7.29.14 Insight from Rev. Glen Shoup

glen-shoupRev. Glen Shoup is the Executive Pastor of Worship and a Congregational Care Pastor.

Love is not ultimately a feeling.  Oh to be sure, there are feelings that accompany love, but the feelings of love are like the ocean’s tide—they come in and they go out.  The feelings of love are real; the feelings of love are legitimate; but the feelings of love are not the essence of love.  At its core—at its foundation—love is a choice.  But it is not just any choice; rather, love—very specifically is choosing to keep on choosing the other person’s best interest over your own selfish interest…whether you feel like it or not.  This very particular, specific and (one might say) peculiar choice is the essence of love.

And this truth about what love essentially is, isn’t just true of romantic love—it is true of all love everywhere.  This truth about love’s essence is true of parental and familial love.  Choosing to keep on choosing the other’s best interest over our own selfish interest is the essence of love in friendship.  And this particular and peculiar choice is what it means for God to love us.  God has forever chosen our best interest, no matter what it costs God—that’s why there’s a Bethlehem, a desert of temptation and a hill called Golgotha—for the ultimate definition of love comes in God forever choosing our best interest no matter what it costs God.  The most powerful icon I know of capturing this is seen in the crucifix.  Choosing the other’s best interest over our own self-interest is what Love is because that’s Who God is—as narrated with eternal clarity by the apostle John—God is love.  God is forever choosing our best interest, no matter what it costs God.

So when Jesus comes along in our reading today and responds to the inquiry of a lawyer as to what the greatest commandment is and Jesus answers by pulling from Deuteronomy and giving what we have come call the Great Commandment (vss 29-31 of today’s reading), what Jesus is saying is that choosing God’s interests and God’s agenda over your own and thereby choosing your neighbors best interest over your own selfish interests is what the whole deal boils down to.

And when we began to understand more accurately what loving really means; when we began to understand that to love is grounded in what we choose—well then we begin to understand that loving God, loving our neighbors…let along loving our enemy hasn’t a blessed thing to do with how we feel.  It has everything to do with what we choose—regardless your feelings.  This peculiar truth is profoundly illustrated in a donkey’s feeding trough doubling as a baby’s crib in a barn on the outskirts of Bethlehem.  This peculiar truth is why the One Who is Love insisted on coming to us so that in His living and loving we might catch our first unobstructed glimpse of what real living and loving looks like and in the process be saved, freed and transformed from ourselves so that we too can…love.   This peculiar truth is powerfully witnessed on a Cross outside Jerusalem and this peculiar truth transforms the entire human story when the stone enclosure to a garden tomb is eternally turned to rubble by Resurrection’s power—this peculiar truth is Love!

Living fully human happens because of Love.  Salvation happens because of Love.  Death is overcome by Life because of Love.  Your life finds transformation because of Love.

Jesus replied,“The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”  (Mark 12:29-31)

 

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7.28.14 Insight from Melanie Hill

Melanie Hill is the Visitor Connections Program Director in Resurrection’s Guest Services Ministry.

“Not my circus, not my monkeys.” I ran across this Polish proverb not long ago and had a good laugh. As a mom of four young children, I have my hands full with my own circus and monkeys. I really don’t need to get involved in anyone else’s. Maybe you can relate to this too. I’m assuming your life is as full and busy as mine is. No need to go looking for more to fill it with, especially if it involves monkeys.

So when I read through today’s scripture passage, I had to re-examine my “not my monkeys” policy. How does loving your neighbor as yourself fit with it? Bottom line? It doesn’t. Loving is messy. It’s scary, because love doesn’t give you control over other people. Love means you can’t get frustrated when people let you down. And they will, just as you will let them down. Love means you have to listen to other people even when you don’t agree with them. Love means sacrificing your time and energy to meet someone else’s needs. Loving is a lot of hard work. It can take us soaring on the heights of emotion and then just as quickly break our heart. It’s messy and sticky and exciting. Sounds a lot like a circus.

