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

Batter Up

I remember vividly the first time I stepped foot in Wrigley Field to attend my very first Chicago Cubs game.  I don’t think it’s too far to say that it was like a religious or spiritual experience.  There was (and still is) a sacredness to that place.  A sense of tradition.  The devotion that I saw etched on the faces of the fans, and embodied in those stands, rivaled the devotion I witnessed in my home church.  I used to refer to those Friendly Confines on the corner of Addison and Clark as “heaven on earth.”  When I was in college I would (jokingly?) say that I had learned more about faith, hope, and love from being a lifelong and long-suffering Cubs fan than I had from being a part of the church my entire life.

Now I’m guessing some of you will scoff at this idea.  Baseball isn’t your thing.  It’s just a sport.  How can it possibly be compared to religion or faith?  And if it is wouldn’t it be sacrilegious?  But I’m reminded of what George Will, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, once said, “Baseball, it is said, is only a game.  True.  And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.”

You see in baseball, like a lot of things in our world, we can catch glimpses of the Divine.  In this simple sport there are lessons for us to learn and apply to our lives of faith.  I believe this because I believe God created all good things, from the game of baseball to the Grand Canyon to the Church.  The Psalmist insists that the “heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”  Jesus said that the stones have the power to cry out the message of our Lord.  Throughout the Scriptures we are let in on the secrets of the Kingdom of God with stories about everyday people and things from farmers to widows, and from pearls to clay pots.  So why not baseball?

This week we begin a new sermon series entitled Batter Up: Lessons from Baseball for the Life of Faith.  Over the course of this fun four-week series we will help you to connect America’s pastime with your spiritual life in ways that you’ve maybe never before considered.  To help us connect our faith to baseball we’ll be studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians and hearing messages about living with passion and purpose, the importance of teamwork, having our eyes on the ultimate prize, and embodying joy in the midst of suffering.

Come on out to the ballgame.  Step up to the plate.  We’ll see you Sunday!

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17, NIV)

-Pastor Derek

Control

I’ve discovered something interesting about myself. I have a personality quirk. “Oh girl….,” you might be thinking to yourself. I know, I know, I know I’ve got several quirks. I have a lot to work on. But this one quirk—or uniqueness-has been something I believed to be a rebellious nature in me. What I discovered recently, by working with a small group on the Enneagram, is this personality trait is actually part of who God created me to be. The Fall Program Guide will be out in August. You can register on line and take a course or workshop with me if you want to learn more about the little nuances that make you who you are. You can sign up for the 3-Week Workshop called ‘The Enneagram Workshop’ in November. The workshop follows the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Course which begins August 29and runs through October 24. 

So, here goes. This is my quirk. I discovered the minute someone tries to define me or what I do, I’m immediately tempted to defy it in every way. I don’t like to be defined by conventional classifications whether it is for women, pastors, wives, friends, sisters or even in my choices for fashion. I will attempt to purposely wiggle out of any formal description. So, whenever someone tries to define me or something about me, it feels like someone is trying to pigeon-hole me and limit me or my influence. That makes me crazy inside. Sure, I may smile and accept a compliment. I acquiesced to ordination within the United Methodist Church. I am married, happily I may add. I love participating in fashion trends and look forward to discovering what little make-up tip will be all the rage the next season. This quirk I have either gets me ridicule or admiration.

Conventional teaching is part of the Church. Christian teaching in most Evangelical churches has often tried to classify things. I think it’s because the Church has been influenced by corporate culture. So, now we love to measure success and define failure. The church growth movement challenged local churches to identify how successful they were by accounting for how many people were attending worship, small groups, Women’s ministry gatherings and Men’s basketball leagues. Success out-ranked significance. Now, we are asking deep questions in the Church about why so many people don’t attend worship, tithe or know what is in the bible. Maybe we measured the wrong things or misdiagnosed failure.

I believe it’s time to wiggle out of conventional Evangelical Christian teaching with regards to the Holy Spirit. I believe He’s received a bad rap. Wesleyans understand this because we’ve been misdiagnosed as ‘Enthusiasts’ since the beginning. There is no way to measure the Holy Spirit. We cannot easily categorize, organize or pasteurize him or his work. It may be difficult for some people to become comfortable with emotions, feelings and outbursts of praise for no apparent reason. The Holy Spirit’s role is to help us govern our own self-control but He cannot be controlled. As a matter of fact, the minute we try to control the Holy Spirit, we lose him. Scripture even says, we grieve Him. (Ephesians 4:30)

Read I Corinthians 12 in order to prepare for Sunday’s message. The line that has always captured me is in verse 31 ‘use your ambition to try to get the greater gifts.’ There are greater things for you. There are greater things for all of us. I pray for you all to wiggle out of your comfortable spiritual malaise and to be awakened by God. I pray for the divine inspiration and blessing in your life. I pray you hunger and thirst for righteousness. I pray you are so ignited by the pain and suffering you see in the world that you can no longer settle for the placid answers and do something about it. I pray you are wrecked by the influence of the corporate culture in the Church and work along with me to reveal the Church as a living body which belongs to Jesus. The Church is His bride. He will provide. He will sustain. He will lead and He will lead where we may not want to go. But, in the end, the glory we experience is nothing short of the eternal glory which is Christ Jesus our Lord. To him be the glory forever.  See you in church Sunday.

