9.20.14 Insight from Jane Fowler

Jane Fowler serves as Group Life Program Director at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. In that capacity, she encourages our congregation to be a part of the Journey of Knowing, Loving and Serving God and others by being in authentic community and growing in your love and knowledge of Christ.

My husband and I had the joy of spending the weekend in Nashville with our daughter, Maddy, who is a senior at Belmont University.  Every time I spend time on her campus, or attend worship with her surrounded by hundreds of college students, I walk away knowing our future is in good hands. Belmont believes one must learn with a purpose and live with a purpose. If a student doesn’t know their purpose, they will help them discover it. When my daughter heard the president of the university say these words when she visited the school, she turned to me and said, “This is where I am going to school.” (Do you know your purpose? If the answer is “no,” we invite you to attend the next Embark class. In this 3 week course we will assist you with the “why” of our church’s mission, the “what” of your next steps and the “how” of your participation with God’s redemptive plan in the world. We will help you know your purpose.)

As they grew up, my children began asking the question, “What am I supposed to do with my life?” My reply was always the same. It does not matter what profession you choose,  but whatever you do, combine your passions and the gifts God has given you. My son and daughter are very different in how they approach life and express their emotions, but God has given them both the gifts of mercy, compassion, encouraging, and teaching. Tyler is teaching 4th grade in a Title 1 school. He chooses to teach in an inner city school because he feels he can make a difference in the life of a child every single day. Madeline’s senior internship is at Christian Women’s Job Corp, where she is helping low income women get their GED’s, training them with interview skills and encouraging them to know the love of God in a weekly Bible study. They both understand God has given them gifts to use, but they have the freedom to decide how and where they will use them.

The thought in today’s GPS, “…but simply as a way of bearing witness to the amazing difference God’s mercy had made in his life” reminds me of one of my favorite Henri Nouwen sayings, “To know love is to live love.” I pray you live every day knowing the love of God and the difference his mercy has made in your life.

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

9.19.14 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.

A few weeks ago I sat down with one of my friends who is a major league baseball player. He was in town with the Giants, playing against the Royals. As we sipped our coffee and chatted I asked, “So how is your body feeling these days? As many games as you play, how do you keep healthy?” My friend replied, “Taking care of your body is crucial. The stretching, the sleep, the healthy eating, etc. is very important. However, at this point in such a long season, every player I know is hurting somewhere on his body. What matters the most at this point is my heart, my drive, and my attitude. If I can keep the inner life healthy as we gear up for the playoffs, the body will follow suit.”

Today’s reading (Philippians 3:5-7) made me reflect on that conversation. Paul had all of the things needed to be a religiously committed and respected Jew on the outside—circumcision, bloodline, scholarship, fiercely standing up for his faith as a committed Pharisee, and blamelessly following the law. But Paul’s true estimate of his religious commitment came not from what he had or had done, but from who Jesus Christ was. Paul was not making light of the ritual and rite he possessed as a Jew. Paul was making sense of the power of who Jesus is, and what Jesus did. Paul affirmed his identity and heritage as a Jew, but articulated that Jesus meant more to him than all of the other assets.

Professional athletes, like my friend, typically do everything it takes to become a skilled, trained and proficient specialist. But without the drive, the determination and the inner strength to continue to pursue championships, the outer ritual of exercise and practice loses most of its significance.

Jesus provides the inner peace and power to passionately pursue the person God desires each of us to become. Our inner life is where we move our faith from ritual to relationship (though not in the absence of our outward expressions of faith). A faithful commitment to Jesus takes us beyond the procedures of the faith, and leads us toward a profound, life-changing personal and public faith.

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

9.18.14 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.

I grew up going to church with my best friend and her family. Church and religion were not a part of my family’s make-up (and that hasn’t changed in 32 years). I grew up going to church, just not with my family. I am the lone Jesus-lover in a sea of atheists. So how does one live out and speak about their faith when that’s not the belief of the people they love? Well, I don’t, at least not with words. Sharing my faith and making known the difference Jesus has made in my life doesn’t come from the words I speak, but from the actions I live out every day.

Does our difference in opinion give me grief? Absolutely, but no more than any other thing my family does. They are my family, and they can drive me bonkers faster than any other set of adults on this earth, and I love them for it. I show them my faith by giving them grace when they mess up. I apologize when I have wronged them. I speak of my faith when I share an evening with my father showing him the pictures of my recent mission trip to Malawi and regale him with stories of the people I met and the ways we are changing lives. It’s sharing my faith when I pick up the phone and call my dad to tell him I thought of him at church because the band sang Queen at the beginning of service.