It would be easy to relegate this passage of scripture to the realm of the theoretical. We could argue the merits of a world where countries are good neighbors. One only has to turn on the news today to see plenty of examples of where our world is getting this wrong. But I don’t think God intended for us to transfer this commandment (and it IS a commandment) onto others. No, I think he intended for us to take it to heart much closer to home. And if that’s true than my life gets much more messy because relationships are messy. It would be easier to ignore that my neighbor’s house has been toilet papered by one of their son’s teenage friends while they are out of town, and let them clean it up when they get home. “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” It would be easier to ignore the young mom who is on the verge of tears in the super market trying to wrangle her own monkeys. “Not my circus, definitely not my monkeys.”

But that’s not what God has called us to. He has called us to notice those around us, our neighbors, and to love them. So instead I gathered my monkeys, and we had fun cleaning up toilet paper. (Not until after we took a picture and sent it to our neighbors. After all, love means sharing the good news!) Love demands that I stop in the store to offer help to a mom who just needed a minute to pull it all together. We don’t have to solve all the world’s problems today. We just need to love our neighbors. And maybe when we learn to embrace each other’s circuses and monkeys, our world might start to look more like what God envisioned for his own monkeys.

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7.26.14 Insight from Dave Robertson

Dave Robertson is the Director of Community Life at The Church of the Resurrection’s West Campus.

I love the passage from Revelation 21:5 which says, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’  Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”  One of the reasons I love these words is they are recorded at the end of our Bible and because of what happened at the beginning of the Bible.

Dennis Garvin says it this way, “The last Bible I looked at contained over 2000 pages, and you humans managed to get yourself kicked out of Paradise by page 5. That has to be some kind of record.” God set us up for paradise with God and yet that wasn’t good enough for us. We now get to taste what life outside of paradise is like while ever longing for what was lost.  While we seek and strive for the Kingdom of God, we receive from God glimpses from time to time to show us what it is like. We also have God’s trustworthy, true promises to stand on.

One such time I received a glimpse was when I was in college. I never knew my grandparents, three of whom died before I was born. After my mother’s death, my father remarried and my step-mother’s parents were still living. I considered them grandparents. I was in college when my step-grandmother, Honey (her nickname) died. I had a three-hour drive back home and I remember being sad about her loss. I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular when all of a sudden, as I was driving, the Spirit of joy filled my mind and body. For a brief glimpse I felt like I was experiencing what Honey was experiencing–the pure joy of salvation and paradise with God. I believe God had made her new with a new spiritual body. I also believe God to be at work in this world making it new, getting us back to where God originally designed us.

This experience has lingered in my soul these 30 years. I long for that time of getting to once again experience that level of joy, but am also grateful for the chance to experience it already in that small moment in time. It was truly a down payment and a foretaste of heaven.

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7.25.14 Insight from Chris Folmsbee

Chris Folmsbee is Resurrection’s Director of Discipleship Ministries.  He is the author of several books, with an extensive background in applying principles of spiritual growth to real life. He, his wife Gina and their family have been attending Resurrection since 2008.

Late in my high school years I developed a friendship with a classmate who had recently moved into our community and began attending our school. He had moved around a lot, living in and out of New York City and splitting his time in what were called “Fresh-air Farms.” Fresh-air farms were farms in upstate NY where families would choose to receive a teenager or two from the inner city of NY. Sometimes the teens were placed in homes as a last resort due to juvenile mischief and even criminal activity. These families received other teens due to the state run foster care program, and still others due to tragic events such as the death or incarceration of parents.

I remember as a teen having mixed feelings about the fresh-air program. While our family never hosted a teen in the program we knew families in our church that did. I was never quite sure if the program worked until one day when this new friend of mine and I were in a conversation and I asked him, “So what is it like being a “fresh-air” kid?” “Are you kidding me?” my friend responded. “I absolutely love it. It’s like I get to start all over again. I’ve been accepted by a new family.” I don’t recall all of his exact words, but it went something like this, “They clothe me. They feed me. They give me work to do. They give me a safe place to live and they even take me on vacation with them! And the greatest part of all of it is they chose me to live with them even when they didn’t have to.”

