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encouragement from steve wise

Tuesday, March 31 2020

Dear friends, 

    I have counted 18 days since the Corona-cation started. Tomorrow will mark the beginning of April’s 30 (more) days of social distancing. This is going to be a marathon more than a sprint – which means endurance is more important than speed. 

    So, the word for the day is “hupomone” (long vowel sounds on all the vowels with the last a long A sound). It is translated persevere, endure, be patient. It is used by Jesus, Paul, Peter, James and John. Ancient monks repeated it to themselves when undergoing various temptations.

     In Romans 5, Paul writes, “And not only this, but we also boast in our tribulations, knowing that this tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out on our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

    This is a bold statement – Paul says we can brag about our pressures, troubles, and sufferings because of what they can produce in us – endurance or passionate patience. This stick-to-it-tive-ness “forges the tempered steel of virtue” in us – we become the kind of people who do good, true, right, and loving things.  This strengthening character produces an invincible hope that is rooted not in people, events or circumstances but in the love of God – which he refers to in vs. 2 as the “grace I which we stand.” This hope will not leave us disappointed or ashamed! Everyone and everything in this world will give us everything it can and nothing more – and we will be disappointed. All of our efforts will end in futility and shame. But hope is the shame changer!

    The most beautiful part – this hope is the love of God pouring over us like a rainstorm through the Holy Spirit. We are brought into, washed over and filled with the incredible love of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is in the pressure of suffering that we ultimately come to know and experience God on the highest levels and in the deepest ways. 

    Nobody likes conditioning for sports, or playing scales for music, or doing homework for class. These are the things we need to do in order to be able to perform on the field, on the stage, or in the classroom. A few years from now, we will look back on these days and have a story to tell. Don’t we want to be able to talk about the good that came out of it? Wouldn’t one of the best things we could say is that we got in shape spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically?  

   So how can we train spiritually to meet the demands of the coming month and beyond? For some of us, a challenge may help. So here is a 30/30/30 challenge = 30 minutes a day reading Scripture and praying + 30 minutes of exercise or activity + for 30 days. For some of us, this is habit; for others, this may be new. 

   I am trying not to be too prescriptive – pray as you can and not as you can’t (think C.S. Lewis said that but not sure). I suggest starting in the New Testament – the Gospel of Mark and then the Letter to the Romans. Spend 15-20 minutes reading and reflecting on 1 chapter. Spend the rest of your time praying. I like to pray while I exercise – it takes some focus but it can be done!

   If you miss a day, don’t quit but play a little catch up. All of this serves to help us process all that is going on around us and in us in healthy ways. If you would like some help with this, I would love to have that conversation with you! 

    Live-Stream – Sunday at 9:30 at https://wpcspartanburg.org/live. Past services are also available.

    Something for your viewing pleasure – beautiful song and video a friend sent from Australia. https://vimeo.com/315044255.

Your friend

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 03:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 26 2020

Dear friends, 

A spiritual mentor and friend reminded me of Jesus’ words in Luke 6:47-48 – “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them…is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.” In Matthew 7, Jesus calls this person wise and teaches us that a life built on wisdom is an unshakeable and indestructible life. 

We are experiencing a flood of anxiety-inducing information and a torrent of fear. I realize I need to do some deep digging to shore up some things in my own life. This involves looking at what my fear and anxiety reveals about the idols of my heart. By idol, I mean anything so essential to my life that its loss would make life not worth living. It is anyone or anything that has the controlling position of my heart other than God – this could be a person, a position, a possession, or just about anything will

do.

The problem with idols is not that they are bad; they are just not enough.  In fact, the better the person or thing the worse idol it becomes.  We are asking our idols to do something they cannot do – satisfy our deepest needs, calm our greatest fears, bring us the highest joy. Unfortunately and fortunately, life has a way of destroying our idols. It is unfortunate because it involves some pain; it is fortunate because it can set us free.   Our present struggle with the Coronavirus and its repercussions is shattering some idols. 

One writer suggests the three main idols to fall are security, prosperity, and wellness. (You can read it here.) It is a threat beyond our ability to control. It affects our sense of economic well-being. And it attacks our health. Security, prosperity, and wellness are quite good things but never meant to be the source of our ultimate hope. Our only hope in life and death is that we belong in body and soul, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ. 

The beauty of the Gospel is Jesus does what our idols cannot. Christ gives us eternal security – we have a good Father and we live in a safe and secure universe as eternal beings. Christ gives us real prosperity – provision and purpose, meaning and relationships. Christ gives us wellness - spiritual maturity and emotional health as He develops us into the people we will be forever. His promise of a new heaven and a new earth is a disease-free, death-free, anxiety-free, sorrow-free place of peace, life, love and joy.

