05.26.16 – Insight from Evan Palmer

Evan Palmer has been a member of Resurrection since 2002. Evan graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in International Relations and worships at Resurrection’s Downtown campus.

One of my favorite people in the Bible is Paul. Paul, once a self-righteous, pompous man, known for condemning and killing Christians, was completely transformed into a man of great humility and submission. God called him His “chosen instrument” to carry His name to the nations (Acts 9:15-16). Paul’s transformation was drastic. We believe that Saul (Paul’s name before becoming a Christian) heard Peter’s defense of the Gospel in front of the Sanhedrin. Five short chapters later (Acts 9), Paul meets Jesus on the road to Damascus, is blinded by the Lord’s light, continues to Damascus (as the Lord instructed), tells Ananias what happened, regains his sight, and is baptized. Paul, once a murderer of Christians, was now launched on a life path that made him a martyr for Jesus Christ.

Paul’s life is a testimony that no one is beyond God’s reach. Through his story, the Lord continues to pursue the lives of many. I think one of Paul’s best attributes was his humility. Paul refers to himself as “the least of all the apostles” and goes on to state he is not even worthy of the title (1 Corinthians 15:9). Basically, Paul believed if he could be a Christian, it was possible for anyone. People were drawn to him, despite his past. People could, and continue to, see parts of their own stories through Paul’s. I imagine Gentiles and Pharisees hearing Paul share his story and thinking, perhaps for the first time, “Maybe I can follow Jesus, too.” I believe the Lord can shape us through a variety of means, but the testimony of people helps to bring our faith to life.

My prayer for my life and yours is that we draw people to Christ and not away. My hope is that, like Paul, we let ourselves to be used as instruments for the Lord—that we are reminded of our need for redemption, and approach each situation with a humble spirit, and a willingness to love. As noted in today’s GPS, Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth, encouraging them to allow their lives to be a “letter from Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:3). In the same spirit, I pray that we open our lives to be testimonies of God’s unconditional love and grace to everyone around us.

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

05.25.16 – Insights from Rev. Steven Blair

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

Coke is the “Real Thing” as the old slogan claimed. Diet Coke is a lot like Coke, but you can tell the difference from the taste. Acts 15 illustrates an argument between Grace and Diet Grace. As the message about Jesus the Messiah spread, some were excited while others had their worries. One group believed that we were saved by grace alone and not by anything that we would add. Another group also believed in grace, but believed that circumcision was also required for anyone who wished to be saved. For those in the first group, requiring circumcision of the Gentile (non-Jewish) converts was equal to saying that grace alone wasn’t enough.

God’s Grace is powerful and is all we need for salvation. We humans are tempted to add onto the list of requirements and argue that salvation requires grace plus (fill in the blank). This approach sounds a little like God’s Grace, but it falls short. It puts too much importance on what we do, which is one of the reasons why some people prefer it. Focusing on our own behavior as a key component to our salvation gives us control, or at least the illusion of control, as it relates to ours or another’s salvation.

God’s Love is unconditional. God’s Grace is unmerited. How can we tell the difference between this Biblical Grace and the substitute we try to replace it with??? They taste different.

Drink from God’s relentless Grace today, a Grace that loves you as you are and not as you should be. Stay away from Diet Grace.

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

05.24.16 – 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.

I lived most of my adolescent life in a small town where we didn’t have the privilege of being exposed to a lot of diversity. I had some amazing friends who were very sincere in their faith, mostly through my church. We tried our hardest to love other people in our lives.

But, as was the case for many people in those same circumstances, we also had a little bit of fear of things we didn’t fully understand, things we didn’t have a lot of exposure to. For the most part, this didn’t stop us from loving unfamiliar people. It mostly came out when we were together behind closed doors, together in our sameness, free to laugh at the others who weren’t like us. We loved them, but we weren’t afraid to have a few laughs at their expense. We joked about people with vastly different moral triggers than we had. We joked about people of other religions, or even other denominations within Christianity. But there was one group I laughed at then that I now regret more than any other: gay people.

