Matthew Wipperman
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lifeWorship, part 5: Forgiven from the Church on Vimeo.

Focus: You are a new creation! God brought you back to Himself through Jesus, you are forgiven! And now this message of forgiveness is yours to share with others. How will you respond? Main Text: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Dependent on Christ

What do you think of when you hear the word cancer? Would you ever consider that cancer might be a blessing in disguise?

 

In October 2012, we were waiting for the results from a colonoscopy. Mark was still feeling the effects of the anesthesia, and was incoherent. The doctor entered, head down, eyes focused on the chart in his hand, not meeting me eye-to-eye until I heard him say, “It’s cancer.” I jolted, not expecting it. I wanted to see the pictures. I wanted an explanation. How could this be happening? I was stunned, fearful, with so many emotions churning in my brain. Visions of mounting medical expenses, the financial impact on our family, and questions filled my mind: “Will Mark be able to work? Will I need to quit my job to care for him? What about our commitment to the Church and other charities counting on our financial support? Will we lose our home?” I felt so alone, nauseous, buried in my thoughts of an uncertain future of life with a spouse with cancer.

 

“FOCUS,” I heard my brain cry… “you must listen for the next step.” The Doctor told me that our primary care physician would be calling to set up an appointment for a CT scan:  “We’ll check to see if the cancer has spread.” More fear, more uncertainty and feelings about financial fears crept in; as if hearing the word “cancer” wasn’t enough, now I heard two words: “cancer” and “spread.”

 

Mark was still a bit incoherent as I directed him to the car. I gripped the steering wheel  and headed home, still reeling from the news that my husband had cancer. In my head I keep repeating, “Think of the blessings, think of the blessings,” and then I felt some comfort repeating it out loud. Later, Mark didn’t remember a thing about the ride home or the next few hours. I just knew that I wanted to get home so I could cry -- no, more like sob uncontrollably. I was waiting for directions from our physician about scheduling more appointments, a CT Scan, surgery, not knowing what would be next. I was processing the news, wanting to pray; but pray for what, and with whom? A little voice said, “You need to pray with someone,” and Amy Meyer popped into my head. Why Amy? I needed a calming voice to help me process this unexpected news. What unexpected plan did God have for our family and why did it involve colon cancer?!? Colon cancer, you know, the cancer that just so happens to be one of most common and deadliest cancers. So I called the Church and Amy just happened to be there. We prayed, and I cried, and we prayed some more. I couldn’t tell you what we prayed about, but I can tell you that her calming voice is what I needed to hear.

 

The next day we went in for the CT scan. I didn’t know how long it would take, so I was prepared with books and my smartphone. I thought I’d try to get familiar with the Bible app that Mark downloaded because it might come in handy. As I was waiting I thought, “I’ll check out the New Testament, something short and sweet to get my mind off of things.” I’d never read 1 Peter, so I zeroed in on the 1st chapter. Tears streamed down my face as I read verses 6-8:

You rejoice greatly in this, even though you have to suffer various kinds of trials for a little while, so that your genuine faith, which is more valuable than gold that perishes when tested by fire, may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus the Messiah, is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him.  And even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.   

 

I kept reading, the words in print appearing blurry due to my still-streaming tears, and at the end of the chapter I read, “All human life is like grass, and all its glory is like a flower in the grass. The grass dries up and the flower drops off but the word of the Lord lasts forever. Now the word is the good news that was announced to you” (1 Peter 1:24-25). I felt RELIEF and was uplifted; this was the good news I was longing to hear. Though I felt my faith being tested, I also felt so much comfort in my new go-to good news verse from 1 Peter.

 

And then an amazing thing happened. That very next Sunday, the selected reading was from 1 Peter 1. I listened with renewed ears to this faith-rebuilding message. As the days unfolded after the diagnosis and successful surgery, the financial fears subsided, and God provided so many blessings:

  • I learned that Mark’s chemo was covered at 100%.  The cost for the first treatment was over $17,000. Mark would need 12 treatments and he was able to withstand all 12 chemo treatments.

  • Surgery was covered at 100%, as was a week in the hospital.

  • I was promoted to senior retirement plan consultant, which included a significant salary increase.

