We Are Avengers

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Of all the Avengers characters, my wife says that I’m most like Ironman…and it’s not because of my movie star looks (haha…). Specifically she is referring to how Ironman quickly analyzes a problem and  confidently and convincingly provides a strategy to address the problem.  Yet in implementing the solution, a host of unforeseen complications come up that demand the assistance of many others in unexpected ways. And in addressing these unforeseen complications it is quickly apparent that Ironman cannot fight alone; only together can the Avengers find victory. 

As a church we are Avengers. Over the past two weeks a few specific incidents have reminded me of the importance of the body of Christ. I have been saved time and energy by others’ discernment, had my eyes opened to others’ needs, received much-needed encouragement in weariness, and so on. Personally in the past weeks I have seen the indispensable importance of the body of Christ in so many ways. 

But if we are Avengers, who is our Thanos? What does victory look like? Is it simply to fill Sunday services? The church is to make disciples. At Wellspring we have to remain focused on helping each and every man, woman, and child grow into full maturity in Jesus Christ.  Recently in our home group leadership training I stressed the need to not only shepherd and care for each member but to disciple potential leaders for the future. Jesus focused in his ministry not only on shepherding and caring for the crowds but also in developing and discipling a few. In the big picture for Wellspring, the critical health of our church will grow out of how effective we are in raising the quality of discipleship in our church. As long as these structures remain weak, then we will struggle with all aspects of the life of the church; as we strengthen these structures, then our witness to the world can grow strong. 

The American church is a mile wide but an inch deep. But the only way that the church will grow deeper is through our faithfulness in making disciples.  Together.

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Being Real with Suffering (I Peter 3:8 – 4:19)

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Can we be real about suffering? Sometimes we want to fix or ignore suffering; we focus on solving the problem or hope for things to work out in the end. Yet how should we respond to our suffering we face? In the face of marginalization and persecution, Peter refocuses our attention from the circumstances of our suffering to Jesus Christ who suffered for us and with us. Today’s passage is quite long so we must focus on the big picture as Peter equips the church to deal with the reality of suffering. Specifically he shows that because our suffering shares in Christ’s suffering, we love more deeply and rejoice more fully to bring glory to God (1 Pet 4:7–19). In this way, we can be real with suffering.

Because our suffering shares in Christ’s suffering, we love more deeply in the face of our suffering (1 Pet 4:7–11). Undeserved suffering can paralyze us, but we must “be self controlled and sober minded” and “above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:7, 8). Yet love is not simply a feeling but is demonstrated in actions such as showing hospitality and serving one another with our gifts (4:9–11). In this way we are good stewards of God’s varied grace so that God’s strength, power, and presence are expressed through our actions. In this way we do not let suffering paralyze us, but we step out in obedience to love one another more deeply.

Also because our suffering shares in Christ’s suffering, we rejoice more fully in the face of our suffering (1 Pet 4:12–14). When suffering surprises us our joy can be robbed (4:12), but we should rejoice in sufferings because we share in Christ’s sufferings and reveal his glory (4:13). Even in undeserved suffering (4:14–15), we rejoice and encounter God’s blessing and glory in the midst of those challenges.

Finally, because our suffering shares in Christ’s suffering, we love more deeply and rejoice more fully to bring glory to God (1 Pet 4:16–19). Sufferings, even undeserved suffering, can express judgment for the household of God (4:17), which is not simply punishment but exposes our growth edges to refine us like gold (1 Pet 1:6–7; cf. 4:12). These growth edges are an opportunity for us to reflect more of God’s glory in and through us. Though painful, this refining process provokes growth. So the suffering, yet faithful church should not envy the comfortable yet rebellious world in the face of our painful judgment, for the judgment of the world is yet to come (4:17–18). Instead, we love and rejoice because we know that God’s glory is reflected in and through us even more in the face of our suffering.

