09.24.16 – Insights from Cathy Bien

cathy-bien-gpsCathy Bien serves as the Director of Communications at Resurrection. She and her husband Rick have been members of the church for 22 years and have four adult children.

Today’s GPS reflection asks the question “How can you keep fear from making you turn your back on God’s exceptionally good life?”

“God’s exceptionally good life” – I want that!

But I’m not there yet, so I have to ask myself, “How is fear holding me back?” I’ve committed my life to following and serving God, but I’ll admit, there are those moments when I, like the Israelites give in to my fears. So, what am I afraid of?

I’m afraid it’s going to be too hard. Following Jesus isn’t always easy. Sometimes we’re called to do things that we don’t want to do, to step out of our comfort zones. Our fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. It’s kind of like standing at the edge of the high dive. This is when we have to hold on to Jesus’ promise that he will always be with us and take that first step. (And like going off that diving board, it can be exhilarating!)

(Jesus said) I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20

I’m afraid it’s going to hurt. The Israelites were afraid of physical pain and death. I’m grateful that I don’t face a physical threat because I follow Jesus. My fear of being hurt is more emotional. Relationships are challenging. When we open our hearts to another person, we risk being disappointed. When we let ourselves become vulnerable, we risk rejection. This loving your neighbor thing is hard. What if I put myself out there and the other person doesn’t reciprocate? What if I create something and people hate it? That very well might happen, but it’s okay, because we can count on the promise that nothing can separate us from God’s love.

I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. Romans 8:38-39

I’m afraid I’ll have to give up control. Here’s the big one that gets me every time. I like to be in control. In my human arrogance and stubbornness, it’s easy to think that I know best. Truly opening myself up to God’s will feels a lot like falling without a net. But, I am learning that when I step out in faith and trust in God, I have nothing to fear. It’s humbling to look back and wonder how I could possibly have thought that I could do life on my own.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

We all have fears. Yours may be different from mine, but whatever we fear, God can release us from it. The lesson from the Exodus is that God doesn’t give up on us. Instead he promises to walk through our fears with us and bless us with an “exceptionally good life.” All we have to do is accept this great gift of love.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4:18a

Lord, help me to be fearless, to trust and follow you. Amen

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

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09.23.16 – 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.

Considering today’s passage, I thought we could “visit” with Mr. Fide, Chairman of The Society To Assess Menaces & Perils in the Every Day Environment.  (S.T.A.M.P.E.D.E. for short.)

DL: So, Mr. Fide, what does your group do?

Terry Fide: Please call me Terry.  Our Fear Engineers help our clientele evaluate the dangers & risks that they might encounter during a given day.  Only with this complete appraisal, can our patrons make wise decisions on whether to get out of bed or not.

DL: I would guess your enterprise is quite successful in this day & age.  I know I’ve even had fears writing these Insights – like the fear of grammatical mistakes.  But I realized it was nothing to be afraid of. of which to be afraid.  (Don’t end with a preposition. – Editor.)  Anyway…

Terry Fide: We do have a busy market.  We have to constantly update our clients & assess the uncertainties related to terrorism, the environment, crime, the economy, natural disasters, technological advances, &, well, I’m even afraid I may have left something out!

For example, we’ve had a fun case in Florida last week where we were even able to double dip.  On one hand we had clients fearful of mosquitoes transmitting the Zika virus.  On the other hand, when mass spraying was proposed to kill these same mosquitoes, we had clients fearful of the use of pesticides.  Ca-Ching!

DL: Surely, this is just a blip in time.

Terry Fide: I hope not.  We got our start with Y2K and have been rolling ever since.  We now even have college students fearful of hearing opposing viewpoints in a lecture, so they enlist us to assess the danger of attending a speech. We’ve just developed an app for easier access.  We call it the App-Rehensive.

DL: Clever.  You know, today’s passage outlines a similar fear.  12 spies go to the Promised Land &, even though 2 positive reports come back, the Israelites are so persuaded by the 10 negative reports they opt to wait 38 years before attempting to enter the Promised Land.

Terry Fide: Ah, yes.  I love this story!  By the way I don’t call them spies, but rather consultants.  They were just doing their job & helping to gauge the perils presented in the Promised Land.  And the Israelites eventually got the land, so it all worked out in the end.

