Pastor's Blog

I Keep My Grip on Hope

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 NIV

But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! Lamentations 3:21-23 The Message

What I saw after 911 was an amazing outpouring of compassion and generosity. Courage and fellowship, honor and integrity came from everywhere. Our ongoing 911 commemoration can be to live each day with a sense of pride in serving others and finding hope in the midst of great tragedy. The greatness of who we are was tested and I believe we met the challenge. Ordinary men and women did extraordinary acts of bravery. What I heard over and over again from  “I was just doing my job.”

Tragic events can bring out the best in us. 911 certainly was a tragic event but our response was truly amazing. We’ve learned so much since then about overcoming adversity and what it means to belong to a resilient community. I’ve included a number of videos that can help you remember some of the best and brightest moments. The History Channel has multiple videos you may want to watch. The Remembrance Rescue Project is an educational tool you may want to learn from and share with friends and family. It is designed to teach new generations about the event. 

Sunday is September 11. We hope to reinvigorate our collective memory of how everyday Americans stepped up to respond in life giving ways. What we choose to remember and how we choose to tell the story reveals much about us. Join us as we remember at all Wheatland services.  

1. Tom Hanks narrates a video about the greatest water evacuation in history from Lower Manhattan.

2. History Channel commemorates the hope, compassion and generosity experienced in our greatest hour of need.

3. Remembrance Rescue Project helps us educate new generations about 911 and why we remember those who lost their lives serving others.

Journey Towards Recover

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5 (ESV) English Standard Verson

You do not want to miss the final week of Making of a Champion series; A Champion Bounces Back. Wheatland welcomes Tim Ryan at our Naperville campus and Brad Gerke at our Oswego campus from Man in Recovery. These men are called by God to share their story and help others on their journey toward recovery. You can learn more each week from these two giants Thursday nights at 7 p.m. Wheatland's Recovery night is for addicts and the people who love them.

The video I've included has adult content and language which may not be suitable for all audiences. We respect the honesty and authenticity of the story.   

We Are Not Afraid

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”― William Wilberforce

There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out all fear. I John 4:18

I know very little about refugees. I don’t have any friends that are refugees. Before Bill and I visited Jordan last January, I basically got my information about refugees from the media. I’d already made up my mind about how I felt about people immigrating to the US following the catastrophic attacks in Paris. I watched several news shows about the migration of Syrians to Europe and the tragic stories of families lost at sea running from the atrocious actions in their country.  I’ve traveled to the Middle East on numerous occasions. I love the people and the culture of the Holy Land but felt that the US needed be cautious about allowing large numbers of people into our country. The depth of my knowledge could’ve filled a thimble. 

While in Jordan working with Syrian and Iraqi refugees, I received an invitation to attend The GC2 Summit hosted by The Billy Graham Institute. The GC2 moniker is a symbol for The Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Both initiatives were entrusted to followers of Jesus Christ. I invited a few of our staff members to attend the conference with me. The general response was overwhelming. The organizers moved the conference venue to Community Christian Church in Naperville to accommodate those willing to take a full day to learn more about refugees and wrestle with how God may be calling the church to respond. You may watch video from that conference here.

Major Evangelical partners for the event included, The Billy Graham Center for Evangelism (BGCE), the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College (HDI), and LifeWay Research. The gathering on January 20, 2016, focused on equipping Christians and churches to connect with and serve refugees and refugee communities both domestically and internationally. This event featured top speakers like Rich Sterns (World Vision), Bill Hybels (Willow Creek Community Church), Rick Warren (Saddleback Community Church), Christine Caine (A21), Stephan Bauman (World Relief) and many others who used biblical principles to help Christians and churches better understand their responsibility to show and share the love of Jesus Christ to refugees and their communities. On December 17, 2015, over 100 denominational, network, and non-profit leaders signed the Christian Declaration on Caring for Refugees: An Evangelical Response as a first step toward answering the call of Jesus Christ and this humanitarian disaster.

I felt Christ’s call to do something. It was His voice speaking to me as I listened to each speaker challenge me. My first priority is to learn the facts and then share them with others. I believe it is the Holy Spirit’s role to ignite a passion within you for lost people but you must decide for yourself to step up and do something. The July message series is titled 'We Are Not Afraid'. We will discover biblical refugee stories, learn more about refugees and pray about what we believe God is calling us to do in response to the refugee crisis. There are several events planned to help equip us during the sermon series. Wheatland has partnered with World Relief to offer two options to learn directly from the experts. Bring your favorite international dish to share with others at the forum where World Relief representative Keith Draper, our own Faith Promise partners from Jordan and our resident scholar/theologian Corey Ashley will be available so we can ask real questions and learn together. 

July 10, Oswego campus will host a World Relief Experience Day with Emily Gray, the Executive Director of World Relief. Invite friends to attend and learn with you. 

July 17, Naperville campus will host a World Relief Experience Day and International Potluck Forum with Keith Draper. Invite friends to attend and learn with you.

World maps will be present at both locations during the month of July. You can learn more about our Thumbprint Project here"It may be more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier.", UN Force Commander Major General Patrick Camembert. Learn more about women and children in crisis. 

Some people may question why we are venturing into such a controversial topic this summer. I believe it is God’s call for us to pay attention to our neighbors. After all, isn’t our Wheatland Salem vision statement to Love God, Love others, Change the world? See you Sunday as we kick-off our We Are Not Afraid month!


Stay Hydrated

He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. Psalm 107:35 ESV

Most of us have the luxury of being able to fill a glass of water from the tap and drink it. Some of us can pack a glass full of ice and get cold water from the dispenser located on the outside of our refrigerator at home. I guess it’s a first-world problem when we complain about the icemaker freezing up or if we recognize the little red light reminding us the water filter needs to be changed again. I bet you could tell me a story of how refreshing a cool drink of water felt on a hot day after mowing the lawn, riding rollercoasters all day at a theme park or after playing soccer for hours during a weekend tournament. Isn’t it interesting how parched we can get while just lying on the beach or fishing for hours from the boat? 

