8.27.14 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.

One of the reflection questions in today’s GPS is “What aspects of your history and temperament make “the peace of Christ” particularly important for you in your closest relationships?”

It can be so easy for us to settle into old habits in close relationships. One relationship I have begun to see differently in the last year is the one I have with my mom. I love her more than almost anyone else. But I also say things  – not good things – to her that I would never say to anyone else. There are lots of psychological and sociological studies about the often-difficult relationships between mothers and daughters. I won’t go into the theories of those studies, but I feel confident in saying there are probably plenty of women reading this today who will agree that your relationships with your mothers or daughters are different than any other relationships you have.

On Labor Day weekend last year, my mom came to visit me. As I introduced her to friends and watched the ways they interacted with her, I had an epiphany-like moment. She is my mom, and I have always known her, but I didn’t really know her in any other capacity than as my mom. I have been more critical of her and judgmental toward her than I would ever even think about being with anyone else. I would interrupt her or argue with her or snap at her. Since that weekend last year, I have begun to see my mom as a beautiful woman of God and prayed for God’s guidance and patience whenever I talk to my mom, and I really try to think of her and how she will feel before I speak to her. She is visiting me again this coming weekend, and I am looking forward to the time we will spend together and the chance we’ll have to speak word of love to one another.

I challenge you to examine your close relationships and to ask God to show you where you might speak more words of love.

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

8.26.14 Insight from Rev. Glen Shoup

Don’t miss that opening phrase in today’s reading…as God’s chosen people.

I don’t simply mean make sure you read it; I mean don’t merely read it.  Don’t simply compute on a cognitive level what Merriam-Webster says the words mean—but rather—Stop.  Get out of the mental car that you’re speeding much too quickly in towards the next destination on your calendar—and take this in…NOW (sorry for shouting but I need your attention because you need to get this).

God chose you.  Not just any god—but The God (the One who Created and is the Genesis of everything else that we tend to make other gods out of—That God) chose you.  The Creator of the cosmos—Who is all-powerful and all-knowing—made a conscious and on-purpose decision to pick you.  You with your habits and faults.  You with your past and your stuff that nobody else knows about…other than Him.  You with your propensity to be short-sighted and self-addicted—The God Who is before all, beyond all and redeeming all…chose you!

Why?  Well that’s the most confounding part of this whole Gibraltar of truth that you’ve unwittingly stumbled upon today: God chose you because He’s flat crazy about you.  He loves you like the proudest of parents who has all their hopes and dreams wrapped up in their child…because He is and He does.  There’s nothing you’ve ever done that He won’t forgive and there’s nothing you’ll ever do to make Him stop loving you.  He loves you so much that He’d die for you without ever giving it a second thought…in fact He did…He’s just crazy about you and there’s nothing He wouldn’t do for you.

So you’ve just got to get this today: God chose you!

The reason you’ve got to get this is because when you do, it gives you responsibility.  Oh, I don’t mean responsibility in the negative, burdensome and confining way we tend to hear that word; I mean the freeing, empowering and tranforming possibilities that this word literally conveys—the ability to respond.  When you truly get that God has chosen you, you are empowered with the gracious ability to respond.

So you’ve got to get this today: God chose you!

Therefore…(in response to the life-defining reality that God chose you)…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:12-14).

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

 

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

8.25.14 Insight from Melanie Hill

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

When I received the writing assignment this week I have to admit that at first I was stumped. What do I have to say about love that hasn’t been said already, most likely much more eloquently? It’s the topic of epic romances and beautiful ballads. It can be used to describe the transcendent affection of God–and to share my feelings about tacos? This word “love,” perhaps one of the most overused words in our language, relates the height of human emotion and at the same time the affection for the mundane. How to come up with a definition?

Like with most situations in my life, when in doubt I ask my kids. And so it was on a Saturday morning on our way to a soccer game that started entirely too early that my 10-year-old son reminded me what love is truly supposed to look like. I asked him, “How do you know when someone loves you?” Without hesitation he said, “When they take care of you and nurture you. When they’re there when things are good and bad.” I was a little stunned. First, because despite all my faults as a parent somehow my son understands what love is, and this is a very good thing for me as his mom. And second, because he nailed it. Real love is an action, not a feeling or emotion we have. The emotion of love ebbs and flows over time, but real love makes a choice to be present. Real love changes us. Real love calls us to a radically different life. One of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, talks about it like this:

“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.”