DL: But, an entire generation missed out on living their lives to the fullest & experiencing life as God intended.

Terry Fide: Well, yes.  And to be honest, I would submit there was probably a lot of “Group-Think” going on.  You know how committees work.  Once one spy presented his “concerns” another spy probably chimed in with what he found “troubling” & another lists those things that he found “disquieting” & it snowballs from there.  You see the same thing today when the same phrases start re-appearing in multiple news sources.  But I don’t complain.  As we say, “Every fear means another great year!”

DL: But what if we learned from the Israelite’s negative example & didn’t cave into that “group-think?”  What if we recognized that, yes there are legitimate fears in every day life, but that we aren’t alone – that we can rely on God to be ever-present & to help us ultimately reach our own personal version of God’s Promised Land?

Terry Fide: Actually, I’m afraid that could work.  Whoa, I need to run.  We have family movie night tonight before our trip to Myrtle Beach on Saturday.

DL: Thanks for your time.  What movie are you watching?

Terry Fide: Jaws.

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

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09.22.16 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

In reading the story of the golden calf, it’s easy to focus our attention on the wayward Israelites, looking for a new god. Shame on them. Shame on all of us when we search for idols, whether it be food, television, sports teams, alcohol, work, family, the list goes on forever. Just enter your vice of choice.

But I think there also needs to be a focus on Aaron. There wouldn’t have been a golden calf if he hadn’t built it. You have to wonder how long it took for him to be worn down by the people’s begging. I imagine that it started with one Israelite coming to him in a side conversation, “Aaron, I’ve heard rumblings from the crowd. I really think an idol would take care of this and we could nip it in the bud.” Certainly at that point, Aaron was able to quickly dismiss the person by pointing back to what the Lord had done for them.

But then I bet that same Israelite came back the next day with a few friends. “Aaron, he’s right. You have to be the leader. Moses is nowhere to be seen. People are getting restless, and who knows what they’ll do? There could be mass chaos and violent rebellion if we don’t get a god soon.” “Just wait!” Aaron would reply. “You’ll see. Moses will be back. God has not forgotten us.”

Yet maybe in the back of his mind, Aaron considered their pleas. What if the crowd got out of control? What if they turned on each other? Would that blood be on his hands?

He probably quieted the internal voices of justification for a while, but then day after day more and more people came and the voices grew louder until one day an entire crowd erupted with, “Make us a god who can lead us!”

That was it. He couldn’t take it any longer. What if they were right? What if that is what the people needed? They were looking to him for an answer, so he gave them what they wanted – a god they could see, a golden calf.

In my own life, I recognize how I can be the Israelite looking for an idol, but how many times in my life have I been Aaron, going along with the crowd rather than standing up for God? How many voices does it take before I turn away from my beliefs? Maybe not from my entire faith, but I know that there have been times when I have been the one building the golden calf for others, telling them what they want to hear rather than pointing them to truth.  Each reluctant “I don’t blame you” or “Go ahead if it will make you happy” is a piece of golden jewelry that I’m using to build that person an idol.

We have to watch ourselves when we’re acting like the Israelites, searching for answers from the idols in our lives. But beyond that, we have to watch ourselves when we’re acting like Aaron. Don’t be the one melting down the jewelry just to appease those around you. God has not forgotten you, and God has not forgotten the people in your life. Be the kind of leader who lovingly encourages them and guides them to this truth.

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

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09.21.16 – Insights from Glen Shoup

glen-shoupWe had a communication mixup–Chris Abel was going to fill in for another busy writer, but is very busy himself. So this reflection is adapted from one that Rev. Glen Shoup, the Executive Pastor of Worship at The Church of the Resurrection, originally wrote for Thanksgiving Day in 2013.

You are never alone….Many of God’s servants in Scripture faced a time when they  had come to believe the lie that they were all on their own.  Nobody understands.  Nobody cares.  Nobody to turn to.  All alone.