Every summer we hear harrowing reports from people who miraculously emerge from being lost in the wilderness. Try to imagine the astonishing effects of water as it quenches a shriveled body that has been wandering in the desert for days. Intense feelings of desperation and then exhilaration come to mind. The human body cannot go very long without water. Our lives depend on it. Thirst signals us when we are depleted. It is the body’s early warning system. We can feel tired, cold all the time and lose our mental concentration. Dehydration can be dangerous over time. We put our major organs at risk and the complex systems designed to keep us humming along at optimum health become stressed or irritated without sufficient water. But, we don’t have to wander in the desert to experience dehydration. Physicians and researchers tell us many of our chronic physical ailments are due to insufficient hydration. I’ve known more than a few people who returned from the doctor’s office visit disappointed because their physician told them the solution to their problem was to drink more water. So, let me encourage you to listen to the doctor. Drink more water.

The wilderness can be a desolate place filled with chaos and danger. But, it’s not limited to a geographic location. The bible refers to the wilderness as a spiritual metaphor where people learn to trust and rely on God. I've felt isolated and desperate more than once as I wandered through a spiritual wilderness on my own. But I can assure you the wilderness can also be a place of spiritual refinement and where we can find God. I know I did. My time in the desert taught me many things. For a refreshing perspective, I included a video from Ray Vanderlaan titled Walking with God in the Desert. ***  Ray is one of my favorite biblical scholars and teachers. I met Ray in Israel while I was teaching about the variety of Temple stones at the base of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. I hope you learn something rejuvenating from Ray.

Sunday is the last message from the Summer Survival Guide Series titled Stay Hydrated: the Practice of Being Present to God. We will celebrate baptisms at both campuses this weekend. How refreshing. Isn’t God good? See you Sunday. Stay hydrated.



Hello Stranger

  1. Are you a natural at beginning conversations with people you do not know? 
  2. Can you talk about issues rationally, defend your beliefs, and be open to the perspectives of others among strangers? 
  3. What is the most important thing you learned from a child, teen or young adult you do not know?
  4. Would your loved ones describe you as someone who listens well to others?
  5. Whose advice do you follow?
  6. Would your friends describe you as a good friend, and introduce you to their other good friends?
  7. How have you made amends toward an individual or a people group you misjudged, hurt or harmed, even if unintentionally?
  8. Have you ever been prompted to talk with a stranger and ignored it?
  9. Do you look for opportunities to talk with people about your practice of Christianity?
  10. Do people earn your trust or do you offer it freely?

Summer travel puts us into contact with strangers. Most of us will have a one-time encounter with people at the campground, airport or gas station and never think twice about it. Other times, an unknown person can make a lasting impact on our lives. Uninvited guests can upset everything or they can become a welcomed intrusion. We can be introduced to way more than we bargained for when we are open to strangers. I believe Abraham and Sarah had no idea what was about to take place as they offered hospitality to three strangers who visited their camp. The Lord God was at work building a foundation of faith that would change their lives forever.

Imagine what may happen if your next encounter with a stranger garnered eternal significance. Whose life could be altered toward Kingdom building goals? What might God begin in you? Connected, devoted and generous Christians understand that every encounter can have the potential for eternal significance. Join us Sunday for worship or attend a small group. Invite your dad to come with you for Father’s Day. It is a day of celebration. We honor the great men in our lives and will hear more about Abraham and Sarah. Maybe you’ll meet someone you don’t know along the way and your life could be changed forever. See you Sunday.

"Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Genesis 18:14 NIV


Get Lost

Bill and I watched an episode of Man vs Wild last night. A guy by the name of Bear Grylls got lost with his camera crew in the Red Rock country of Utah. The scenery was spectacular. Bear gave us an up-close and personal 60-minute survival course on how to overcome the obstacles of being lost for several days in the remote area of the Mohave Plateau. Bear instructed us as his survival expert audience. His purpose for this extreme classroom experience was to equip us so we could survive in these extreme conditions for days as we meandered our way back to civilization. This episode included biting a live Garter snake in two and using it’s guts for fishing bait. Extreme, yes, but that’s what life is all about in the wild.

Most people hate getting lost. Unexpected delays, remote detours or wrong turns down one-way streets can escalate rapidly into emotionally charged situations.  I can vividly recall stories of getting my head ‘bitten off’ for merely suggesting what direction we should go. Few of us want to back-track fifty miles of interstate because we missed the turn. Married couples have fought about which direction to take since we emerged from caves, so this is nothing new. Have you ever stopped to think about why we wig-out when we get lost? It may have something to do with our vulnerability.

Vulnerability is the state of being open to injury. Being vulnerable makes us susceptible to being wounded and leaves us open for attack, criticism and temptation. So, how we deal with our own vulnerability depends on how we are equipped to deal with situations that emerge in real life not just extreme conditions. Life is unpredictable. We cannot control anyone or anything. As followers of Jesus, the only control we are authorized to develop is self-control. So, developing a sense of peace and calm in the middle of a tense situation or extreme conditions takes practice. In order to get to the expert level—we need to put ourselves into harms way so we can practice what we learn and be tested.

Abraham and Sarah

Two characters in the Old Testament carry as much clout as Abraham and Sarah. The stamina of these two old people is truly inspiring to me. I can only imagine how these two fought with each other daily about the obstacles they faced. God is too loving and compassionate to give a blow by blow account of the behind the scenes look at their travels. I could only imagine the reality show of what life was like with these two biblical heavy weights on the road. I can totally relate to them. As someone who’s been married for almost nineteen years, I know how selfish I am. I know how controlling I can be and how much I try to avoid being vulnerable. I love having my way or discovering the winning answer. Sometimes I want to put my ideas on a banner and run down the middle of the road claiming to the world I had one good idea. I am tempted with the notion that just once I could shout, “I told you so!” I believe I could sit and drink iced tea with Sarah. We could talk. We could laugh. Sarah is known for her laughter.