  • Mark missed very little work during chemo which started mid-December, 2012 through May, 2013.

  • We increased our contributions to the Church and continued supporting other charities.

  • We started regularly attending faithBuilders, and received spiritual support from our lifeGroup.

  • I shared more prayer requests and this continues to provide me with peace and comfort.

  • Mark’s health continues to improve. October 11, 2017, will be 5 years since his colon cancer diagnosis.  

God put people in place at just the right time during our faith journey. And when we put our trust in God, we realized that, yes, a diagnosis like cancer could be a blessing in disguise.

 

Discipleship 101 at Home

Discipleship requires only 3 things.

  1. Relationship with God (you have this through your Baptism)
  2. Relationship with another person
  3. God’s Word

What if it could be this easy at home?

Home+

“because a home centered on Jesus becomes the epicenter of an active life of faith.”

What if you could suspend your skepticism and disbelief?

If you are willing to experiment even just for two weeks, I think you’ll find that a future where your family is growing together in faith, where people are responding to Jesus command to love, and where you each know what discipleship can look like, is not only possible, but simple.

*Resist the urge to over-engineer. K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid)*

So here it is, Discipleship 101 at Home:

1. Talk about the Bible together.

2. Encourage each other to live it out.

…that’s it.

You decide when and how you Read the Bible (together or apart, reading or listening).

You decide how you Reflect on it.

You decide how to Encourage each other to Live Out God’s Word.

Maybe you’ll listen to the Bible in your car (free Biblegateway.com app) while you’re driving to school or work, or when you’re returning home? Maybe you’ll decide to prepare for a lifeGroup discussion.

Personally, I need to read and reflect on scripture before I get together to talk about it, or my conversation will stay at the surface. 

If you need an idea: Choose a Gospel, read a chapter and reflect on it on day 1, discuss it and its application on day 2, and practice living it out day 3. 

Check out “30 Things” or any of the other tools in our Disciple’s Utility Kit www.livelifetogether.com/discipleship-read/

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. –Deuteronomy 6:4-8

Be the catalyst in your home, and see what God does, even in two weeks.

How do you talk about God’s Word and His commands all the time with those in your family?  How are you experimenting?  Please let me know in the comments or via email: mwipperman@lifelivetogether.com

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Do Marriages Need Maintenance?

Michelle TsaiDid you know that the average cost of a wedding is around $26,000? Yet as married couples we so easily balk at spending a few hundred dollars to help maintain our marriage. Just like our homes and cars, our marriages (even great ones) need a tune up!  

 

We recently attended the Weekend to Remember marriage conference in Appleton and were blown away by the humorous and engaging speakers who really helped us understand God's blueprint for marriage. This is a marriage conference for couples in various stages of life - those who are not yet married, those who are looking to reconnect, and even those who are considering divorce.  

 

In all honestly, while we were excited to go away for the weekend together, we didn't really think we needed to go. We went to reconnect - to get a temporary escape from the basketball games, errands, science fair projects - and focus on each other. Having attended this conference, we are completely convinced that no matter what the current status of your marriage, if you take the time to do something like this, you will not regret it! The conference inspired conversations and understanding between us that would have never happened otherwise.  

 

This conference is not a large-group counseling session or small-group discussion. You won't be asked to share intimate details of your relationship with anyone. You will listen to engaging talks with Biblically-based insights from marriage experts, then be given private time alone with your spouse to work on assignments related to the concepts you studied. When you leave, you will have an assortment of powerful, Christ-centered communication tools to use for years to come.

 

Weekend to Remember comes to Madison once a year, and it is coming up on May 19-21. To learn more about the conference and register, go to WeekendToRemember.com. Use the group code of love4you to receive $100 off the couple registration fee.

 

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage (Hebrews 13:4a).

A strong marriage is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves and our family. It is worth every minute and every penny! As the conference website tells us, “Great marriages require intentionality and investment—just like a garden that must be watered in order to grow.” Let us know if you have any questions (love4youWTR@gmail.com)!