Jesus never promised the absence of suffering, but he promises his presence in the face of suffering to overcome (John 16:33). Comfort is not our goal, but we can rejoice even in the face of suffering. We should not paste a smile over the reality of our suffering, but we can be real with our suffering. Our suffering shares in Christ’s suffering, so as Christ loved, so we also may love more deeply and rejoice more fully to reflect more of Jesus Christ and give more glory to God. May we be real in suffering and shine forth Christ’s glory!

 

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Proactive Community

Pastors Corner Steve

by Steve Hands

This past summer I had a goal to connect with more of the men at the Warrenville campus. I had some good lunches and some good conversations and became more convinced that some sort of men’s ministry or men’s group needed to start at the Warrenville campus soon.

Imagine my surprise when I found out we had a men’s group spontaneously forming without my knowledge, planning, or work. Other men at Warrenville had been feeling the same way as me about wanting deeper relationships and had a launch date planned for their first meeting. Not wanting at all to try to take over, but desiring to be a part, I asked if I could join and they graciously let me in. Even in its first few weeks, this has become a highlight I look forward to every time.

When we say Community at Wellspring means helping someone belong and be real together in Christ, I can think of no better example right now than this men’s group. This is an example of Christians recognizing the need for deeper relationship and pursuing it themselves, sacrificing time and sleep to meet together.

We offer staff-organized, Wellspring-advertised, avenues for connection and growth. These include EQUIP classes, prayer meetings, home groups, YAM, softball teams, WINC, golf outings, DIG, retreats, service opportunities, and more. These are all good, and I’m glad to be part of these as well. We should keep doing these things as a church because they provide many needed opportunities for real connection together in Christ. But when we talk about helping someone belong and be real in Christ, we don’t just mean “seek out one of Wellspring’s official community avenues”. Community means hospitality and authenticity wherever we make it happen: inviting people to meals, to coffee, to events, to homes, to places where relationships form, we open up to each other, and we share our life together in Christ.

Where could you make this kind of space happen this week? You don’t necessarily have to form a men’s group, but you could! Are there people you know who are craving community? The Christ-centered community we can offer as members of Jesus’s church is the best. Let’s think creatively at Wellspring as to how we can be part of the solution.

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Being Real with Submission (I Peter 2:13-3:7)

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Sometimes we protect ourselves in a bubble that God wants to burst. Our bubble allows “good” people (=agreeable and comfortable) close to us and keeps “bad” people (=disagreeing or awkward) away from us. Yet God sometimes bursts that bubble with uncomfortable situations caused by others — a law enacted that we disagree with, a boss that repays our good with bad, or a marriage that feels impossible. We often deal with that discomfort by criticizing those “bad” people or institutions and justifying ourselves, rebuilding our bubble. Yet God’s wants to burst that bubble by empowering us to step into the lives of messy people so that His grace might abound. In 1 Peter 2:13–3:7 the church is called to be real with imperfect authority, “subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,” whether government, work, or marriage.  Yet that messiness is an opportunity for God’s grace to burst our bubbles. How? Amidst broken and even evil authority, we do good, trusting in God’s purposes so that our lives might shine brightly by the power of Jesus’ death. 

First, we must do good, no matter how bad the situation. Whether with an evil government, an unjust master, or an unbelieving husband, God’s people are called to submit to that authority and do good. Submission does not mean abject and servile obedience but recognizing the God-given authority of every human institution (1 Pet 2:13). Since the Boston Tea Party, we Americans haven’t liked that very much!  Yet even children of God recognize human authority. Few governments throughout history have been more corrupt than Rome, yet the church in that empire did good as servants of God (2:14–15).  Servants under evil masters can do good and endure even when beaten, because “this is a gracious thing in the sight of God” (2:19–20). Wives should submit to their husbands even when their husbands do not obey God’s word (3:1), adorning themselves with “the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (3:4). The evil of our situation does not justify our lackluster and bitter response. Instead we do good, no matter the evil of the situation.

Why?  We do good not because the people above us are perfect but because we are trusting in God’s purposes.  Under evil government, we see “the will of God” and act as “servants of God” (2:15, 16). Under unjust masters, we suffer as “a gracious thing in the sight of God” (2:20). With unbelieving husbands we hope in God (2:5). As we hope in God, we trust in God’s purposes to be realized in our broken situations.  We see more than the broken and even evil intentions of those around us but see God’s purposes and do not despair.

