Turbo Group Leadership Training

Are you interested in growing your skills as a leader?
Would you like to learn from our youth minister Mike Willis and Pastor Lou how to lead a small group bible study?

If you are interested in taking your involvement in spiritual growth to the next level and want to help others do the same… this TURBO GROUP IS FOR YOU!  Youth minister Mike Willis and I invite you to join them for a 5-week training experience where we will talk about spiritual leadership and the practical aspects of leading discussions and choosing great resources.  Our meeting dates will be Sept 20, Oct 4, Oct 18, Nov 1 & Nov 15 – we’ll meet from 7-8:30pm at Rejoice.

The expectation is simple: graduates of this class will commit to leading a group, with our support.  Mike and I are here to help you, so let’s do this!!  Sign up below by Sept 18th.

Yes, I'm interested in Turbo Group Leadership Training with Pastor Lou and Mike Willis

 

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Our Week in Eureka Springs

2016 High School Mission Trip

“To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.” -Jesus

Okay, let me clarify this quote isn’t actually from Jesus. In fact, I bet you won’t find it anywhere in Scripture. This quote was shared with us by Ketchup Ken, one of two men (Ken and Joe) whom we worked with directly at our mission site.  Two men we affectionately referred to (at least among ourselves) as the Jesi.

Right now you might be asking yourself what about the setup to this mission trip blog sounds common? And why were our youth referring to the two guys at our mission site as Jesus?

Well, you are right that this mission trip was the opposite of common. For starters, when I think of youth mission trips I usually think of doing repairs on an underprivileged person’s home or place of living, or natural disaster recovery work like “Mission on the Bay,” or something in that vein. This was not the case in Eureka Springs, AK.

When we arrived, TEAMeffort told us that Eureka Springs is organized different than all of their other locations. Eureka Springs is an economically poor area, however it is also uniquely a tourist area in the summer. Most people in Eureka and the surrounding towns have a hard time finding full-time work year round. In the summer during the tourist season people can find jobs in the small shops downtown, at the area caves, and at one of their biggest employers and sources of income in the area, a not-for-profit organization called the Great Passion Play.

TEAMeffort prayed about how they could be most effective at serving the people of this area and found that as a construction-based mission organization that operates in the area 10 weeks out of the year, the biggest impact they could have is to partner with other ministries who serve the area year round to help them be as effective in their ministries as possible by doing work on their facilities and grounds, freeing them to be able to focus on other tasks of the ministry.

rakingOur group was assigned to work at The Great Passion Play. The Great Passion Play is “America’s #1 Attended Outdoor Drama” with seating for 4100 people in an outdoor amphitheater. The multi-level set, special lighting and sound effects, live animals, and a cast of 150 Biblically-costumed actors come together to create the epic drama of Jesus Christ’s last days on earth. The play is not the only on-site attraction on the 167 acre park though, there is the Christ of the Ozarks statue, the Holy Land Tour, Moses Tabernacle in the Wilderness, a section of the Berlin Wall, the Church in the Grove, the Bible Museum (the second largest collection of Bibles in the U.S.), the History Museum, and the Sacred Arts Museum are also on the grounds.  This is where our team, along with our TEAMeffort leader Cali, got the chance to meet the people maintenancewe would be serving for the week – Ken and Joe, the “Jesi.”  Ken and Joe are really the heart and soul behind the ministry at The Passion Play.  They do everything from strategic planning to construction work and marketing, not to mention they both play the role of Jesus in different areas of the park as well as in the play. So they both have an uncanny resemblance to what we typically think our Savior looks like. They also represent Jesus in their love for his people and in their desire to use this place to help people experience Jesus’ life death, and Resurrection and bring people back to God.

concreteWe had various tasks from watering the flowers (which takes 3-4 hours a day), construction work, roofing an area in the market place, painting, lots and lots of painting, weeding/deforesting an area for a future Noah’s Ark petting zoo, cutting down trees, extracting boulders, and building a 3 mile walking path through the woods to the sea of Galilee (which is going to be dedicated to Rejoice). We did a ton of work even though many of things we did just seemed ordinary in and of themselves. Such as watering the flowers and painting garbage cans. However, our youth worked extremely well together and accomplished a lot. I shouldn’t leave out we also had a lot of fun in small-group, caving, zip-lining, playing volleyball, and dizzy flash bangs.