What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It’s different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. I Corinthians 12:1-3 The Message

Pastor Jen

Holy Spirit

It’s personal.*

It’s different for everyone. It’s dynamic. It’s creative. It’s convicting. Revelation is brought about by waiting for it. Confirmation and assurance comply to it’s influence. It is a wellspring. It is the Source, the gut-check, the righteous indignation when one of the poor, aged or handicapped is ill-treated. It is the angst of someone lost crying out in the Wilderness for help. It is the sound of a simple tune played with eloquence on a guitar. It is an infant’s first gasp for air bringing forth human life and the final departure of that breath as it escapes the bodily enclosure free at last from encumbrance. It’s discovery. It’s adventure. It’s trust. It’s quiet. It’s is beauty. It is holy.

It’s powerful.

God chose to share it with us. It's perfectly at work within each of the three persons of the Trinity as they live in a perfect community. The Father has it. At his word the heavens were made, and by his strength all things continue, and through him they fulfill their destiny. The stars, although they travel in their orbits and no one can stop them, yet they have neither power nor force except that which God gave them. The Son has it. Like his Father, he is the Creator of all things; “Without him nothing was made that has been made” [John 1:3], and “in him all things hold together” [Colossians 1:17]. And the Holy Spirit has it. The entire foundation of our spiritual life is built on it. 

We can lose it!

We can have it and we can lose it. Sometimes we want it more than we want God. Companies rise and fall. Sports teams dominate and then bottom out. Ministries soar then fade. When we lose focus, we can try to produce our own version of it. Sometimes we are convinced we can buy it, work for it or create it ourselves. That’s when we lose it. It gets messy. Maybe you’re one of those people who want to be noticed by someone special. It doesn’t have to be publicly! Most often our desires are a deeply personal private thing. We want to be appreciated and affirmed. Deep down, we long for that special someone to think highly of us, admire our leadership successes and consider us worthy of their blessing. We can become consumed by trying to get it on our own. Ultimately, God allows us plenty of time and space to exhaust our own resourcefulness. 

I want it!

Do you really want it? Do you realize you lost it? First, admit you want it or you want it back. This may be difficult. Not many of us like to admit we were wrong or that we failed. Sometimes it is helpful we begin with confession like “I’ve never really had it. I want it.” Or, “I lost it. I got distracted.” Second, decide to get it or to get it back. The second step may cause you to make a big adjustment. There is usually a significant change of direction or priorities that comes along with this step. A quick fix is not going to get it and nothing may happen at first. Waiting for it will give you an opportunity to develop other skills that have amazing results. For those who once had it, try practicing what you did before when you had it. It will come. God knows where it is and will give it to you as you work on your relationship with Him. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 CEB

*IT: How Churches and Leaders Can get It and Keep It. Craig Groeschel. 

Holy Spirit

What comes to mind when you think of the Holy Spirit? 

The image of a fruit bowl overflowing with fruit pops into my mind. Church curriculum has done a great job of branding the Holy Spirit. Joy is a banana. Peace is an apple. Faithfulness is a clump of grapes. I’ve had ample opportunity to teach on this subject over the last 30 years of ministry and used the same branding. The gifts of the Spirit have also been branded. Small boxes wrapped in shiny paper with red ribbons and bows are neatly displayed on altars or communion tables as an insightful teacher or pastor challenges a class or congregation to imagine receiving gifts from God. 

Sometimes the Holy Spirit is branded as a dove with a bright light behind it. Other times, like Pentecost Sunday, congregations are encouraged to wear red as a symbol of their solidarity in belief that the Holy Spirit is going to be mentioned that Sunday. Red cloth usually decorates the altar or communion table. Flames, fire and abstract art often decorate the cover of the bulletin in an attempt to capture the metaphor used in Acts 2. I wonder if all this clever branding has become a stumbling block for us. Could it actually be in the way of us experiencing God? 

It’s tricky. The images we create and the reality of God don’t always line up. We are not supposed to allow images of God to filter or get in the way of how the Divine is actively seeking to relate and create with us. We may expect one thing but experience another. We have faith but it’s not working very well. Could it be that our judgments about God keep us from what we want most? 

Think about it. If our images and expectations of God have been hindering us from consciously experiencing the presence of The Divine, all we have to do is give our expectations a rest and learn to work with what God is offering. *

In the Bible, God approached people in many different ways. Adam and Eve walked alongside God. Noah obeyed God and built an ark. Jacob saw a ladder. Moses experienced God in a burning bush on top of a mountain. David experienced God as a confidant. Angels, visions, signs, wonders and dreams all became common ways human beings interacted with the Divine. God’s Spirit is referred to over 50 times as a mist or cloud. God spoke dramatically from the cloud to startled disciples during Jesus’ Transfiguration. These are some of the most mysterious and significant passages in the bible. Sacred scripture offers us a glimpse into how others experienced the Living God who invited them to participate in his ongoing, creatively loving, difference-making work. I wonder if any of us believe that Divine interaction could be available for us today. Could God be reaching out to us in a fresh new way?

