08.30.16 – Insights from Brandon Gregory

brandongregorygpsBrandon 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.

A 2009 study of insurance records revealed that, on average, people who drive hybrid cars drive more miles than non-hybrid drivers–specifically, they drove 25% more on trips that were not job-related than non-hybrid drivers. Call me crazy, but doesn’t driving more miles in your car kind of defeat the environmental purpose of getting a hybrid car in the first place?

But before you call me out for picking on hybrid car drivers, I’ve got another story. Two separate studies in Taiwan showed that people who take multivitamins are more likely to make poor health choices. The first study showed that, of the two test groups, the one taking the multivitamin was less likely to exercise and choose healthy foods than the control group. The second study looked at smokers exclusively. The control group remained more or less stable with their smoking habit. Want to guess what happened to the other group? That’s right: they actually started smoking more when they started taking the multivitamins. What gives?

The point isn’t that driving hybrid cars and taking multivitamins are bad things. They’re definitely good things–in fact, that right there is the problem. Our brains know they’re good things, which gives us more license to make poor life choices later on. Think of it like a transaction: you earn moral currency for doing a good deed, and feel free to spend that moral currency when a poor life choice comes along. How many times have you eaten an unhealthy meal because you went to the gym earlier that day, or supersized your fries because you got a diet soda?

The phenomenon is called self-licensing, and it’s very well-documented. It’s a temptation that any of us can fall into, and frequently do without realizing it. And self-licensing mixed with religion can have very harmful results.

I talk to a lot of atheists on a very candid level about religion. A story I hear far too often was that a person had some very honest questions about religion, but was driven away by overly-pious religious folks–either by their incongruent actions, or sometimes directly by their words. It’s a very sad story, and always one that I wish could have ended differently.

I wonder sometimes how those stories come about, how those overly-pious religious folks came to be. There are probably a lot of different factors, but one of them is undoubtedly self-licensing. The sad truth is that if we operate on the premise that the simple act of attending a weekly worship service makes us better people, it can actually make us worse people. Without realizing it, we can trade in the moral currency we got by learning how to improve our lives and use it to avoid improving our lives. Becoming more godly and good requires a lot of hard work and change, and going to church is just the beginning.

The trick to beating self-licensing is simply being aware of it. Don’t use good deeds that you’ve done to bargain with God and cheat on your spiritual diet. This isn’t much different than Pharaoh in the Moses story, bargaining and offering a little bit of good and expecting the full benefit–that’s not the way it works. Just like you won’t get much healthier by exercising and eating more junk food, you won’t get much more virtuous by going to church and compromising later on. Don’t let church be the multivitamin that enables you to make poor spiritual decisions–that kind of defeats the purpose of going to church in the first place.

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

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08.29.16 – Insights from Donna Karlen

dkarlengpsDonna Karlen serves in Communications at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, creating and managing social media content.

Long about the time Pharaoh witnessed a frog or two hop out of the royal pan that his royal cooks baked the royal bread in for his royal lunch, the ruler of everything may have felt the regretful bite of an “if only.” If only I had listened to Moses and let his people go. If only I hadn’t enslaved them in the first place. If only frog legs really did taste like chicken. But, as we read on, Pharaoh becomes “stubborn again” after the amphibious invasion is over – or as the New Revised Standard Version translation puts it, “he hardened his heart.” And just like that it is game on again with God – and we all know who wins that battle (every battle, thankfully).

I’d like to think I’ve never “hardened my heart.” I’m a pretty caring, forgiving person – my wonderful dad used to call me a peacemaker. But I also don’t know that I’ve always “softened” my heart enough to be open to God’s call for my own journey in the wilderness of life. I am currently reading Intentional Living by John C. Maxwell. The author invites us to ask ourselves some questions so we can find our “why.” The first question is, “what do you cry about?” – what breaks your heart? While Moses initially was rather reluctant to answer God’s call to lead the Israelites to freedom, his heart broke when he saw an Egyptian beating one of his kinfolk. However, even before Moses finally got on board with his destiny, it was God’s heart that was breaking. And so God began working through Moses and his brother Aaron.