To be fair, this was the 90s, and we were coming out of an era when gay people weren’t exactly taken seriously in popular media. Sure, shows like Will and Grace gave some insight into gay lives, but there was still a good chance that whenever a gay person showed up in a movie or television show, it was either as shock value or the butt of a joke. Due to their newfound prominence, gay stereotypes and jokes were rampant in popular media, and, despite the success of some shows like Will and Grace, it was rare for a gay character to be any more than one of these stereotypes.

This habit followed me when I went away to college. College was a much more diverse environment than I was used to, and I found myself face to face with many of the people I used to laugh at. I quickly adapted, and there were many people very different from myself that called me a friend. But I also had friends very similar to myself–and, just like I did back at home, I found myself laughing at the same different groups when behind closed doors with my familiar friends. Some joked along with me, some gave mildly disapproving looks, but what did I care? Different people were funny, and I continued to joke to my heart’s content.

A few months into my senior year of college, I realized that I hadn’t seen my roommate from the year before for almost the entire semester. We were quite close–in addition to roommates, we were both liberal arts majors, and both leaders in our campus ministry. When I asked around, I was puzzled to find out that most of our mutual friends had seen him. I chalked it up to bad luck until I found out why. My former roommate was gay.

He had hidden it for his entire life and tried to live a “normal” life in denial of that part of himself. But over the summer, he realized that he was never going to get rid of those feelings, and he was never going to be happy in denial. And, as my roommate and one of my familiar friends, he was there for just about every joke I cracked about gay people. He was there every time I laughed at the part of himself he so desperately wanted to get rid of, but couldn’t–every time I laughed at the deepest, darkest secret he held onto. So he realized he could never be happy in denial–but, thanks to my not-so-harmless jabs, he realized he could also never be happy among people like me. He didn’t come back to our campus ministry. He didn’t come back to church. He didn’t fall out of love with God–he was pushed away by people like me who put out a message that his kind didn’t belong in church.

Paul’s condemnation of Peter and his treatment of the Gentiles in Galatians 2 may seem harsh. But, to this day, I wish someone had been that harsh with me. I wish someone would have shown me the destructive power of my words, and how people different from me deserved love, respect, and the opportunity to get to know God–before I alienated my friend and former roommate.

I’m not sharing this story to make any sort of moral statement, aside from this: the views and prejudices you hold behind closed doors matter. Sooner or later, you’ll discover those closed doors were not as closed as you thought, and the destructive power of those seemingly harmless views will come into fruition in the real world. I had to learn this the hard way. I’m sharing this in the hopes that you won’t.

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

05.23.16 – 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.

A couple months ago a local organization held a panel discussion called “The Crossroads of Politics and Religion.” The event featured panelists from various backgrounds – pastors, politicians and leaders of Christian nonprofits – coming together to discuss the way their faith impacts the politics of our nation. It was fascinating to hear how different people understood the way faith should inform their politics. Over the last few weeks, though, I’ve been noticing how frequently we Christians seem to flip that and let our politics inform our faith.

I do this all the time. I am so quick to lump a person into one of two buckets: either someone is “conservative” or they’re “progressive” (sometimes I call it “liberal”). And once I’ve labeled that person, I think I understand everything about her. But that is so wrong! A word cannot sum up a person’s beliefs, and it most certainly can’t adequately describe their identity. That person has unique views, experience and context that don’t fall within any simple descriptor, and by reducing her to a word, I’m saying that her perspective doesn’t matter – I’m arrogantly placing my understanding above hers.

As Christians, we are called to be better than that. We are all created in the image of God. Acts 10 reminds us that, even when we disagree with people, we are not to call them unclean – we are not to condemn them or avoid them. Instead, we are to remain in close communion with our fellow children of God. We are to abide with them and break bread with them. We are to listen to their stories and share their hearts. We are to see the beauty of God in them.

There is a lot of talk about unity these days. Many people question if it’s even possible to be unified across our vast spectrum of culture and belief. I don’t have an answer to that question, but here is what I do know:

Unity begins when I am willing to lay down my ego and confess that I don’t have all the answers. It begins when I sit at the table with those I disagree with and refuse to label them, choosing instead to listen to their stories and understanding their hearts. The choice for unity is mine.

