Tony and Stacey Wheeler
On a recent trip driving into East Wichita to westbound Kellogg on the toll road on I-35 traveling from our home near Kansas City, we sped underneath the cashless tolling system for the first time. Kind of exciting! This unique-to-us open plaza allowed us to cruise through at 60 mph as cameras captured our license plate number and billed us electronically. Instead of stopping and paying a person inside a booth, this high-speed system allows freedom to pass through quickly as we pay online at our convenience, saving considerable time and effort.
When we consulted the Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA) website we discovered foreign words like “highway speed electronic lanes,” and “cashless tolls,” and “open road tolling.” These new terms bring new definitions and meanings, and they also bring exciting new ways of living and enjoying the open toll road at high speeds with no pinch points.
In August, Stacey and I accepted a new position with EFC-MAYM as Directors of Pastoral and Church Health: https://efcmaym.org/bios/tony-wheeler/. Last year, as the Director of Pastoral Counseling, I spent time meeting primarily with pastors, hoping to bring encouragement and the light of Christ. In this new role, I will continue to counsel and, Lord willing, Stacey and I will also be meeting with pastors and their wives throughout the year as well as offering seminars to encourage individuals, marriages, families, and churches. We are currently giving a seminar called Marriages on Track for churches wanting to help strengthen the marriages within their church body and, also, to provide a way to invite neighbors, friends, family, and the lost into the church. We are excited to present this Marriages on Track seminar at Rose Hill Friends, pastored by David and Desiree Crisp, on Saturday, September 25th. We invite you to join us to see if this is something your church might want to do.
Like the open toll example at the beginning of this article, we are excited to be on a grand adventure with Christ in taking hold of this new role, hoping to sail through any barriers or obstacles without stopping, gaining traction in this new lane for the Kingdom of God. We’re so excited to partner with any pastors or churches interested in meeting with us. We believe the Lord is going to help pastors who feel stuck or are hurting from past pain, help marriages that are struggling, encourage families who desire to grow in Christ, and encourage churches to seek God in every decision.
We’ve discovered that healthy people are more apt to have healthy marriages and families and be in healthy churches. Sometimes past pain creates a barrier to growth and healing, like a toll booth in the middle of the road, stopping a person from advancing. If there are things from your past that God is bringing up, let him help you. Let us help you. Our flesh might want to push down the pain and run from it, but relief comes when we run into it and find someone trustworthy to talk about what’s going on inside. Our help comes from the Lord as we completely surrender to him, and sometimes it comes through a trusted friend.
In West Wing, Season Two, Episode 32, Josh Lyman, a main character, goes through a traumatic experience after being shot. As he meets with psychiatrist Stanley Keworth, this specialist diagnoses Josh with PTSD and tells Josh he’s in “nine kinds of pain”:
Stanley Keworth: “You’re in nine kinds of pain. You don’t even know what’s going on inside of you. . . .”
Josh Lyman: “You diagnosed me in eight hours?”
Stanley Keworth: “Josh, I diagnosed you in five minutes.”
We see many people who are in nine kinds of pain, pain that drives and torments and refuses to go away. There is hope! Malachi 4:2 declares, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall” (ESV). There is healing in the name of Jesus! There is hope for renewed strength and energy, like a calf leaping and running and playing. Jeremiah 2:13 reminds us of two temptations we all struggle to overcome: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (NIV). Our flesh wants to find hope and life on our own terms, in our own way. Yet, there is no life there. Our cisterns, our ability to make life work on our own, are bone dry. Our earthly, human wisdom cannot hold a candle to the wisdom of God. We must have the Living Water and the Holy Spirit to quench our thirst and fully satisfy us. As we allow the “sun of righteousness,” the Son of God, to “rise with healing in its wings,” we can experience freedom from the nine kinds of pain we carry around.
The only way we overcome something in the flesh in a way that brings us true freedom is when we experience God’s fatherly love and protection and by living life together in Christian community. If we try to do it on our own, it doesn’t bring the freedom we want. Our desire is to encourage people to look to Christ on a daily basis as their source of life instead of to our own efforts and to encourage the church to draw together as one and love one another. We believe this is true health.
There is a lie encouraged by the enemy of our souls that freedom is found through discipline alone, by overcoming obstacles and pain on our own, alone. Scripture calls believers to live life together, one to another, eating, praying, and worshiping together and experiencing parakaleo, the Greek word for communicating with one another, drawing each other to Christ and becoming disciples of Christ. It’s used 108 times in the New Testament, meaning “to comfort,” “to call,” “to beseech,” “to encourage,” and “to exhort.”
We agree with Lead Superintendent Dave Williams who made this statement in an email thread discussing church health: “According to the book of Acts, a healthy, Spirit-filled church is marked by a devotion to ‘the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer,’ and is known as a faith community that is continually ‘filled with awe at the many wonders and signs’ that they experience, one where ‘all the believers were together and had everything in common,’ even to the point that ‘they sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need,’ and ‘every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts,’ but they also ‘broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people,’ so it is no wonder that ‘the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved’” (Ac 2:42-47).
Without Christ we can do nothing: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15: 5, 9). Be encouraged today that you have a heavenly Father who loves you and is watching over you. He desires to help each one of us to be healthy in every way, as individuals, in our marriages, in our families, and in our churches. Let’s run together on this open road God is creating to build the Kingdom of God.