10.24.14 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

Back when I was a Boy Scout, I took the Public Speaking Merit Badge facilitated by volunteers from Toastmasters International. (The Toastmasters is an educational organization dedicated to helping members improve their communication & public speaking skills.) We prepared & presented a 5-minute informative speech, a 5-minute inspirational speech, and had 30 seconds to prepare a variety of 3-minute extemporaneous speeches. The speeches were evaluated, tips were offered to help improve for the next time, and a horn was honked every time you said “Um” or “You know.”(18 honks in a 3-minute speech was a good indication that either I had a verbal tic that needed to be addressed or as my Scoutmaster teased, “a flock of geese was heading south for the winter.”)

As we prepared our speeches, we recognized the wisdom of Winston Churchill’s observation that “I shall give a long speech today, because I have not had time to prepare a short one.” In some instances, a long presentation is much easier to offer since there isn’t as much need to ration ideas & illustrations. (Amen! – Editor)

I’ve always appreciated the angst of the public speaker that was asked to present a speech on “Nature” to a women’s gardening club. As he considered this vast topic, he asked, “How much time is allotted?” The program coordinator cheerfully replied, “Take as much time as you like. We leave at 1:15.”

With this background, I’ve long been fascinated with famous (and not-so-famous) long-winded public speakers. President William Henry Harrison’s inaugural address in 1841 clocked in at 1 hour & 45 minutes. Unfortunately for him, he delivered the speech in the midst of a bitterly cold storm, caught pneumonia, and died. (His term lasted roughly 5 minutes for every word of his 8,445-word speech.)

Or then there was Teddy Roosevelt’s 90-minute campaign speech in 1912, which he insisted on delivering even after being shot in the chest. (Fortunately, the folded 50-page speech in his coat pocket plus his eyeglass case helped minimize the impact of the bullet. His opening line, “Ladies & Gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose,” would have to rank as one of the all-time-best attention-getters.)

Or there was Edward Everett’s 13,607-word speech that he delivered to a gathering of dignitaries at a cemetery in Pennsylvania. While this distinguished statesman & noted orator’s speech was carefully crafted with details of the battle, comparisons to famous Greek conquests, & held his audience spellbound, he was overshadowed by the following speaker’s 2 minute presentation that was written on the back of an envelope on the train from Washington, D.C. to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. (Everett graciously congratulated President Lincoln on his speech, saying “that I came near to the central idea of the occasion in 2 hours, which you did in 2 minutes.)

Finally, there is today’s story of Paul’s lengthy diatribe. As I read Luke’s description of the event, I initially thought he might have been having a little fun at Paul’s wordiness. Only Paul could have a discussion interrupted at midnight by a young man falling nearly to his death and still be able to continue talking until dawn. However, upon review, I think Luke is actually admiring Paul’s passion for sharing the Gospel. This wasn’t an interminable monologue monopolized by Paul; rather this would have been much like a small-group discussion with Paul answering questions that were being thrown at him left & right. Paul, realizing his time with this tiny congregation was terribly short, wants to pack in as much as possible. I would submit that Luke shares this story to offer his readers a glimpse of Paul’s incredible love for those longing to become believers in Christ.

So, what might this little vignette offer for us today? Perhaps, we need to consider our own faith story. Maybe we could jot down a few ideas of what our life was like before Christ, how we came to believe, and what has our life been like since becoming a believer. Recognizing that a faith story that begins with “When I was in the womb…” is probably going to be a bit long in today’s culture, we might instead opt to tackle the challenge of relating our faithwalk as succinctly as possible. (Hello, pot? This is kettle. – Editor.)

The Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared,” is applicable here. We never know when someone might ask about our faith journey, so let’s begin to organize our thoughts today. You know, … (HONK! – Editor.)

 

 

 

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

 

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10.23.14 Insight from Megan O’Neil

Megan O’Neill is the Learn Events Coordinating Assistant at Resurrection.