My own heart breaks for children and teens who feel unloved and alone, and human trafficking makes me cry. I have written these two things on my heart and in my journal and pray for God to work through me to make a difference. I don’t know what that will look like. Maybe it means doing something I’m not comfortable with, and I’ll want to ask God to get someone else. And so I look to today’s GPS prayer:

O God… help me not to blind myself to signs that you are at work in my life. Amen

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

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08.27.16 – Insights from Clif Guy

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

Today’s reading is about Moses returning to Egypt with his family in response to God’s call.  If all we had in Exodus was the call and this final response, we would be missing a lot. Instead, the author reports details that are much more interesting and applicable to us.

The call story begins in Exodus 3 and quickly we come to God’s command to Moses in verse 10 (NIV): “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Last weekend in worship Pastor Adam quoted the CEB (Common English Bible) translation, which says: “So get going.” I love that. God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, explained the situation, and then told Moses that he was to serve a key role. “You’re my guy. I’m sending you. Get moving.”

The next words out of Moses’ mouth were an objection, which God answered (Ex. 3:11-12). Then another objection by Moses and response by God (Ex. 3:13-22). Then another (Ex. 4:1-9) and another (Ex. 4:10-11). God then restated the call: “Now go!” (Ex. 4:12) To which Moses gave the well-known reply: “Please, my Lord, just send someone else.” (Ex. 4:13 CEB) The author of Exodus gives us 22 verses of debate–Moses explaining why he’s not the right guy and trying to talk God out of sending him, followed in each case by God’s answers of reassurance and equipping. God says: “I’ll give you everything you need for success. I’ll be there with you the whole time, backing you up. Through you I’ll show my power to Pharaoh. In the end, you will succeed. You’ve got this.”

Even after all of that, after the transcendent spiritual experience of encountering the God of the Universe, after God comforted, equipped, and reassured, Moses still said: “Can’t you find someone else, God?” Finally, God’s patience had run out and he became angry. He provided one last resource–Moses’ brother, Aaron. 

Only then do we arrive at the beginning of today’s reading–Moses, out of objections, unable to persuade God to leave him alone, and finally responding in obedience. Many, perhaps most, Christians have had a similar experience in their journey of discipleship. God asks us to do something. We know it’s God moving in our hearts and minds, but we don’t want to do it. Sometimes we REALLY don’t want to do it. We exhaust every excuse; raise every objection; complain; rationalize; and/or try to talk God out of it. In the end, some of us refuse, but some, like Moses, respond in faith and obedience. Moses isn’t remembered as the guy who argued with God and missed his calling. He’s remembered as the towering giant of the Bible’s first five books and one of our faith’s greatest heroes.

I think this means it’s okay to be in a real relationship with God. It’s okay to have an honest dialog. It’s okay to be ourselves and express our true feelings–even feelings of reluctance or resistance. God won’t hold that against us. Be like Moses and be open with God as you need to be. But also be like Moses and say “yes” to God’s call. It will begin the adventure of your life!

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

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08.26.16 – Insights from Darren Lippe

Darren_LippeDarren 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.

In High School, I enjoyed participating in Lincoln-Douglas debates during Forensics season.  This 1-on-1 style of debate emphasizes logic & reasoning over facts & figures.  (Lincoln-Douglas debates are modeled after the 7 debates between Abraham Lincoln & Stephen Douglas in the 1858 Illinois U.S. Senate Election, which became noteworthy for its discussion of slavery.)

Aside:  I always liked the story Lincoln shared debating a point of law: Can a Sheriff issue marriage licenses?  Lincoln concluded it was not legal.  When told, the Sheriff just laughed & said, “Shows what Lincoln knows.  I’ve been doing it for years.”

In today’s passage we get a glimpse of a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate:

Resolved: Moses ought to substantially help God.

Affirmative: God.

Negative: Moses.

(Moses: Hey!  Who’s your opponent this round?  Enoch: Some guy from Sinai High School named Mordecai.  You?  God.  Ouch.  Good Luck.)