This is such an easy lie to believe, especially when you’re going through the wilderness.  Just ask Moses. Just ask Elijah, the great prophet who served Israel centuries later. Just ask Jesus! When you’re walking through the desert, the temptation through which the devil always seeks to do his most convincing work is the temptation to believe that we’re all alone—now, and forever.  Alone in our pain; alone in our burden; alone in our hopes and alone in our striving. There’s just nothing that can erode and erase hope like believing that you’re alone.

Moses’ father-in-law had to remind him: there were other people who could help him carry his burdens. He was NOT alone…..

You may be reading this today in some quiet moments before spending the rest of your day surrounded by friends or family. Or you may be reading this before spending the remainder of this day absent of family or friends. No matter your circumstances, God is saying to you exactly the same thing he said to Moses (through his father-in-law), to Elijah, even to Jesus several thousand years ago: I understand that there may be times when you feel lonely, but you are never alone—I am with you; I’ll never leave you and I’ll never forsake you. I continue to call you and have work for you to do and others to help you on your journey…you are never alone!

I can’t think of anything for which I’m more thankful.

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

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09.20.16 – Insights from Randy Greene

Randy Greene is a part of the Communications team at the Church of the Resurrection. He helps develop and maintain the church’s family of websites. When he’s not at the church, he loves to write on his blog and reads a wide variety of books.

My wife and I are both avid readers. Our library is extensive and contains all sorts of books, from deep theological tomes to nostalgic teen fiction. When we bought our house almost a year ago, we had a vision of building floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in our front living room to greet visitors as they entered our home.

About three weeks ago, she and I decided to begin building this project. Since that time, we have been rudely reminded that we are avid readers… not builders. In three weeks, we have:

  • Made at least two dozen trips to hardware stores all over Kansas City
  • Changed our design twice
  • Returned nearly a dozen items (some of which weren’t our fault, I promise!)
  • Re-purchased one or two of those items we’d returned
  • Broken two drill bits
  • Ended up with far too many errant holes in our wall
  • Far surpassed our initial budget for the project
  • Suffered countless cuts, scrapes, and bruises
  • Cried in anger, frustration, and sadness (not always at the same time)

I wish I could tell you that, as a result of all this pain and stress, we now have a beautiful bookshelf filled with the works of our favorite writers, but the truth is that we are still in the midst of this disaster.

Even though this project will probably have no significant impact on the course of our lives, we feel like we’re wandering in a tiny, emotional version of Moses’ wilderness. We are exhausted. We are frustrated. We simply want the whole thing to go away.

When we struggle through the dark places of our lives, it is easy to forget the God who provides for us. Just as he did with Moses and the Israelites in today’s reading, God nourishes us, prepares us, and defends us. God loves us and fights for us, even in the midst of our wandering.

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

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09.19.16 – Insights from Melanie Hill

Melanie Hill is the Guest Connections Program Director at Resurrection.

I know today’s scripture passage is about the Israelites’ grumblings and discontent. But as a mom all I really heard was . . .

“Can’t we have something else for dinner?”
“But everyone else has a cell phone”
“All the cool girls have these shoes”
“None of my friends have to do chores”
“Is it really that important to use the potty?”

Yes, that last one has actually been said in my house, and recently. Any parent can relate to the grumblings of their kids. My kids give me a fresh supply daily. Ask any parent and they can tell you the top ten from their household. It frustrates parents to no end. So I can only imagine how disappointed God must have felt to hear the discontent coming from his children. Hadn’t He just delivered them from slavery? Parted the sea so they could safely pass through? Spent 10 hours in painful labor just to give them life? Wait–that last one is mine, but you get the point. How could they be so ungrateful?

I guess the answer lies in the same way that I find ingratitude in myself. This past week our neighbors had their hardwood floors redone. As I walked through their home and heard them share excitedly about the upgrades and changes they were making I found myself becoming more and more ungrateful for what I have. Ironically this weekend we had a conversation in our small group about the dreams we had in the early years of our marriages. When my husband and I were first married, we lived in a 500 square foot apartment that was condemned a few years later. You couldn’t open the refrigerator and the stove at the same time. You had to crawl to the end of the bed to get out of it since there was no room on the sides of the bed. Yet I remember feeling lucky to have found an apartment in our price range within walking distance of the church we were serving at. We used to spend countless hours dreaming about what it would be like to have our own home someday. And then that day came and we found ourselves as homeowners. I love our home, with all its quirks and messes. Sure, there are days that the dents in the walls where my kids have run into them drive me crazy, or when I feel the need to repaint all the rooms after my 5-year-old has shared her art work with the whole family on the walls. But those things make our house our home, and I feel incredibly blessed to share it with the ones I love.