I’m not sure if you have heard the news: America is in the middle of celebrating a favorite pastime–something called The World Series. Just in case you have not heard the other news: Our very own Kansas City Royals are playing in said series for the first time in 29 years.

Friends, this is a BIG deal.

The hype leading up to The World Series was of hopes and dreams for Royals fans. Then the Boys in Blue made it to the Post Season! The flood gates opened for endless possibilities to make a quick buck.

Over the past few weeks alone you cannot miss the surge of t-shirts, pennants, hats, jerseys, every type of Royals memorabilia imaginable – including Royals underwear. Yes, you heard right. A quick buck! Even local restaurant business sales have increased, with fans celebrating over fried food and beverages with 200 of their closest friends. Let’s be honest, after eight back-to-back wins, everyone in blue is your friend!

This instant fame came as a shocking surprise to Kansas City. The area fountains are turning blue, work productivity is decreasing, sleep is a distant memory, sports clothing stores are hiring people on the spot, and Facebook feeds are nothing short of Royal-dom.

What will happen after the World Series ends? Regardless of who wins? My guess is that the excitement and shock will stay in the hearts of fans for a little while. Most fans will move on with their lives and chalk this up as the October to remember. Some fans may never come down from this mountain-top moment–they may take up residence at the “K” until next season.

In our reading today, we see in Acts 19:25 that Ephesian craftsmen made a business selling silver shrines of the Ephesian goddess Artemis; “you know that we make an easy living from this business.” It is easy to see that the hype surrounding the Royals is an easy living for many people. This hype it is short lived, though. The idolization of baseball will fade quickly after the final game. Heightened sales of clothing, trinkets, food and drink will eventually go back to normal and the metro will get back onto their sleep schedule.

I cannot help but see many parallels with today’s verse and the events of today. The theater in Ephesus seated about 25,000 people and it was full of people shouting “Great is Artemis of Ephesians!” The Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City holds over 37,000 people and is full of people chanting “Let’s Go Royals” (clap, clap, clapclapclap).

Competition is not a bad thing, and neither is cheering on a favorite team, but getting lost in the hype can be. It may be more fun to spend big money on a World Series game ticket than to give $5 to the homeless man on the corner. So as Christians, how are we shining the light of Christ on our celebrations and actions? Do we welcome those outside our walls? Do we live into the Gospel message of loving those unlike us?

With the remaining games in this Series, I challenge you make this experience more Christ-like than “Be Royal.”

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10.22.14 Insight from Angela LaVallie

Angela LaVallie is the Worship Logistics Program Director at Resurrection. She oversees preparing the Sanctuary for worship, supports Vibe worship and volunteers in the Student Center, provides oversight for Holy Communion at the Leawood campus, and assists with worship logistics at conferences.

Although there certainly were those who practiced dark arts, as Pastor Adam mentioned in his sermon this past week, the “sorcery” Paul warns against was probably often spells to help people achieve goals or dreams – spells for fertility or health or happiness.

These sorts of spells might seem absurd to us given our advanced knowledge in medicine, agriculture, technology, and other fields. I wonder, though, if these spells might be compared to superstitions. Many athletes (and fans) have superstitions around their teams winning; they must wear the same smelly ball cap or watch the game with the same group of people in the same location or they’ll lose. If a bride wears something old, new, borrowed, and blue, she’ll have good luck in her marriage.

In the summer of 2005, my cousin and I drove Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. At breakfast on the Sunday morning we left, Kristee spilled salt on the table (a supposed cause of bad luck); that afternoon, we got a speeding ticket. At breakfast on Monday morning, she again spilled salt; that afternoon, we had a flat tire. I had never considered myself particularly superstitious, but I salted Kristee’s food for the remainder of the trip and since then have thrown spilled salt over my left shoulder (the believed antidote to cancel the bad luck).

I actually wrote my Master’s Thesis (a creative nonfiction piece) recounting our adventures on the Mother Road. One of the very subtle themes in my thesis is faith – in superstition, saints, God. Superstitions seem harmless, but when we give them even a little power in our lives, how much power do we take away from God?

