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encouragement from steve wise

Wednesday, January 12 2022

Dear Friends

“But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; but only one thing is necessary; for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

- Luke 10:28-30

A big THANK YOU to everyone who volunteered and everyone who participated in our Refresh weekend! It was a lot of fun and brought great joy to be together having fun, celebrating, worshipping and learning.

I continue to chew on Jim’s teaching about the life Jesus is inviting us into. An invitation into life with the God who loves us better than the best father loves their children, pursues us, offers us living water, and fills our emptiness. A way to experience that life through a posture and a practice – choosing to listen to Jesus and learn how to live and love from Life and Love Himself.

I know that I am worried and drug around, distracted and torn apart by many relationships, events, and circumstances beyond my control. Truth be told, it all boils down to my refusal to believe God loves me and my efforts to make myself lovable. Everything else seems so very important, but Jesus gently but firmly reminds me that only one thing is really necessary and that is the best part. Two ideas that roll around my brain. First, best over good. God’s best over the many good things that can divert my attention. God desires me to experience so much more - Himself. Second, the quality of my life will depend on the attention I give to the important but not urgent things in my life. What good thing(s) are keeping me from the best things? What am I stopping? And what am I starting?

Let’s pray together that we will be people so convinced of God’s love for us in Jesus that we practice choosing the best over the good. May we give our attention to Jesus so we can learn how to love and live from Him – who is love and life. We cannot do it by ourselves but God will not do it without us. He gives us His Spirit and we give him our time, attention, and effort. May His Spirit fill us individually and as a body for His glory, our good, and the well-being of the world around us.

Your friend

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 10:09 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, January 01 2022

Happy New Year, 

“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”

- II Peter 3:8-9

This is a strange time of year for me! Today we are putting up our Christmas decorations. This always makes me a little sad because it means Christmas is over and another year has passed. Yet we also look forward to a new year with new opportunities and possibilities. Perhaps this time of year highlights our ambiguous relationship with time itself. Our most precious commodity and, at times, worst enemy.

Time is really just the way we measure the events of our lives.  Time and space are created realities. God exists outside of time and space. We use words like eternal and eternity to speak of God’s timelessness. Peter reminds us the Lord is not bound by time, experiences time from outside of it, and is far more patient regarding time than we are. Not only far more patient but also far more gracious – desiring for all to know Him. 

Yet we experience life in time. Memories of the past both bring us joy and sorrow. Relationships, events, and circumstances encourage and discourage us. Opportunities and obstacles in the future create hope and anxiety. All of these form and shape who we are and who we become. Sadly, for all of us, our time in this earthly body comes to an end. 

But the Good News of the Gospel tells us we are eternal beings – limited by time and space but made for more than just this life. It also declares the Eternal One stepped into time in Jesus Christ to redeem our past, present, and future. His life, death and resurrection means your life & my life – in this time and place - matters and matters forever. 

Which makes me ask: what am I doing with my time and what is that doing to me? who or what gets my time? who or what do I give my time to and for? how does my use of time shape and form me into who I want to be and who God designed me to be? how does it not do this?

As I sit on the cusp of a New Year, I am evaluating how I use my time: to know and love God more and better? to bring glory to God? to help others? to grow as a follower of Jesus? to build community and relationships?  to serve other people?

Our upcoming “Refresh” (January 7-9) will be a time to learn more about the life God is inviting us into with Him.  I hope you join your church family for this event and make our weekly worship together a priority in 2022. May we all grow in our knowledge and experience of the Father’s love and goodness, Jesus’ grace and truth, and the Holy Spirit’s presence and guidance!

Your friend

Steve Wise  

Posted by: Steve AT 10:12 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, December 29 2021

Happy New Year!

“…for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature person, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of people, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

Paul, Ephesians 4:11-16

The New Year provides us with a clean slate of sorts. Many people take the opportunity to make resolutions even while laughing about how quickly those resolutions are broken. Perhaps you are thinking about changing some habits in your life – either starting good ones or stopping bad ones. You may be thinking about some new fitness or personal habits. You may be considering making better decisions. You may be wondering what is the use in making resolutions when most resolutions are broken. We invite you not to make New Year’s resolutions but to come and be “REFRESHED” in your relationship with God and with His people.  Please register here.

