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Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Sometimes even to persons of very shallow faith, the teachings of Jesus seem clear. The simple Gospel -- so easy to understand. Sometimes, however, we forget how difficult Jesus' teachings were to His own disciples. When Jesus wasn't talking in parables, He was using paradoxes to get across what He was trying to teach. From Mark 8:27-35, Dr. Daniel so effectively talked about the paradoxes Jesus used to teach "Surrendering Our Lives to God." There are three paradoxes that permeate the teachings of Christ. These paradoxes are critical to an understanding of the abundant life that has been promised by Christ. Jesus said, "If you want to follow me, you must deny (surrender) your life, and take up your cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will save them." 1. The first paradox is this: Anything you save will be lost! Jesus was clear when He taught, "Don't store up
for yourselves treasures here on earth, where moth and rust corrupt and where thieves break in and steal them." 2. The second: Anything you share you will regain! What did Jesus proclaim? "Give, and it shall be given unto you." 3. The third: Anything you surrender to God, will be blessed beyond your imagination! When we share, God abundantly blesses. The Gaithers captured that in a wonderful song, "Something beautiful, something good; all my confusion He understood; all I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife, but He made something beautiful of my life." Some things about which to think, reflect and pray: A tree does not worry about surrendering itself to the sun that bathes it. It can do no other. You and I, however, are confronted with a choice. Do we surrender all we are and all we hope to be to God? If we do, we can know this: God is the creator of beauty, and God can take our lives and make something beautiful out of them if we are willing to give our all to God! What is your personal response to these paradoxes taught by Christ?

Gene Kelsey, Director of Christian Education

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Sunday, September 9th was an incredible, Spirit-filled day!  A day packed with celebrations, as we huddled together shouting and singing loud-sounding cheers for Jesus Christ…KICKING OFF into what’s certain to be a WINNING SEASON here at West Des Moines United Methodist Church

All were invited to “get in the game” by wearing their favorite team jersey or t-shirt, preparing them for a great game day!  As we kicked off into the 1st Quarter, our powerful choir; decked out in a variety of team colors, led us by singing inspiring selections from songs of our faith.  

Our 2nd Quarter brought a joyful time of worship and praise, moving us down the field with conviction and purpose as we heard God’s Word.  

Heading into the 3rd Quarter, we witnessed 3rd Grade receivers, catching their Bibles and having their backpacks blessed with great excitement.  

The final and 4th Quarter brought the ultimate tail-gate experience, during our time of fellowship, and carried us into the end zone for a time of spiritual nurture, celebrating all God’s gifts and victories in this faith community.    

Friends, God is doing a great, great work among us, in a number of ways!  One can only imagine what the next season will reveal, as we’re faithful to His leading, and as we “cheer on” one another in moments of joyous victories, and through times of discouragement and/or defeat!  This is part of the privilege and responsibility to being on “God’s Team!”  So…are you prepared to play, giving God, and your teammates, your very best out there on the field?

As a team, we’ve been richly rewarded by the gifts of our Head Coach, Dr. Wesley Daniel.  Through his visions, wisdom, guidance and incredible leadership, we have been given a new “game plan” in this church, restoring us as a community, and bringing us to new victories.  We were recently blessed again through (God’s) recruitment of our Assistant Coach, Pastor Jen Hibben, in His bringing her to our team with gifts, graces and leadership that compliment the overall team.  Her spirited passion and outgoing enthusiasm contribute to the overall direction we’re all called to follow.  Then, there’s the TEAM…members and friends in this community praying, playing, serving and giving together, to continue running towards the goal, scoring a winning touchdown for Jesus Christ!