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

05.21.16 – 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.

I love words. I think they are one of the most powerful resources we have. The words we use are tools to help each of us be who God intended us to be, and glorify God with the gifts and talents that we have been given. But just like Peter, sometimes what we say in a given situation doesn’t represent our truest selves. His words in the high priest’s courtyard cursing Jesus were not the words of a beloved disciple.

I am sure each of us can think of times when we have fallen victim to anger, frustration, fear or some other circumstance that lead us to saying or doing something completely against our character. These challenges present us with a defining moment in life. We can get stuck and become stifled within our own minds, paralyzed and afraid to move forward, or we can act with bold faith and make a conscious choice to participate in our own second chance.

The resurrection is our ever-present reminder that there is a second chance available for each and every one of us. I believe Peter was ignited by this realization when he spoke to the Israelites, and I am inspired by the conviction in his words:

“Listen to this…” he commanded.

“I tell you confidently…”

“be assured of this…”

I encourage you to let go of any words or actions that you feel might be holding you back from being who God has called you to be. What ways can you exercise your faith boldly like Peter did?

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

05.20.16 – 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.

My wife, Doris, is an ultimate DIY (Do-It-Yourself) gal & would be described in psychological texts as a “serial hobbyist.”  When we were courting, I was amazed at all of her interests: sewing, cooking, stain-glass design, leatherworking, woodworking, scrap booking, gardening, pottery, beading, painting, tiling, & rug hooking.  (Who knew hot glue guns even came with a holster?)  I got an inkling of what I was in for when, ala Norm at Cheers, the clerks at Jo-Ann’s yelled, “Doris” when we came into the store.  I also learned that in the midst of any home-improvement project one does not simply go to Home Depot once.

Aside: When we were in the Resurrection Pre-Marital class in 1998, the grooms-to-be were spontaneously asked as an introductory/icebreaker question, “What they liked best about their bride-to-be?”  I was first to go and, with very little preparation mind you, said, “Doris is so creative & imaginative.”  Every other, and I mean every o-t-h-e-r, guy replied, “Because she is my best friend.”  Fully realizing I would pay dearly for this error on the day Doris selected my nursing home, I pleaded for but was ultimately denied a “do-over.” Fortunately, Pastor Winger allowed extra-credit & Doris helped the curve so we were still able to scrape by with a probationary G.E.D. equivalent certificate.  (At this point, I’ll be delighted if my nursing home has indoor plumbing.)

Of course Doris also loves reclamation projects “saved” from the trash.  Every wagon, sewing machine, TV tray, & baby food jar is just waiting for its repurposed life.  (I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being a tad nervous that she is co-chair of the Church of the Resurrection Annual Rummage Sale this year – Donate July 12 & 13 / Shop July 15 & 16!)  I had to smile at my early marital naiveté when rummaging through her craft room last week helping her find some pillow stuffing for who knows what when I ran across an old banker box that I had meticulously labeled, “Doris’ Craft Projects” – as if that single box would suffice.

Our friend Peter is also a DIY kind of guy (Hallelujah! – a Biblical reference – Editor).  He is there ready to walk on water, ready to be bathed from head to toe at the Last Supper, & ready to fight to the death in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Yet, when questioned by various servant girls in the courtyard as his friend Jesus was enduring a kangaroo court procedure, Peter denies even knowing who Jesus was.

Peter must have been in a state of agony over that Holy weekend as he re-played those scenes in his mind.  Peter may have even viewed Easter morning’s Good News with some trepidation as he tried to think of some way he could be worthy of sharing in Christ’s great victory.

What could he possibly do to atone for his shameful behavior?  In a word: Nothing.  There wasn’t anything Peter could do to rectify his actions or to make amends with Jesus.  He had to have Christ’s help.  Jesus initiated the process on that awful Friday afternoon & brings it to its glorious conclusion in today’s passage when He gives Peter a second chance to re-declare his love for Him.