It’s so easy to let discontent creep in, especially in our culture where success is often measured in what you have and not in who you are. It just takes a moment of taking our eyes off the Father to start to see what we think we need or don’t have, always scanning the horizon for the greener grass. Discontent turns our blessings into bitterness and replaces fullness with emptiness.

As I write this, I am sitting in my living room. The carpet is in desperate need of cleaning, and I can see the mess on our kitchen floor that hasn’t been swept since we made our hasty departure for church this morning after breakfast. And I love it. I’m grateful for it. Where do you need to refocus your eyes on the Father? Where have you let your blessings turn to bitterness?

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

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09.17.16 – Insights from Steve Langhofer

SteveLanghoferRev. Steve Langhofer is a Congregational Care Pastor, serving the 7:45 am and 10:45 am worship communities.

Exodus 24:1-8, 12-18. I have always struggled relating to this bloody story. Dashing blood against the altar and over the people. What’s that got to do with me?

Then I remember how blood represents atonement, “at-one-ment,” being one with God. As a Christian I know that’s what Jesus’ blood does for me. I don’t understand how, but I trust Christ’s saving work in the Cross through His blood. It forever makes us one. I belong to God and God has willed to belong to me.

God makes covenant starting in the Cross. It continues through the Spirit’s baptism, blessing and keeping us to the end of time. It is fulfilled at Communion when we proclaim the covenant mystery of our faith: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

You did not choose me but I chose you. (John 15:16)

Every day I carry a copy of John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer in my shirt pocket, right over my heart—where blood is pumped. Regularly I pray: “I am no longer my own, but Yours. Put me to what You will, place me with whom You will…I freely surrender all things to Your glory and service…You are mine, and I am Yours…and the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.”

I guess that bloody story from Exodus 24 has more to do with me than I originally thought.

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

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09.16.16 – 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.

The last few commandments of the ten are instructions to the Israelites to not steal, not gossip, and not desire or take what someone else owns. These were instructions God delivered to Moses providing directives for how to live in community almost 4,000 years ago, yet they are still necessary today for us to live in peace.

All of us find challenge in these do-not’s, sometimes in a less obvious form. We may be stealing ideas, praise, credit, attention, or time from another person. We often find ourselves with opportunities to gossip, stretch the truth, or confuse the facts in talking about others. And coveting feels forced upon us, with a multi-billion dollar advertising industry reminding us of things, looks, and feelings we don’t have, but should want. When we think broadly about what these three commandments are asking of us, it seems almost impossible to obey.

I think one of our challenges with these commandments may be rooted in a scarcity mentality that repeatedly tells us there isn’t enough to go around. We feel the urge to steal an idea to sound smarter, take someone else down so we can rise, or obsess in wanting a new and improved version of some thing or some one.

So how do we combat a scarcity mentality? Moses gives us the answer: “…make sure you are always in awe of God…”

To shut down the craving for more, to release comparing ourselves to others, to quiet our desire for upgrades, we must be in awe of God and what we have already been given. Awe for God’s creation all around us. Appreciation of the people in our lives, just as they are. Gratitude for what we have in this moment.

Let’s practice this together and pray today: God, thank you. I am in awe.

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

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09.15.16 – Insight from Evan Palmer

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

Today’s reading talks about Commandments five-seven: Parents, Murder, and Adultery. Honor mom and dad, don’t kill people, and do not sleep with someone who isn’t your spouse. Three seemingly straightforward commands with three entirely separate connotations. We all know, to some extent, that these actions (murder/adultery) are ‘wrong’ or ‘bad,’ and sometimes (most of the time for me) brush them off as irrelevant. As noted in today’s GPS text, Jesus (per usual) calls us to a new perspective—to consider these commandments in a different light. Matthew 5:21-30 tells us that murder and adultery are much more than killing someone or the physical act of sleeping with someone other than your wife/husband. We learn that anger is just as much a sin as murder (v. 22) and lusting after another is ‘adultery… in his [her] heart’ (v. 28). Commandment #5 (Honor your parents) points us to the question of ‘How are God’s people to treat other people?,’ which is expounded on in Romans 12:10: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” So how do we begin to implement these commandments into our everyday life?