This is what it is like to be adopted as sons and daughters of God. God has chosen, out of God’s very nature of permanent love, to receive us just as we are. Our reading from Romans 8:12-17 today makes it very clear that God has received us to be a part of God’s family. In this acceptance of us God gives us a new family narrative to live. In God’s expression of love we are redeemed out of the broken human family of oppression and waywardness, and received into a family of grace marked by freedom and righteousness. Through joining together with Christ we are received and given the responsibility and privilege to live faithfully and fruitfully into this new family, waiting the day when God’s blessing reaches its fullness.

If you were asked, in what ways would you describe your thankfulness for being adopted into God’s family as a son or daughter? In what ways are you presently living into your life changing adoption as a child of God? What three words would you use to describe your daily interactions with your Christian “brothers and sisters”?

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7.24.14 Insight from Shawn Simpson

Shawn Simpson serves as the Director of Technical Arts and Operations at The Church of the Resurrection’s West campus in Olathe, KS.

Last week marked one of the most hectic weeks we have in the Tech Arts department.  The National Worship Leader Conference is an “all hands on deck” event where anybody who can move a mic, wrap a cable, carry a flat of water, or point a wayward guest to the proper room is enlisted for all-day duty.  2000 people descend on the Leawood campus for a host of exhibits, workshops, and concerts.  The organizer of the event for Worship Leader Magazine, Suzie Stablein, often speaks of the intent of the conference being to rejuvenate and energize worship leaders to touch the people in their congregations.  The whole focus is to be serving those who are in service of others.

My job during the conference was to be the “Deck Boss,” which is a cool way of saying that I managed everything getting on and off the stage in the sanctuary.  With multiple artists leading worship, each with their own specific configuration of musicians and vocalists, it was very important that we be very deliberate in how we staged each group to facilitate fast and orderly changeovers from one to the next.  In some ways, it was very daunting and could be frustrating at times.  The groups were invariably arriving from their own hectic travel schedule, coming into our venue where they didn’t know exactly what to expect.  ALMOST all of them provided us with a “rider,” which is a document specifying their setup, but NONE of them actually used precisely what their rider called for.  That’s where my crew came in.  It was our job to work with them to quickly figure out what they actually needed and what we could provide, and in what ways we could make it all go as smoothly as possible.

As you can imagine, there were times when an artist (or their representative) would get…ummm…cranky…. about how things were going.  I’m happy to say that in every case, though, the crew was able to get everyone going and all of the artists led fantastic worship sets.  Some groups were more fun than others to work with, but in the end we all parted with handshakes, high-fives, fist bumps, and profuse mutual praise for a job well done.

One artist that really stood out was the closer for the whole conference, Paul Baloche.  This is the third time Mr. Baloche has led worship at NWLC and each time, he and his band have been a pleasure to work with.  This year was no exception.

As I said before, these artists are usually playing NWLC as a stop on a longer tour they are doing.  They are travel-weary and exhausted.  Our soundcheck with Mr. Baloche’s band was at 11am on Thursday morning and they arrived 20 minutes early to get setup.  Ben Gowell, the band leader, came right to me with exactly what I needed to know for their setup, then asked ME what THEY could do to help!  Michael Rossback and Carl Albrecht, the bassist and drummer were equally helpful.  The setup went smoothly and they progressed through a smooth and professional soundcheck.  Mr. Baloche came in after the band was setup and ran through his own soundcheck with them, equally smooth and professional.  They finished their soundcheck with time to spare and left us to our work of getting the rest of the groups for the evening checked out.