The result is that our lives shine brightly. Amidst an evil government, “by doing good [we] put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (2:15). When suffering with unjust masters, we do good and endure because “this is a gracious thing in the sight of God” (2:20), just like Jesus who endured so that “we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (2:24). And unbelieving husbands can “be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct” (3:1–2). Our conduct in the midst of evil situations bring glory to God.

Does this sound hard? It should. It is not just hard but impossible. Yet this is what Jesus did for us. He did not lash out when reviled or threaten when suffering, but he “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (2:23). Yet “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (2:24). Indeed, our struggles to do good in evil situations bring us back to Jesus Christ who suffered for us so that we might follow in his steps (2:21). His death enables our obedience. So may our struggles to obey break us and bring us to the foot of the cross, where we find his power to enable us to live to righteousness.

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Making Waves

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“I want to be a part of this whirlpool!” After a Sunday recently, somebody said this to me. I had been talking about how Wellspring was to be like people pushing in the same direction  to create a whirlpool in a swimming pool. As the current would develop, the pool toys would go to the middle, and eventually people would get pulled along by the current. The current of the whirlpool is the culture of our church. No longer are we only defined by the past history of our churches; currently we are pressing forward to cultivate the new culture that God is calling Wellspring. And how can you jump in?  

First, help somebody belong or be real in Christ. This month we are looking at our value of community, where Wellspring is to be a place to be real and belong in Christ. Immediately our minds go to how can I belong and be real here? Yet if you want to be a part of this whirlpool, look for ways to help someone else belong or be real in Christ. Meet somebody new, take an existing relationship to another level, open your eyes to those who may feel forlorn or neglected or overlooked. Pray for a group of people in the church on a regular basis. Talk to Debra Mason (debra@wellspringalliance.net) about serving with the children or help with welcoming (maryellen@wellspringalliance.net). Most importantly open your eyes to help somebody belong or be real in Christ. 

Also, first come, serve first.  While consumers look to get served first, God’s Kingdom is about serving first. Sadly consumerism afflicts so many relationships today; when somebody doesn’t meet our needs anymore, we just move on. Yet we are called to a covenantal community, and Jesus Christ modeled a servant leadership that considered others better than himself. At Wellspring, this can come even by arriving to church first and serving first. How? Make room for other worshippers by sitting to the front and middle of the sanctuary. Greeters may be encouraging you to do that as well. Come early and pray for the Spirit of God to minister to each person who comes to worship here. We have added 35 seats after removing the drama stage and are organizing our welcoming team to accommodate more people. Pray that people might not only come but meet God powerfully and be transformed. 

While guests are served in the living room, family helps with the dishes in the kitchen. It has been fun to watch guests at Wellspring want to become family. Somebody recently said, “I won’t feel at home until you stop treating me like a guest and let me into the kitchen!” How do you get into the kitchen? Everybody and anybody can start jumping in and pushing with the current at Wellspring by helping somebody belong or be real in Christ and serving first. God is doing a special work during this season; let us make some waves together!

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Belonging to a Chosen People (I Peter 2:1-12)

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by Steve Hands

Competition permeates life. We constantly find ourselves in “us vs. them” situations. It’s me vs. the 300 other applicants for that scholarship or job; me vs. those 3 other eligible bachelors for that girl; me vs. my 2 siblings for my parents’ attention and love. When resources are limited, competition erupts to determine a victor to whom goes the spoils. Over time, we naturalize to this process, getting embroiled in office politics, romantic drama, and sibling rivalries. Our competitions call out to us “Prove yourself! Sell yourself!” The book of 1 Peter calls us out from competitive rivalries where we puff ourselves up and pull others down to come out on top, and invites us to find all the honor, respect, and value we could ever need in Christ. And since we have all the honor we need in Christ, we can seek Jesus’s honor instead of our own, and disengage from honor-competitions.