cave

passion playAt the end of our last day of service they asked us if we would like to be extras in the play and 14 of us took them up on the offer – what an amazing experience! We were able to see what our efforts all week went toward.  We had the privilege of being a part the cast who are a dedicated group of Christians from all walks of life who come together 150+ strong 4-5 nights per week to share the gospel with everyone in attendance, and to share Christ’s love with everyone they interact with. The lady we partnered with as an extra just arrived back in town that morning from Berlin, as she works as an international flight attendant but takes time to do this as her ministry whenever she is home.  When all was said and done at the end of our last night, Joe and Ken took pictures with us and Ken left us with the opening quote “To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.”- Henry John Heinz.

Ken said when he was 16 years old he read that quote at youth group on the back of a Heinz ketchup bottle and it changed his life. It is what inspires him to approach all of the various tasks and challenges at the Great Passion play with an uncommon passion and zest. He told us that all of the tasks we performed this week no matter how common they might have seemed were done uncommonly well by our youth! I couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t be more proud of the work effort that our youth put forth in the 100 degree plus heat each day. In the end I think each one of us would say that we were blessed to be a blessing to such a wonderful group of Christ followers who are on a mission to share Chris’s love with the world. No, Ken and Joe aren’t Jesus, but we sure saw a lot of Christ in them!

Mike Willis
Rejoice Youth Minister

Where We are Going in June

A Biblical Look into Life’s 4 Key Questions

This June I’ll be preaching a 4 part series called: A Biblical Look into Life’s 4 Key Questions. The inspiration for these messages have come from discussions I have had with many of you about these very issues, and our congregation’s desire for more spiritual growth opportunities.

Here are the questions we will grapple with:

  • What can we know about God?
  • Why is there such suffering in the world and what does this say about the “human condition”?
  • Where do we look for security and happiness?
  • What hope is there after our lives end?

All religions attempt to deal with these questions and our faith meets them head on.  What does Christianity really say about these matters?

I imagine we all ponder these mysteries from time to time.  Do you have friends right now who need to hear these messages?

If so – invite and bring them!

If we pray, come prepared and engage I believe this series can be a blessing in our spiritual formation and growth!

Kairos Torch Prison Ministry

Thank you to everyone that supported Dennis Morgan and me this past weekend on the Fox Valley Kairos Torch Prison Ministry Weekend.  With your prayers and contributions you were part of this powerful weekend where we sat alongside 18 incarcerated youth at the Illinois Youth Center.  Yes! that prison that you see on the north side of Route 38.

Adult mentors from churches around the Fox Valley, Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Methodists, and Baptists joined together to serve the youth on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with a mission to engage the youths’ reasoning skills to help them make better life choices going forward.

kairos torch prison ministryThis was an opportunity for us to follow the example of St. Ignatius who said that we can “See Jesus in the lowly places”.  The Illinois Youth Center is absolutely the place where Jesus would be today.

When you stand with these youth you create kinship with them, and once you do that it is impossible to despise or discard them … you can only love them.  They are beautiful individuals who are God’s creation … just like you and me.

There are few moments in my life that I have ever felt closer to God than I did this past weekend.

Kairos Torch Ongoing Mentoring

Under the guidance of Kairos Torch, both Dennis and I are committed to providing  ongoing mentoring to the some of these youthful offenders with weekly visits until they are released.

kairos torch meal ticketsYou will hear more about this ministry in the coming weeks and months and you will have an opportunity to become more directly engaged as we plan Kairos Torch #7.  In the meantime, thank you, thank you, thank you for:

  • your prayers,
  • your donations of meal tickets,
  • the creation of meal place-mats by our Club Wow children.

Torch Keep Me Informed

  • If you are interested in supporting future Torch Activities you can let us know by filling in this short form.
 