Imagine how getting lost can actually build our faith in God. It helps us practice the art of being vulnerable. We can become open to outcomes we could not imagine without God. Faith in God helps establish where exactly our help comes from and how living out faithful obedience can be the most exhilarating way to live life in the extreme conditions we face daily. Eugene Peterson writes about faith in this way: The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. (Hebrews 11:1-2 The Message) Abraham and Sarah are certainly distinguished. They are credited with righteousness because they trusted God and headed out in a general direction. They were open to outcome. Eventually, God made a covenant with Abraham that continues to effect us to this day. 

Get lost and get off the beaten path is the third Summer Survival Guide practice we will talk about Sunday. The story of Abraham and Sarah might also inspire us to soften our hearts toward those who are lost and don’t know it. The job description Luke identified for the Jesus comes to mind: For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10 NIV) So, go ahead and get lost. Try something new. Be open to an outcome only God could imagine. You might be amazed what happens along the way. See you Sunday.




Active Rest

Active rest was infused into the fitness industry years ago. Active rest means that during your exercise or workout, instead of sitting on a bench to rest, you are doing one of three things: (1) stretching, (2) hydrating, (3) fine tuning your form. Active rest is sometimes referred to as active recovery which means you are improving your body while you're working not just after.

What we do during our rest time matters whether we are exercising or taking a break from our labors. I don't believe for one minute God intended people to just sit back and do nothing for Sabbath. I learned from a great teacher in Israel that Sabbath was meant to 'soak in God's Word and presence with your family.' WOW! Now that's a lot different than 'refrain from work.' As I listened to the teacher share his insights, I imagined my family gathered together at a meal. We shared personal stories of triumph and challenge anticipating input from the people gathered around us. We also read God's Word and learned to apply God's thoughts and standards to our situations. It is easy to envision but magnificently unrealistic in my situation. I have some training to do if I truly want to honor God with my rest.

One way to interpret the Creation story is to think of the Sabbath Day as the ultimate pinnacle. Sabbath can be the summit where we connect with God and a sense of accomplishment for all our labor. Genesis 2 records it this way: By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:1-2 NIV)

The WOW Factor

The summit is a place of active rest and where we can experience 'the WOW factor.' We can take it all in. Physically, our body is stretched. We become acquainted with an intense need for oxygen and we are very much aware of the vigorous labor required to reach the summit. Mentally, our heart and mind may engage with the breath-taking view from the summit. The expansive beauty of the surroundings can fine-tune our emotional, psychological and intellectual status. Spiritually, some people discover they experience an awakening or much needed sacred reset. The summit can help us accept reality. Our triumphs or challenges are small things in comparison to the great things of God.

To journey beyond the summit would be impossible without hydration. Water replenishes the complex system of the human body. Elite athletes and weekend explorers alike empty water containers or guzzle Gatorade restoring balance to the body's depletion. Water has enormous significance in God's Word. Water wipes out the sin of the earth in Noah's story found in Genesis. Water is divided for Israel's crossing from slavery and separates them from the Promised Land in Exodus. Water cleanses mundane things like cups and makes them holy in Leviticus. Later in God's epic narrative, water becomes significant to followers of Jesus as an initiation into the New Covenant. Remember your baptism and keep it holy. 

Survival Practice #2 is the practice of saying no.

Redeem your Sabbath time this summer. Determine now to say no to mindless scattered wandering through the weekend or long-anticipated vacation. The summer months are prime time for us to rest, relax, and refresh. Be intentional. Find meaning and purpose in accomplishments before moving onto the next. Take a second look at things that may have turned out differently than you expected. Treat your vacation as holy time to draw closer to God and perhaps find a way to include Sabbath practice more frequently into your life. God knew from the beginning we would be tempted to define our worth in our accomplishments. God's desire is for you and me to draw closer to him and experience his love for us as sons and daughters. From the summit of his loving presence, everything pales in comparison and we can bask in his 'WOW factor.'

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." Exodus 20:8 NIV



Love's Redeeming Work


'Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me? (Charles Wesley, 1739)

Early Days

Charles Wesley was the eighteenth child born to Samuel and Susannah Wesley. He was born prematurely in December 1707 and appeared to be dead. He lay silent in the midst of the clamor of the Wesley household for weeks. Charles survived infancy and later joined his other siblings for daily classes with his mother, Susannah, who knew Greek, Latin, and French. He learned methodically along with the other Wesley children for six hours a day. Charles then spent 13 years at Westminster School, where the only language allowed in public was Latin. He added nine years at Oxford, where he received his master's degree.

Into Adult Years

While at Oxford University, Charles formed the Holy Club. John Wesley joined the Holy Club after his return to Oxford University in 1729. Holy Club members fasted until 3 PM on Wednesdays and Fridays, received Holy Communion once each week, studied and discussed the Greek New Testament and the Classics each evening in a member’s room, and visited (after 1730) prisoners and the sick. They each systematically brought their personal lives under strict review. The members of the Holy Club were called "methodists." In 1735 Charles and John, ordained clergy of the Church of England, set out as missionaries to the colony of Georgia.

Crisis of Faith

The missionary expedition to Georgia was a failure. Charles experienced a crisis of faith and was in deep need of conversion. After returning to England, Charles taught English to Moravian pastor Peter Böhler. Peter prompted Charles to consider the state of his soul more deeply. May 1738, Charles began reading Martin Luther's volume on Galatians while recovering from a serious illness. He wrote in his diary, "I labored, waited, and prayed to feel 'He who loved me, and gave himself for me.'" He shortly found himself convinced, and journaled, "I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoice in hope of loving Christ." Two days later he began writing a hymn celebrating his conversion.

