant class corruption toward the poor create daily disturbances. Minority segregation is a reality dividing ethnicities with unique languages, cultural traditions and of course religion. There are 400 Ethnic minorities in this East Asian country.

Jesus is still Lord!
The local church is thriving in spite of the persecution. Evangelism is expanding to include the Muslim population where mosques have been built in every community. Our mission partner shared she was blessed to witness young women starting house churches. “It's as if they have
no fear and many are only 21-25 years old! They've accomplished college. They've professed to follow Jesus Christ wherever he leads.” She said.

These young leaders work closely with our Faith Promise partner on a daily basis. They learn what it means to read the Bible together, sing praise songs and love, care and support each other. These zealous young disciples relocate with a vibrant faith which was fostered while
making gingerbread cut-out cookies. The simple act of decorating cookies became a way to tell the Jesus story. The college Students who help with the extraordinary ministry start house churches in the communities where they relocate. To this date, eight house churches have been
planted in other communities. There is one house church thriving in their local town led by college-aged volunteers working with our Faith Promise partner.

What can we do?
When I asked our partners what more we could do, she said, “Pray for the house churches that are an outcome of our ministry. We never expected this. Pray for faithfulness to God’s Word. Their translation is difficult to understand. Most translations use a classical language which
makes it difficult to read and use.”

This vibrant champion of Jesus continued, “Isolation is a problem for Christians and the house churches. They take an enormous risk when they share their faith. As for financial resources, we do not make long-term financial commitments. We are training them to become self-sufficient
and trust God to provide. People are very, very poor.”

Our Faith Promise partners support all the house churches in varied ways. Sometimes they financially support the pastors, pay for their rent, buy food for the congregation, pay salaries, or pay the electricity bill. All the money is pooled together for the benefit of the house churches and for reaching the community with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

People who attend the local house church that meets in our Faith Promise partner’s home are mostly people who teach English or attend college. Many Christian missionaries are from Africa: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Zambia are represented. Other countries such as Japan, South Korea, Russia, Inner Mongolia, Singapore, Britain, The Netherlands, and New Zealand are represented.

What does Wheatland actually do?
We support ‘reeeeeally ordinary’ people who are obedient to God. We agreed to be part of what God called these Faith Promise partners to do years ago. We actively engaged with what they were doing in the field. It’s certainly a God-thing that Wheatland help plant churches when we committed to save infants! This particular Faith Promise partner was obedient to God by moving to a foreign country and accepting abandoned babies. Some babies were abandoned because of circumstances we don’t understand. Some were abandoned after a doctor proclaimed the infant as blind or deaf.

Our mission partner passionately explained, “We do what Jesus called his disciples to do: reach the ‘lost.’ These babies are loved, nourished and taught Christian values. They are given a second chance at life. A Christian foundation of love provides a safe place for these special
children to thrive. They are accepted into our temporary mission home until they are fitted into homes belonging to their forever family.”

“We pray that each child is eternally saved. We pray the families that adopt them are God's choice. Not every adoption attempt is successful. A family may not accept one of these children. Some inquisitive parents that come to adopt leave empty handed. We know it’s not right. Not right for them nor for the child. Not all adoptions are successful on the first try. These children know what it means to believe. We can see Jesus in them. There is a significant difference in their disposition.”

Wheatland is an awesome church! We believe the best witness for the gospel of Jesus Christ is a transformed life. There is so much more to do. We can have even greater impact in the world for Jesus Christ. What would it be like if we took becoming a world changer seriously ? Imagine the greater things God has called us to do. What is God calling you to do? Where is God leading you? What wrong in the world keeps tugging on your soul? Is there an issue that ignites your passion to actually get involved and do something significant with your life? Are you searching for or running from God?

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is".           Colossians 3:1-2 The Message

 

Leadership

Leadership matters.

'A great leader surrounds himself or herself with other great leaders' is a common leadership proverb. You’ve probably heard it a thousand times. Strong sports teams, companies, churches, and organizations are built on a foundation of courageous, competent leadership over time. I believe leadership must be a shared endeavor. No one has all the answers. We all fail. Jim Collins reminds us that good ideas are the enemy of great ideas. It takes a self-aware leader to admit their ideas are not always great. Sometimes it takes a team to help a great leader recognize the season they are leading in is difficult not by their own making but by what the market demands or what the environment requires. A leadership team shares the burden of consequences but they also share in joy of the reward. Insight. Stamina. Strength. Each of these characteristics contribute to the common goal.

A great leader rises to the occasion and they continue to rise until the job is done. Often, what makes a great leader is the ability to get back up one more time after being beaten down hundreds of times. They shake it off and make a conscious choice to be a lifelong learner. A great leader will discover new insights into their own vulnerability, strengths and weaknesses while he or she builds up the team. A great leader also receives good counsel and knows how to apply the truth to their own life no matter where the truth comes from or how it is delivered.

Wheatland Values, Vision and Mission Statements.