I’m guessing there are a lot of people who don’t struggle with superstitious beliefs, but there are plenty of other areas of life that we let take control of our lives. Some struggle with drug or alcohol addictions, busy work schedules or kids’ schedules. Maybe the tv shows we watch or the music we listen to has more influence on the way we act or speak than we’d like to think. I challenge you to ask God to help you avoid those things that tempt you to give God less control in your life.

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

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10.21.14 Insight from Rev. Glen Shoup

Rev. Glen Shoup is the Executive Pastor of Worship and a Congregational Care Pastor.

Today’s reading gives us a very interesting part of the story.

Essentially, right after Paul had told those in Ephesus, who had gathered to hear him, about the Holy Spirit…which is the Spirit of the resurrected Christ…who is God self-disclosed—that’s the Trinity (The Trinitarian nature of God is holy mystery—and therefore by definition, it is beyond our capacity to fully understand—but we can sometimes make that mystery more complicated than needed)—so after Paul had told them about the Holy Spirit and baptized them in the name of Jesus, he goes into the synagogue and compellingly shares the gospel. But because some there had already predetermined they weren’t going to listen—he sets up shop next door (not quite literally but in “Tyrannus’ lecture hall” [vs 9]…probably the home-base of a local philosopher who was willing to host Paul) and continues preaching the gospel with powerful results.

So much so that pretty incredible miracles start happening just from people coming in contact with everyday items (handkerchiefs, pieces of clothing, etc) that have come in contact with Paul—and as word of these miracles began to spread, some opportunistic sorcerers decided to try and capitalize and they started using Jesus’ name to perform magic tricks and find out that this isn’t something you should try at home—because when they try to cast a demon out by throwing Jesus’ name around, they wind up with a good old fashioned tail-whipping by the fella (or by the demon—or both) they were trying to cast out…like I said, a pretty interesting part of the story.

But what to make of today’s reading—especially the most entertaining parts…demons cast out…miracles occurring when you touch a handkerchief Paul touched—what do we make of this?

Well I’ve got to tell you, I’m as skeptical as they come relative to this kind of stuff. I grew up in a church tradition that primarily came out of the early Methodists; but it also had in its history some Pentecostal groups that were part of its formation.  So from my perspective growing up in that expression of the Church (which by my time, had long since left behind any association with the Pentecostals), the charismatics or Pentecostals were like the crazy uncle that nobody really wants to admit is part of the family (and the more closely related you are to the crazy uncle, the more adamant you are about distancing yourself from him).  So instinctively, there’s nobody more skeptical than I am or more inclined to label as shysters the TV evangelists with their prayer cloths and miracle anointing oil that they’ll be glad to send to you “for your best love offering”…and the better your love offering, the more they’ll send you—I just tend to dismiss out of hand anything that even has a whiff of that kind of thing.

But when it comes to what we read in verses 11-12 of today’s reading, as I’ve grown and matured (at least somewhat) in my thinking, I’ve come to believe that sometimes—both in biblical times and now—God chooses to reveal His power and presence in extraordinary, unbelievable and some might even say bizarre ways (at least when compared to our “normal”) for the purpose of making His message—and the truth and veracity of His gospel known.  And it actually seems perfectly logical to me that in Paul’s day, in a place like Ephesus where there was no previous awareness of Christ or the gospel, God might choose to do some incredible things…like healing people because they came in contact with a handkerchief that could clearly be traced back to Paul so that the veracity and legitimacy of what Paul was proclaiming could be backed by some undeniable God-like power…for the purpose of being a catalytic spark in the spread of Christian gospel.

And when it comes to what we read in verses 13-16 of today’s passage, I also continue to believe that anytime individuals try to co-opt God’s name or power for their own purposes—whether in biblical times or now—they are playing with fire…and you know how that maxim ends.

So as I read today’s passage, I walk away asking God (1) to keep me open to the moving of His Holy Spirit—in ordinary and in extraordinary ways; and (2) I walk away from today’s reading intending to be very careful to never seek to use God’s name or influence for my own agenda.

Two pretty good reminders for me from an interesting passage of scripture.

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10.20.14 Insight from Melanie Hill

Melanie Hill is the Guest Connections Program Director at Resurrection.

Today’s scripture passage struck me as odd when I first read it. As an American living in the 21st century I have complete access to all the teachings of Jesus, including those about the Holy Spirit. So the idea that many of the early Christians had an incomplete experience or knowledge of Jesus and the Holy Spirit seemed strange at first. How wonderful for those first believers to hear from Paul about the Holy Spirit! What must it have been like to listen as Paul explained about the fulfillment of God’s promises in the person of Jesus and later in his gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives? I imagine those twelve men walked away amazed and excited to experience the Holy Spirit in their lives.

And then my second thought hit me. Why don’t I feel that same amazement and excitement daily as I interact with the Holy Spirit? The answer is simple. I miss what the Holy Spirit is doing in my life. I’m distracted. I’m too busy moving through life to look up and notice what the Holy Spirit is trying to show me. How many times have I missed the nudging of the Spirit because I was too immersed in what I was doing?

Just the other day I was running errands with my 10 year old son. I had invited him to come with me so that I would have some time to spend with him one on one without his three sisters around. My good intentions quickly became over run by the reality that I had a very limited time to accomplish my long list of errands before I had to head back to work for the evening.   It was as we were walking into the last store on my list that the Holy Spirit nudged me to listen to my son. We had been talking (and by talking I mean that my son was talking and I was making what I think were the appropriate sounds to encourage him to continue) about a problem he was having with another kid in our neighborhood. I had just given him the really theologically deep answer of “because that’s what Jesus would want us to do” when he said, “Do you always think about what Jesus would want you to do?” And there it was. My nudge. I could’ve continued into the store and even tried to multitask an important conversation while looking for what I needed, but I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to stop and pay attention. So I did. We stopped and I got to share with my son why my relationship with God is the center of my life. It didn’t take long—he is 10, after all—but it was important.

Later that night I kept thinking about how grateful I was that I stopped and noticed what was happening. So often I miss out on these opportunities because I’m distracted. When I’m distracted, I hurt. I hurt other people because I miss out on the places where the Holy Spirit is encouraging and inviting me to notice and take action. I hurt myself because I miss out on something amazing that God wants to use me to accomplish. We’re all distracted. Looking up helps us guide one another and gives us the opportunity to be a part of something wonderful. Life is busy. I get that. But let’s not allow the work of life to stop us from participating in the purpose of it. Take a minute today to stop and notice. When you feel that nudge, take a minute and see where the Holy Spirit is inviting you into the mission of God. Trust me; it’s going to be more important than posting that pic or reading that email.

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

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10.18.14 Insight from Liz Gyori

Liz Gyori serves on the Resurrection staff as the Group Life Training Program Director.

Odds are good that if you’ve ever attended a church wedding ceremony, you’ve heard at least part of 1 Corinthians 13. In fact, if you were at my wedding in Chicago 24 years ago, you heard my sister read it. My husband and I were nominally religious back then, and when our pastor asked us what scriptures we wanted to use in our service, we gave her blank stares in response. Sighing, she pulled out her Bible and said, “How about 1 Corinthians 13? It’s not really about romantic love, but a lot of people like to include it.” She read it to us, and in our mutual pre-wedding fog, we thought it was perfect, not bothering to pursue her comment any further.

I am still crazy about my husband, and I’m pretty sure he loves me, too. We really do strive to put the other first, and, truly, we haveput up’ with a lot of things from each other in our 24 married years. But we fall short of this kind of perfect love, this Godly love, all the time. Ask our kids. They have some good stories.

Fortunately, we are surrounded by people in our Resurrection community who consistently demonstrate the characteristics of love as Paul describes them. Here is just one recent example: A good friend’s son died tragically while she was out of town, and two of her longtime small group members made sure they were at the airport to meet her as she arrived home. That was a kind and loving act, made more remarkable because they hadn’t been able to get her flight information. They made some educated guesses and met every potential flight that day, until they connected with her. Now that is patience. While they were at the airport, others in her church family cleaned her home, stocked her kitchen with food, and prayed for her. Months later, those women continue to surround my friend with this kind of love.

Demonstrations of true, Christian love occur every day within our church community, but of course there are many examples outside of Resurrection as well. Perhaps you’re familiar with the story of the father and son pair, Dick and Rick Hoyt. In 1962, Rick was born with cerebral palsy. His parents were advised to institutionalize him, but they refused. At home, they soon realized that although Rick couldn’t walk or speak, he was very bright. They fought to integrate him into school, and included him in family physical activities like swimming and sledding. Eventually, Rick was able to communicate, using a head piece to tap out messages on a computer. In 1977, he told his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run. His father, who wasn’t a runner, agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. They came in next to last, but that night, Rick told his father that when they were running, it felt like he wasn’t handicapped. That was all his father needed to hear. Team Hoyt was born.*

The two completed over 1000 races together, including 6 Ironman competitions. (In a triathlon, Rick’s dad would pull him in a boat with a bungee cord attached to a vest around his waist). Dick is now in his mid-70’s, and the pair completed their final Boston marathon this past April. When I watch a video of the two of them competing, I feel like I am seeing the personification of Paul’s words: “Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Watch the video below and see if you feel the same way.

Imagine-Because you CAN (Team Hoyt) from Bo Bernal on Vimeo.

*www.teamhoyt.com

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10.17.14 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.

Pastor and theologian John Stott asked, “Why is it that some Christians cross land and sea, continents and cultures, as missionaries? What on earth impels them? It is not in order to commend a civilization, an institution or an ideology, but rather a person, Jesus Christ, whom they believe to be unique.”

This is the story of Paul—crossing land and sea, at all costs—in order to preach the gospel. Paul was propelled into spreading the message of the gospel, meaning the unique person and work of Jesus, because of 1) a personal encounter with God and 2) the promises of God for God’s people. Paul, a new man after Jesus found him on the road to Damascus, was living anew for the opportunity to preach the gospel, to share his story of conversion and the story of Israel—inviting Jew and Gentile to believe in and follow this unique Christ, a different kind of king who came to faithfully and generously serve the people.

Clearly, at times, and likely more often than the New Testament even documented, Paul would have been fearful for his life and the lives of those traveling with him. We see in our reading for today (Acts 18:9-11) that Paul had a vision where God expressed God’s presence with and protection for Paul. Paul leaned into this vision and stayed in the city of Corinth proclaiming the gospel for 18 months. Paul trusted that God was who God said God was, and he lived into God’s promise to protect him.

What are you afraid of when it comes to sharing the gospel in word and deed? In what ways are you feeling anxious about having spiritual conversations with your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc.? Do you believe that God’s promise to be present with and protect Paul was meant just for Paul, or do you believe that God’s promise to Paul is meant even for us today?

As you feel compelled to share the gospel through word and deed, know that God’s promise to Paul doesn’t stop at Paul. God’s promises are not promises merely for ancient times. God’s promises are for all times! As a missionary, you too are promised the presence and protection of God. Therefore, act on the Spirit’s prompting with confidence, knowing that God is a God of presence and protection.

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

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10.16.14 Insight from Mike Wilhoit

mwilhoitMike Wilhoit serves at The Church of the Resurrection as Local Missions Director.

Have you ever been trapped on an elevator with someone who was wearing really strong cologne or perfume? Even though the scent is meant to be  pleasing, its very strength can offend.

My wife Jeannie and I love to take our family on walks around Kansas City’s Loose Park in the summer. The rose gardens and rolling landscapes are beautiful. Loose Park is a great place to picnic, feed the ducks or throw a frisbie while mixing it up with fellow hometowners. Now that my kids are older, they’ll often skateboard around the park while Mom & Dad walk slowly behind taking in the scenery. Inevitably, Jeannie and I will stop to smell the roses in the park’s rose garden before loading up the van for the drive back home.

Unlike the elevator experiences some of us have had with cologne or perfume, I’ve never felt overwhelmed by the scent of a rose. They always seem to smell just right. The Scriptures describe Christians as the fragrance of Christ. In preaching to the Athenians, it seems that the Apostle Paul makes himself and his message fragrant to his listeners by acknowledging things important to them.

Can’t we take the same approach when sharing our faith with others? I’d much rather be a rose than the middle-aged guy wearing too much Polo.

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

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10.15.14 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

Disruption

“But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities.  When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, ‘These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews  and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.’”  Acts 16:19-21

Following Jesus has an impact on the individual and the surrounding city. Particularly, life change can have drawbacks for people and institutions who prefer the status quo. This Scripture illustrates how Jesus wrecked a local economy.

In this Scripture, Paul and Silas rescued a slave girl who was seen as having a demon. In reality, she had some particular talent that led to her owners getting rich. Her salvation cost her owners money. Her owners or employers had a vested interested in her not experiencing the grace-giving power of God. Paul and Silas, however, were more concerned with following Jesus’ commands than keeping the status quo. The owners and the city were upset with the consequences of Jesus coming to town via his followers.

Has much changed? There are employers today who would rather their employees not experience God’s life-giving change. Some employers who would not benefit from their employees suddenly becoming fully honest, not laughing at inappropriate jokes from potential clients, or reporting harassment. There are companies that would prefer we spend more money than we make, even though it leads to another kind of slavery. The world is patterned around Sin, and it prefers everything to stay that way. That, however, is not what Jesus wants. Jesus came to this world to for many reasons, including ushering in God’s Kingdom here on earth. When good comes to town, not everyone is excited.

If you were to read the 28 chapters of Acts in one sitting you would see the disciples, Paul, and Silas described frequently as “bold.” May we be described in the same way. The attitude that we display is always important and should always resemble Jesus’ love. But do not be surprised if the people around you, including economic powers, are not happy with your life change. That could just be the evidence that you are doing it right.

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

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10.14.14 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.

Today’s passage (Acts 16:6-15) is seemingly very simple, but there’s a lot buried in there. Right from the start, we learn that Paul’s group tried to carry their message to the province of Asia, but the Holy Spirit stopped them. Then they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit stopped them. Seeing a theme here? Paul and his crew have a plan, and I have no doubt that it was a good plan. But God had a better plan. He didn’t tell them what it was, and we’ll get to why in a minute here. But the important thing is that Paul had some grand plans for his preaching that carried with them some high hopes for great impact.

At this point, they’re probably getting a bit frustrated, so God throws them a bone: he gives Paul a vision of a Macedonian man pleading for help.

“At last!” I imagine Paul saying. “A man needs our help!”

So Paul picks up his group and goes to Macedonia. He doesn’t just pick the first city he sees in Macedonia either. He actually travels right through a few Macedonian cities until he gets to his destination: Philippi, “the leading city of the district of Macedonia.” I’ve got to hand it to Paul: he yearned for impact, and that’s actually a very positive trait.

Paul, having spent most of his most powerful moments in the synagogue, naturally goes there first to look for the man from his vision, or some other important man to preach to. You see, in that culture, men held all the power. Women weren’t even really citizens–they had few rights, they were not trusted, they were not given respect, and they certainly didn’t have a lot of pull. So Paul, with the vision still fresh in his mind, looks for his man to be the cornerstone of the church in Macedonia.

Only he finds that there is no place of prayer. There was no man, from his vision or otherwise. What he found where he thought the synagogue would be was a group of women, likely washing their clothes and getting water for their families. And then Paul does an amazing thing. He sits down with these women, who held little place in society, and preaches to them. He decided that, if that’s where God set him down, he was going to make the most of it and be obedient, even though it didn’t look the way he thought it would.

It’s interesting that Paul’s vision was of a man, but he ended up ministering to women. I wonder if, had the vision been of a woman, Paul would have paid as much attention. He had his plans to make a huge impact for the kingdom, and God’s vision promised that impact. But when he got there, it looked a lot different than he imagined.

God carried through. One of the women down by the river, Lydia, was a purple cloth dealer. This meant that she worked with the most expensive cloth, meaning she worked with the richest customers. She had a lot of money. And we find out that, through her testimony, her entire family was baptised, and her home became Paul’s base of operations in Macedonia. In taking time to minister to people God put before him, Paul gained a powerful ally. There was no synagogue in Philippi, but there was a church because of one of the women there. The church grew, and one of the books of our Bible (Philippians) is a letter that Paul lovingly wrote back to his friends there to encourage them.

Impact can look a lot different than we imagine it to be. We want to win over the sophisticated, charming, and powerful allies, and in doing so, we can miss out other equally impactful opportunities if we don’t take what’s given to us.

I had this experience while volunteering at a week-long Christian music festival with a missionary organization I worked with in college. The goal of us being there was to recruit youth for two reasons: one was to convince people to become career missionaries while they’re still forming their lives, and the other was to turn young people into missions evangelists and recruiters in their home churches. Throughout the week, I had a lot of good conversations with young and not-so-young people and sold a lot of people on our cause. But the conversation I poured myself into the most, the one that took the most of my time, was with a guy named Curtis.

Curtis was about nineteen years old and had come just to listen to some music. When I first met Curtis, I wasn’t even at the missions booth. I just saw him crying and went over to talk to him. Through tears and sobs, he told me that he felt like God wanted him to do something, but he didn’t think there was anything important he could do. He felt like the best he could do would be to get someone else to do something important. You see, Curtis was mentally challenged. I don’t know the full extent of his condition, but he didn’t have a fully-formed young adult mind.

I could have just calmed him down and walked away. But instead, I spent and hour and a half convincing him that God wanted to do great things through him, not just around him. I told him that his church needed someone to show them how to do great things, in the mission field or right at home, and that he could do this. It was a long and hard conversation, heart-breaking at times, but he left full of hope and passion to do something great.

The next day, Curtis came and found me. He brought his sister with him. He had shared his experience with her and convinced her that the two of them needed to start a missions-themed Bible study group at their church. As I talked to his sister, who was only about seventeen, I saw the same hope in her eyes that I’d seen Curtis leave with the day before. He had carried that hope to her, just as he was going to back at his home church. Curtis had been filled with more passion and earnest motivation than anyone else I talked to that week. And had I not stopped to encourage a mentally challenged teenager to do great things, he would have left thinking that God would only do great things through other people.

I don’t know your mission field, what God has placed in front of you. It could be that he’s placed some amazing opportunities in front of you; but it could also be one that doesn’t seem so appealing at first. Maybe it’s the guy at work who doesn’t seem to have any friends or social skills. Maybe it’s a single mom neighbor who barely has times to make ends meet with her entry-level job. Maybe it’s the janitor or cleaning lady that everyone takes for granted. Maybe it’s the young checkout clerk at the fast food restaurant you frequent. God uses these people too, and he does it in amazingly effective ways.

Lastly, I want to say something to another group of people. I realize that not everyone is going to feel like Paul in the story above. Some are going to feel like the women. Some are going to feel like they’re second-class citizens in God’s kingdom, unable to do tasks of real importance, unable to do the impactful work they see spiritual giants doing around them. Maybe you feel like you don’t have the skills to cut it, or you’re too damaged, or you’ve messed up so badly you’ll never pull it together. If this is you, know that you are important. God’s work in Macedonia began with a second-class citizen, just like God’s work in Curtis’s church began with Curtis, and God’s work can begin in you just as easily as it can with any pastor, worship leader, or missionary.

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

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