Musical Theology

Charles could be considered one of the founders of contemporary Christian music. Hymn singing was very important to the evangelical revival in the eighteenth century. Hymns became a means of expressing joy and teaching scriptural truth. Charles Wesley's hymns often paraphrased scripture as well as the Anglican Prayer Book. Charles was said to have averaged 10 poetic lines a day for 50 years and was able to capture the universal human experience in singable lyrics. He wrote 8,989 hymns, 10 times the volume composed by Isaac Watts. Watts is considered the world's greatest hymn writer composing such hymns as "Joy to the World" and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."

Charles Wesley created some of the most memorable and lasting hymns of the church: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "Can It Be," "O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing," "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," "Jesus, Lover of My Soul," "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today," "Soldiers Of Christ, Arise," and "Rejoice! The Lord Is King!"

Happy Marriage and Legacy

Charles married Sarah Gwynne in 1749. The age gap between Charles and Sarah Wesley was nearly twenty years but they were both attracted to each other. The Wesleys were not known for their happy marriages. But from all accounts, Charles and Sarah were very happy. They had a number of children but only three survived to be adults. Following Charles' death, Sarah Wesley was cared for by William Wilberforce, the leader of the movement to abolish slave trade.

"Love's redeeming work is done, Fought the fight-the battle won. Death in vain forbids him rise, Christ has opened paradise, Aleluia!" (Charles Wesley, 1739)


Be inspired. Be awakened. Be transformed.

"Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn." John Wesley

His travel was immense.

John Wesley travelled about five thousand miles a year. He travelled 290,000 miles in fifty-four years. This is a distance equal to circumnavigating the globe about twelve times. Most of this travel was on horseback. Think of riding around the globe on horseback twelve times!

His preaching was prolific.

John Wesley preached not less than fifteen sermons a week—frequently many more. These sermons were delivered mostly in the open air [outdoors], and under circumstances that tested the nerve of the most vigorous preacher. He preached for fifty-four years, fifteen sermons a week, making in all 42,400 sermons. Wesley delivered numerous exhortations and addresses on a wide variety of occasions. A minister in our present day may preach one hundred sermons a year. At this rate, to preach as many sermons as Wesley did, such a minister must live 424 years. Think of a minister preaching two sermons each weekday, and three each Sunday, for fifty-four years. Wesleyan theology and doctrine is distilled from John Wesley's voluminous sermons and personal writings.

Wesley's ministry was considered controversial. 

Wesley and the early Methodists were persecuted by other clergymen of his day and discriminated against by political leaders such as local magistrates. John Wesley was attacked during sermons and mobbed by the common people. No matter what his circumstance, his outreach continually connected with the poor, neglected and needy. Wesley and the early Methodists were particularly concerned about inviting people to experience God’s transforming grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living. They placed primary emphasis on Christian living. They met in small groups and put their faith and love into action. This emphasis on what Wesley referred to as “practical divinity” has continued to be a hallmark of United Methodism today.


Many believe John Wesley’s finest contribution to theology was his understanding of grace. Grace is the unmerited favor and love of God which is available to all whether we realize it or not. In simpler terms, grace is the love that God has for all his creation. John Wesley believed that grace affects us in primarily three (3) different ways: prevenient grace, justifying grace and sanctifying grace. Our Christian faith is perfected daily by meeting the tests and challenges to our faith in a manner that is pleasing to God. The theological and doctrinal foundation for the most vibrant and exciting churches of our day can be traced to John Wesley's development of the theology of grace.

"The best of all..."

One of the most comforting truths for the Christian is the ever-present reality that God is with us. God’s presence is one of the greatest gifts he gives his people. He is personally near. I believe we can all agree that his presence isn't always felt. But, for those who learn to trust God in all circumstances, his divine presence with us is absolutely true. The best of all is that God is with us. These words are credited to John Wesley as his final words. The reality of God’s presence was what Wesley held onto in his final moments. God is best. He can give us no more that himself. He has promised to be with us-- even in the worst moments of life. God’s presence is no guarantee that worse will not come, but that God’s best for you will never leave.

We will celebrate our Wesleyan legacy Sunday with our Confirmation class, their leaders and families. Come, be inspired. Be awakened. Be transformed.



Believe it and behave it.

There are two things to do about the gospel. Believe it and behave it. Susanna Wesley.

Everyone has a backstory. The saga includes courageous stories of valor we never heard and pioneering contributors we never met. The ongoing narrative expands throughout history long before us and will continue to carry on into the future long after us. The image of the number line I used in grade school extending both ways into infinity comes to mind.

Wheatland has a backstory too. Some of us may be acquainted with the Wheatland story from the time we were a country church located at Route 59 & 95th Street. Chuck McPheeters helped reclaim our history by mentally capturing a nostalgic reminiscence and painstakingly applied them onto canvas. You may see these historic watercolor renditions in the hallway at the Naperville campus.

Methodism's backstory includes courageous stories of valor and pioneering people we've never met. The early Methodists' contribution laid a foundation for the Church that continues to flourish to this very day. Many independent mega churches of our time can trace their theological foundations to grace, which John Wesley amplified as the hallmark of theology. John Wesley fought publicly and behind the scenes against the politically distinguished and thoroughly entrenched academic theological heavy weights of his time. Wesley preached in open-air gatherings, created Sunday schools to educate the children of the Industrial Revolution and was a champion of God's love toward the lost. He and his brother Charles considered the world as their parish. They evangelized the 18th century from Urban England and rural Britain, to the deep forests of the New World in Georgia and Caribbean Islands like Antigua.

Susanna Wesley, John and Charles' mother, is often identified as the 'Mother of Methodism.' It is fitting we learn more about her on Mother's Day. Ten of Susanna's nineteen children lived to maturity. One scholar described the Wesley children as 'a cluster of bright, vehement, argumentative boys and girls, living by a clean and high code, and on the plainest fare; but drilled to soft tones, to pretty formal courtesies; with learning as an ideal, duty as an atmosphere and fear of God as law.* Susanna's best legacy was indeed her children, particularly John.