I share my faith with my family every chance I get, but you will never hear me ask them if they have heard the good news, or if they were to die today if they knew where they were going. I trust in Jesus’ love and grace to worry about that for all of us. My goal at the end of each visit is to show them through the person that I am, and the person I continually work on becoming, to give an example of how faith can transform your life. Seeing what God has done in my life will speak volumes over any words I could use.

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

9.17.14 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

Tell Somebody.
Galatians 1:11-24

“If the Lord has redeemed you, the least you can do is say so.”       S.M. Lockbridge
Paul writes to the Church in Galatia what many people consider the first New Testament book to be written.  Paul is likely 15-25 years away from his own life changing moment with Jesus.   This Scripture gives a snapshot into what his thoughts were immediately after meeting Jesus.  

But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.   Galatians 1:15-16

Paul writes: “My immediate response was not consult ant human being.  I wanted to keep it to myself.”  This was likely because Paul was worried that people would not believe him.  He had went from someone who wanted to see the number of Jesus followers to decrease (by death) to someone who was wanting to see the number of Jesus followers to increase.    We can imagine the other Christians being suspicious and can even imagine Paul being suspicious of these Christians giving him grace for what he may have done to some of their family members.    Paul kept it to himself…. until he didn’t.

Jesus has met you and is changing you from the inside out for the better.   Perhaps you have kept your life change to yourself as well.  Perhaps you are concealing the source of the change like it is your grandma’s secret recipe.   This Scripture is simply Paul explaining how he kept all this a secret, until he didn’t.  He got past whatever obstacles were in his way so that he can explain to people why he is a different man.

It is our turn to follow the example. To get past obstacles. If the Lord has redeemed you, the least you can do is say so. It’s time to tell somebody, anybody.  Do so with gentleness and with truth. The Lord is good and you know it firsthand.   Tell somebody.  Keep it simple and tell somebody.

Here is a clip from S.M. Lockbridge. I hope this 3 minute clip blesses your whole day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzqTFNfeDnE

 

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

9.16.14 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.

In the early church, there were two major leaders: one to look after the Jewish believers and one to look after the Gentile, or non-Jewish believers. One of these was Peter, a man who likely tried to become a Rabbi at one point and failed, so he fell back on fishing. The other was Paul, who was quite possibly the most Jewish man who has ever lived. (That may be a bit of an exaggeration.) Paul was not only a Rabbi. He was a high-ranking religious leader. He’s the guy Jewish people looked up to and aspired to be like.

I was a hiring manager at one point in my life, so I got pretty good at gauging whether someone would be a good fit for a job. My wife also does this. You can imagine how some of our dinner conversations go. In fact, let’s imagine one right now. There are two early church positions open: one for the Jewish believers and one for the Gentiles.

“So this one guy is really qualified for the Jewish position. I actually think he might be overqualified.”

“Great! When can he start?”

“Well, that’s the thing. The boss actually wants him for the Gentile position.”

“What? And give the Jewish position to that chump with no experience?”

“Yeah, that’s what he said.”

“Well, okay. What qualifications does the first guy have for the Gentile position?”

“Well, that’s another thing–he has no experience there. This would be a career change for him. In fact, he’s spent most of his life trying to keep Gentiles out of our belief system.”

“What? Why does he even want the job?”

“He doesn’t. In fact, he’s been arresting our other candidates for this position.”

“Tell the boss I’d like to have a word with him!”

I know you’re jealous now of our dinner conversations, but hopefully you can see now why God’s staffing decision might be considered a poor one. By all conventional standards, the placement didn’t make sense.

But God is a savvy hiring manager. Peter was a bit of an outsider in the realm of Jewish religion, but Paul was at the epicenter of the in crowd. Who better to make a group that had been excluded for all of history now feel like they’re accepted? And Paul had experience overseeing churches and religious hierarchies. Who better to place over the high-growth-potential Gentile market?

Peter was not without his hidden qualifications. Peter had spent his life traveling with Jesus. Who better to answer the questions the Jewish people undoubtedly had about the person they had waited their entire lives for? Also, his strengths were more in challenging the status quo, both through his personality and his apparent lack of qualifications. This is just what the stable but stagnant Jewish market needed.