Westminster is celebrating our REFRESH event on January 7-9 – a time of worship, fellowship and spiritual encouragement. Jim Branch (of the Blue Book fame, if you are familiar) will be leading our time in God’s Word challenging us and refreshing our souls. Dinner will begin at 5:30 with our celebration from 6:15-7:45. Child care is provided 4 years old and younger. Children 5th grade and younger will join us for worship but then have a separate time of teaching. We are hoping our middle and high school students will participate in our celebration time in the sanctuary as it will be good for them as well. Please register on our website so we can plan food accordingly. Our own Sophie Satterfield will provide a meal for us on Friday and Taco Dog will cater our Saturday evening meal.

The Apostle Paul, in the passage above, shows us the purpose of our gathering – spiritual growth as individuals and as a community of faith. God the Father’s great desire for us is that we become more and more like Jesus – in our love for God and in our love for others. Maturity means we develop the ability to know the difference between true and false, good and evil, right and wrong, and love and hate. We learn to process our internal feelings, desires and thoughts in light of our external relationships, events and circumstances. As we process and respond to life well, we bring God glory, do what is best for us, and work for the well-being of other people. As we grow closer to Jesus, we grow closer to one another. As Dallas Willard writes, we become “sons and daughters of God [who] live their unique lives in this world to his glory.”

As you turn the page on 2021, perhaps you are weary, wary, or worried about the year ahead. Or you may be excited, energized and optimistic. We pray Refresh will encourage you and enliven our community of faith in our ministry and mission in our families, our church and our community.

Your friend

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 10:03 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, October 20 2021

Dear Friends,

"For this reason I bend my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God."  Paul the Apostle, Ephesians 3:16-19

You may recognize these words from the benediction at our worship each week. This prayer is prayed over us at the end of our services. Jim Branch, a mentor, and friend, who will lead our “Refresh” event on January 7-9, 2021, led our staff and session meetings this past week. 

In our staff meeting, Jim walked us through this prayer with an encouragement and a challenge.

The flow of the prayer is as moving as it is beautiful. It begins by asking the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in our inner beings so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. This suggests that our inner beings need to be exercised, worked out, and strengthened so Christ can live in us. This all starts with a basic trust in God’s goodness and love that grows in us as we exercise it. The first “so that” refers to Christ’s presence in our lives. 

The next “so that” refers to our being rooted and grounded in love. When Christ dwells in us, our lives take on a new strength and foundation. Paul uses images of a tree rooted in the ground and of a building with a solid foundation. These are images of growth, strength, and firmness.   

The next “so that” is implied – to understand the widest, longest, highest, deepest love of Jesus. I see the cross in this description - God’s demonstration of His unconquerable love that goes up, down, and out. Notice two things: 1) this is something we do in community – with all the saints (i.e. followers of Jesus), and 2) this is a different kind of knowing that certainly involves our minds but goes beyond our minds – it is a knowing in our inner being. 

Finally, the last “so that” - to be filled with the fullness of God. How often life leaves us feeling deflated, depleted, disappointed – empty! But God’s great desire is to fill us with Himself – His life, love, and joy. This is the point and reveals God’s deepest desire for us and our deepest need for God. 

This is a prayer - we cannot do this by ourselves. But it is a prayer for strength – God will not do it without us. It is a prayer for the Spirit to strengthen us – God intends to help us. Our part is to practice faith – to trust God. This practice works us out and gets us in shape so Christ can dwell in us. This is spiritual formation and involves practices that train us for a deeper relationship with Jesus. 

So I ask myself these questions and let you listen in…How am I being strengthened (or weakened) in my inner being? Am I setting aside time and space to grow in my relationship with Jesus – both personally and in community? How are my routines and habits strengthening my inner being or weakening it? How are they rooting me or grounding me in God’s love – or something else?  How am I growing in my experience of Jesus’ love - or not?  How am I experiencing God’s fulness – or not?

May His Spirit strengthen us in our inner being so we may be rooted and grounded in God’s love, experiencing the cross-shaped love of Jesus and being filled with the fulness of God’s life, love, and joy.

Your friend

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 11:21 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, September 29 2021

Dear Friends,

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was not made for man, but man for the Sabbath.” - Mark 2:27

Our elders are studying the leadership of Moses through the book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton. This month, we looked at a chapter on the spiritual rhythms of leaders and focused on God’s provision of manna in Exodus 16. The Israelites were instructed to collect enough manna for each day and double the amount on the 6thday so they could rest on the Sabbath. The word for Sabbath carries with it the idea of a “rest of the heart” and celebration. This observance was to relieve the anxiety, stress, and weariness of journeying through the desert. It also served to teach the Israelites to trust in the Lord’s provision for them. The story of the Israelites reminds us how easily we can be overcome by our fear and our pride to our own detriment and to the harm of others.

Barton cites a study conducted by Michael Zigarelli, an associate professor of management at Charleston University School of business, that shows many Christians see busyness and overload as very damaging to their relationship with God. He presents a cycle that feels like a downward spiral that works like this: 1) we assimilate to a “culture of busyness, hurry and overload”; 2) God is moved to the margins of our lives; 3) our relationship with God deteriorates; 4) we become even more vulnerable to cultural assumptions about how to live; 5) then we conform even more to the culture of “busyness, hurry, and overload.” Barton identifies it as the “bondage of busyness.” (from Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, IVP, Downers Grove, IL. pg. 118.

I have been challenged to consider the ways I have fallen victim to this spiritual death spiral. I wonder where you find yourself in the midst of obligations of work, family, and even, at times church. A rhythm of the spiritual disciplines or practices of worship in community, personal and corporate bible, study, prayer, and rest and celebration serve to help us grow and become healthier spiritually, emotionally, socially, and even physically. These things are made for us, not us for these things. But these things are of no use if they are not used. And if you are like me, I can tell the difference in my attitudes and actions when they are not being used.

I write these words in perhaps the busiest time of year for many of us. Work, school, extracurricular activities - the list goes on – overloads us with busyness, hurry and stress. May I encourage you to rest, celebrate, and begin to develop some rhythms in your day, your week, your month, and your year that help you become transformed to the image of Christ rather than conformed to the hurry and rush of the world. May you the bondage of busyness become the freedom of celebration.

Your friend

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 10:29 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, August 11 2021

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was a formless and desolate emptiness, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

Genesis 1:1-4

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of mankind.  And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth..No one has seen God at any time; God the only Son, who is in the arms of the Father, He has explained Him.

- John 1:1-5, 14, 18

We begin our Journey through the Grand Story of Scripture – God’s love story with the world He created and the people He loves. These two passages remind us of several things as we begin. 

God’s Word is creative power. God’s Word calls into being that which does not exist. God’s Word makes something out of nothing. God’s Word brings form out of chaos and fulness out of emptiness.

God’s Word is illuminating power. God’s Word brings light to darkness - darkness cannot overcome it.  

God’s Word is moral power. God’s Word defines good from evil and right from wrong.

God’s Word is Personal – in Jesus, God the Son took on flesh and blood to explain the love and goodness of the Father to us. It is in and through Jesus that we know and understand God, ourselves, and creation.

This Sunday we take our first steps on the Journey. The Journey has 3 levels – to use “skier” lingo: green circle, blue square, and black diamond.  You can find more information here.

1) Sunday Worship – our messages each week will move through the Grand Story of the Bible. Small Groups and Adult Bible studies will be offered to discuss the sermon each week. We hope all of our covenant partners and visitors will participate in this track. If we were skiing, this would be the “green circle” slope for every level of skier. 

2) Read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year-plan. This plan has 5 readings per week and will cover the entire Bible in a year. We are encouraging groups to form to discuss the readings. If we were skiing, this would be the “blue square” for intermediate skiers and above but also good for beginners to advance and improve. You can access this reading plan here.

3) The Bible Journey – an online, interactive, self-paced study. 6 courses and 45 lessons provide background, insights and applications for the text of Scripture. Lessons take 1-1 ½ hours to complete. This is the “black diamond” slope designed for those more experienced or wanting to go to the next level. We have 137 people signed up at this point and can still get more licenses. More information here under “How to register for the Bible Journey” on the bottom and left side of the page.

Please prayerfully consider your level of involvement and pray for our church as we Journey together through God’s Word.   

Your friend,

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 02:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, July 21 2021

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path

- Psalm 119:105

Cleaning out my attic after the tornado of 2020, I ran across several old notebooks from as far back as high school. They contained notes I had taken while reading my bible as a young man. 

In the spring of my junior year in high school, reality confronted me – a car, a girlfriend, and a starting spot on the football team did not satisfy the deeper desires of my soul. I began to ask questions about life, God, and myself. Following the example of my brother, I began to read the Bible. I encountered Jesus in a new way, recognized my need for Him, and began a relationship with Him. I also began to develop the practice of daily bible study in order to spend time with God and get to know Him more. At the time I could not put those words on it, but now I see it very clearly. 

Over the years, I have found this statement from the Psalmist above to be a very accurate reflection of my experience. The study of Scripture has helped to transform me spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, psychologically and socially. Anything and everything good in me and about me is the result of Jesus’ presence and the study of Scripture in my life! It guides me in my darkest moments. It brings clarity to confusion and inner chaos. It teaches, convicts, corrects and trains me for life.

I am excited about our “Journey” together through the Grand Story of the Bible starting on August 15th. The Journey has 3 levels – to use “skier” lingo: green circle, blue square, and black diamond.   Visit MY.WPCS.LIVE/JOURNEY for more »

  1. Sunday Worship – our messages each week will move through the Grand Story of the Bible. Small Groups and Adult Bible studies will be offered to discuss the sermon each week. We hope all of our covenant partners and visitors will participate in this track. If we were skiing, this would be the “green circle” slope for every level of skier. 
  2. Read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year-plan. This plan has 5 readings per week and will cover the entire Bible in a year. We are encouraging groups to form to discuss the readings. If we were skiing, this would be the “blue square” for intermediate skiers and above but also good for beginners to advance and improve.
  3. The Bible Journey – an online, interactive, self-paced study. 6 courses and 45 lessons provide background, insights and applications for the text of Scripture. Lessons take 1-1 ½ hours to complete. This is the “black diamond” slope designed for those more experienced or wanting to go to the next level. 

Please prayerfully consider your level of involvement as the time draws near. 

Your friend,

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 09:25 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, July 07 2021

“For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must answer.” - Hebrews 4:12-13

What is the most powerful weapon in the world? In an age of advanced sophistication, one could argue for a whole host of instruments of destruction. But what if the most powerful weapon in the world is not meant to destroy but to heal? What if it is intended to deal with our fiercest adversary – sin and death – by both convicting and comforting us.

The writer of Hebrews tells us God’s creative and sustaining Word is a double-edged knife: alive, active, and penetrating. It cuts between the most minute of divisions within us – soul and spirit – as a blade can but between joint and marrow. This piercing discerns and reveals our deepest desires and thoughts, motives and meditations. One side is a sharp edge of truth and the other a razor blade of love. It is a surgeon’s scalpel designed to heal us by showing us the truth about God and the truth about ourselves; our need for God and God’s desire for us; God’s grace and truth in Jesus.

The writer reminds us we cannot hide from Him; He knows us better than we know ourselves. And still loves us! We are accountable to Him - which is both terrifying and tender. We must answer to Him, but He considers us significant enough to know us, search us, and hold us accountable. This penetrating Word allows us to stand before Him without fear or pride; humbled and yet healed in soul and spirit, mind and heart.

In order for the Word to penetrate and heal, we must know it.  Starting on August 15, Westminster will begin a year-long Journey through the Grand Story of Scripture to increase our understanding and encourage our growth. We hope all will be encouraged and equipped to engage with Jesus through Scripture in a life-changing way.

We invite you to join us on this Journey along several different tracks:

  1. Sunday Sermons will lead us through the Grand Story of Scripture. 
  2. A reading plan to read through the Bible in a year. 
  3. Small groups based around the sermon or the Bible Journey curriculum.
  4. Bible Journey – a year-long interactive, internet-based, and self-paced for individuals, families, or groups interested in a deeper dive into the Word. This will involve a little over an hour a week. (Interested? contact Justin Lewis.)

These different tracks are not mutually exclusive and will travel at different paces. We hope you will make weekly worship a priority but also add these other spiritual practices to enhance your growth personally and our growth as a community. Imagine the difference this would make in your life and in the life of our church!

Your friend,

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 09:52 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, June 30 2021

The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

- Jesus, Mark 12:29-31 (ESV)

What is the most important thing to know or to do in order to live a meaningful life? What is the one thing I have to get right? What is the one thing I cannot get wrong? If I were to fail at everything else, what one thing would make my life a success? What one failure would erase every other success? This is not the language of the Pharisee who asks about the greatest commandment. But it is the question behind his question.

Jesus’ answer, though perhaps familiar to us, demands deeper meditation. Notice, Jesus quotes from the Old Testament books Deuteronomy and Leviticus. The first serves as an important Hebrew prayer and focuses on the priority of our relationship with God. The second refers to human relationships. Together they summarize God’s Law and ultimately God’s will for us.

Jesus’ answer reveals God’s design and desire for our lives – a life is worth living. Jesus teaches us all of life is ‘spiritual’ – i.e. related to our relationship with God. Spiritual health and emotional maturity look like this: our emotions, desires, thoughts, and energies directed toward loving God. Social health follows – the increasing ability to love other people well in accordance with God’s will. All flows from a response to God’s love for us in Jesus who will demonstrate His love for us in His death and resurrection.

One important way to love God and learn to love others is by knowing and practicing God’s Word. Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, we invite you to take a deeper dive into the Word of God starting this fall.

The Journey will begin in August of 2021 with the goal of encouraging and equipping one another to engage with Jesus through Scripture in a life-transforming way. Our journey will travel along 4 different tracks.

  1. Sunday Sermons will lead us through the Grand Story of Scripture.
  2. A reading plan to read through the Bible in a year.
  3. Sermon-based small groups and small group bible studies will be offered.
  4. Bible Journey – a year-long interactive, internet-based, self-paced, and high-quality curriculum for individuals, families, or groups. This will involve a little over an hour a week. (If you are interested, please contact Justin Lewis.)

We encourage all of our covenant partners and visitors to participate in Track 1 – our Sunday Sermons. We urge everyone to prayerfully consider Tracks 2-4 as they look ahead to the fall. Imagine the difference a deeper relationship with Jesus and a greater understanding His Word would make in your life, your family, our church, and our world.

Your friend, 

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 08:06 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, June 24 2021

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and practices them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not practice them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

- Jesus, Matthew 7:24-27

Am I building a solid foundation that will stand against the adverse weather of life? If my life were a house, would it be standing on a foundation of stone or sand? Are my responses to the relationships, events, and circumstances rooted in the hearing and practicing of Jesus’ teaching? Do I want them to be? Do I wonder how I can do that?

The first step in Jesus’ instructions about building a foundation is to hear or listen to His words. The second step is to practice them. Jesus teaches us that the Scriptures of the Old Testament all point to Him and that He fulfills those Scriptures. His temptation, His teaching, His words from the cross, and His words to His disciples after His resurrection show a life that internalized Scripture by hearing and practicing them.

Perhaps you are a newer believer (or even seeker) who is looking for a deeper understanding of Jesus and the Bible. Maybe you are an old saint who has studied for years and is looking for an even greater understanding. Wherever you might be, we invite you to join Westminster in The Journey – a year-long engagement with the Grand Narrative of Scripture.

The Journey will begin in August of 2021 with the goal of encouraging and equipping one another to engage with Jesus through Scripture in a life-transforming way. Our journey will travel along 4 different tracks.

  1. Sunday Sermons will lead us through the Grand Story of Scripture.
  2. A reading plan to read through the Bible in a year.
  3. Sermon-based small groups and small group bible studies will be offered.
  4. Bible Journey – a year-long interactive, internet-based, self-paced and high-quality curriculum for individuals, families, or groups interested in a deeper dive into the Word. This will involve a little over an hour a week. (If you are interested, please contact Justin Lewis.)

We encourage all of our covenant partners and visitors to participate in Track 1 – our Sunday Sermons. We urge everyone to prayerfully consider Tracks 2-4 as they look ahead to the fall. Imagine the difference a deeper relationship with Jesus and a greater understanding His Word would make in your life, your family, and our world.

Your friend,

Steve Wise

Posted by: Steve AT 10:11 am   |  Permalink   |  Email

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