Our new series is titled Heart Strangely Warmed. These are John's own words: 'In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."**

Join us Sunday for worship. We can celebrate all Christ has accomplished as we baptize three new lives into the Christian Faith, commemorate Mother's Day and perhaps find our own hearts strangely warmed.

Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish for spiritual things then it is sin for you, however, innocent it may be in itself. Susanna Wesley

*, Susanna Wesley Mother of Methodism. Anne Adams
**, Christian Classics Ethereal Library


What do you value?

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. Proverbs 1:8-9 NIV

My paternal grandparents were very influential in my life. I remember holiday Sundays at noon meant the entire family gathered for a special meal with card playing afterwards. My paternal grandmother would select one of the grandchildren to sit on her lap so we could learn how to play the card game. My family called it 'cut-throat' cards which meant if you made a mistake you'd hear about it. Being invited to play with the parents was considered a rite of passage and an easy way for the adults to steal your money.

My maternal grandmother was clearly a matriarch and she raised three daughters with strong matriarchal qualities. Summers at the cottage meant fishing before dawn so we could clean as many crappie, bluegill and perch to fry to eat for breakfast with blueberry pancakes requiring real maple syrup. My mother's family were society people with a network that included business owners, farmers, politicians and teachers. All the grandchildren were athletes so Summer swim meets were a family staple. Cousins held state records for certain swimming events.

The Bible includes a gazillion references to family. I believe I can open the Bible to almost any page and somewhere there will be an important biblical principle about family. There are stories about regret, success, failure, forgiveness, exclusion and sacrifice. There are story lines of horrible fathers, meddling mothers and children that are just plain nasty. Sometimes grandparents save the day. Other times children save their parents and rescue entire bloodlines from disappearing.

Family doesn't have to be biological. God designed it to be so much more. Belonging to God's eternal family begins when we invite Jesus Christ into our heart. We initiate God's influence in our ordinary-everyday lives. There is no other way to gain access to this family or achieve its benefits. Our commitment to live according to God's way of life is tempted and tested. Maturity of faith and belief in God develop over time as he attends to the messiness and triumph of the ordinary-everyday life. Our relationships reveal the evidence, the ultimate credibility factor, where we reap the rewards of living out what God intends for his family. Each generation is responsible for living into God's purpose and vision for their lives.

Generations are extremely important in the bible. There are whole sections dedicated to identifying the blood lines of a particular family. In the old days, we used to call that section the "begat" section. God is interested in how we invest in the next generation. The biblical record includes tales about generations that followed God and were blessed by God's favor. It also includes accounts about generations who did what they thought was right in their own eyes. (Judges 17:6) Within every generation there is a story, a claim of identity and the answer to the question, “Who are you?”

Wheatland values the next generation. We invest spiritual and financial capital into Adult, Young Adults, Youth and Children's ministries. Several generations participate in worship, leadership, administration and serving. We diligently commit to learning how to live according the values of God's kingdom. This means our Wheatland story will include the sometimes painful but often redeeming record of what it means to belong to the family of God. Join us Sunday as we celebrate the Children's Musical at our Oswego Campus at both services. You may join us for worship and holy communion at the Naperville campus at all services. Why not invite your whole family to come along with you?

You, O LORD, rule forever; Your throne is from generation to generation. Lamentations 5:19 NIV



What has your attention?

Am I compelled by Jesus' mission?

Jesus entrusted his followers with a God-sized purpose. He promised to be with them and to develop the plan together. According to Matthew's account in chapter 28, Jesus gave a clear and concise command. He said, "therefore, go and make disciples." (Matthew 28:19a NIV) Jesus identified defining actions such as baptism and teaching others to obey his commands that would distinguish his community from the secular culture. Christ followers are called to take part in this mission and commanded to discover what Jesus meant for every age when he gave his instructions.

Consider all the ways you have made an impact in the lives of others for the Kingdom of God. Think about all the people that are influenced by your willingness to put aside your fears and focus on what Jesus Christ has trusted you to accomplish. You are carrying out his mission every time you encourage someone to follow Christ's command. The exhilaration of witnessing others fulfill God's greater plan rallies the community and builds momentum to reach out toward the greater needs of the lost and broken world.


Am I captivated by GC2?

The heart of Jesus’ message and the church’s calling is summarized in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. From the GC2, we derive the Core Values of Wheatland Salem Church: worship, relationships, personal transformation, missions, and future generations. Years ago, we may have heard the mantra "money follows vision.' I believe ministry is different today. There has to be more than a great idea to inspire people to get onboard with Jesus. "Money follows mission” is the paradigm for churches that are making an impact.* Evidence of a transformed life is crucial not only for individuals or the community but also to Jesus Christ. Jesus has skin in the game. He expects the same of his followers.

You don't have to be around long to figure out that reaching the world with the news of Jesus Christ is part of our DNA. Wheatland takes Jesus' command seriously by reaching people in far off places and in neighborhoods nearby. Wheatland is part of the on-going Christian transformation in countries such as Poland, Jordan, Haiti, Tanzania, India and China. Christ has also called us to make a difference in our local communities surrounding our campuses in Naperville and Oswego. One way you can respond to God's call to transform the world locally is to be part of Serve the Community Day May 7. Missions is our fourth Wheatland value. I am proud of what we have accomplished. I eagerly anticipate what we will accomplish in 2016-2017.

Sunday is Commitment Sunday. The pastors, staff, and leadership teams have been challenged to grow 10% in our personal giving. If you give $10/week--give $11. If you've not given financially to church, begin with small steps you can increase over time. Baby steps of faith make huge impacts for the Kingdom.


*So, what's the trend for United Methodist churches? Could we have greater impact?

Here is a link that will give you some statistics about the fastest growing UMCs.

Here is a link that will give you some analysis of the data.




Is anyone paying attention?