 

Engage in Catayst Training

Everywhere we look, it is easy to see brokenness in our world. News stories, personal relationships, and social media all give us insight into the great need for restoration that exists in our world. We are in great need of Shalom - the peace that is only given through Christ, the restoration of things, the evidence of God’s work amongst us.

 

It is so easy to look at the broken shalom around us. We can easily fixate on the bad, the broken, and pinpoint all the places and people that need “help” or “fixing”. Sometimes we miss seeing Shalom or the ways that God IS working around us.

 

In Catalyst training, we talk a lot about the lens through which we see our world, and more specifically, how we see our cities and neighborhoods. We ask the question, “What would it look like if, instead of constantly fighting against what is broken, we joined God where he is already working?” What if we learned to see how God is restoring and redeeming things and partnered with Him? What if we open our eyes to the peace and healing that God is already bringing and joined Him in his work?

 

The truth is, God IS at work around us. God IS bringing restoration and healing. God IS present in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, and cities. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for this to be be true:

“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

We pray to see God’s will and his Kingdom active and present here among us. And as people called by Christ to be his hands and feet, his messengers in those places where He has put us, we get to be part of seeing that happen.

 

A missional lifestyle is one that recognizes where God is at work - in all places, in all people, in all relationships. A missional lifestyle is one that works to join God in those areas, to bring restoration and redemption. As missional people we recognize that God has placed us in our unique locations and in our unique relationships on purpose and we engage in those locations and relationships in ways that share the hope and love of Jesus.

 

Take some time this week to reflect on these ideas:

  • Will I see my city, through a lens of compassion and grace, as a place that is broken and in need of redemption?

  • Will I recognize that God has placed me in my city, in my specific location for a purpose?

  • Will I open my eyes to see where God is actively and presently working?

  • Will I respond willingly when God asks me to join Him in his redemptive work in the places where He has placed me?

 

And then, when you gather in community this week, I would encourage you to discuss the following questions:

  • How is God working in your own life?

  • Where do you see evidence of Shalom in the lives of your neighbors?

  • How do you see God’s peace evident in your city right now?

  • Where could you engage alongside God, where he is already working?


As you engage in these questions, YOU become part of our CATALYST 100. Would you be interested in learning more about how to see your city from a missional perspective? Do conversations about how God is actively working and how you can engage in that intrigue you? Do you want to know more about how you can see your city with a heart of grace and compassion? Join one of our lifeGroups working through the Catalyst Curriculum and engage in those conversations with others who are on the journey. Let me know if you have questions or want to get plugged in with a lifeGroup.
 

God Using ME

Say this out loud, “God wants to use me.”
How does that sound?  What does it make you feel or wonder?
Are you worried God needs to make you someone else before He will use you?

God personally and purposefully made you. He made you on purpose, and for a purpose.
God knows your talents, gifts, and interests.  He knows where you are energized, and drained.  He knows if you like parties, or if you prefer one-on-one time.  And He wants to use YOU, the person, the You He personally made.  Check out Psalm 139 to see how personally invested in you He is.

 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” –Psalm 139

If you think you need to be someone else to be on mission with and for God, check out 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 and 5.  We are one body with many parts, all different, and the body works better and is built up better when we all live our lives fully embracing the gifts God has given us, and using them for His kingdom.

God wants you, the person He made, to thrive.  And He wants every other person to thrive.  

This is our mission, to connect people to life in Jesus.  It is for each of us to live out as God has equipped us to thrive.  And as we do, as we thrive, as we invite others know Jesus and to thrive, we are catalysts in His kingdom work.  

And in case you still are wondering, He already changed you in your baptism.

What are some of the unique traits you possess--gifts, strengths, passions? Make a list and consider these things with fresh eyes.    
How could these things glorify God? How could they be used to connect others to God? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you uniquely fit in revealing His kingdom on earth.  And who you are uniquely gifted to reach.  The possibilities are truly endless. Be You, for HIM.
YOU are part of the Catalyst 100... God is calling you to explore and renew your commitment to His Mission - one way is these new lifeGroups - maybe you could try it (e.g. for 6 months)?"

Let me know where you see God personally and purposefully using you.  If you have a story or feedback, please Share It with me in the comments or via email: mwipperman@lifelivetogether.com

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