I’ve heard it said that if God calls you to something, it doesn’t matter if you’re good at it or not. That’s not entirely true. Peter and Paul were both amazing at their jobs. What it does mean is that the things that make you good at your calling might be surprising. In fact, that surprise might be a part of your toolkit. Your background, however unrelated or challenging it may seem, is the single greatest asset you have in your ministry.

That’s something I have to keep reminding myself of. I get a little self-conscious sometimes doing things like writing these GPS entries and mentoring others. I don’t have the best qualifications. While most of the other writers here were taking Bible classes in college, I was studying Shakespeare and Chaucer. And while most of the people I know were living normal, happy lives, I was battling severe depression. There are a lot of days when it takes a seemingly impossible amount of effort just to get out of bed and face the day. There are a lot of days when the exhaustion and physical pain it causes relegate me to just barely getting through the work day so I can go home and lie down. There are a lot of days when I feel like I’m barely holding my life together. Who am I to help anyone with theirs?

But I find God placing people in my life who need to talk to someone who has overcome what I have overcome. I find myself talking to people who desperately want to talk to someone who genuinely understands that kind of thing. And I talk to people who are surprised that someone like me can be used by God just as much as anyone else.

Paul’s background persecuting Christians was something that haunted him even after the Jewish believers had moved on and forgiven him. That was his burden to carry. But when faced with the exclusivism between the Jewish and Gentile believers in the early church, his overcoming of that background was one of the greatest tools in his ministry. For him, it was by far his deepest regret, but the things he learned in overcoming it turned him into exactly the man God needed him to be. God not only turned a Christian killer into one of Christianity’s most influential figures, but he used his misdeeds to do it.

The same is true for all of us. It can be easy to look at someone else’s life and background and think, I could get so much more good done if I had their background. If only I didn’t have this shortcoming. If only I had the right training. If only I had not done the things I have done. If only whatever, then I would be so much more qualified for great things. It’s hard to accept that the things we resent, even the things we regret, can become tools for accomplishing good.

Made some mistakes? Great. Use that experience to help people who made those mistakes–or are about to. Don’t have great training? Great. Use it to show others that everyday people can be used greatly by God. The point is that God can take any past, any burden, any shortcoming, and turn it around to do great things, surprising things, and important things. Figure out what your background has taught you and always be on the lookout for people that need your expertise. God will place these people in your life if you’re vigilant about taking the opportunities he gives you. Our ability to be used by God is only limited by our willingness to do so. Remember that when your past seems to haunt you.

 

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

9.15.14 Insight from Donna Karlen

Donna Karlen serves in Campus Communications at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

The Bible does not record much information about the deaths of Jesus’ early followers. Historians believe that all but John suffered and died a martyr’s death, each one proclaiming unwavering belief in the risen Christ.

The story of one follower’s death does appear in the Bible: that of Stephen, put to death by stoning, with Paul (then Saul) approving of his killing. As I read Stephen’s last words in Acts 7:60, I was stunned by their remarkable similarity to those spoken by Jesus as he hung on the cross. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Stephen cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” These men – one suffering unspeakable pain on a cross, the other enduring the terrible impact of large stones hitting his body – both cried out for forgiveness for their tormentors.

I imagine similar words coming from the lips of the other martyred apostles before they went to be with Jesus – each one reflecting the amazing grace they had witnessed from their savior.

Jesus and Stephen each spoke some other words as they were about to die. Jesus cried out, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” And Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Again I imagine the other apostles (including Paul) speaking words such as these as they were about to leave their earthly lives. And then I imagine their amazing joy as Jesus greeted each one of them by name. Praise God for his blessed assurance of that joy!

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

9.13.14 Insight from Dan Entwistle

Dan Entwistle is Resurrection’s Managing Executive Director for Programs and Ministries.

First, this weekend, we’re preparing to launch into a new sermon series, The Call, where we’ll retrace the incredible journeys of the Apostle Paul through modern day Turkey, Syria, Greece and Italy. If you missed the promo last weekend, view it here: http://vimeo.com/105576939. I also encourage you to use the power of your words by sharing the video promo on a social media account by clicking on the paper airplane symbol just to the right of the video.