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!  Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:10-12

Paige Chapman, Director of Assimilation and Servant Ministries

Monday, September 17, 2012


Compassion.  That's one of the components Dr. Daniel spoke about in last Sunday's sermon, "The Call of Christ."  From Mark 7 we read a simple story with a great message about a deaf man whom Jesus healed.  Although the primary mission of Jesus was to announce the coming of God's Kingdom to the world, and to form a new community called the Body of Christ, as a man of compassion, Jesus did everything He could to bring healing and wholeness.  There are three elements we can draw from this episode:  1.  Christ's compassion.  Jesus could never turn away people in need.  We read that the people begged Jesus to touch and heal the deaf man.  2.  Christ's competence.  Not only did Jesus care that people were in need, but He also had the power to help them -- body, soul and spirit.  Jesus brought power into people's lives.  3. Christ's call and commission.  We are called to be agents of compassion!  For reflection and prayer:  Have you experienced a compassionate Christ in your life?  Do you feel like you can go to Him whenever you are in need?  Have you experienced Christ's power to set you free from whatever you are struggling?  How is Christ calling you to a service of compassion to the least, the lowliest and the lost?  How do you think God is calling our/your church to be a Center of Healing and Compassion to our neighbors?

Gene Kelsey, Director of Christian Education

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Join us for a great night of education and fun! We're located at the corner of Grand Ave. and 8th St. in West Des Moines.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Passionate Commitment

{You can download Dr. Daniel's sermon notes worksheet by clicking above}

For our Sunday Fall Kick-Off, Dr. Daniel once again brought an inspiring and challenging sermon from John 21:15-19.  It's perhaps a well-known story, but Dr. Daniel brought critical insight as he talked about "Passionate Commitment."  

It's the story where Jesus appears to ask Peter the same question three times (although each one was a little different), "Simon (Peter), do you love me?" We often ace this question, "Yes, God I love you! I LOOOOOVE you God!" That comes pretty easy because it's usually true and it just involves our words. 

In His conversation with Peter, Jesus wanted to know that Peter was passionate about his (Peter's) love for Him (Jesus). But Jesus isn't looking for empty words, or even a warm-fuzzy feeling, he calls Peter to action. 

"Feed my lambs" 

"Tend my flock" 

"Feed my sheep" 

"Follow me"

That's what loving Jesus is about. 

What does it really mean to love God with passion?  It means: to struggle with those who are suffering; to stand with those who are in desperate need; to seek abundant life for those who are lost; to respond to those who are less fortunate; to take risks in faith, with love and with hope; to take up our cross and follow Him; to give sacrificially.  What are some ways you are passionately in love with Christ?  How is God calling you to respond and act in tangible ways because of your passionate love for Christ?

Gene Kelsey, Director of Christian Education
Jen Hibben, Associate Pastor

Monday, September 10, 2012

WDMUMC participates in Meals from the Heartland

{Friday's team packing meals and enjoying the hair nets}

West Des Moines based Meals From the Heartland (MFTH) held its 2012 Hunger Fight at HyVee Hall in Des Moines August 29 – September 1.  The goal for the four-day event was to package 5 MILLION meals – an increase of 25% over last year’s goal.

By the end of final day (Saturday), the goal had been surpassed.  JUST OVER 5.1 MILLION MEALS HAD BEEEN PACKAGED!

Since 2008, MFTH has packaged over 22 MILLLION meals.


Each meal packet consists of rice, soy protein, dried vegetables, and vitamins.  When prepared, a packet provides enough nutritional food to feed 6 people.

The meal packets produced are distributed around the world, elsewhere in the United States, and even here in Central Iowa to assist people in need.  Each package, when prepared, supplies enough food to feed six people.  A package costs only $1.20 to make.

A total of 28 people from WDMUMC, each worked a two-hour shift packaging meals at the Hunger Fight on either August 30 or 31.   

{Team 1 on Thursday night}

There was a buzz, and sense of anticipation among the crowd of workers in HyVee Hall.  There was lots of chatter going on as the volunteers worked side-by-side with their friends, relatives, and neighbors.  People seemed to be enjoying themselves. 

It was obvious that everyone assembled there wanted to help MFTH meet their goal for this year’s Hunger Fight event.  Loud cheers arose across the hall as updated meal counts were flashed upon the big screen at the end of the room.  There was certainly a sense of ‘one-ness’ or community present in the assembly.
But, a deeper sense of purpose could also be felt.  People were there that night because they wanted to stretch beyond themselves, and become a part of something much bigger than themselves.  They wanted to stretch and grow, and do something with their hands that could help feed hungry people in need – perhaps someone on the other side of the globe!