                First, we find all the honor we could ever need in Christ (1 Peter 2:1-8). We often engage in competitions to raise our sense of worth. Peter calls us out from dirty methods of honor gathering, telling us to leave behind envy and malice that compares ourselves to others, the deceit and slander we use to pull them down, and the hypocrisy we engage in to make people think better of us than we deserve (1 Pet 2:1). Instead, like Christ, though we may be utterly rejected by the people around us, we learn that we have ultimate worth in God’s eyes that will be revealed in the end (2:4). God bestows the highest honor on those who believe in Christ (2:7), since he is making us into his living temple and holy priesthood (2:5). This honor from God tastes better than any approval the world can offer (2:2-3).

So then rather than spending all our energy and time building up our approval and respect in other people’s opinions, we can seek Jesus’s honor instead of our own (2:9-10). Since we’ve been elevated to this pinnacle of honor as God’s chosen people, royal priesthood, and holy nation, we don’t need to engage in the competitions the rest of the world does in order to feel better about ourselves (2:9a). Instead we “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (2:9b). We’re not afraid anymore of the respect we might lose for being outspoken about Jesus. We’re filled up with God’s love, overwhelmed by his approval, and excited to share the mercy and belonging we’ve found in Christ (2:10).

But though the gift we’ve received is so great, the siren call of competition and comparison still tempts us to engage in competitions for approval. But Peter urges us to disengage from honor-competitions (2:11-12). By accepting this approval from God we’ve opted-in to exile from worldly honor. If we go back to the back-biting, rumor-generating, chest-puffing, people-pleasing spirals of honor-seeking we would dishonor the name of Jesus. Instead of giving in to the temptation to fight to get our value and approval from people, let’s drink deep of the pure spiritual milk of God’s approval so that any slander we receive has no basis in reality.

So what? God loved us enough to suffer complete rejection so that he could offer us a place in his family, a role as his royal priests, chosen and honored by him. May his value of us, his approval of us, his love for us, so fill us up that we no longer crave the approval of others. In our freedom, let’s not slip back into old habits of comparing and competing with others, but joyfully, unashamedly, unselfconsciously celebrate what Jesus has done for us and share that with others. May we help each other know this deep belonging we have with Christ so we can genuinely rest in his approval.

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To the Majesty and the Glory

Wellspring

by Debra Mason

Psalm 8:1-2 says, “LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory in the heavens.  Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”

Majesty and glory are two words that will be set before the leaders in Wellspring Kids ministry this year in our orientation coming up on September 8th.

When we think of majesty, we think of something higher and greater than ourselves.  In every room, every Sunday, the charge will be to think of God in this way.  Higher, more beautiful and therefore worthy of all of our praise and all of our efforts in the work of ministry to children.

When we think of glory, this one is a little harder.  Glory must include an aspect of praise and presence.  In every room, every Sunday, the charge will be to look for words and ways to bring God glory and to know His presence with us.

I’d like to share a little bit about people I know who have stepped in to Wellspring Kids ministry.  Some are doctors, some teachers, some stay-at-home moms, some are old, some are young, some are students in college and high school, some are working full time in the city, some are working full time for a non-profit, some are dieticians, some accountants, some are retirees, some are interpreters, some I don’t even know what you do, sorry!

The wonderful thing is all are trusting God to help them be a part of what He is doing in the hearts of Wellspring kids.  They give what they can to the Lord and He equips them and He takes what they offer and He blesses it.

In the sermon last Sunday, Pastor Mitch has been calling us to the place where “heaven touches earth.”  This has been a good reminder of where we are going, to the majesty and glory on earth, in every children’s ministry room at Wellspring Alliance church!

How will we get there?  We will get there by being the church, the living, breathing Body of Christ serving one another out of a love for God and trusting Him to equip us to do the work He has called us to do.  What is the work God is calling you to do?

At Wellspring, there are many opportunities for you to experience the majesty and glory of God through service.  Thank you to all of you who are serving in ministry at Wellspring!

For those of you wondering about where to serve, feel free to reach out to any of us on staff, we’d be happy to share with you ways you can serve here, bringing glory to God and recognizing the majesty of His name.

 

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