Moses opens with the contention that he is not a good public speaker.  In a sympathy ploy to the judge, he adds that he isn’t even speaking well during this debate.  (This is a dubious tactic, since the judge has undoubtedly observed that Moses couldn’t persuade a summer asphalt crew in Georgia to take free Popsicles.)

God counters with his “Wheelhouse Argument.”  This is the response that you know was already drafted & fine-tuned that God hits out of the park: “Please.  Who gave everyone the ability to speak?  Me.  So go.” Mic drop.  We know this is God’s “Go-To Argument,” because He also cites it in His debate with Job (Job 38:1-38) – God probably uses it so often, He has it typed up & laminated.

This debate is over.  The judge is already signing the ballot & putting it into the envelope. Moses’ final rebuttal doesn’t even use up all of his speaking time.  He just lamely concludes, “Send someone else.”

In a shocking twist, though, God’s closing argument, which should have had everyone in tears as He draws on the expanse of the seas, the stars in the galaxy, & the beauty of Eden, extends an offer of mercy to Moses:  Don’t do a 1-on-1 debate with Pharaoh.  Try a traditional debate format with an accomplished speaker like Aaron to help you.  I’ll even write your speeches.

Wow.  So, what do we learn from this debate?

God is a good evaluator of talent.  He knows you & me better than we know ourselves – so perhaps we should give Him the benefit of the doubt.  God does listen – He won the debate hands down, yet still recognized Moses’ fears & sought to provide him comfort by providing an alternate solution.  And finally, just know that God is going to play the “I am the Creator of the Universe & I Created You” card, so you’d better have a solid rebuttal drafted.  If not, why not spare the paperwork, concede the debate already, & just answer His call?

(Moses: Hey Enoch!  Have they posted my opponent for the next round?  Yeah.  Aaron.  Sigh.  It’s going to be a long tournament.)

 

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

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08.25.16 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

Janelle_GregoryJanelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as a Human Resources Specialist.

A friend of mine is convinced that Bigfoot is real. We’ve had conversations where he has gone into great detail about his theory, the proof that Bigfoot exists, and the conspiracies behind hiding the truth. Without a doubt, he is positive that there is a stealthy sasquatch creature roaming the forests. He is confident that this will come to light one day.

As he talks I sit, I listen, and then I roll my eyes. Bigfoot. Really? I find it very difficult to believe that we have the technology to find galaxies over 13 billion lightyears away, yet we struggle to find a giant, furry beast lumbering through some trees. I mean, seriously…

But then I think about what I believe as a Christian: virgin birth, resurrections, afterlife, miracles, and prayers. Sounds kooky. Sounds Bigfootish. Which is why the biggest fear I have in talking about my faith comes down to – what if they don’t believe me?

I ruminate over and over about this kind of conversation. Can I use scripture in a convincing way? Is there proof of God that I can share that will make them believe? If I talk about all the love and greatness I believe God to be, is that enough?

The answer? Maybe. Maybe not. For any of these, there will always be people who come back to make arguments against them. Certainly there are those who can speak about these topics more thoroughly and eloquently than me, but still – it’s difficult to show any definite and absolute proof of God.

While I may share scripture and tell all that I believe God to be, what I feel most confident in speaking to is how God has worked in my life. “This is what I believe God was telling me.” “Here’s how God worked through this situation.” “If it weren’t for the nudge from God, I never would have done this.”

There will always be people who won’t believe no matter how much they have heard or what they have seen, but I think that many will at least consider the possibility of God when we speak to how we experience his work in our lives. This is truth we know and truth we can share.

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

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08.24.16 – Insights from Kari Burgess

Kari Burgess is a Program Director for the ShareChurch team, handling promotion and marketing for all of the conferences held at Resurrection, as well as registration and coordinating hospitality volunteers.

Honestly, writing on today’s text and trying to give some insight into God as I AM is completely overwhelming to me. It feels impossible to wrap my brain around the idea of God as the creator of everything, all-powerful and all-knowing. When He says “I AM who I AM” it feels sort of heady and hard to grasp.

Then I got to thinking about a magician. I can’t comprehend or grasp the how a magician’s illusion works either. Now I recognize this metaphor is going to break down rather quickly. After all, God doesn’t use sleight of hand or trickery in his miraculous work in the world. But I think it might be worth exploring.

