Blessings In Disguise

By Stephen Hong

When our plans for God do not pan out the way we imagined, it is inevitably disappointing and can lead to discouragement. But is that all? Can frustrated plans actually be a blessing? This story is about disappointments turning into encouragements.

Going into the past school year, I was full of hopes and dreams. It was a new year, and I was starting a new role at Wellspring. My plans for God included expanding a mentorship group, growing the number of home groups for college students, developing student leadership and discipleship, and helping more students integrate into the life of the church. However, I often found myself disappointed and discouraged. The way that I pictured a discipleship group did not go as I planned. I thought home groups would quickly multiply after a year, but they didn’t. I asked, “God, why would you not bless the great plans I have for you? Don’t you want these students to flourish and grow into the purposes that you have for them?” I was devoted to these great plans for God, but I had lost sight of my devotion to God.

When David lost everything in Ziklag and his men were about to kill him, he was greatly disappointed in God. How could he not be? Yet, he did not lose sight of God and “David found strength in the LORD his God” (1 Sam 30:6b). And as David was strengthened in the Lord, he sought the Lord for a plan and overtook the Amalekites and destroyed and restored everything back to how it was with more blessings!

The Lord was graciously reminding me of my need for Him. His ways and thoughts are higher and infinitely greater than mine. As I devote myself to Him in the Word and prayer, my love for Jesus increases and this means my love also grows for the students. The inductive bible study that I prepped might not have gone the way I wanted in the discipleship group with Samuel, Matthew, and Joseph, but at the end of the year they felt genuinely loved by Christ through our honest times of sharing. And all three of them are now trying to lead a bible study and evangelize their non-Christian friends over the summer! Home groups might not have multiplied, but looking back, what the Lord did in the leadership community of Harvard, Dana, Christin and myself and the students was so encouraging. Diverse in age, gender, ethnicity and culture, we knew we had to talk about some of the current racial issues in our country. As we took the time to share our stories, the Lord brought us into intimate times of worship, prayer and honest conversations about our hurt and pain. Through these times, not only did we have a greater understanding of one another but God was healing us and building us into a true community.

I am so grateful to God for these disappointments because through them I was able to experience deep encouragement.

God is at work. But, are we patient and humble enough to see what He is doing in the midst of disappointments? Disappointments are opportunities for encouragement rather than discouragement. As John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).

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Sermon Summary – July 23 at Warrenville

We Are Servants (Ephesians 2:8-10, Matthew 5:13-16) by Pastor Steve Hands

Who are we, and who are we called to be as a church? We are welcoming, connected, and united, but we were never designed just to get along with each other. We are the community of those united by our faith in the saving death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God. And our faith is designed to express itself in service. The love of God we’ve received should pour into us, and overflow into our communities. When we engage our faith through good deeds, we ourselves are assured of our salvation (Eph 2:8-10), and we provide the testimony a doubting world cannot deny (Matt. 5:13-16).

First, the love that impels us to serve others assures us of our own salvation (Eph 2:8-10). We are saved certainly by God’s mercy, as a free gift to be received by faith (Eph 2:8). But faith is meant to be more than belief or trust on its own (James 2:14-26). Faith is belief and trust in Christ that leads to acts of obedience (Eph 2:10). As we experience the reality of God’s love transforming our hearts to love others, we become assured that the Holy Spirit does really live in us, that we have been sealed with God’s promise, and that the resurrection is already raising our hearts from the dead (Eph 1:4-14, 2:4-6).

Second, our acts of service provide the testimony a doubting world cannot deny (Matt 15:13-16). Apologetic reasoning and archaeological evidence provide assurance to believers that our faith is grounded in reality, but they are often not compelling to convince non-Christians of the reality of Jesus as the Son of God. But when the transformation of our lives leads to the transformation of our households, to the love and care of our neighborhoods and schools and coworkers, no argument can stand. When our “light shines before others… they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven”.

The fight between faith and deeds is as old as the church, yet God designed faith to overflow into deeds. As we learn more of the love of God for us, and grow in our understanding of what he’s done for us, may we not keep that all to ourselves, but may we overflow in deeds of love.

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Sermon Summary – July 23 at Wheaton

We Are Servants (1 Samuel 30:1-31) by Pastor Mitch Kim

At Wellspring, are we consumers or servants? Consumers focus on satisfying their own needs; servants meet the needs of others. At Wellspring we have stepped obediently into a difficult mission in merging two churches, and consequently we have discovered that community is hard. This should not be surprising; both growth and diversity make community difficult.[1] If we are consumers, then we will not surmount the hurdles to community before us; the work will be too exhausting or troubling, and we will give up. However only when we are servants shall we work through the difficulties of diversity and step into the consequent opportunities that God opens before us. We are servants; we must rule with the heart of a servant and serve with the heart of a king.[2] This Sunday we will look at how David lived this in 1 Samuel 30:1–31

First, we must serve with the heart of a king (1 Samuel 30:1–15). When we serve with the heart of a king, we draw from unlimited resources at our disposal to meet the needs before us. At Ziklag David faces immense tragedy as the wives and children of him and his men are kidnapped and his city is burnt down. While his men want to stone him, David strengthens himself in the Lord his God and leads them to pursue the enemy. When he captures a foreign Egyptian, he also serves him by feeding him, and this foreigner provides the key to lead David and his men to their enemy. David served with the heart of a king, drawing from God’s supernatural resources to address and serve the needs of his own men and a foreigner along the way. Similarly we must keep this heart of a servant for the needs of those around us.

Also we must rule with the heart of a servant (1 Samuel 30:16–31). When we rule with the heart of a servant, we take the platform and position that we have to serve and not lord over those around us. David brings back all the livestock, but he does not take it for himself. Not only that, but he refuses to punish this those who were too exhausted to follow and allows them a portion of the spoil (30:21–25). Also he shares the spoil with the elders of Judah as well (30:26–31). He clearly blesses those around him with his platform and position.

So what? At Wellspring, we are servants who serve with the heart of king and rule with the heart of a servant. Let us not shy away from the challenges of community before us, but let us step in with courage and strength.  Let us combat the consumerism that surrounds us with a heart of servant. This happens one little act of kindness at a time.

[1] Diversity in neighborhoods can cause people to hunker down and huddle together away from community:

inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbours, regardless of the colour of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television. . . . Diversity, at least in the short run, seems to bring out the turtle in all of us (R. Putnam, “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-First Century,” Scandinavian Political Studies 30 [2007): 150–151.

They hunker down like a turtle in its shell and huddle in front of the television.

[2] Bill Johnson , The Power that Changes the World: Creating Eternal Impact in the Here and Now  (Grand Rapids:  Baker, 2015) , 82.

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Wellspring Worship and The Gilmore Girls

By Reggie Ramos

A question that I’ve been pondering for the past year and a half while serving in worship at Wellspring has been “What is worship supposed to look like at Wellspring?” I still don’t know the full answer to that question, but part of the answer came from an unexpected place: The Gilmore Girls.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with The Gilmore Girls, it was a television show about the relationship between a single mom and her daughter that ran for seven seasons from 2000-2007. And I have to confess, I am a fan. I’ve seen every episode. Multiple times.

For some of you, upon hearing that you’ve lost whatever respect you had for me, because there are not that many male fans of the show. But hear me out.

For the first five years of marriage, my wife and I did not have children, so during those early years, many of our quiet evenings at home were spent watching TV together. Sometimes I would choose, and sometimes she would choose. And at that time she really got into The Gilmore Girls. At first I didn’t get the show, and it became a divisive issue. But it was our time together. And out of my commitment to her, I would stay. And watch. And over the course of time, I found the characters growing on me. And I was seeing how clever the dialogue was. And I became a fan. But it started with my love for my wife.

Back to Wellspring worship. What direction are we going? We’re still seeking the Lord about that, as we reflect on bringing together the strengths of each legacy congregation with the fresh input God has brought to us through new people. But we have become such a diverse congregation culturally and generationally, that there are bound to be worship expressions or experiences that would be not your first choice. Rather than see that as a loss, could we, out of love for the other, see it as an opportunity to grow in an unexpected way?

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Linked In Growth

By James Lee

When you look at a picture of the youth group, you won’t recognize many students. And that’s EXACTLY how I want it!

I don’t mean to say that your unfamiliarity should be born from a place of nominal interaction with youth. Rather, your unfamiliarity with students should be from “Linked In Growth.”

In the online social platform “Linked In,” the program categorizes connections via “degrees.” The first degree would be a direct relationship (Matt knows Susie). The second degree would be an indirect relationship (Matt knows Susie who knows John). The third degree would be a more indirect relationship (Matt knows Susie who knows John who knows Amy). To Matt, Amy would be a third degree relationship.

The youth group has been experiencing FIFTH DEGREE growth! It’s the sort of growth that is healthy. Students are bringing friends. Those friends are bringing friends! It’s the sort of growth that makes you look at a picture and say, “I don’t recognize them.” It’s the sort of growth that causes new growth in different areas of the church.

Last Sunday, a youth student brought her family to church. Yes, you read that right! It was the youth that brought her parents, not the other way around. This family caused growth in other ministries. The Children’s ministry can grow by one. The youth group grew by two and the adult congregation grew by 2.

“Linked In Growth” doesn’t come from programmatic success. This sort of growth comes from an attraction to the sizzling bright light of Christ. He brings us near. We simply do our best to be a community that keeps Him at the core.

So praise God for this growth, and to Him go all the glory!

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“Yes, I Remember You”

By Mary Ellen Slefinger

When you think about the most impactful ministries of the church, does hospitality make that list?  Most people think hospitality ministry is “just” the food ministry of the church.  But hospitality by definition is the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, and strangers.  Let me tell you a story of how the hospitality of one of our Wellspring members made a difference in the lives of two young children.

It happened at Kids’ Camp last summer.  Kids’ Camp targets students entering grades one through six. Four seventh graders, who had been blessed through Kids’ Camp in the past, asked to attend camp. We didn’t want to exclude them, but we didn’t know if they could be properly supervised.  As we approached the camp leaders,  Peggy Collins, a legacy Blanchard member and experienced teacher said “They can help me in the kitchen.”  The four ‘Junior Helpers’ worked alongside volunteers and helped prepare, serve and clean up from meals, delivering snacks to classrooms, washing pots and pans, and sweeping floors.  Peggy also brought them to chapel!

When chores were completed we would sit around and debrief the meal and discuss ways to improve service.  Peggy treated her crew with fairness, firmness, love and occasional silliness.  One afternoon one of the students asked “Hey Peggy, did you ever do foster care?”.  “Yes” Peggy replied.  “Well you took care of my younger brother and me a few years ago.  Do you remember me?  I remember you.”

Peggy pulled out her phone and scrolled for a while then showed Laney (name changed) a picture of a much younger Laney and her brother taken at her home.  “Yes.  I remember you.”

Nothing happens by chance! Perhaps the hospitality shown in prior years planted seeds of service.  Expect God to use your actions of hospitality as we welcome new faces at Wellspring on Sunday mornings and nearly 100 Kids’ Camp campers July 17-21 and beyond!

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Sermon Summary – July 2 @ Wheaton

Philemon 1-7, “We Are Welcoming” by Steve Hands

At some point or other, almost all of us stop for a moment and wonder, “Who am I? And who do I want to become?” The journey of self-discovery is a journey toward growth and necessary change that’s key to our maturation as individuals. This is also key for our growth and maturation as a church. This summer we are going to ask through a series of messages, “Who are we as Wellspring Alliance Church? And who do we want to become?” This week we’ll begin by asking, are we a hospitable church? Are we welcoming? We’ll see through Philemon 1-7 that a welcoming church feels like home when it functions as God’s family, and that our hospitality can make us into a basecamp for local mission.

First, a welcoming church feels like home when it functions as God’s family (Philemon 1-3). The church is so much more than a non-profit charitable organization or a social club. It is God’s family brought into being by the grace and peace made between us and God by the Lord Jesus Christ (v3). When we accept Christ as savior and Lord, we become his brother and God becomes our Father. We also become brothers and sisters with everyone else who shares that same faith (v1-2). When we choose to forge connections with other believers we get to experience the encouragement that comes from our new spiritual family.

Second, hospitality can make us a basecamp for local mission (Philemon 4-7). Philemon’s faith in Jesus expressed itself through his hospitality towards others (v5). He refreshed other believers, including Paul, through his hospitality (v7). Paul says this kind of love and faith demonstrated through hospitality can lead to knowledge of the benefits of Jesus (v6). Being a welcoming church is about much more than being friendly during a Sunday morning service. As we develop hospitable lifestyles, our faith in Jesus will overflow in our warmth and kindness in welcoming others into our homes.

So, are we a welcoming church? How can we become more welcoming? As we experience the warm welcoming love of Jesus, let’s join together to share that love with each other and with those who don’t yet know Him.

 

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