This extravagant, furious love is what covers all wrongs. This is the love that took my place on the cross to cover my wrongs. And this is the love that invites me into the mission of God of loving others; the love that invites me to become a professional lover. So this week as we meditate on the words of our mouths let us not just love each other in word but in action, so that others may believe our words. (And while we’re at it, maybe find another word to describe my affection for tacos!)

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

8.23.14 Insight from Jason Gant

Jason Gant is the Campus Pastor at Resurrection West.

All week I have been reflecting on these scriptures through the memory verse cards we passed out Sunday in worship. Guidance from Psalms and Ephesians has been very relevant, especially with my wife and my children.

Today I am officiating at a wedding where the most important words are vows that the bride and the groom will promise to one another. These words are meant to be binding, witnessed, and a testament to their union. The tradition of the wedding vow goes back to the Roman empire when mutual consent was the foundation of the union. Wealthy Romans began to create documents that would be signed and recognized as binding.

Below is an example of traditional vows today in the United Methodist Church:

In the name of God,
I, NAME, take you NAME,
to be my wedded wife/husband,
to have and to hold
from this day forward,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
until we are parted by death.
This is my solemn vow.

These words are meaningful and powerful as couples lay a foundation of faith in their marriage.

When I arrived at the rehearsal yesterday, I met the groom’s grandparents who had recently celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary! Grandmom commented, “He just can’t get rid of me.” I couldn’t help but imagine the words that had been shared between this couple over the course of 63 years. There would be no question that words of apology, humility, forgiveness, and care would be counted in that list.

When my wife and I came to serve here at Resurrection, she purchased and began listening to Pastor Adam’s book, Making Love Last a Lifetime. I agreed to listen, and I remember to this day Adam writing that “marriage is a ministry.” I’ve tried to approach my marriage in this way and I advise couples I counsel to do the same. My wife’s primary love language (meaning the way she prefers I express love to her as defined in Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages) is words of affirmation. It’s important for her to hear how I feel about her. This speaks to her heart.

Another couple, whose wedding I had the honor of officiating at just a few weeks ago, wanted very much for a certain phrase to be included in their vows on their special day: “to speak with a gentle heart.” This was a phrase that they believed in, so much so that they wanted it included in their vows to one another and witnessed by the people they love.

John writes of Jesus as the bridegroom to the Church. Imagine the power of Jesus words promised as vows to the Church. His words are promises. He gives the weary rest, sets the captive free, gives sight to the blind, offers abundant life, shares living water, and promises to be with us to the very end of the age. Christ’s words are binding, they have been witnessed, and we are encouraged to have faith. May our words point others to His power and love as we speak with a gentle heart.

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

 

8.22.14 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.

In the evenings after the dinner dishes are cleaned up, the kids’ homework is done and we are all winding down for the night, my wife and I lead our kids through some conversations about the Bible. We have been slowly working our way through the Bible’s grand narrative of the with our kids. (I am using these two resources to stay on track at the moment, and highly recommend them: God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible, by Vaughn Roberts and Echo The Story by Michael Novelli.) We hope they’ll capture an imagination for the way God intends for them to live, and how they might do their part in making earth look like heaven, remembering the words “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”

We’ve traced the Bible’s storyline several times, and each time we do we do so with greater detail and depth. As you might expect, as the narrative becomes clearer to all of us, the questions become deeper as well. A recent question we discussed at length was, “Dad, what does it mean to be created in the image and likeness of God?” Such a great question! Paul is explicitly talking about this in our reading today (Colossians 3:8-10) when he states, “Take off the old human nature with its practices and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it.”

Paul’s encouragement is simple. Stop carrying an attitude of anger, rage and malice that causes you to use improper, hurtful words and even to lie. By stopping these harmful practices, we are living into the way in which we’ve been created to live–as living proof of a living God. To conform to the image of God is to become the living representation of God that God intended when God created humans. In part, this means that we live into the holiness of God. This reality challenges us to speak as God would speak–truthfully, generously and necessarily. Three questions to ask before speaking: Is it true? Is it generous? Is it necessary?

Obviously to speak truthfully, generously and necessarily requires not only thinking before we speak, but also an intense desire to be fully converted before we think. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest, how intense is your desire to be transformed into the image of God?

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

8.21.14 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.