Wheatland has a vibrant history. We’ve been part of the Naperville community since 1852. We decided to become more influential in the Oswego community in 2010 because God called us to become more than a small community of believers who met weekly to worship and live a quiet Christian life. God called us to become a church of leaders with Kingdom-minded values. Wheatland values personal transformation, relationships, the Next Generation, worship and missions. Our vision statement is ‘Love God, Love others, change the world.’ Our mission statement is connected to our vision statement: Love God, love others, change the world by being a connected, devoted, generous follower of Jesus Christ. 

Impact.

Great things are accomplished when great leaders have a clear vision and a common purpose. I believe we are called by God into a season of exploring innovative ideas and receiving a fresh anointing to attempt great things for God. We are called to have impact in our communities and around the world. You are part of God’s great work. It’s time to act. It’s God’s call. You’ve been faithful and committed to your church community. I believe our season of greatest impact is about to commence.

We begin a new series this Sunday titled Wheatland University. It’s a series designed to help you learn about the scope of our ministries and to ignite your personal passion for serving Jesus Christ. We will hear messages from a spirit-filled team of Wheatland leaders. Pastors will be present each week to lead, encourage and step aside in order to let the team speak from their heart about their passion for making Jesus Christ known and how to make huge impact in our lost and broken world. Don’t miss any of it.

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9b-12 NIV

-Pastor Jen

The African Way

“What did you learn?”

It’s a question I love to ask following a big event. Mainly because I don't want to miss the main thing God meant for me to learn. I believe we can certainly learn something from everyday experiences but there are major events that are designed--some may even say destined- by God to deeply impact our transformational process. This was one of those experiences for me.

“What did you learn?” 

I smiled and waited like a dog anticipating a bone. The sound technician adjusted the audio recorder Radio Joy used to record each of the jam-packed leadership sessions of the four-day event we hosted. I could sense his internal wheels were turning. I wondered if there was something wrong with the equipment. My curiosity quickly gave way to concern. He seemed to be deep in thought. Was he searching for an answer? Would he offer a simple one-word answer that would please me or would it be authentic and honest. He chose the latter.

Without looking directly at me his words simply floated in the space between us, “Your question has many levels, Pastor.” He peered through this Ben Franklin style spectacles at the audio recorder still determined and focused as he tinkered with it perched at the top of its stand. I was hoping for a quick polite answer. A session I was scheduled to teach was about to begin. Delegates were already streaming into the Community Center. Some were already seated excitedly chatting in groups of three or four. I hoped he would reveal the Radio Joy audio team learned some great insight into sound design or how they could implement a new piece of equipment.

“If you're asking me if we learned something we can use at Radio Joy--then, yes. We learn a great deal every time we do events like this. But, I don't think you're asking me that question.”

I suddenly got the overwhelming feeling like I had unexpectedly waded into the weeds. I felt like I was getting sucked into something. I was clearly unprepared. I truly did not want to engage in a sublime intellectual conversation minutes before my next talk. I simply wanted a one-word, high-five answer and move on. The sound technician lowered his arms from the recorder and turned toward me after he accomplished his task. The same intense precision now fully focused on me. His patient gentle demeanor was disarming. He was genuinely ready and willing to engage. But, I backed away and tried to backpedal out of what became an awkward situation for me.

I quickly glanced at the clock and noted we were about to begin my next session. I nervously thanked him and excused myself from the conversation. His countenance fell. He appeared to be disappointed. I suspect he knew he hit the mark. The radio technician was also a great journalist. Later that same week I witnessed how far he would go for a great story. He seized the opportunity to get a great interview with a village elder during one of our mission expeditions. The man is clearly in his sweet spot and is willing to do great things for God in miraculous ways.

I'm not always ready to be generous with my internal world let alone reveal my idiosyncrasies. I’m far more stingy, especially when someone can see right through me and has detected there is something worth excavating. I noticed most of my African friends have this unique discernment quality. I found it alarmingly easy to be open, present and generous with them mostly because of their sincere authenticity. They were first generous toward me. They made the best of things and seized an opportunity when it was presented. They invest in meaningful conversation. I'd like to imagine I’ve stumbled onto something I will call ‘the African way.’ It's very different from the ‘American Way.’ It’s impossible to remain superficial or disconnected when someone you barely know can read your soul and help you discover your true self by simply asking a question.

Let’s talk more about generosity. I’m working on accepting generosity as a lifestyle not simply an adjective describing a feeling, event or person. Sunday we will have some ideas we want to share with you. Come to worship. Let’s start something that will make my African friends smile.

I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. Philippians 4:11-12 The Message

-Pastor Jen

Slumps

Every baseball player and baseball team is prone to slumps.  A hitter has a string of hitless games—the dreaded “0-fers”—that last day after day, night after night.  A pitcher suddenly loses control of the strike zone and can’t throw one over the plate to save his life.  A team goes into an inexplicable downward spiral racking up loss after loss after loss.

"All slumps end,” says ESPN Senior Writer Tim Kurkjian, “but while they are going on, it is a helpless feeling for a hitter.  A bad slump will keep you up at night… There are countless stories about what players will do to end a slump, countless times that a hitter will stand in front of a mirror at 3 a.m. swinging an imaginary bat, wondering what he is doing wrong, and wondering when he will get another hit, if ever.  On the final day of the 1984 season, after going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in a perfect game thrown by the Angels’ Mike Witt, Rangers outfielder George Wright, who finished the season in a terrible slump that left his average at .243, was asked what he was going to do next.  He said, ‘I’m going to change my name and move to Africa.’”