Now, on today’s scripture reading. God speaks to humans in a variety of ways and is never distant from us. We can experience God in words of scripture, majestic sunrises, the profound love of a friend, or the inner whisper of conviction. But today’s reading carries a clear and unmistakable message that we find ourselves rediscovering each Christmas. When God wanted to communicate in fullness, Jesus was the message. His life, his death and his resurrection are the clearest “Word” God has spoken to us.

As you and I journey through life following Jesus, we have access to the clearest possible expression of the heart of our Creator. When Jesus heals the bleeding woman, we learn something important about God. When he elevates the fragile and forgotten, we learn something about God. When he teaches us how to pray, we learn something about God. When he sends his followers into mission as God’s agents to change the world, we learn something about God’s dream for this world. When Jesus willingly journeyed to the cross, we grasp something very profound about the love of God.

Jesus was God’s fullest communication, the Logos, the ultimate Word spoken from God to us. John is also making it known that Jesus existed before existence, that Jesus had no beginning, he was the essence of God and the source of life from before the beginning of time.

Side note: we often see the Bible referred to as the (capital W) Word of God, but today’s scripture actually teach us differently. Yes, the Bible is our most cherished book, the most important book ever composed. It reveals who we are and bringing us to knowledge of God. It informs our practice of faith and shapes the course of our lives. But even so, it carries far less authority than the person Jesus, God among us, the one who from the beginning was God’s ultimate Word.

In the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
The Word was with God in the beginning.
Everything came into being through the Word,
and without the Word nothing came into being.
What came into being
through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.

One final thought about today’s scripture. In verse 12, we learn that those who “welcome” Jesus, those who believe in his name, are given authority (power) to become God’s children. Over the past four weeks, we’ve begun to understand the power of the words we speak. And as we finish this sermon series, I encourage you to speak the name of Jesus and believe in the power of his name. When we consider the Power of Words, let’s remember that there’s one word above all others, Jesus, that carries the power to transform you and me into children of God. Today, speak that one word, the Word, Jesus.

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

9.12.14 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.

Today’s passage led me to visit with Mr. Iculate, expert in the field of Communication with the consulting firm, Hear, Understand & Heed. (H.U.H. for short.)

DL: Mr. Iculate, what are some challenges to communicating effectively?

Iculate: Please call me Art. First, we have to make sure the channels of communication are free & clear. Like the old story of the guy complaining to his doctor that he can’t hear out of one ear. When asked, “Which ear?” The guy responds, “2014.”

Secondly, we have to make sure the intended audience can comprehend the message. We don’t want misunderstandings like the elderly wife who told her mathematically oriented husband to put the shepherd pie in the oven for 20 minutes at 140 degrees:

ShepherdsPie

Finally, is the audience willing to receive the message? Like the preacher’s story of his microphone going on the fritz mid-sermon – after many fits & starts, he asks if it is working now. A guy in the back shouts, “I still can’t hear you.” A gentleman on the front row stands & says, “I can hear him fine. I’ll trade seats with you.”

DL: Today’s passage offers us a clear directive from God “to listen to Jesus.” How can we be a good audience to hear our Savior’s message for us today?

Art Iculate: The same principles of good communication in relationships & companies apply to our bond with God as well. First, stop talking. Like a small boy with a new walkie-talkie, you need to release the “talk” button at some point & be still & listen for God. Remember, talk is cheap, because Supply always exceeds Demand.

Secondly, prepare yourself to listen. Eliminate distractions & focus on what God is trying to say to us as we read Scripture & listen to sermons. We did a survey a while back on the effectiveness of conference calls and found that 65% of the participants on a con-call do other work while in the midst of the call. (47% use the bathroom during a con-call; cordless phones are such a mixed blessing.) Multi-tasking and effective listening are incompatible.

Finally, we tell our clients to empathize with the speaker. Listen with the genuine intention of understanding His message, rather than listening with the intent to respond. Set aside preconceived notions. Consider the texts from God’s perspective. Don’t let a specific word choice distract from His overall message & tone. Don’t interrupt with your own ideas before He has completed His thought. It takes patience to truly listen. As the Coasters sang, “Yakkety Yak, Don’t Talk Back.”

DL: As we wrap up, I have to ask you about your company’s name & mascot.

Art Iculate: The company name came from having 2 teen-age boys in the house. I had just expounded at great length on a pearl of priceless wisdom and they both responded with, “Huh?” So, our mascot evolved from this experience to remind us that even the greatest Message the world has ever known doesn’t mean a thing if we aren’t listening.