The Holy Spirit is a Person.

Supernatural is the title of our next preaching series. Let us discover someone new together. Allow Jesus to introduce you to the relational Person who is the Holy Spirit. Give your expectations a rest. Let go of all the silly images or ideas that hinder His introduction into your heart. Lower your guard. Resist the desire to control. Keep the ego in check. It’s time to connect the hose to the end of a spigot. 

The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of this world cannot accept the Spirit, because they don’t see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you. 

John 14: 17 CEV

*The Rest that Works: Living a Life of Loving Mindfulness. Scott Daniels. 2015

-Pastor Jen

Memorial Day

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. It is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966. Many historians debate exact dates because it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day.

Regardless of the exact date or location of its origins, one thing is clear – Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War. A divided nation was called together in a desire to honor our nation’s collective dead. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan. Logan was a national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. He instituted what is known as the General Order Number 11. Logan proclaimed, “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

New York was the first state to officially recognize the holiday in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring all Americans who died fighting in any war. It is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May with Congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363). *

God calls us to remember. It’s far more tempting to forget, move on and live free from the entanglements of the past. But, we don’t learn from our mistakes if we move on too quickly. We don’t honor the good or find value in each other’s pain if we forget. God calls us to remember even though recalling experiences, people or events may be difficult emotionally. The bible includes a narrative that can capture our imagination brilliantly as God calls the Israelites to remember and to move on. 

Joshua was a Godly military and political leader for the Israelites. When the tribes were ready to inherit the Promised Land, they were given specific instructions as to how to proceed. They were also called by God to remember and build a memorial. The next generation would inherit what God promised. God called the Israelites to remember all that God accomplished and how he provided for them. Many from the previous generation died during the years of wandering in desert. I believe the Israelites were also called to remember them. Death was part of the price the Israelites paid for their unbelief and rebellious hearts. It’s not hard to imagine how the faces of loved ones may have come to mind as each of the appointed twelve men hoisted a stone to their shoulder. They would’ve personally recalled mothers, fathers, warriors, children, friends and even enemies that died. To this day, it is a custom of the Jewish faith to place a small stone on the headstone when visiting a grave. Their small stone is a visible reminder loved ones are not forgotten. It is an act of love and remembrance.

The LORD remained faithful to the People of Israel especially during times of difficulty, suffering and pain. The LORD remains faithful to us today.  Invite loved ones and friends to join you for our annual observance of Memorial Day at Wheatland Sunday. We will take time to remember and encourage you to do the same. 

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” Joshua 4:4-7 NIV

Continuum

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”― Steven Furtick

I heard Steven say this quote at a Willow Creek Leadership Summit years ago. It has stayed with me. It’s a gentle correction for me when I struggle with my meaning and purpose or when I get spiritually stuck. I’ve been thinking about my own next steps lately as I challenge you to take your next steps. Part of discovering what my next step will be is doing a personal inventory. I can be really hard on myself. I am far more grace-filled with others than I am with myself. So the voice in my head says, “You should be doing more, Jen Wilson! You should be further along by now.” 

Let’s be honest. There are many voices vying for the top spot. These voices are real and some are imagined. We are going through the budget process now. So, many will take a look at the money promised or the money we don’t have and try to tell me we cannot do the things I believe God is asking us to do because we have no money. Other leaders will step up to try and encourage us to ‘develop our vision’ or attempt to convince us to accept the fate of the downward spiral of the Church in America. There are the voices of negativity that have been with me since the beginning, “A woman should not be leading a church,” or “We sure aren’t the church we were 10/20/50 years ago!” 

All the chatter seems overly dramatic now. It has the potential to derail me. It did years ago. But, I’ve lived through many of these seasons and I have received God’s affirmation of his will and purpose each and every time. I’ve matured in age as well as my spiritual life. I’m not ’there’ by any means but I’m not where I used to be either. I’m on a spiritual life continuum. 

Continuum: a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct.

I believe God designed the whole universe and everything in it with this continuum in mind. All creation is designed to grow, mature and reproduce. Jesus would say, ‘produce fruit that will last.’ (John 15:16 NIV) Human beings are the only created beings that can circumvent the process and choose not to grow. We can make choices to remain the same or even regress. There is a reason we all know what it means when someone accuses us of acting ‘childishly.’ 

We are all on our own spiritual journey. It’s deeply personal. There are some indicators along the way that can help guide us toward maturity. I was privileged to be part of a study done years ago to discover what spiritual transformation and growth is all about and if it was truly happening in our local churches. I’ve included a diagram Molly Sommer and Kim Neace have developed called our Spiritual Life Continuum. Take a look. Consider where you might be and what next step God may be calling you to take. We will learn more about the Spiritual Life Continuum. If you want to learn more about the research, please look here:  https://www.willowcreek.com/move/Move_Forward_Ch1.pdf

The apostle Paul had some important words for the early church in Ephesus. He knew how difficult developing a mature faith in Jesus Christ would be back then. I believe his words are meant for us today. 

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:14-16 NIV

-Pastor Jen