I remember as a young girl my playful father’s tricks. I would  wonder: Where in the world did my nose (temporarily) disappear to? Or, How did that quarter magically appear from behind my ear? Surely it hadn’t been there all day! What in the world happened to my father’s thumb? How did he pull it off and put it right back on? I was awed and amazed by these simple tricks my father would play. (OK, maybe more confused than awed. And maybe after a dozen times my dad played these “magic” tricks I finally got it and then had to appease him all through my adolescence.) I would wonder and ponder, but ultimately I trusted that my “magician” dad was all-knowing and all-powerful.

Still today, when I watch a magician on TV or elsewhere, I am amazed and awed by the illusions. How in the world did they do that? Try as I might to figure out the underlying trick or illusion, I can’t figure out the magician’s secrets. After a while, I just accept I will never understand the trick behind it. I know there is something to this illusion, but I am content not to understand the “how.” I’ll just enjoy it for the entertainment that it is.

There is a parallel here with fully understanding the presence of God. I am frequently amazed and overwhelmed by God’s creation. I find it hard to comprehend how he can truly know everything happening in my life, when there are billions in this world calling on his name, billions who have come before me and billions who will come after me. How can He know and care what happens to little, insignificant me?

But the great and powerful I AM assures us throughout Scripture (and here in Exodus) that he does indeed see his people, hear their cries and know about their suffering. Even though he is the great I AM, we can trust he sees, hears and knows each one of us. One study Bible* translates/explains the I AM as: “I will always be who I have always been.” I love this phrasing. That means God is dependable. He is faithful. He is worthy of all of our trust. because the I AM is, was and will always be dependable, faithful and trustworthy. Even as our circumstances change and as our faith might strengthen or even wane, He will not change. He will always love us. So when everything around us starts to feel out of control, we can trust He IS in control.

I may not understand the “how” in what God does. I may not be able to wrap my head entirely around “who” God is. But I can believe in Him and His promises with confidence because I can trust that He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. And that is enough for me.

*From the NASB Charles Stanley Life Principles Bible Notes

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08.23.16 – Insights from Randy Greene

Randy Greene serves in the Communications ministry as the Digital Media Specialist. He helps develop and maintain the church’s family of websites.

As I reflect on my life to this point, I can identify one or two times when God called me to do something big that was far outside my comfort zone. For example, a few years ago God asked my wife and I to pack up and move to a town where we didn’t know anyone. Shannon had accepted an associate pastoral position at a church in this town, but I had no job prospects and no income, so moving was a big step of faith.

More often in my life, though, God has called me to take baby steps of trust, like painting walls at a local school, teaching a class at church, hosting a root beer float party so I can build relationships with my neighbors, or serving the local community with FaithWork.

Moses spent the first eighty years of his life preparing for God’s big call on his life, but I can’t imagine he was simply resting on his heels during that time. I think it was probably filled with many little nudges from God that, as Moses obeyed, nurtured and challenged his heart, soul, and mind. If he hadn’t obeyed in those little moments, in those small acts of faith, he may have never followed God’s call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

When I’m wandering in the wilderness of my life seeking God’s big call in my life, I have to remember to listen for God’s little nudges. Those little calls are important, character-building parts of God’s big plan for me; when I remember that, I take those moments and those decisions seriously, embracing them and daring to walk forward one step – one baby step – at a time into a more faithful relationship with my God.

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

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08.22.16 – Insights from Ginny Howell

GinnyHowellGinny Howell serves as the Mobilization Program Director at Resurrection. She oversees All Church Serve Events, New Member Connections and our Re-Connection Team. Ginny is passionate about helping people get engaged in the life of the church and would love to visit with you if you are looking to find a way to get involved.

It is very easy for me to identify which central figure in this passage I relate to the most: the burning bush. While I try to think about the steps I would take if I were in Moses’ shoes, or consider the cries of the Israelite slaves, I can’t help but feel like the burning bush. Fueled by the tasks and responsibilities aligned with each fragment of identity or role I choose to take on in life, these flames are ever-present. Even when my mind wanders from what I should be focused on, those flames keep burning and that which fuels the fire never goes away.