God has a plan for us. It's clearly outlined in the bible. Each book of the bible includes applicable story lines of how people made God-honoring choices about their relationships and what happened when they choose to indulge themselves, other people or other things. It's possible to have great relationships, set Kingdom-building goals and follow God where ever he leads when we understand and reap the benefits of a flourishing relationship with him. The next generation inherits God-centered behaviors, confirms a belief in Godly character and applies Godly living to their life choices no matter what the circumstance they may face. Trust, confidence, commitment, and assurance are all natural by-products.

To anyone paying attention, it's obvious that human relationships are bearing the brunt of the new moral code's repercussions. *If virtue becomes irrelevant and traditional morality is considered extreme, the next generation pays the price for the relational world without boundaries. Relationships are designed by God to help us define who we truly are and how we relate to others. Learning about how to have good faith relationships requires training, practice and follow through if we are to become God-honoring in them. Faithfulness is not easy in a society that continually encourages behaviors that are focused on self-fulfillment.

Relationships will lead to the painful death of the self-focused pursuits. Relationships require us to care about someone other than ourselves and can help release us from the self-inflicted prison of self-gratification. An unhealthy preoccupation with self has always been and continues to be a constant threat to humanity's flourishing. We were created in God's image. We were created for relationships. We have a heart, mind and soul. This is the arena of relationships. I believe Jesus' command shook-up the first-century crowd and continues to impact us as we hear it today. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul. This is the greatest command. We are invited to imagine life beyond our limitations and to search the richness of a relationship with a God who created us. Who knows what He has in store for us?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
 neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
 so are my ways higher than your ways
 and my thoughts than your thoughts."
 - Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV


*(David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons. Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You're Irrelevant and Extreme. Baker Books,2016. Page 120)



What's trending now?

Interior design: black wrought iron, rounded furniture, old-world ornamentation, Mexican Midcentury Modernism and Scandinavian flat weaves. (WSJ)

Technology: FBI opens Shooter's IPhone-Drops Demand on Apple, Infosys Engineer was Among the Brussels' Victims (WSJ)

Parenting: Financial Instability is Major Factor in Success or Failure of Children-Violence and Teen Pregnancy Next on the List (Pew)

Smaller Share of Women over 65 Living Alone: the Trend is Older Adults Living with Family Members (Pew)

2016 Election: Most Americans Say Government Doesn't Do Enough to Help Middle Class (Pew)

Presidential Race: Evangelicals Least Likely to Pay Attention to the 2016 Campaign (Barna)

Christianity: Five Ways Christianity is Increasingly Viewed as Extremist (Barna)

There is an endless supply of information out there. You may find research on almost any topic. The trick is to find reputable sources. Numbers are numbers but how we interpret the numbers is the game. The trends I found above are from the Wall Street Journal, Pew Research and Barna Research. Researchers investigate topics, gather data, analyze the data and report trends. Trends help researchers discover change.

Discovering trends can help us understand reality. The story we make up in our head or the hunch we are willing to invest in rarely match reality. In order to make the best decisions possible, we believe it's important to know the trends generally in the American church and specifically to Wheatland Salem Church when we are preparing for an all-church generosity series.

Trending is the title of our April series. We will be learning from experts like the ones I used above and leaders like Ed Stetzer who is a researcher, prolific writer and national speaker. He is one voice among many that continues to educate, prepare and help leaders make decisions about anything that has to do with church. Mr. Stetzer writes for Christianity Today but also has his own website, blog, and social media outlets.  Check him out. It's illuminating what his research reveals.

Here's why I believe it's important to know all this information.

Jesus issued two important directives to his followers. The heart of Jesus’ message and the church’s calling is summarized in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. From the GC2 we derive the Core Values of Wheatland Salem Church: relationships, personal transformation, mission, worship, future generations. This series will also serve as our “generosity series.” We believe “money follows mission.” By discovering how we are actually doing with Jesus' GC2 initiatives and telling stories of what we value at Wheatland, we believe can inspire generosity. We hope to educate the congregation on the types of givers, challenge people to consider prioritizing their giving and inform the congregations on the trends research reveals from American churches, United Methodist Churches and our own Wheatland Salem campuses.

Every time I think of you, I thank my God. And whenever I mention you in my prayers, it makes me happy. This is because you have taken part with me in spreading the good news from the first day you heard about it. God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:4-6 CEV

Courageous Followers Wanted

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. Luke 24:1 NIV

My heart aches for the people of Brussels, Belgium. I pray for the people who desperately searched hospitals and social media outlets hoping for any signs of life from beloved family and friends only to find out their person was included in casualty reports from the airport or subway. CNN reported witnesses to the carnage Tuesday in Brussels endured scenes of panic, smoke and horrific injuries. Travelers, commuters, European Union officials and baggage handlers alike were caught up in the deadly terrorist attacks. All of them going through their normal routines of everyday life.

Not long afterward, family, friends, colleagues, and strangers created a memorial to honor the lives of the victims. They brought small tokens of remembrance to identify with the loss. Belgians displayed a banner of solidarity that read "I am Brussels" in French and Flemish on the steps of the old stock exchange building in Brussels following bomb attacks. People from around the world will venture to the crime scenes searching for internal answers to deeply personal questions.

So I pray.

I pray for courageous followers of Jesus to move toward the carnage and make their way to the battlefield once again. I pray for God to blanket Brussels with forgiveness, love and mercy this Easter weekend. I pray the whole world is a witness to the glory of His resurrection. I pray for Europe and the world to have the tenacity to hope and believe God in the midst of their intense feelings of loss, grief and pain. I pray the great veil of darkness that shrouds Europe to be ripped to shreds and for a time of unprecedented revelation of God's magnificent beauty to be restored once again. I pray for people to accept what God has already done and prepare themselves for what He can do in their personal lives today. I pray for a holy confidence to rise along with the sun on Easter morning and a blessed assurance of faith in Christ to blaze in the hearts and minds of anyone who dares to believe God could do something miraculous in the dark embrace of fear, pain, suffering and death.  