I’ve always wondered why Peter, the leader of the church, would allow the story of his denying Christ see the light of day.  We know of leaders who brag about transparency but try to hide every little thing that might cast them in a bad light.  Yet, Peter had to be a source for the story & probably had to help explain to John the full implications of his restoration conversation with Jesus.

Perhaps Peter, knowing full well that we future Christians would also deny Christ in our own way, desperately wanted us to understand just how much God loves us & how much Jesus is willing to sacrifice to offer us the gift of redemption.

So, while DIY is the perfect can-do attitude for our hustling & bustling lives, perhaps we would be wise to remember that when it comes to our faith walk we are never alone &, instead, have a mindset of DFY.  (Died For You.)

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

05.19.16 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

I was a child of the 80’s. I wore neon leg warmers and had a Cabbage Patch doll. I grew up with Growing Pains and was in awe of MacGyver’s craftiness. I tried and disliked Crystal Pepsi. I cheered for E.T. to find his home. I listened to Madonna and Culture Club, but was too young to understand that “Let’s Get Physical” was not a song about aerobics.

But the 80’s was also a time of high-profile televangelists. First, they were known for their ministries. While over-the-top, they were also capturing the hearts of America through the medium of television. But then, sadly, some of these ministries gained the spotlight as we watched their leaders fall into various temptations.

Judgment was thrown as trust was broken. A ministry or a church is meant to be a holy and safe place. We expect our churches to lead us in a growing faith toward God, which they should. Churches should be a place where we can come to worship and encounter God. Our trouble comes when we expect our churches to be God.

The church is meant to be the body of Christ, and while we often focus on the “Christ” in that call, we should also look to our role as “the body.” We get the fleshy part of Christ, the part that walked on earth with and amongst real people. While the church should be drawing people toward God, the church was never meant to be God. Certainly we must never stand for injustices on behalf of the church, but we must also be careful not to put the church on a pedestal, expecting perfection or complete divinity.

Even if we looked back to the very beginning of the Christian church we find that Peter, the very rock of the church, denied even knowing Christ three times. Yes, Peter, the one whom Christ picked to lead the charge of his ministry. Jesus forgave and loved Peter, just as he forgives and loves the church.

The history of the Christian church is full of holiness and righteousness, but it is also speckled with moments of waywardness and absolute disgrace. The church is not God. It is made of imperfect people. It has always been that way, and we can’t expect anything different. But we must remember that through our broken past and well into the future, we, as a body of believers, are covered in a blanket of forgiveness from Christ. This blanket is extended to our own church and to all other churches following Jesus, even to those whose path might be taking a wrong detour. We all get and need the same grace, and for that mercy, we are ever so grateful.

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

05.18.16 – Insights from Jennifer Creagar

Jennifer Creagar facilitates the Prayer Ministry and coordinates the Financial Care and Assistance ministries. She is married, has three great kids and three perfect grandchildren whom she loves spending time with, and she enjoys writing and photography.

In Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers, author Anne Lamott says, “Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen, and do not have to get it together before we show up.”1

Thank goodness.

In today’s GPS scripture, we see Peter showing up, but he definitely does not have it together. He does what I tend to do, what I think many of us tend to do – he follows at a safe distance while trying to figure it all out himself. He’s already made one attempt to take action, when he cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave during Jesus’ arrest, and Jesus stopped him, saying “No more of this!” (Luke 22:51) and “Put your sword back into its sheath.” (John 18:11). It would be easy enough for Peter to say, “I’m obviously no good at this, I need to hide until I can figure out what to do.” He doesn’t do that. He shows up. From a distance, and with great fear and still trying to figure it out for himself, but he shows up.

I am devoted to journaling, and have adopted the prayer exercise of Examen as part of my journaling routine. (You can find out more about Examen by clicking here.) It can be very interesting and informative to go back through the past days and weeks in my journal and see what I’ve written. Recently I discovered a phrase repeating itself – basically “God, help me figure this out.” Over and over, with different words, but the same prayer. Looking at this and praying about it, I realized that I was, like Peter, looking at this problem from a safe distance.  I repeatedly asked God to help me figure it out for myself, instead of engaging and letting the Holy Spirit lead me to God’s will in this area of my life. I didn’t really need to be braver, or smarter – I had already recognized that I didn’t have it together – but I did need to be more trusting and quit trying to “figure this out.”