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Roles of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, plays an active role in our lives as believers. Here are some of the wonderful things the Holy Spirit does for us, as we talked about last Sunday!
  • He gives us boldness to share our faith.  (Acts 1:8, Acts 2:1-4, Acts 4:31, Matt.10:20)
  • He helps us to live according to our new nature. (Gal. 5:16-26)
  • He provides us with gifts and talents to serve God. (I Cor. 12:1-11)
  • He is our Comforter, our Counselor, our Helper, our Advocate (John 14:16, 26; 15:26, Acts 9:31)
  • He is our Teacher of all things spiritual. (John 14:26, John 16:13, I Cor. 2:9-16, Eph. 1:17)
  • He convicts us of sin in our lives  (John 16:8-11)
  • He intercedes for us before the throne of grace when we have no words. (Romans 8:26,27)
  • He sets His seal of ownership upon us until we reach heaven’s doors. ( II Cor. 1:21-22, I Cor. 3:16, II Cor 5:5)

What is to give light must endure burning – Lent at Rejoice

Lent is coming… and fast!

Lent is the time for the church to “amp up” its reflective nature.  It’s a time to take our faith to the next level.  This is often done by intentional serving in specific ways. Additionally, we take time for silence and devotions, fasting and prayer.  Ultimately the church wants to engage with Jesus on a deeper level.  Is it possible for us to do this?  Are we really interested in taking this journey??

If we give attention to spiritual disciplines, good things tend to happen!

The in the Old Testament we often hear God say through the prophets: “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you.”  Lent affords us the opportunity to “draw near!”

This year we will follow closely the life, message and teaching of Jesus from the gospel of Luke.  Our overall theme comes from one of my favorite writers, Viktor Frankl: “What gives light must endure burning.”  His words give us a profound image to ponder.  Jesus the light of the world flames out on the cross, but in that mysterious and grim tableaux of crucifixion God removes the sin of the world.  Thanks be to God this is not the end… for after Good Friday there is Easte

How might we make the most of Lent this year?

My invitation to you is to take the journey with us and attend every service throughout Lent, as our messages will have a deep and meaningful theme that will span the arc of Lent and take you from the significance of the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday all the way through the resurrection on Easter Sunday.  Come to each service but before you do pray for yourself, the service, the ensemble, our children’s ministry with Janeen and Jessica, me (!!!), and ask God to open your heart to new dimensions of grace.  Make a real spiritual investment in our community.

We want to grow spiritually, we want to grow in our relationships, we want to grow in our stewardship… and here is one way to honor these worthy ambitions.

Let me state it again: make the effort to be here at worship consistently, prayerfully, and expectantly each and every service in Lent.  I believe you, your family and our church will be blessed by this ambition!  Lent is a great opportunity… let’s make the most of it!

God bless you as we journey on the path of faith together!

Pastor Lou

The Light we need NOW

Advent is over, Christmas is celebrated… what’s next?  Where are we going as we journey towards Easter??  Our theme for the next few months will be: The Light we need NOW!

Jesus whole ministry is about illumination!  He shows us who God is and what he is like.  He illuminates for us how to live by faith, what reconciliation looks like, and he opens our imaginations to the promise of eternal life.  Can we seek that light now?  Yes we can and we will!

In these weeks, we will seek God’s light to shine fully on us and give us the clarity we need in the confusion and darkness of this time.  In the beautiful words of John: “The True light which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world…”

Light is a great image of our faith!  Jesus is:

  • the light that shines in the darkness
  • the light of the world
  • the light which lights our path
  • the light so powerful that all the darkness of the world cannot overpower it
  • the light that illumines God and ourselves

In the Sunday readings between now and Easter we will ponder how God’s light can give us the clarity we need to live boldly and at peace in this historical moment.  Make the effort to seek this light in the community at worship in the New Year!

~With much love, Pastor Lou

The Gift and Task of Advent

Advent – the four weeks before Christmas – cuts across the grain of culture.  Advent is an irony and a paradox!

Instead of getting ready for the birth of Jesus, Advent (in the history of the Church) has been a time to get ready for the return of Jesus, the end of the world, and the coming of God’s Kingdom in its absolute fullness!

It actually has something of that Lent vibe of reflection, rededication, and redirection.  It is also an invitation to serve.  Rejoice has looked at Advent as a time to journey out in service as well as a time to reflect.  With Operation Christmas Child, Angel Tree, and Feed my Starving Children, we as a church step up to serve.

However we do want to give Advent some real opportunity to pause, give thanks, and reflect. This can be a great gift to all of us as the pace intensifies towards Christmas.