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DL: So, we should be “all ears” when it comes to hearing God. THANKS for your time.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

9.10.14 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.

The things we say are often influenced by what’s in our hearts. Although the formula for the Lord’s Prayer is a reminder of what ought to be in our hearts, not every prayer needs to incorporate all of these elements. That being said, if we’re never praying these elements – reverence for God, opening ourselves up to his will, asking for what we need, confession – maybe we need to look at what’s in our hearts.

Even when I’m alone, I often find myself praying and trying to find just the right words, as if I’m writing a draft for a composition assignment. I have a friend who often begins her prayers with, “Hey, God.” I love the realness of that opening. She prays as if she’s having a conversation with a friend. When things are troubling me or I’m really excited about something, I talk to my friends about what I’m feeling. When I pray about those same things, I find myself holding back and speaking more formally.

One thing that has helped me to become more relaxed with God during my personal prayer time is speaking out loud when I’m praying. It seemed a little awkward the first few times I did it, but when I speak outside my head, I feel more compelled to keep talking and not trying to think of just the right words or the outline of the perfect prayer.

Sometimes, I write my prayers out. In these instances, I do take the time to find just the right words and phrases. Some of the most beautiful and most heartfelt prayers can be found in the Psalms. I would guess that, with all of the vivid imagery and the poetic nature of these prayer songs, David searched for the perfect words that he knew would delight God.

I think God appreciates any prayer that comes from our hearts. One of my favorite Christian songs is “Better Than A Hallelujah” by Amy Grant. You can click here to hear the song (don’t let the video distract you from the words!). It’s a beautiful reminder to me that just honestly speaking to God should be my top priority when praying.

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

9.9.14 Insight from Rev. Glen Shoup

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

Authentic sorrow and repentance are important.  It’s too easy sometimes to simply confess our wrongs and sins and go no deeper.  But real healing, the kind of healing that can only come from truly accepting and receiving forgiveness for our wrongs and sins, can’t happen if we merely acknowledge and confess and go no deeper.  Confession is simply to name and tell the truth about failures.  And frankly, too many of us, get stuck in cycles of spiritual and emotional wallowing and self-justification because all we’ve been willing to do is acknowledge and name the truth that we were wrong followed pretty quickly by self-appeasement like…but after all, isn’t everybody wrong at timesI’m not really that badothers have done worse—these are the kinds stuck rhythms we find ourselves in when we go no deeper than confession.

All of us know what that’s about and, in fact, all of us have been there at one point or another—which is why—authentic sorrow and repentance is important.  Only when we are authentically sorry and repent (repent literally means to turn away from) are we able to come to place of letting go of all self-justification and rationalization.  Only when we are authentically sorry and repent are we willing to come to the place of recognizing that it doesn’t matter what others have done that might have been worse or how much company we might have in our sins and failures because the primary issue isn’t everybody else—it’s us.  We are the one who has failed and chosen wrong and the fact that we may not have been the only one is utterly immaterial.  Authentically being sorry and repenting in addition to confessing is what brings us to the essential place of healing.

However, once we truly embrace authentic sorrow and repentance of our wrongs and sins, there is an important next step for all of us if we are to daily experience the healing and salvation that God has for each of us.  And that important next step is touched upon in our reading today—and it too—is an imperative word for us, particularly as it relates to us playing the old tapes that Pastor Adam referenced in last weekend’s sermon.

I John 3:20 says even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.

You see, just like we can’t ever get where we need to go by way of healing and wholeness if all we ever do is hover on the surface of our brokenness with mere confession; we also can’t ever get where we need to go if all we ever do is remain perpetually submarined in the sorrow and heaviness of our own brokenness!  Once we’ve gone deeper than confession to the place of authentic sorrow and repentance, we have to then recognize that our decisions (naming…being sorry…turning away from) are decisions that are embracing and receiving God’s forgiveness and redemption.  Our decisions are decisions that are saying “Yes” to God.  And God always forgives, God always redeems and God always makes new for God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him and those whom the Son sets free, are free indeed (John 3:17 & 8:36).

So today remember—when it comes to the words you say to yourself about yourself; when it comes to lies those old tapes want to tell you that you’re not only not really forgiven, you’re not worth forgiving—The Word of God says something completely different:  He says that he has come into this world for the very reason of saving you from those lies and because he has set you free, you are free indeed!

So…even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.

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