I believe we can be the Easter People Christ called us to be and like those two men in dazzling clothes ask, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen!" Happy Easter! (Luke 24:5b-6a NIV)



Is your heart prepared?

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Luke 19:38 NIV

Passover boiled up strong religious and political expectations among the people yearning for a Messiah. Thousands of pilgrims lined the streets crowding the close confines of the walled cobblestone streets of Jerusalem. There was always occasional violence even in the midst of security detail from the Temple police, Herod Archelaus' palace or from the Roman Antonia Fortress. Tempers ran high in a large city filled to capacity with outsiders. Jewish historian, Josephus, chronicled a brutal episode of Jerusalem's history by documenting the clash between Herod Archelaus' armed guard and a mob of unruly pilgrims. 3,000 pilgrims died in the conflict. You may read more about this history in Wars.*

Jesus' appearance in Jerusalem had serious religious and political overtones which set many on edge. It must have been like expectantly listening and waiting for the match to strike in a drought season. A holy fire was about to be set. The implications of which no one could invent or imagine. I've always sympathized with the Roman soldier whose sole responsibility was to watch and report any indication of trouble from the tower of the Antonia Fortress, which was securely fashioned to the eastern end of the Great Wall on the Temple Mount. I imagine his adrenaline rush or his heart pounding as he saw the boisterous crowd emerge over the East hill. They shouted loudly. They waved Jericho palm branches in the air. A central figure rode on a donkey. There are churches that commemorate that entry into Jerusalem to this very day.

Holy week is saturated in violence from beginning to end but we rarely talk about it. Jesus warned the disciples about his gruesome death three times in Luke's gospel. They did not understand. As Jesus ended his journey to Jerusalem, he narrated parables about hating an appointed king and killing a vineyard owner's son much to the crowd's delight and the authorities' horror. Jesus wept as he approached Jerusalem and predicted the destruction of the Temple. "They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." Luke 19:44b NIV

The Journey Lenten Devotional will not have commentary for the Holy Week. I designed it that way. I hope you read the scripture for yourself and allowed the Holy Spirit to captivate your imagination and heart. I pray God opens your mind to his truth and Jesus becomes more to you than an historical figure. The Messiah changed the world and has great plans to continue changing the world until he arrives again for his final victory. May you deepen your resolve to become more committed to God's mission and values no matter what the cost.

Prepare our hearts, O God, to accept your Word. Silence in us any voice but your own, that, hearing, we may also obey your will; though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. **


*Josephus, Wars, 2.10-13

**The HarperCollins Book of Prayers: A Treasury of Prayers through the Ages. Edison, N.J.: Castle Books, 1997.

Sometimes, I just don't get it.

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. Pooh? he whispered.
Yes, Piglet?
Nothing, said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. I just wanted to be sure of you.
~ A.A. Milne

I don't understand everything. Sometimes I just don't get it. It often takes me years to accept the meaning or purpose of an experience or event. The story I make up in my head is usually clouded by my own irrational judgment, lack of wisdom or blinding ignorance.  

My irrational judgment is often ruled by chief emotions like shame or guilt. As a leader, I don't want to m­­ake mistakes. So everything I do becomes a performance indicator-a measurement of my leadership abilities or disabilities. Being a woman leader can often be a heavy weight to carry. If I make a mistake as a woman leader, somehow I feel like I am letting down women all over the world. Remember, I said, irrational judgment.

A true scholar somewhere once said, "Wisdom comes with experience." Frankly, I don't want some experiences. As a matter of fact, I will often tell others to keep the receipt from their experiences because wisdom can be expensive. It just makes me feel better to make up a story that I have a money-back guarantee. If I am not totally satisfied, I can return my experience and receive a full refund. A receipt for my wisdom can be the only thing I walk away with but at least I have a date and time of purchase.

I take risks. I expand my horizons. But, by the very nature of exploration, I venture into unchartered territory. I may attempt something for the first time, make mistakes and then beat myself up for not knowing better. Blinding ignorance reveals my vulnerability. I can land flat on my face which is a dangerous place to be. My vision is limited to the boundaries of my colossal failure. I can't take in the big picture. Pushing up from a major defeat takes courage, strength and fortitude. These qualities all sound like wonderful attributes for an investment company or academic institution. And maybe that's the point. That's life-an investment and a university.

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging. A noisy crowd was going by. He asked what was happening. Someone told him Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. The blind man immediately called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." Although the disciples tried to hush him up, the blind man shouted out louder. Jesus stopped. Jesus asked that the blind man be brought to him. Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" Lord, I want to see. Lord, give me your eyes to see.

Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." Luke 18:42 NIV


You almost persuade me to become a Christian.

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” Acts 26:28 NKJV

The Almost Christian is one of the most impactful sermons I've ever analyzed. John Wesley delivered deep soulful prose to listening ears at St. Mary's, Oxford, before the University, on July 25, 1741. Mr. Wesley delivered his message with deliberate, elegant and convicting style similar to that of Jesus before the Pharisees. This message still disturbs me. Mr. Wesley's elegant poetry challenged me to explore my own motivation for being a follower of Christ.

Evidently, there were many 18th century Christians who practiced a solid outward religion. One may even define it as living a life of good solid morality. For example, self-professed religious people practiced regular prayer times with family, actively participated in church and abstained from behaviors unbecoming to a Christian. But, for Wesley, there needed to be one more thing in order to distinguish someone from being almost a Christian to being a Christian altogether and that was, sincerity of heart.

Wesley unabashedly drilled deeply into the bedrock of belief. He asserted, 'Good men avoid sin from the love of virtue; Wicked men avoid sin from a fear of punishment.'* This statement alone is like electricity to my bones. For years, the pulpits of well meaning churches preached the message of 'Turn or Burn.' Wesley investigated the motivation behind our desire to avoid eternal damnation and hellfire. In one poetic sentence that continues to convict me, I am challenged to contemplate whether I am good or if am I wicked. Do I preach, pastor and lead from a heart full of the love of Christ or from the fear of punishment? Which of these is God-honoring?