This past Sunday, Adam challenged us to memorize Ephesians 4:29 (Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear) and to keep it close to our hearts as we went about our week.  I say that he “challenged” us because, at least for me, it IS a huge challenge to be positive sometimes.  Words have weight and sometimes I can be a master of wielding them as weapons.  It might be a serious verbal beating because I’m angry, or a little sarcastic remark that slices down what you were trying to say, but I’m exceedingly good at verbal combat.  

Beyond my own sharp tongue, I’ve also started to notice how often I’m reading things that have potential to be hurtful.  Adam pointed out in the sermon on Sunday just how much social media has effected the “conversations” people have.  Every person reading this could literally, with a couple of mouse clicks, send the words I’ve typed into the ether and have it land on the screen of someone a world away.  Then that person has the ability to issue replies and rebuttals to points that I may not have even been trying to make.  I don’t know them and they don’t know me, but within minutes we can be locked in a pitched battle to establish that we’re right and sadly, will end our battle having never really solved anything.

This week has been filled with news stories of death and loss and hate and fear and everything in between.  A young man died at the hands of the police in Ferguson, MO and that community, with the weight of world opinion pressing down, has exploded into a full-on crisis.  I won’t comment on what happened or who I believe is right or wrong, but I will say that the war of words on both sides is discouraging.  A clear line of battle has been drawn and nobody is interested in stepping to that line and trying to cull fact from fiction.  Words matter and until we can put aside the platitudes of righteousness to which both sides feel entitled, then the battle will rage only.  A tragedy occurred and the war of words has created an even bigger tragedy.   With time and by the unending grace of God, that community will heal.  My prayer is that they will see where the verbal combat isn’t effective and will instead turn to each other to seek answers rather than looking for opponents.

I’ve also experienced a great deal of positive stuff on social media.  Dozens of people I know have taken up the #ALSicebucketchallenge, which has raised extraordinary amounts of money for a relatively unknown disease that effects many.  My sarcasm dictates that I make a joke about people dumping ice on their heads and thinking it raises money but really just draws attention to themselves and feeds their ego, BUT I know I’d be wrong about that.  ALS research charities have received several times their normal donation quota to fund their efforts.  Words have weight and “accepting the challenge” (and filming it for all to see!) has brought awareness to a worthy cause.

Finally, my social media newsfeed delivered a positive and uplifting consolation speech from a coach of an elite Little League World Series team to his players after being eliminated.  In it, this coach demonstrates that saying only what is useful to build up as needed can go a long way to consoling a tired and brokenhearted baseball team.  How easy would it have been for that coach to slap those kids on the back and tell them they played hard but didn’t measure up?  How often does a loss lead to words that don’t build up but tear down?  In this case, the coach spoke to those boys the way that I believe God may speak to all of us: I’m not perfect and I may not always win, but I’ll always be loved and it’s my goal to let the abundance of my heart flow through my speech displace the snarky-ness and sarcasm (and other evils).  In that way I will be what God has called me to be.

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

8.20.14 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

GPS  – Good Words
James 1:22-25
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”   James 1:22

I was taught to avoid bad words when I was growing up.   The only hiccup in my extended family was the day my cousin came home from 1st grade using a certain word that, as she described, “Must be an ok word because the name ‘God’ was in front of it.”   A good use of language is about more than avoiding bad words.  There are plenty of bad sentences that can be pieced together while still avoiding any of the taboo words. Here are a couple opposites that I suggest follows the spirit that James is writing about regarding words.

Criticism v. Encouragement There is a place for healthy correction of a person’s behavior.  Criticism usually stems from our own need to feel right rather than a benevolent desire to make a situation right.  Our words reflect our hearts.  Typically the most critical people are ones that have gone the longest since they experienced grace.  Here’s a tip: The next time you encounter a hyper-critical person, ask them when they last experienced grace.  They may see the connection.   If not, at least you have planted the seed.   Christians are called to be people who extend grace.  To encourage someone is to put heart (from the Latin cor) into them.   Replace your critical nature with encouragement and see how your heart shifts.

Gossip v. Covering Gossip is saying something behind a person’s back that you would not say in front of their face.  (Incidentally, flattery is saying something to a person’s face that you would not say behind their back). Gossip destroys relationships.  Some of the early Jews believed that Gossip was so destructive that it was the likely cause for God sending leprosy to people.  If a person could not be trusted in community, they would be given leprosy and therefore removed from the community.  While we understand that Gossip and skin disease are not connected, we see how destructive people considered Gossip.   It still destroys. What is the opposite of Gossip?  Covering.   When you hear someone being gossiped about, use your words to cover them in protection.   Speak on their behalf.  Use words such as “I don’t know if that is true but I know that person has been good to me and others I know.”    Your good words can protect another person in their absence.