{Kevin Daniels seals packets}

As I carefully heat-sealed the meal packets assembled by my team, several questions went through my mind:  Who would eventually be opening and using that food packet?  Where does that person live?   What are that person’s circumstances, and what does the future hold for him or her?  

In the end, it was gratifying to know that my actions were playing a small part in helping to relieve someone else’s suffering. 

Thank God for MFTH, the people who organized the 2012 Hunger Fight, and the thousands of volunteers who came together as one common body over four days to make the event the huge success that it was!

Again, thank you to each of these volunteers who took time out from their busy schedules to help the cause!

Paul Gesell, WMDUMC member

MFTH holds smaller meal packaging events throughout the year.  There is a continuing need for funds to purchase supplies needed to assemble the meals.  Donations are still being sought to help meet the $2,000 pledge that the Mission Committee has made to MFTH on behalf of our church.   You can make checks out to the church, just be sure to note MFTH on the memo line.  Remember that a donation of only $20 will feed 100 people.   

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spiritual Cooties

This week I went to a bar. Not a usual hangout for pastors. I met a friend there to talk about all the stereotypical things that a "Good Christian" does and doesn't do. It's quite the list and this was just two of us brainstorming. A "Good Christian":*

  • doesn't go to bars
  • doesn't do drugs
  • doesn't drink alcohol (or at least doesn't get drunk)
  • doesn't have sex before marriage
  • doesn't dance
  • doesn't swear
  • don't have tattoos or piercings
  • doesn't listen to secular music 
  • doesn't do yoga (or other spiritual practices originating in different cultures or religions)
  • doesn't get divorced
  • isn't Republican or Democratic (depending on your political leanings)
  • doesn't gossip
  • doesn't miss a Sunday at Church
  • isn't LGBTQ
While many of us adhere to some of these rules for good reason, some Christians have made these things more important than an authentic relationship with God. You break one of these rules, you get spiritual cooties and you're out of the "Good Christian" club. Woe is you. But that's not what Jesus teaches. 

In Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23 Jesus calls out the Pharisees for playing this same game of spiritual cooties. They are so concerned about man-made rules and rituals that their hearts are disconnected from God. They have so lost touch with their relationship with God that they have to rely on rules to tell them whether or not they're in a right relationship with God. 

Like many things Jesus overturns this idea and reminds those who are listening that our relationship with God is not a matter of rules, it's a matter of the heart. Sure God gives us commandments, Jesus offers us teachings about right and wrong, but screwing those things up doesn't mean you're screwed. In fact our mistakes often become means of grace that put us in just the right position to experience God's transforming mercy and grace. 

Jesus says that in God's sight what "defiles" us, or gives us cooties, is what goes on in our hearts. And while the message is freeing, "we don't have to be slaves to rules anymore!", I get a twinge of dread. Because I know what goes on in my heart and it's not all love, snuggles, rainbows and unicorns. I know that my heart harbors evil, I know that I'm not perfect deep down there. So are we just out of luck? Sure you can try to remove the evil from your own heart, not let it manifest itself in your actions, but it's probably still there. 

I said this on Sunday and I will keep saying it because we often get our job descriptions confused: purifying our hearts, making our hearts holy, is NOT OUR JOB. This can be confusing because we have this idea that we need to get all these things straight before we go to God, but we can't. Sanctification, making us holy, is the work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot do this on our own and God knows that. God in the person of the Holy Spirit hears our prayers, knows our hearts and works within to make us holy. To clear up that evil in our hearts. But it's a life long process and we have to be in it, we have to be praying and asking the Holy Spirit to change our hearts and our minds, to guide us, show us and empower us to be real Christians, not just "Good Christians" in the world today. 

*This list is not meant to represent my views or the views of this church. 
Feel free to comment with your own "dos" and "don'ts"

Pastor Jen can be reached at jhibben@wdmumc.org. She invites your comments and reflections.