Sunday we continue the exploration of Luke's Travel Narrative. Jesus went through towns and villages teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone from the religious crowd inquired of Jesus if only a few will be saved. Jesus responds deliberately. Make every effort to enter through the narrow door. Salvation is exclusive. It requires a crucial conversation. So, a religious person may ask if the saved will be few. Jesus responds with the question: will the saved be you?

May we all thus experience what it is to be, not almost only; but altogether Christians; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus; knowing we have peace with God through Jesus Christ; rejoicing in hope of the glory of God; and having the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto us! The Almost Christian, John Wesley 

*Read the entire transcript here.


What in the world was that all about?

Have you ever awakened from a dream and wondered to yourself, "What in the world was that all about?"

Sometimes the content of a dream can be starting and unsettling. Dreams and discovering their meaning can produce a combination of wonder and fear. Super smart people spend a lot of time interpreting dreams. They believe dreams are a way we sort out complex information. We may process our emotions, fears or experiences in symbolic ways. Traumatic events or complicated feelings can be hidden or compartmentalized deep within the labyrinth of our mind. A dream can be a less threatening way to symbolically deal with a terrifying situation. We need to go to someone we can trust who can help us discern the meaning of our dream. With the help of a trusted friend or professional, we can discover new ways to express ideas, solve relationship issues, even overcome our fears.

I think this may be what Mary experienced as the angel Gabriel stopped by for a visit. If we can be disturbed by a dream, imagine what Mary felt as she tried to comprehend what happened to her. Gabriel's visit was not a dream. Scripture described Mary's disposition as 'greatly troubled' and she wondered what Gabriel meant by saying, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." I think she may have even felt a combination of wonder and fear. Imagine if something as wonderful and fearful like this happened to you.

Who would you tell first?

Mary didn't go to her husband to be. She didn't go to a religious professional. She didn't even go to her mom and dad. Mary went to Elizabeth and in a hurry. She went to someone she trusted. Zechariah and Elizabeth could relate to her experience. Mary was full of questions and belief.

Why did she go there?

I wonder if Mary needed to confirm Gabriel's visit wasn't just a dream. She may have needed to verify that an angel visit was at least possible. Maybe Mary was wondering if what Gabriel said could really be true. She hurried to the one person who was most aware of the miraculous work of God. If what Gabriel said was true, then her acceptance meant her world would utterly change. Mary rushed to Elizabeth and was not disappointed.

2,000 years ago a teen-aged girl somehow believed God in the midst of her questions. There may have been no room for the baby if had Mary been full of speculation, reason or doubt. Elizabeth and Mary's experience may not have made much rational sense. But, sometimes our interpretation of complex events requires a little faith and uncommon sense. Deep transformation is possible if we surrender and believe. What we may end with is a song that goes something like this: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me-- holy is his name." Luke 1:46b-49 NIV


Reclaim Wonder


1.    retrieve or recover (something previously lost, given, or paid); obtain the return of

2.    bring (waste land or land formerly under water) under cultivation

3.    to bring back to a preferable manner of living, sound principles, ideas, etc.

4.    to rescue from an undesirable state

Maybe you've noticed the interiors of businesses, churches and homes are decorated with reclaimed wood. Wood once functioned as the primary building material because it was strong, relatively inexpensive and abundant. Today many of these woods that were once plentiful are only available in large quantities through reclamation. Barns serve as one of the most common sources for reclaimed wood. Barns constructed up through the early part of the 19th century were typically built using whatever trees were growing on or near the property. They often contain a mix of oak, chestnut, poplar, hickory and pine timber. Beam sizes were limited to what could be moved by man and horse. The wood was either hand hewn using an axe or squared with an adze. Early American settlers recognized American oak from their previous experience working with European oak. Red, white, black, scarlet, willow, post and pin oak varieties were cut and transformed into barns.

Reclaimed wood is often expensive. Work crews will take their time to gently deconstruct a barn. The wood used over 100 years ago is very dense and heavy. Square nails were used and are sometimes hidden deeply within the wood. Imagine milling the wood and coming across a nail! Repurposing items that were previously used for something else has become a lucrative industry. You may have noticed our attempts to bring this creative style of wood decoration into Wheatland.  

The Christmas tree project this year has been one attempt to reclaim something that was worn out, broken and no longer of use. We will take what has been broken and create something new. It is my sincere hope you enjoy what we create. But, realize the new creation will also serve a purpose. God creates for his purpose and to bring glory to his name. Trees play a significant part in the biblical narrative. A tree produced fruit that Eve reached for and Adam ate. The book of Leviticus identified anyone who would hang from a tree was cursed. Our Messiah would eventually fulfill the law and prophecy as he was crucified on a cross commonly called a tree.

Reclaim Wonder is our Advent series title. It is an overt attempt to reclaim the thrill of wonder within you and stir up an irresistible urge to share the good news of what God is doing in our lives. Wonder will kindle your spiritual flame and help you catch fire for God. Wonder allows for a convergence of what is good, right and beautiful to broaden our vision and deepen our understanding to that which is holy and true. Our imagination saturated in holiness inspires us to hope, aspire, plan and express ourselves. We may even create something new or think in a new exciting way.

We begin Advent with words from Simeon a man filled with the Holy Spirit and hope. Simeon lived in anticipation that he would see God's salvation for Israel. God had bigger plans. Simeon would not only see God's mighty act of salvation for Israel but Simeon became a witness of God's salvation for the Gentile world as well. Christmas is ultimately about salvation. God values human life to the point of becoming human in order to reclaim all of humanity. God takes what was worn out, broken and no longer of use and reclaims it for his kingdom. This is good news of great joy for all people.

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32 NIV