Sarcasm v. Sincerity Sarcasm is not wrong objectively.  It can be pretty funny.  A lot of great comedians and movies have done well by using Sarcasm.  There is a shadow side to it, though.  Sarcasm can also be a barrier for true connection.   It keeps the conversation rather shallow.    If you are sarcastic, or know someone who is, James would recommend you replace it with Sincerity.     While Sarcasm uses words and tone to send an indirect message, Sincerity uses words to say exactly what you mean.  Try it.  See if you find a deeper level of connection.

Avoiding bad words is important.   Avoiding bad sentences is more important, in person and via social media. May your tongue reflect the good that Jesus has planted in your heart.

Grace and Peace,
Steven Blair
Pastor of Live Forward www.cor.org/liveforward
Pastor of Live Well   www.cor.org/livewell

 

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

8.19.14 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.

Stella Liebeck was an elderly woman who became famous in a most unexpected way. She sued McDonalds because her coffee was too hot. And she won. The jury awarded her with over 2.8 million dollars. Her story had a spotlight in the national news in 1994 and is still remembered to this day as the pinnacle of frivolous lawsuits. The story made a lot of people very mad. It made me mad. I thought it was ridiculous. It served as a strong reminder of what lengths Americans would go to just to earn a quick buck.

It wasn’t until the past year, twenty years after the lawsuit, that I learned more about what actually happened. Liebeck spilled some McDonalds coffee on herself and suffered horrific third degree burns all over her legs and pelvic regions. Photos of the injuries were extremely graphic and unsettling. She was hospitalized and needed several skin grafts and over two years of medical treatment. She racked up enough medical debt to absolutely destroy her life. When she went back to McDonalds to ask them to help out with the medical expenses, they refused several times before the matter went to court. All she was after was a way to pay off her medical expenses. It was the jury, after seeing what the woman had been through and how bad the injuries were, that decided to award her with 2.7 million in punitive damages in addition to the medical expenses. (By the way, this number was actually reduced to $640,000, so she didn’t even get the full amount she was awarded.) But to this day, Liebeck is remembered as the woman who sued McDonalds because her coffee was hot, not as the woman who suffered horrible burns and got buried in medical debt.

Now that I know the truth, the story serves as a strong reminder of how easy it is to get mad at the wrong things. This is a lesson I’ve had to learn many times over the years.

As a kid, I didn’t exactly have a bad temper, but I knew, even as a kid, that there were times I got mad that I really shouldn’t have. That’s not to say that there weren’t times I should have been mad–I just really hated getting angry and then finding out I was wrong in my perception. So pretty early on in life, I set a rule: when someone did something to make me mad, I would wait and think about it before acting on it. I realize that this doesn’t work for some people and may be harmful to them, but I’m someone who needed time to think about things, so this really helped me process what I was feeling and why I was feeling it.

But a curious thing started to happen. There were times I calmed down realized I shouldn’t be mad, but there were other times when sitting on things like that would make me even more mad. So, while I had fewer unjustified anger outbursts, the ones I had were generally worse. It took me a while to realize this, and when I did, I just tried harder to think about things before acting.

And that didn’t work. My outbursts grew more infrequent, but still worse. And I started to realize that what I was doing wasn’t really working.

You see, what I was doing was trying to be slow to speak and slow to anger. But James 1:19 lists a vital step before this: be quick to listen.

The Christian answer to anger is not patience, but empathy. Patience is required to find the empathy, but patience on its own will not solve the problem. I can take all the time in the world to think about something, but if I don’t have a good grip on why they did something in the first place, I’m going to keep coming back to an assumption that I am right and they are wrong.

A great example of this is my perception of Stella Liebeck. After twenty years, I don’t think I felt much differently about her than when I first heard about the case. Twenty years and nothing changed. But then, after watching one ten-minute video with the facts, I realized my anger had been completely uncalled for. Ten minutes of being quick to listen would have changed my perceptions of her for twenty years, had I sought out the truth earlier.

Of course, there are much more important things than what I think of a woman who won a lawsuit twenty years ago. There are times I get mad at my wife without thinking about why she did what she did, or times I get mad at a co-worker for putting undue pressure on me and behaving irrationally without understanding why they acted that way. The truth is, people rarely behave maliciously or irrationally without a solid reason. Oftentimes, they’re not behaving maliciously or irrationally at all–I’m only perceiving it as such. But the truth is so much harder to process than simple explanations we come up with to explain behaviors we don’t fully understand.

This realization begs a different rule than the one I set earlier in life. When someone does something to make me mad, I now ask why. Until I know why, there’s not enough data to really act. I can’t say I do this perfectly or every time–there are still times I get mad when I shouldn’t–but taking the time to ask why and seeking an honest answer has granted me a lot more empathy for the people in my life than I’d previously had. I find it easier to love them and accept them. I find it easier to understand the issues they’re dealing with.

Asking why is the first thing we should do in any conflict, and getting a good answer is the second. Without these, as James says, “man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Remember not to let anger become a needless barrier to love–disarm it with empathy, so we can get back to what God has called us to.

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

8.18.14 Insight from Evan Palmer

Evan Palmer is from Overland Park, Kansas and has been a member of Resurrection since 2002. Evan recently graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in International Relations, while also playing soccer for the Lady Razorbacks.

Words hold power. Many times I forget just how powerful they can be. Even postive words, like “Sure,” “Yes,” “Okay” and “Absolutely.”  If I asked someone a question, each of these words would be an affirmative answer, yet each implies a different meaning. For instance, if I asked one of my friends to dinner, I would feel much more excited if they responded “Absolutely” instead of “Okay.”

However, communication is so much more than words. It is the way in which we speak our words–our tone, our posture, and the motives behind what we choose to say. There are times when we seek out the advice of others. We tend to choose different people for different situations. Sometimes, we are tempted to go to people who will tell us what we “want to hear.” Most times, we choose people who will speak words of truth into our lives, whether we want to hear them or not. I have a handful of mentors—family members and friends—who will speak based upon their own study of the Bible and their relationship with Jesus. There are times when I need correction or guidance that make it necessary for them to relay information to me with grace and compassion, in order for the information to be received well.

Our tongue can be a difficult thing to master. It is difficult to consistently build people up with our words instead of tearing others down. At times of correction, it is difficult to relay our words with the grace and compassion necessary for the situation. It is difficult…but not impossible. Our words hold weight and value whether we see that they do or not. Just like any other aspect of our lives—our finances, relationships, careers, etc.—our tongue, too, has the ability to be shaped through our relationship with the Lord.

I believe when I seek to live out the words of the One True Word, Jesus Christ, I focus my attention on becoming like Him. When my eyes are fixed upon Him, my words, actions, and thoughts follow suit. I start to speak words with grace and love that reflect His character. My deepest desire is to be a part of making the Lord known and loved in this world. I hope to learn to speak my words in a manner that will do this.

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

8.16.14 Insight from Clif Guy

Clifton Guy serves as the Director of Information Technology at The Church of the Resurrection.

When I was growing up, my dad was the senior pastor of First Christian Church in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. At that time, Poplar Bluff was a town of fewer than 20,000 and First Christian was among the four or so largest, best known, most influential churches in town. In any social circle, anywhere in town, when I was introduced as a “Guy,” someone would inevitably ask, “Is your dad the pastor of that big church?” The fame of my father had preceded me. I was Clif, sure. But my first identity was “Rev. Roger Guy’s Son”.

Many people have struggled with feeling they were in the shadow of a famous parent, never quite able to establish a separate identity. As for me, I was secure in my dad’s love and I never objected to being known as his son. It was kind of cool, actually, to feel I was in some way already known by someone I just met. I was proud of my dad and proud to be called his son. I remain part of his huge spiritual legacy today.

Similarly, Jesus seemed to wear the identity “Son of David” quite easily. Notice that nowhere in today’s reading does Jesus object to being called “Son of David.” Jesus appears to have been pleased to be associated with Israel’s greatest king and “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). Also, as the GPS points out, “Son of David” is not just a genealogical reference, but rather a title that meant he was the promised Messiah. While some skeptics have asserted that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah, this passage (along with many others) shows us otherwise.

Samuel and David were both tremendous heroes of the faith. Their legacy of obedience and loyalty to God helped prepare the way for Jesus a thousand years later.

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