(SPOILER ALERT: As time goes on, Peter quits following at that safe distance and leads the early church. God uses Peter in amazing and miraculous ways. The same is true for you and me. We are loved and chosen, just like Peter, and we do not have to get it together before we show up.)

1 Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers. New York: Riverhead Books, 2012, pp. 5-6.

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

05.17.16 – Insights from Courtney Felzke

Courtney_FelzkeCourtney Felzke is Chaplain of Silver Link, providing Pastoral Care to many within the Silver Link Ministry as well as doing work behind the scenes in the ministry, including: coordinating care for those served by the ministry and recruiting and training new volunteers.

Jesus disciples ran when things got hard. I wonder: how many of us might run from God when things get hard in our lives? Maybe we’ve turned from God when job loss occurs, when we’ve receive a hard diagnosis, or when we’ve lost a loved one. At times it may seem tempting to run from God; to think God caused this awfulness; to blame God for the hardships.

However, I truly believe God doesn’t cause these hardships. Our gracious and merciful God never wants to see us hurting, suffering, or sad. I love this quote from grief author Julie Yarbrough: “Intellectually and spiritually we believe that God does not cause violence and terrorism. God does not plot against us, plan our harm, or punish us. When we pause to pray and reflect, we discern that, gently and lovingly, God moves us beyond the unanswerable ‘why did this happen?’ to the tentative hope of ‘how will I go on?’ This is God at work–God for us, especially when we suffer unimaginable loss and grief.” (pg 16 of Grief Light: Reflections on Grief).

As Julie reminds us, God is the constant presence who gives us hope for tomorrow. God walks with us through the hard times. In fact, when all else in our world seems shaky, God is our constant. Psalm 71 reminds us of this trait of God: “From the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more.” (Psalm 71:20b-21). God is our continuous source of comfort, offering us comfort again and again and again if we will simply turn to God and allow God to work in our lives.

Run towards God with all you have, for it is God who can help you through the hardest times!

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

05.16.16 – Insights from Roberta Lyle

Roberta_LyleRoberta Lyle has been on the Resurrection staff since 2006. She serves as the Program Director for Local Impact Ministries, concerntrating on Education, Life Skills and Youth Focused Ministries.

The last few weeks I have been busy pulling weeds, planting seedlings, filling planters and mulching. Right now the vegetable garden looks pretty good with rows of onions, cabbage, and a few tomato and pepper plants. But I am debating about whether or not to plant cucumbers and zucchini. Every year I plant these vines and carefully tend them as they grow and start to set fruit.

But usually around July I stop watching them so carefully.  When I finally think to check on them I find the vines have been attacked by borers, leaving the plants wilted, brown blobs. My more dedicated gardening friends who diligently check their gardens every day are able to spot the first signs of infestation and intervene so the plants can survive.  But even though I begin every year with the best of intentions to do a better job tending the plants I eventually get distracted by other things or would rather the spend the evening in my air conditioned house.

I definitely fall short when it comes to being a good gardener.  I know I miss the mark other ways as well and I don’t like it when I let myself or someone else down. In today’s scripture Peter vehemently promises to be there for Jesus, a man he has loved and followed for three years, no matter what. But good intentions aren’t enough. We know that before the evening is over he will deny knowing Jesus, not once but three times.  Even though Peter has fails miserably Jesus doesn’t forsake him but returns to forgive Peter and trusts him with the great responsibility of building the church. Peter’s failure was not final and neither is ours if we humble ourselves and ask forgiveness.

Failing to follow through on my good intentions to care for my garden may be one of my smaller failures, but I am thankful for the many opportunities God gives me to redeem myself and try again.

Today’s passage gives new meaning to a little poem I heard many years ago:

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer to God’s heart in the garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
– Dorothy Gurney

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

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone