Starbucks Lovers

When Taylor Swift released Blank Space, I immediately loved the song.  One of the lines really had my curiosity: “Get along with Starbucks Lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane.”  Five years later I discovered that the real lyrics were “Got a long list of ex-lovers.

They’ll tell you I’m insane.”  Even Taylor Swift’s own mother thought Taylor was saying “Starbucks lovers.”  “Starbucks lovers” has become code for when I realize that what I once thought is not exactly true.  I always thought Genesis 1 was about the creation but after a full examination have come to believe (Starbucks Lovers moment) that Genesis 1 is about God our Creator.  I always thought the Book of Acts was about the birth of the church until (Starbucks Lovers moment) I have come to believe it is really about the activity of the Holy Spirit.  Certainly creation and the birth of the church are stories that are contained in Genesis and Acts, but the main character is God. 

In the fall of 2018, I looked at the calendar and saw 2020.  I decided to make the theme of 2020 “20/20 vision.”  I thought it was perfect and the only opportunity for such a time as this.  I prepared sermon series and titles for the year.  “Blurred vision” from 1 Corinthians 13 and “cross-eyed” from Revelation were just a couple of the creative topics.  I was very excited.  After I was finished there was a nagging in my spirit.  I believe that God was complimenting me on what I had come up with.  I also felt God was prompting me to trash the whole plan because God had a different plan.  I surrendered my plan to God and asked for a new plan.  Weeks of prayer and Scripture reading ensued always searching for what God’s plan might be for Wesley Chapel in 2020. 

I was reading Ephesians 3:14-21.  It is one of my favorite passages.  On a wall in my office hangs a beautiful piece of artwork by Connie Newbanks that includes this passage.  In 2015, Wesley Chapel used this passage to form the first half of our mission phrase, “Rooted in Christ, Growing in Grace.”  I have quoted pieces of it over and over again in sermons.  I have literally read it or quoted it hundreds of times.  Each time I read the passage in my regular Bible reading I get excited.  In early 2019, I was reading this passage and a phrase jumped off the page: “through your Spirit.”  It was a “Starbucks Lovers” moment.  Even though the phrase had been there the whole time, I passed over it as if it had not even been there.  I read it again in context, “He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”  I read it again, this time reading all seven verses.  I was convicted.  I had neglected the Holy Spirit when speaking of this passage.  I thought about my ten years at Wesley Chapel and realized how little emphasis I had given to the Holy Spirit.  I sensed the Holy Spirit was guiding me to focus the sermons of 2020 on the power of the Holy Spirit.  As I continued to read more Scripture I saw the Holy Spirit mentioned over and over again.  Within a few weeks I had finished the series and titles of 2020.  After two months of sermons, you as the members of Wesley Chapel, have given Pastor Peter and me an overwhelming affirmation for the messages and the topic.  I believe that when we are obedient to the Holy Spirit, it really opens all of us to growing in faith. 

The month of March, we are turning to Forgotten God, a sermon series based on the book by Francis Chan.  We are including opportunities to study Forgotten God in Sunday Schools and small groups.  We believe that the combination of sermon, book, and discussion will bring us closer to the Holy Spirit and deepen our faith in God.  In April, we turn our attention back to Jesus as we remember the death and resurrection of our Savior.  We want you to stay connected to God and to Wesley Chapel as we walk this journey of faith together.

 

Grace and peace,

Pastor Tony


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You are Gifted

You are gifted by the Holy Spirit with Spiritual Gifts. As we use our spiritual gifts we must also value the people in our faith community and their spiritual gifts. Read Romans 12:3-8.  Paul shares a list of seven spiritual gifts with the Romans:  Prophesying, Serving, Teaching, Encouraging, Contributing, Leadership, and Mercy. This list is sometimes called the primary motivation list of Spiritual Gifts. When I first began as a pastor, I had never attended a Bible Study. I didn’t know my Bible and had not been to seminary. All I had was a passion to follow Jesus and I believe Jesus was leading me to be a pastor. I knew very little about the Holy Spirit and knew nothing about spiritual gifts. I began to read and study the Bible with a passion. I attended workshops and seminars that helped me be a pastor. While I was learning and growing, my excitement for ministry turned to frustration in ministry.  A lot of people at the church I was serving seemed content with me but others were very critical. I tried to be encouraging but felt like there were people who were being discouraging. What I tried to build, they seemed to try to tear down. I attended a week-long training that I have affectionately called “the tools of Christianity.” One entire session was devoted to spiritual gifts. The speaker said that every Christian had at least one of the spiritual gifts from Romans 12. As he began to describe each gift, I began to understand myself and the people in my church better. The first gift was prophesying. People with the gift of prophesying were willing to speak the hard truth into a situation. They were usually not very popular  When the speaker talked about the gift of encouragement I got excited.  I realized that was my gift  Toward the end of the presentation he warned people with the gift of encouragement to listen especially to people with the gift of prophesy. God has put these people in your life to give you balance and speak wisdom to you. All of a sudden I had a new appreciation for the “nay-sayers” at the church I was serving.  They were not trying to tear anything down I was hoping to build, but instead, they were speaking wisdom into my approach and warn me of negative consequences. I began to see them as partners instead of antagonist. My change of attitude toward them really changed the course of our ministry together. Today, as the pastor of Wesley Chapel, I welcome the voices of the prophets among us whose spiritual gift it is to speak truth into situations. I have learned to value people with the other gifts as well. People with the gift of mercy are the ones who are checking on our well-being. People with the gift of teaching, are steering us to have the right beliefs and practices.  People with the gift of contributing are often financing projects that could not be possible otherwise. People with the gift of leadership are able to organize people, care for people, and accomplish great ministry. People with the gift of serving help make the engine of the church continue to run. Paul emphasizes how each spiritual gift is an important part of healthy ministry in a healthy church. We should never think we are better than someone else by thinking our gift is more important than someone else’s gift. When we all use our spiritual gifts, the church is richer.