The commandments become real, personal matters of our hearts and minds and transcend the boundaries often placed upon them once we begin to understand them. How do you treat other people? More specifically, how do you treat those with differing opinions than you, or someone you don’t like? How quick are you to become angry with another? How often do you find yourself lusting over another? The question posed in our GPS today asks us to think about what helps us to live according to our calling when considering these commandments.

For me, this becomes most clear when I understand my own brokenness and need for grace. It wasn’t until I personally experienced anxiety and depression for myself, that I could more fully understand our calling to be grace-filled towards others. I had intense anxiety for the first time when I transitioned from college and collegiate soccer to the ‘real world.’ I believe this, in part, led to feelings of depression as well. Until I had anxiety and depression to this degree, I didn’t understand why people couldn’t ‘pull themselves out of it.’ I am not saying I am now an expert on these ailments, but I am suggesting that living through anxiety and depression (and continuing to navigate them) has allowed me to better understand that human beings are all in the same boat—we all carry our own burdens, regardless of their names. I find myself extending more compassion, grace, and understanding to others when I remember we all have our own burdens to bear. When thinking about how I am treating other people and how quick I am to anger or lust, I think about my need for grace and forgiveness. I am overwhelmed at the thought of God’s calling on my life and trust that obeying these commandments aligns me more closely with His calling for me.

So how do Commandments five-seven apply to you? Remember the bigger picture we are being called to see here: 1. How are you treating other people? (Commandment #5) 2. How quick are you to become angry? Do you harness anger? (Commandment #6) 3. How are you guarding your heart to resist the temptation to lust after another? (Commandment #7). We have to remember our own brokenness and need for grace in order to more fully extend it to others. Trusting that Jesus’ call for our lives is greater than anything we could ever imagine for ourselves should help compel us to strive towards the embodiment of grace, which is what obeying these commandments leads us toward.

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

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09.14.16 – Insights from Wendy Connelly

WendyConnellyWendy Connelly, wife to Mark and mom to two kids, is Community Outreach Director at the Leawood campus, a seminary student at Saint Paul School of Theology, and leads the “Live and Let Think” dialogues at Leawood.

Walter Brueggemann, one of today’s most insightful Hebrew Bible scholars, wrote a book titled Sabbath as Resistance. For Brueggemann, the choice between restlessness – embodied by the slave-driving figure of Pharaoh and his taskmasters – and restfulness, is “the choice of gods.”1

I’m a compulsive worker. Job, school, home – I never feel like I’m doing enough, for no lack of diligence. Take, for example, the 10-page research paper (“The Prophetic Gestures of Jeremiah”) that I turned in last month:

It isn’t due until mid-December.

I could chronicle countless more compulsive behaviors and artificial deadlines, but the point is: I capitulate often to the taskmaster god. And just as soon as I dust off my hands, I take up a new quota of straw idols and mud bricks.

Henri Nouwen confronted his inner taskmaster inside a Trappist monastery. In The Genesee Diary he recorded there, he writes, “I started to see how much I had fallen in love with my own compulsions and illusions, and how much I needed to step back and wonder, ‘Is there a quiet stream underneath the fluctuating affirmations and rejections of my little world? Is there a still point where my life is anchored…?” 2

I find revelation, synchronicity and dreams – the stuff of the God who whispers, “Be still” – hardens as I grasp at mud and straw. I need divine rest to revive my restless soul. To remember the world still spins without me trying to spin it.

Humbling is the choice between divine rest and “the endless restlessness sanctioned by the other gods.”3 It’s a battle of spiritual resistance. The choice of gods: YHWH vs. Pharaoh.

Today, who will you call “Master?”

1 Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance, Kindle loc. 291

2 Nouwen, The Genesee Diary: Report from a Trappist Monastery (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1976), p.14

3 Brueggemann, Kindle loc. 224

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

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