Now, being a professional in your setup and soundcheck isn’t anything remarkable.  These guys do this all the time and I’m sure they understand that things go smoother if you come into it with a good attitude.  The deck crew works on that same philosophy, so it makes sense that we would click that way.  Here’s where it gets remarkable…

They didn’t play until after 8pm on Thursday evening, following three other worship artists.  Their set was scheduled to last for 45 minutes, but went for over an hour.  No complaints there.  Mr. Baloche is a masterful worship leader.  Following his worship set, the conference was officially closed and it was time for the participants to gather themselves up after three days and head home to their respective churches.  Mr. Baloche’s band had done a great job and could rightfully have gathered their gear and headed out the door to their next gig…but that’s not what happened.  As the house lights came on and the work of tearing down and loading out began, we found that Ben, Michael, and Carl were surrounded by curious “fans.”  Ben was happily talking guitar pedals with a smiling group.  Michael was giving an impromptu clinic on the rigors of being the bass player AND keyboard player in the band.  Carl was holding court with a group most fascinated in how he setup the drum kit to suit his playing style.  In each case, these guys, all of whom had to be extremely exhausted were putting aside their own comfort and legitimate right to call it a night, and instead were joyfully serving the people for whom the conference was held.

It was truly inspiring to see a marvelously talented group take the time to deliberately focus on the faithful spirit and serve rather than to focus on their own needs.  Nobody would’ve blamed them at all if they’d gone backstage and waited until the crowds left.  Instead, they stepped up and offered encouragement and blessings to tired and stressed worship leaders.  Beyond the music they played, I believe their true service was to offer that kind word to rejuvenate and energize the attendees to go out and touch the lives of their own congregants.  My prayer would be that I could see those opportunities to look outward rather than inward and share the blessings that God has given me.

(and so you don’t think Mr. Baloche was skipping out on some post-worship service, he was in the narthex signing autographs and taking pictures for anyone who asked…smiling and encouraging every person he came into contact with.)

 

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7.23.14 Insight from Steven Blair

Rev. Steven Blair is the Congregational Care Pastor of Live Forward and Live Well Emotional Wellness Ministry. www.cor.org/liveforward

Christianity is about something that happened. In Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, death itself has been conquered along with the death-giving power of Sin. Jesus’ Death and Resurrection are also significant for being more than chronological events in Jesus’ life. They also provide the rhythm of the Christian Spiritual Life. Following Jesus is an ongoing pattern of dying to our own selfish demands so that Jesus can resurrect something new in us.

The author Paul describes the Christian life with Baptismal language. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4).” Churches allow for different forms of Baptism. The Methodist Church believes that the amount of water used at Baptism is as relevant as how big a piece of bread a person takes at Communion.

However, the act of immersion holds the clearest Baptismal meaning. We are buried under the water, and we come out of the water born again.

If we are to be Christian disciples, we are called to ‘come and die.’ Die to the very sin that holds us from God. This can be immorality or can be seeking to be righteous based on our morality. Whatever it is, we follow Jesus’ example and allow this part of us to be crucified so that we can experience that personal Easter we are looking for.

Paul challenges us to pattern our lives after the Crucified and Resurrected Messiah. If we do, we will find new life.

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7.22.14 Insight from Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at the Vibe, West, and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

Early on in life, I received some unsolicited wedding advice: Marry someone as much like you as you can. Hobbies are a given, but temperament, dispositions, patterns of thought–look for someone that matches up with you as closely as possible.

Before that really soaks in, I’ll tell you I am very stubborn and obstinate, so I did the exact opposite of this (as I often do with unsolicited advice). My wife and I share many hobbies and values, but we’re also very different from each other. One of us is logical and the other is emotional. One of us is extraverted and one is introverted. We’re on opposite ends of the political spectrum. We speak different love languages. One of us has a natural inclination toward justice and one toward mercy. One of us is a detailed, logistical thinker and the other is an abstract, creative thinker.

I won’t lie–there are days when I see what that unsolicited advice-giver was talking about. There are days I wish I didn’t have to explain why something was important to me. There are days I just don’t think to meet her needs. There’s conflict that arises out of those differences, and sometimes those differences can be hard for us to really comprehend. So, yes, there is a benefit to picking someone just like you: it’s easier. There’s less conflict. There’s less explaining and more having needs met.