 

Come Holy Spirit. Give us our gifts as we value the gifts of the people around us. Give us wisdom and courage to practice our gifts in order to grow your Kingdom. Amen.

 

Don’t know your gift?  I invite you to click the following link to take a spiritual gifts assessment to discover your gift today. 


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Loving Your Neighbors

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31).Character development is essential to the task of a disciple. As followers of Jesus Christ, our goal is to become like Jesus. Outwardly, we strive to act and speak like Jesus. Inwardly, we invite the Holy Spirit to transform our spirit into the likeness of Jesus Christ. As the Holy Spirit works, we develop the qualities of compassion, kindness, and humility.
 
Together as the family of Wesley Chapel, we excel in displaying a Christ-like presence when we show radical hospitality to all people regardless of outward appearance. We are not to judge the color of one’s skin, ink, or hair. We are all on this journey of faith together. Our church is beginning to become diverse. Maria is originally from El Salvador. She and her husband James bring their two daughters to worship. Maria serves in the children’s department. Jalissa and Sage have two children at Wesley Chapel. Jalissa represents our church at the state level as a voting member to the Indiana Annual Conference. Sage serves in AV. Ernesto and Jessica bring their four daughters. Ernesto is planning to join the Mission Team to go to the Dominican Republic.

 

On January 19, Maria, Jalissa, and Ernesto will join me in sharing their stories. I will ask them how we can increase our hospitality and make all people feel welcome and loved at Wesley Chapel. May we continue to love God and love people as Christ does.
 
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” –Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963.
 
Grace & Peace,
Pastor Tony

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At Our Core

A focus group accepted the challenge of narrowing the core values after receiving input from over 100 people at Wesley Chapel. It was easy to reduce the list of 35 to 12 but it was really hard to go to four. We quickly started out of the gate with the first two: godly and biblical. After much debate we began to take a second look at godly and realized that the Pharisees would have also considered themselves godly and biblical. We asked the question, “What did Jesus have that the Pharisees did not?” Compassion, kindness, gentleness, and patience were some of the answers that were also on the list of possible core values. Then someone said, “Christ-like” and we knew that this core value was all of the other values that we had been wrestling with.

 

We soon decided on Christ-like, Biblical, Loving, and Community.

We introduced them to the congregation in January of 2018. Core values keep us grounded on what is important and describe the type of church we hope to be. I share them with you again this month as a reminder.

 
Christ-like
Jesus invites us to follow him. When we agree to follow Jesus our goal is to be like Jesus in every way. As a
community of believers in Jesus, our goal is to be a Christ-like church.
 
Biblical
In order to be a Christ-like church, we must go to the source that records Jesus’ words and actions. The Bible is our foundation that points us to a right relationship with God through Jesus.
 
Loving
Jesus gave us two primary commands to follow: love God and love people. Jesus modeled unconditional sacrificial love by giving his life on the cross so that we may have eternal life. As a community of faith, we are to model Christ-like love.
 
Community
As a follower of Jesus, each of us is part of the community of faith. We worship, study, serve, and give within the community of faith. Community also describes the mission field beyond the community of faith where we are called to serve with a message of God’s love to all people.

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Everybody Welcome

Outside the church was a sign that had the church name, the times of service, the name of the pastor and the message “Everybody Welcome.” I thought what a wonderful gesture to be welcome everyone. As I continued driving down the road I began to wonder if it was true. Was everyone really welcome or did they only welcome people who looked like and thought like the people who went on a regular basis? Would they welcome a child molester? Would they welcome a transgender person? Would they welcome someone with tattoos? Would they welcome the refugee from El Salvador? Would they welcome the town drunk? Was everyone really welcome?

Then I began to think about Wesley Chapel. Is everyone really welcome at Wesley Chapel? Every Sunday I say, “grace and peace to you.” Are we really willing to extend grace to all people and accept them for who they are in whatever condition they are in?

At Wesley Chapel, our hospitality extends to all people in the areas of worship, study, and service. We believe that all people are called into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We extend grace to all people on their journey of faith whether they are mature believers, new believers, or have not yet accepted Jesus as Lord. All people are invited to worship. All people are encouraged to study God’s word in order to intentionally grow in their faith, and all people are invited to serve.
 
All people are invited to the Lord’s Table to receive Holy Communion. We do not exclude people based on nationality, race, ethnicity, human sexuality, financial status, or anything else. 
 
Recently, a panel of four people helped me explore how we could practice hospitality by looking beyond the surface of a person and look at the character of Christ. Maria was born in El Salvador but has lived in the U.S. for 23 years.  Recently she ordered a banana split and was told, “We don’t serve Mexican food here.”  At Wesley Chapel she has found love and acceptance and she has helped us see the character of Christ in her. Erica expressed her love for her father, husband, and son as loving men of godly character. However, because of the color of his skin, her husband is often stopped by police in Floyd County to ask why he is driving on these roads. The answer is because he lives in Floyds Knobs. Ernesto’s parents moved to the United States from Mexico. He graduated from Floyd Central. When people ask him where he is from, they are skeptical when he claims Indiana as his home. Jalissa is black and her husband is white.  They want a church where they can be loved and accepted along with their children.
 
When we look past the color of a person’s skin, their tattoos, or their hair dye and look for the character of Christ within, then we are beginning to see people as God sees them. God sees us as God’s children. 
 
What kind of church do we want to be? My prayer for Wesley Chapel is that we would be a Christ-like church. Jesus welcomed everyone. Let us welcome everyone also.
 
Grace & Peace,
Pastor Tony

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