It is more than the flames themselves that draw me to identifying with the burning bush. It is the beauty with which those flames never go out. I feel as though most days are about 6 hours too short to get all of the things done that I want to do, and at least 3 hours too short for the things I need to get done. Despite the constant state of ignition I seem to exist in as a wife, mother, daughter, program director, volunteer….somehow I miraculously do not burn out. Those flames keep on burning because at the center of all that I am, I am a child of God.

I don’t encourage overextending yourself to the point that you feel like you are on fire. But for me, my calm is strangely wrapped up inside the fire burning in the bush. I thrive on activity, and am happiest in life when I am busy and engaged in the things that matter most to me. God filled me with passion to care for others and seek justice, and God sustains and refuels those flames so that I can fully be who God has called me to be.

When I look back on my life and recognize the times when I’ve felt God saying, “Get going, I’m sending you…” (and I didn’t turn away or make excuses), the steps I have taken in responding to God’s call have absolutely been the most life-giving, meaningful things I have ever done. They were not always easy; some didn’t make sense to me at the time. But each and every one has brought me to understand the beauty of the burning bush. I believe the bush demonstrates God’s ever-present love in our lives, even when we might not consider ourselves up for the task, or think that we possibly have enough hours in the day to get it all done.

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

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08.20.16 Insights from Carol Cartmill

Carol Cartmill serves as Executive Director of Mission and Outreach at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

As I read the first part of this story about Moses, I tried to imagine what was going on in Moses’ heart and mind when he killed the Egyptian. It would be easy to take the account at face value and assume he was solely motivated by the injustice of the Egyptian taskmaster’s abuse of the Hebrew slaves. I’m wondering if that’s the whole story.

We know Moses was a Hebrew raised in an Egyptian household, but the biblical narrative leaves out the details of his experiences growing up. How much did Moses relate to each culture—his native Hebrew versus his environmental Egyptian—and how did each influence him? We hear so much about nurture versus nature in the shaping of children. What shaped Moses to become a champion of justice, even if the manifestation of this characteristic was perhaps a little impulsive at times?

The sister of a fellow staff member acted on her impulse to help another this week. She was out walking with her young son when before them a large dog suddenly attacked a 3-year-old girl. This woman acted on instinct, and threw herself between the attacking dog and the little girl. Her impulsiveness landed her in the hospital, but likely saved a small child from a much worse fate. How many stories have we heard where people take such heroic action in the moment? Most of us wonder if we would act similarly if given the opportunity.

The injustices we see in the world should impact us. Some should move us to act impulsively. Others require more thought. Either way, I think we are meant to act. What is God calling us to do about people suffering in Louisiana, or Syria, or right here in our own city? What is shaping us to become people who either ignore, or engage in, the injustices of our time? May we all be a little impulsive for Christ.

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

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08.19.16 – Insights from Ginger Rothhaas

Gingeer RGinger Rothhaas is a seminary student at Saint Paul School of Theology and is serving in Congregational Care at The Church of the Resurrection.

As I read the story of Baby Moses today, I am struck by the theme of women making really tough decisions.

A mother decides to put her baby in a basket and place him in the river current to drift away out of sight.

A sister decides she can thoughtfully manipulate the situation to save her brother and help her mother keep her baby near.

A princess decides to do the right thing and save a baby, defying her father’s order to murder baby boys.

All of them chose love instead of fear.

It would have been more comfortable for these women to look away. It would have been safer for them to follow the rules, to not do the right thing. But how would this story end if they played it safe?

Each of these women did the brave, loving thing. And it saved the life of a baby who grew to become one of the greatest Scriptural figures in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We all share the Moses story in our sacred traditions. We get to share the inspiration found in the life of Moses because these women each did the brave, loving thing.

The women who acted to save Baby Moses remind us that every decision we make stems from love or fear. Imagine if our decisions began with a reflective pause to ask: in this moment do I chose to think, act, and/or speak from a place of love or from a place of fear? Imagine the possibilities if today we actually do that brave, loving thing we feel called to do!

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

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