Father, during this time of uncertainty, help us to dig deep, uncover our idols, and set us free to know and experience Your love and goodness.

A couple of things that may be helpful to know –

* Live-Stream – Sunday at 9:30 at https://wpcspartanburg.org/live. Past services are also available.

* Ways to help -

       - Our His Hands ministry team – if you need help or can help – call Beth Wolfe at 864-216-2761 or email beth.wolfe59@gmail.com

         - TOTAL Ministries – food, finances and people - 864-595-9167.

         - Mobile Meals – drivers (licensed & insured). Please call ahead - 864-573-7684. 

         - Soup Kitchen – hand sanitizer, wipes, carryout containers, foil, cups with lids, and prayer. Contact Dan Dupler if you can help: 864-431-3214

         - 7 inch long 1/8” or 1/4” wide elastic straps to sew medical masks. Box outside church office.

 

Pray for our covenant partners in health care and government; and for our health care and governmental leaders locally, state-wide, nationally and internationally. I hope to see you very soon.

 

Your friend

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 03:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, March 24 2020

Dear friends,

The apostle Paul wrote from a prison cell to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Paul’s prison was a physical one but he would certainly relate to the prisons of anxiety, quarantine, or cabin fever in which we find ourselves. He is teaching us how to not only deal with every situation and circumstance but to experience joy in them. It all boils down to a choice to rejoice (I really didn’t mean to do that, please forgive me…but it was pretty good). But the choice to rejoice does not happen without some other choices. This is how spiritual transformation happens – we can’t do it by ourselves but God will not do it without us.

1) Be gentle – i.e. be careful how we treat other people. The word means “power under control” and refers to a quality that only the strong can afford. This is not weakness.

2) Remember that the Lord is always near – closer to us than our very breath.

3) Turn anxiety into prayer and supplication “with thanksgiving” – look for the good even in the worst.

4) Let God’s unexplainable peace protect you emotionally and mentally.

5) Fill your mind and meditate on authentic, real, right, clean, pleasant, good, excellent, and commendable thoughts. Basically, things that focus on and bring out the best in ourselves and others.

Spiritual transformation is the path to joy. Spiritual transformation always involves our emotions, desires, thoughts, and actions. Spiritual growth happens best in the situations and circumstances that require it. This is one of those times – may you grow and experience the peace, joy, and love that passes all understanding.

A couple of things that may be helpful to know –

* Live-Stream – Sunday at 9:30 at https://wpcspartanburg.org/live. Past services are also available.

* Ways to help -

  • Our His Hands ministry team – if you need help or can help – call Beth Wolfe at 864-216-2761 or email beth.wolfe59@gmail.com.
  • TOTAL Ministries – food, finances and people - 864-595-9167.
  • Mobile Meals – drivers (licensed & insured). Please call ahead - 864-573-7684.
  • Soup Kitchen – hand sanitizer, wipes, carryout containers, foil, cups with lids, and prayers. Contact Dan Dupler if you can help: 864-431-3214
  • 7 inch long 1/8” or 1/4” wide elastic straps to sew medical masks. Box outside church office.

Pray for our covenant partners in health care and government; and for our health care and governmental leaders locally, state-wide, nationally and internationally. I hope to see you very soon.

Your friend

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 03:08 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, March 22 2020

Dear friends,

In light of this virus spreading throughout our world, I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ remarks in Mere Christianity when he writes of Jesus, “He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has – by what I call the ‘good infection’” (Mere ChristianityBook IV, Chapter Four). Lewis originally broadcast the lectures which became the book during the dark days of World War II. Now, we read them in these dark days of a different kind – but they are no less true. May His “good infection” of righteousness, peace, and joy flood our souls and infect those around us. Let’s pray for that “good infection” for all of us and for our world.

A couple of things that may be helpful to know –

* Live-Stream - Thanks to our praise team and staff who helped make worship happen today! Many encouraging comments flowing our way – you can still watch it at https://wpcspartanburg.org/live. We will do it again next week.

* Some help for you and the family. The Gospel Coalition is a website I visit often for news, information and insights. Two articles about the value of music in these difficult days may be helpful. Both have playlists – one more geared to children (here) and one for adults (here). I encourage you to look around on this website for thoughtful and helpful articles.

* Our church office will be “open” between 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm this week. A staff person will be there to answer phones and provide necessary assistance. If you are dropping off your offering, you can put in the mailbox by the front door. If assistance is necessary, please come during those times and it mindful of good ‘social distance.’ We are trying to eliminate the amount of personal contact in light of current guidelines.

* Ways to help -

- Our His Hands ministry team is actively seeking information regarding people who may need help during this time – running errands, picking up medications, groceries, or just checking up on them. They also need volunteers. If you or someone you know may be in need of help, please contact Beth Wolfe at 864-216-2761 or email beth.wolfe59@gmail.com.

- TOTAL Ministries – they are in need of human and material resources – food, finances, and people. They have been and will be in this for the long haul and know how to help. They are open Monday-Thursday from 9am-12pm for good drop off. Their number is 864-595-9167 – be mindful they are busy.

- Mobile Meals – they need drivers and particularly young ones (who have licenses and are insured). Please call ahead so they can be prepared – 864-573-7684.

- Laurie Allen is looking for 7 inch long 1/8” or 1/4” wide elastic straps to sew medical masks. A box will be placed outside the church office for collection.

- I encourage you, if you are able, to look for ways people are helping and get involved! If you are not able, know that your fight against the spread of this virus by staying home and staying healthy is just as important!

Your friend

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 03:08 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, March 20 2020

Dear friends,

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38-39). There is no special exemption for global pandemic, financial ruin, emotional anxiety, or personal decisions. It is good that we remind ourselves of this – the Father truly loves us, the Spirit is moving among us, and Jesus holds forever those He loves and how He loves us!

In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul tells young Timothy that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and sound mind.” He is teaching us that anxiety and anything that produces anxiety is not of the Spirit. We have so many other voices – news media, neighbors, our own – that stir up anxiety. Now more than ever, we need to practice hearing the voice of Jesus. That voice and that Spirit empowers us to love thoughtfully and well. The word for sound mind can also be translated “discipline” – which connects a healthy mind with discipline.

Perhaps now is a time to develop, increase, or adapt some spiritual disciplines or “practices” to better manage our own anxiety. Let me encourage you with three things…

1) Use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide for meditative prayer – spending time with each phrase and putting them into your own words; praying for particular people, events and circumstances as they come to your mind; and asking the Lord to help you pray each petition. See below for an example from my own life.

2) Read and study Scripture. If you don’t know where to start (or if you are looking for some focus), take this week’s passage for our teaching in worship – Mark 14:22-51. Take time with the passage, read what comes before and after, take notes, journal about it.

3) Establish some routines and rhythms to your days. Practices of engagement – exercise, reaching out to others, etc. Practices of disengagement – set limits on time spent on social media, reading the latest headlines, watching television, etc. The point of these things is not another list of rules but to help our spirits, hearts, souls, minds, bodies and relationships become more healthy.

* Please join us via livestream for our worship on Sunday at 9:30am (here or at wpcspartanburg.org/live)  or watch it at your convenience. As awkward as it may feel, participate with your family and, perhaps, a few friends or neighbors gathered with you. We trust it will be a time of fellowship, worship, prayer, and learning some ancient wisdom for anxious times.

* Our His Hands ministry team is actively seeking information regarding people who may need help during this time – running errands, picking up medications, groceries, or just checking up on them. They also need volunteers. If you or someone you know may be in need of help, please contact Beth Wolfe at 864-216-2761 or email beth.wolfe@gmail.com. Additionally, we are encouraging our covenant partners who are able to look after each other and their neighbors.

Your friend

Steve Wise

Lord's Prayer personally adapted

Our Father, who is always and everywhere present,  You are utterly unique in your goodness and love.   

May Your kingdom come and Your will be done, May we love what you love and how You love because You love us so much.

 Give us today what we need and help us to do the things we need to do  today. Help us trust You in the moment.

Forgive us our debts – convict me of where I have failed to love You and others – as we forgive our debtors – the ways they have failed to love You and love me.

Don’t let us be led into temptation but rescue us from evil – show me where real evil lurks in seeming good and where You bring real good out of seeming evil.

Posted by: Steve AT 03:07 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, March 18 2020

Dear friends,

The Proverbs teach us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” If this is so, then the fear of anything or anyone else (more than the Lord) is the beginning of foolishness. Jesus reveals what has always been true about His Father – that the most fearful One is also the most gracious One. John tells us that this “Perfect Love casts out fear.” God’s love and wisdom are intimately connected!

If you are like me, I find myself questioning and complaining about the why’s and the what’s of our present crisis. I am being reminded that the better question is “Lord, what do You want Your children to learn in the midst of this? What do we learn about His love and what wisdom may we gain from it?” For a profound take on these issues, read “C.S. Lewis and the Coronavirus”.

Here are some things you may need to know:

  • Our staff and session have been working and praying diligently to respond faithfully and wisely to the present situation and circumstances. In an effort to honor God in our worship and respect our governmental leaders (Romans 13:1), we will be worshipping via livestream at 9:30am on Sunday March 22nd and March 29th. We are canceling our gathered worship services for those days to support our country’s attempt to slow the spread of the corona virus.
  • Livestream and worship resources can be found here. (https://wpcspartanburg.org/live)
  • Our Church office will remain open Monday through Thursday from 9-5 and on Friday from 9-12. Our ministers remain available.
  • Our His Hands ministry team is actively seeking information regarding people who may need help during this time – running errands, picking up medications, groceries, or just checking up on them. We are encouraging our covenant partners to look after each other. If you or someone you know may be in need of help, please contact Beth Wolfe at 864-216-2761 or email beth.wolfe@gmail.com. You may also call the church office.
  • Unfortunately, one of the effects of canceling our services is financial. If you are able and would consider mailing or dropping your weekly offerings by the church office, it would be greatly appreciated and very helpful in maintaining our ministries and paying our bills. You may also give on-line here. (https://wpcspartanburg.org/wpcs/give_online)

I will miss seeing your faces and greeting you this Sunday in worship. I hope you and your family will join us in worship all across Spartanburg county as we livestream.

Your friend

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 03:06 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, March 16 2020

Dear friends,

Jesus teaches us the greatest commandment is that we love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. This is the purpose and goal of our lives. All of this is always and only in response to the love of God for us in Jesus Christ.

Now we are ‘on the spot’ with a crisis in our society which is as much spiritual, emotional, psychological, and mental as it is physical. How we respond reveals how well formed and shaped we are by the love of God. How we respond will also form and shape us as individuals and as a community - either in the love and trust of God or in fear and anxiety. Never have we needed Jesus or needed each other more than now! Please join me in praying for the Spirit of Jesus to enable us to love God and others well in these days.
We continue to monitor the recommendations of health organizations and our government. As of now, our weekly programming (WDS, Wednesday evenings, youth gatherings, etc.) have been discontinued. Discussions are underway regarding Sunday worship options.

I plan to communicate regularly with you - without delay but without haste. I do not wish to add to anxiety or risk misinforming anyone. If you are in need of assistance, please reach out to the church office – 864-585-4186. I am incredibly grateful to be a part of this congregation and going through this together.

My prayer today – Father – remind us each moment that You are good, You love us, and we live in a safe and secure universe. You invented medicine and government. You are Healer and King over all.
Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 03:06 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 12 2020

Dear Church Family,

These are very anxious times and the swirl of information of the last week has certainly heightened. Our leadership has been in discussion throughout the week. As we prepare for our services this Sunday, I thought it would be wise to make you aware of our plans moving forward at this point.

Our leadership has been discussing an appropriate response to the situation that is not driven by anxiety but is wise and thoughtful in its posture. We are monitoring information provided from several sources including our own medical community. Our contacts with local schools allow us to keep abreast of decisions the schools are making.

As we move into this weekend, I wanted you to be aware of our response.

First and foremost, let us be careful in how we relate with, speak to and speak about one another as we all have differing opinions regarding the various approaches to the virus in our society. Grace in everything! Secondly, please be patient with your leadership as we try to take the appropriate steps to wisely and faithfully address the situation. Few if any are experts and all of them have day jobs. Thirdly, please remember that personal responsibility is crucial for all of us in regards to our own health and decisions. Thoughtfulness, patience and consideration in all things.

So, for our gathering this weekend (and for the foreseeable future)

- in greeting one another - both formally in the sanctuary and informally throughout the building - we ask you to follow the recommended guidelines of recognized health organization (i.e. methods of acknowledgment that limit contact - apparently the Corona-virus "pound" that I like to employ does not necessarily qualify).

- we will not serve communion at any of the services on this Sunday, March 15. We will be in discussion on when to return to regular communion next week. I know for many this is a major disappointment. However, our practice of intinction seems to be a high risk to many health organizations.

- we encourage those who are not feeling well or who may be more susceptible to this virus due to other medical conditions to stay at home.

Please be in prayer for our country and church as we walk through these strange days.

Steve Wise

Senior Pastor


Psalm 91: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

Posted by: Steve AT 03:05 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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