So… let Advent be a countercultural intrusion into our schedules! Together for the next 4 weeks let’s engage some measure of spiritual discipline.  Here are 3 things to consider:

  1. Take a few minutes every day for silence and creating a space for you to be present to God.
  2. Take a moment to pray a prayer of thanksgiving for people who have blessed your life.  Perhaps you can include a word about this in your Christmas card to them!
  3. Take the initiative to show up with love in a different way at least once in the next four weeks!

Finally pray for our community here at Rejoice. Pray of our Relationships, our Spiritual Growth, our Stewardship and our Community Impact!  Let Advent be a time of intentional prayer!

Here is where we are going… each Sunday in Advent we will focus on the following:

Advent calls us to be:

Fully Alive

     Fully Awake

         Fully Aware, 

and Fully Ready to share in God’s Kingdom!!

From all of us on staff – we wish you a beautiful Advent!  Let’s make the most of it!!

With much love,

Pastor Lou

The Journey Outward – Advent 2015

Again this year, we celebrate The Journey Outward – not with midweek Advent services journey outward lo reswithin our walls, but with opportunities for individuals and families to “journey outward” and take part in short-term service projects that will impact our community and our world. In doing so we honor Jesus’ own words: The son of man came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

We invite you to step up, step out, and take The Journey Outward this Advent season with:

  • Operation Christmas Child – Shoe box gifts let children around the world who suffer at the hands of crushing poverty, war and natural disaster know they are loved.  Pick up your supplies now at church and bring your shoe box to Rejoice by Sunday, Nov 22nd.  Want to get more involved?  Volunteers are needed to staff our collection center during National Collection Week Nov 16-23 – sign up for a shift or two in the narthex!  Then join us after the 2nd service on Sunday the 22nd for our Packing Party as we prepare the shoe boxes for their journey overseas – this is a project for adults as well as kids of all ages, and lunch will be served.  High schoolers-it’s a great way to earn volunteer hours!  Sign up at church. Questions? Click here to contact OCC coordinator Heather Macklin.
  • Angel Tree – Angel Tree is an opportunity to serve our community by providing Christmas presents to needy children. Tags will be available Sunday, November 29th and gifts are due back to Rejoice by Sunday, Dec 13th.
  • Feed My Starving Children – Rejoice returns to Feed My Starving Children on Wednesday, December 2nd from 6:00-7:30 PM!  Join us for a deeply meaningful and fun service opportunity at the FMSC location in Aurora where we will pack life-saving meals sent to impoverished children in over 70 countries. Adults and children grades 3 and up are invited to participate. Sign up now at Rejoice.  Want to grab a spot for you and your family before they fill up?  Click here to send a message to the coordinators!

Thoughts on Spiritual Growth

I wanted to share with you a few of my thoughts on Spiritual Growth.  During last Sunday’s message, we broke up into little groups to define spiritual growth and there were as many answers as people!  And that is exactly how it should be.   We have different gifts, we have unique personalities and we are all on different points on the spiral helix of our faith journey!

As we embrace this topic consider this decidedly Trinitarian way to imagine Spiritual growth:

  • Spiritual Growth is a deepening awareness of God’s indwelling presence.
  • Spiritual Growth is about the longing to understand in ever deepening ways the mystery of Christ’s life, death and    resurrection and what it means for us to act purposefully as his disciples.
  • Spiritual Growth is an evolving communal experience of Grace, power and wisdom from the Holy Spirit.

Our congregation has made it clear that spiritual growth is something we want to reach for boldly in this year.  And because of this, it will mean making choices and decisions to show up to ministry events such as the Concert of Prayer, the women’s retreat, Beer and Bible Study, my Luther class and Sunday Worship as examples!  If we are serious about spiritual growth we have to ratchet up our investment in what we put into it!  We need to ask ourselves: if we want to grow what needs to change for us now?

Here is an exercise to start us off:

For the next 7 days, begin or end each day with making the sign of the cross on your forehead and heart (this is to remind us that in our Baptism we have been claimed by God as his own).  Recite slowly the Apostles Creed, and then pray the Lord’s Prayer… but really concentrate on what you are praying.  Don’t rush through it.  If you do, start over and make it count.  Then take 5 minutes to be silent. Just make yourself available to be in God’s presence.  No phones, computer, or distractions.  5 minutes.  Try it for 7 days and see what happens.

May this week and this year bring us the growth we are seeking.

With much love,

Pastor Lou