But, as anyone who knows us would attest (and as you can probably see from the number of adjectives in the paragraph above), both of us together are an amazing team. When we act as one, we are a force to be reckoned with. When there’s a project and both of us get involved, things are probably going to go really well. Together, my wife and I are stronger because of our differences. As a parenting unit, we are stronger. As project leaders, we are stronger. And both of us, individually, are growing stronger.

In short, the easy path in picking our relationships is not the path to the most good.

Now, this is a fairly easy pill to swallow with romantic relationships; but with faith relationships, it’s a whole different story. It’s not uncommon for people to leave a church if they find the people there are not of a like mind. We should be more passionate worshippers, or we should be more strategic helpers. We should prioritize justice, or we should prioritize mercy. We should love everyone unconditionally, or we should be quick to call out sin when we see it. Yes, there’s some crossover, but it’s very easy to find ourselves drawn to people who reinforce our God-given natural inclinations and stay away from those who don’t. In time, this isolation can make those differences seem like an impossible chasm to cross, and we can fall into the trap of claiming that God is more behind us than those other people.

But it’s our differences, as one body, that make us stronger. God created people that worship with emotion and passion as well as people who worship in quiet contemplation and tradition. God created people with hearts for mercy as well as people with minds for justice. And, yes, God created both liberals and conservatives, and he gave them minds and hearts to draw them to causes championed by their chosen side. The body of Christ is incomplete without each of these pieces.

If you have a heart for helping those in need, be quick to include those you may see as uncaring or overly harsh. The truest measure of a merciful person is not how they treat those they view as in need, but how they treat those they feel are unwilling to extend the same courtesy. You may find that they offer some perspective in how to help those people that you couldn’t have arrived at on your own.

If you have a heart for calling out sin wherever you see it, be quick to include things you and your peers struggle with. Calling out sin in others is meaningless if you believe you have nothing big to work on yourself. God had plenty to say about pride, complacency, gluttony, and a lot of other things that hit a lot closer to home. You may find that you need those who extend mercy generously a lot more than you thought you would.

There are dozens of examples here, but the point is that we need the people we disagree with, and so does God. Repairing those relationships is the mark of true spiritual maturity, and it’s something all churches could probably use more of. God created those differences not to separate us, but to make us stronger. So the next time you disagree with someone, thank God. The world would be incomplete without that person.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

7.21.14 Insight from Celicia Hiatt

celiciagpsCelicia Hiatt is a Coordinating Assistant in the Guest Services Ministry at The Church of the Resurrection, serving as a crucial member of the team that helps visitors and members of the church get plugged into the life of the church.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 touches on my favorite part of Jesus and the resurrection. Because of His sacrifice I don’t have to live up to this impossible ideal that would drive me crazy and make life a little less enjoyable. Paul writes this letter to our sweet little misguided friends of Corinth to remind them that there was a reason Jesus died on the cross, and that it wasn’t so they could bicker and fight amongst each other, pointing fingers and living in a community filled with hate and animosity. Paul was reaching out to community of Corinth to – I think – give them a good “YOUR MISSING THE POINT” talk and remind them of what we gained through the resurrection.

How often does that happen today? How often do we all get caught up in judging others by what they have or how they look? More importantly, how often do we get caught up judging ourselves by what we have or how we look? What Paul was telling the people of Corinth is still a very valid lesson for all of us today. Through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection we got this special gift of a new beginning, we got our do-over times infinity. We are all sinners, but our relationship with God was made right through Jesus. But wait…there’s more! We were shown by God what forgiveness and reconciliation looks like through the sacrifice of his son, and we have to remember that reconciliation doesn’t just go between us and God, but also between one another.