Slumps are not reserved only for baseball players, though.  Everyone goes through slumps.  The marital slump when spouses are just not on the same page mentally, emotionally, or intimately.  The vocational slump when you lose the joy and excitement of the job, and you wake up in the morning dreading the day ahead of you.  The spiritual slump when try as hard as you might you just can’t “feel” the presence of God anymore, or see the need for church or faith at all.

The Apostle Paul, I believe, knew a thing or two about being in a slump.  I can only imagine what it must have been like for him in those months and years he spent in prison, or in those weeks when he was overcome by some outside force like shipwreck or persecution.  I think it was his experiences being in a slump that produced the letter to the Philippians we’ve been studying all throughout this sermon series.

On Sunday, we’ll close out our Batter Up series by looking at the anatomy of a slump, what causes them, and what practical things we can do to break out of them.  Pastor Jen and the rest of the Tanzania mission team will be back.  And we’ll also be announcing the winners of our Cubs/White Sox ticket giveaways.  You’re not going to want to miss out this week!

I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor.  I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13, CEB)

-Pastor Derek

Baseball Rules

The “bible” of baseball—the Official Baseball Rules book—makes it pretty clear what the overall objective of the game is:

1.02The offensive team’s objective is to have its batter become a runner, and its runners advance.

1.04   When a batter becomes a runner and touches all bases legally he shall score one run forhis team.

1.05   The objective of each team is to win by scoring more runs than the opponent.

1.06   The winner of the game shall be that team which shall have scored, in accordance with these rules, the greatest number of runs at the conclusion of a regulation game.

Pretty clear and simple, isn’t it?  The goal of the batter is to get on base.  The goal of the baserunner is to score a run.  The goal of the team is to score more runs than the other team.

Now don’t you wish the Christian life was that easy?  That the objectives to govern how we're to live in faith were laid out just as plainly?  I mean, really, what is the goal of this life?  The objective of faith?  How will a “winner” be determined when all is said and done here on earth?

The Bible doesn’t exactly lay it out in the specifics that the baseball rule book does.  Paul says in Philippians 3 about the overall objective of our faith life: “The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings.  It includes being conformed to his death so that I may perhaps reach the goal of the resurrection of the dead.  It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose.  Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me.  The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.”

Well do you have it?  Do you know the goal, the main objective?  No?

Okay, well, think about that between now and Sunday.  What do you think is the goal?  Why are you part of the church?  What does it look like to “win” in Christianity?  What is it about what we do here at Wheatland Salem that helps you to accomplish the main objectives of the life of faith?

-Pastor Derek

We're a Team

I remember a Sunday morning when I was seven years old riding in the car with my mom to church.  It was the first time that we were going back to church after my dad died.  I remember that just as we were about to turn left onto Lions Road from Main Street in my hometown of Sandwich that I asked my mom: “Why are we going back to church?”  Now, I don’t know if these were the exact words that she used, but I remember her saying something to the effect of, “It’s what we have to do.”

It’s what we have to do.  Maybe as that seven-year-old boy I thought that Mom meant that church was a place that we were obligated to go to every week.  Maybe there was a moment when I thought that church was something that you had to do to be a good person.  I’m not sure exactly what I thought at the time.  I was only seven years old, after all!  But if I did have those thoughts I don’t think that they lasted very long, because eventually I came to understand what my mom meant when she said that going to church was what we had to do.

You see, my mom had experienced the importance of the community of the church.  And so for her the question wasn’t, why are we going back to church, it was: Where else would we go?  Who else could we turn to?  Other than that place and those people?

Now I know exactly what my mom was talking about when she said that going to church was what we had to do.  You see I learned very quickly that Church is much more than a couple of hours on Sunday morning.  I learned that Church is much more than a building.  Church is the community that feels like home, because everyone knows you and accepts you for who you are.  Church is the people you run and tell about your greatest joys, and Church is the people you trust to call up when you are at your worst.  Church is the community of brothers and sisters in the faith who are united together by love and hope in Christ.  Church is a family.  It’s a team.

I can honestly say that it is because of my home church, and the relationships that I still have from my youth group growing up, and the relationships with other Christians in college and seminary, and the relationships with people at all the other churches I have worked at, that it’s because of those relationships that I am who I am today as a person, but most of all who I am today as a Christ follower.  I would be completely impoverished if not for them.  Because I couldn’t do this on my own.  I can’t do it on my own.

This week we continue our Batter Up sermon series by focusing in on the importance of a team.  Our faith is a team sport.  We need each other in the church to come together in cohesion and collaboration to achieve our mission, and to support each other.  We’ll look with Paul in Philippians to Christ our head.  See you Sunday!

“Most important, live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel… Do this so that you stand firm, united in one spirit and mind as you struggle together to remain faithful to the gospel… Complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other.  Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.  Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.”  (Philippians 1:27, 2:2-4, CEB)

-Pastor Derek