When I was in sixth grade my dad’s job moved us to Roswell, New Mexico (yes, that Roswell, NM, and no, I never saw aliens). That was a rough move for me, not only because of my age, but also because it was a small town where kids had known each other their entire lives. I was the alien, so to speak, and I was automatically disliked because…well for no reason, just because I was the new kid. There was one girl who was particularly mean to me from day one–Lila. She was the bane of my existence, and I avoided her like the plague. Funny thing happened between me and Lila after a few weeks of school–we started to like each other. By the end of the school year, we were best friends and inseparable. Later she apologized for being so mean to me in those first few weeks of school, and she never could really articulate why she chose to treat me the way she did. I had a choice to make early on in our friendship, and that was to forgive her. I’m so glad I did too; she was one of my best friends all the way through high school, and is someone I still keep track of today.

Jesus modeled forgiveness for all of us by taking on our sins on the cross. I love the wording in verse 20 – We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. Ambassadors! I love that word! We are Christ’s ambassadors; He has showed us through His sacrifice, and now it is on us to show the world what we have learned through His actions. As Christians it is on us to teach forgiveness and reconciliation through our actions, in the same way that Christ taught us.

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7.19.14 CROSSROADS-Navigating the Second Half of Your Life

Pastor Clayton Smith (left) and Dave Wilson wrote the interviews featured in this week’s Insights blog. The full stories will be published in an upcoming book: Journey to Significance, to be published by Beacon Hill in early 2015.

Before Mike relocated to Kansas City, he and his wife Donna were well-known, respected church and community leaders in their hometown. He served as the lay leader in his church. He was the president of his university alumni council. He practiced law in private practice before becoming a federal prosecuting attorney. Service was a priority to Mike and Donna.

Together they were blessed with family and many friends in this university community. I know all this and more about Mike and Donna because I served as their pastor for eight years in Cape Girardeau, Missouri (population 40,000). Mike taught my daughter and son in high school church classes. I can say that Mike, like Nehemiah, has the spiritual gift of leadership. I am so pleased that I now continue to be their pastor and friend here at Resurrection.

Mike reports that his career practicing law taught him several lessons that prepared them for a meaningful retirement. They had learned that family was their first priority, so they moved here to be grandparents! They were willing to say goodbye to their community status, security and the satisfaction that comes with respect from many friends. Retirement relocation offered a new challenges, opportunities, and ways to serve with significance.

I hope you know someone like Mike. I have admired and loved Mike and Donna for nearly twenty years. They have all the qualities of servant leaders. At the heart of Christian ministry is God’s outreaching love for others. They are a witness to the mind and mission of Christ lived out. They are like so many others at Resurrection who are retired—they have found significance and joy in serving!

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7.18.14 CROSSROADS-Navigating the Second Half of Your Life

davewilsonPastor Clayton Smith and Dave Wilson (left) wrote the interviews featured in this week’s Insights blog. The full stories will be published in an upcoming book: Journey to Significance, to be published by Beacon Hill in early 2015

Myron is a retired urgent care doctor who says he had “no good plan for retirement.” He just wanted to be loose and carefree. He spent his time following college baseball and the so-called “good life.”

When Myron’s brother died of cardiac arrest at a bridge tournament, it made a big impact. He and his wife joined Weight Watchers, lost a lot of weight and got involved. Later Myron’s wife started attending studies at Church of the Resurrection. Myron got involved in Alpha and then Disciple. They decided to join the church.

In 2007, Myron responded to the new Congregational Care Minister program, to help pastors provide care. At first he just thought the busy work would keep him occupied.

When the pastor he was helping asked him to visit members in the hospital, his initial comment was, “I don’t like seeing patients.” The pastor encouraged him to try visiting a few times, and see how it went. He went—and as he expected, he didn’t like it. But as he was going back to his car, he says he clearly heard a voice telling him that he had been given some great gifts to share—and that his self-serving reaction was not very pleasing. Shaken by the experience, he decided to try putting his heart into the ministry of visiting patients.

Today, after 7 years as a CCM, he is a blessing and inspiration to many, and now loves what he once thought he didn’t like. His second half of life has indeed become one of significance.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.