10.25.16 – 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.

In today’s passage (2 Peter 1:3-8), Peter sets up a hierarchy of holiness for us to aspire to:

  1. Faith
  2. Moral Excellence
  3. Knowledge
  4. Self Control
  5. Endurance
  6. Godliness
  7. Affection for Others
  8. Love

The implication is that we have to master one before moving onto the next. Well, maybe not totally master it, but at least have a good handle on it. The idea is that these things build on each other, but also become more important as we move up the scale. So having faith is great and very foundational, but for us to reach our full potential, we have to master these things until we can start mastering love.

The problem I see far too often is that a lot of Christians are content to stop after step 2. There’s a lot of ugly rhetoric (particularly from many politically-minded believers on both sides) around getting everyone to behave with more moral excellence. Christians, as a group, seem to have taken on the responsibility of enforcing moral excellence in our country. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing–so long as it’s then followed by knowledge, self control, and all the rest.

Imagine if Christians were as zealous about inspiring others toward knowledge and self control as they were toward moral excellence. How would our country and the world be different if we were constantly pushing for these things? Now imagine if the ultimate goal Christians had was increasing affection for others and love in the world around us. What if our end goals, as a group, were acceptance and understanding?

If we changed our goals and agendas according to Peter’s hierarchy, I think the world would look different; but I think the political discussions I’m seeing daily on my social media feeds would look very different. We’re not likely to be done with political discussions, or any tough discussions, any time soon, so remember to add to these conversations knowledge, then self control, then everything up until our conversations are overflowing with love. It’s only then that we’ll see our true potential in chasing after God, and others will see it too.

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

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10.24.16 – Insight from Sam Johnson

Sam Johnson is currently serving as the High School Program Director for Rezlife Student Ministries. She’s been a congregant at Church of the Resurrection for 9 years and loves serving students and families. She also really loves waffles.

As seen in the book of Matthew, a legal expert approaches Jesus and asks Him, “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

We teach these verses to kids at a young age. As a youth minister, I find myself using this Scripture from Matthew to teach students how we should love others. Though these verses are spoken frequently in the church, as human beings we tend to over-complicate their meaning.

It’s easy to say, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” but the commandment becomes messy when we begin to ask ourselves, “Who is my neighbor?”

When I find myself over-complicating the idea of loving others, I ask myself, “Who is my neighbor today?” The answer isn’t that complicated. The answer is that everyone is my neighbor–those who are known and unknown to me are my neighbors all day and every day.

So, let me show you who my neighbor is today:
–My neighbor is the dad next door who needs a last minute babysitter, even though I already have plans.
–My neighbor is the mom at the grocery store with the crying infant who needs help putting her groceries on the belt.
–My neighbor is that person on the highway who cuts me off without using their blinker.
–My neighbor is my friend whose brother won’t be home for Thanksgiving this year.
–My neighbor is my family member to whom I need to apologize after all these years.

Though the Great Commandment has a tendency to get messy in our every day lives, Jesus doesn’t want us to over-complicate the simplicity of loving someone else without hesitation. One of the keys to the “Good Life” is loving your neighbor in remarkable, unwarranted ways.

So, who is your neighbor today? Whoever they are, love them with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment.

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

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10.22.16 – Insight From Michelle Kirby

Michelle-Kirby-GPS Michelle Kirby is Resurrection’s Associate Director of Discipleship Ministries. She is co-author of the Journey 101 Course, provides shared leadership in the Adult Discipleship ministry and has been a member of Resurrection since 1998.

“It doesn’t matter.” We hear this common phrase used every day. “Would you like the red one or the green one?”–“It doesn’t matter.” “Do you want to meet at 9 or 10?”–”It doesn’t matter.”

This response isn’t a big deal when we’re referring to inconsequential things. However, in today’s reading I was struck by how this phrase is of ultimate consequence when applied to people. People matter. And people especially matter to God.

I’ve been in a number of conversations recently where people have shared with me some really painful things from their lives. Accounts of abuse, betrayal, financial challenges, and more.

As one woman was sharing her painful story with me she said that she felt invisible—that it didn’t matter what happened to her because she didn’t matter. It hurts my heart to hear their stories. She along with others are being robbed of their true identity and worth.

The bad news is that there are broken people in the world who in turn hurt others, attempting to try and break them as well. There are imposters who appear to be a friend or advocate, but are so caught up in their own interests and lives they only have room for themselves. They aren’t invested in anything that doesn’t bring attention to themselves or elevate their own status.

He’s only a hired hand and the sheep don’t matter to him. 

But this same passage also brings good news. Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd, as one who lays down his life for the sheep.  He says that we can know him and that he definitely knows us. He knows the source of our hurts and our brokenness, our feelings of guilt, shame and fear. How far will Jesus go to restore lives that have been shattered by lies and abuse? How do we know we really matter to him? Jesus says, “I give up my life for the sheep.”

In speaking with those who have shared their stories with me, and as I remember my own life’s challenges, it’s important to see the truth. The image of who we are can often be distorted by others or by ourselves, but Jesus re-centers and corrects that vision, enabling and empowering us to live life to the fullest.

You matter to God.

The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.

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

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10.21.16 – Insight 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.

I love today’s scene of John & James angling for cushy assignments to be at the right/left hand of Jesus, because it captures our human nature so well.  (Note: Today’s passage from Matthew cites the request coming from Salome, the Mother of John & James.   In Mark’s recounting John & James make the request.  So, for the sake of simplicity we’ll assume the whole clan was of the same mindset.)  Let’s take a closer look.

John & James were believed to have originally been followers of John the Baptist.  When JtB declares that Jesus is the “Lamb of God,” they begin to listen to Jesus’ teachings.  A short time later, John & James leave their Dad, Zebedee, literally sitting in the fishing boat to answer Jesus’ call.  Jesus nicknames the brothers, “Sons of Thunder.”

How cool would it be to have Jesus give you a nickname?  Talk about the ultimate honor.  And “Sons of Thunder” is an awesome nickname – much better than the nickname, “Naked Dasher” for the young disciple fleeing the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:51-52).  (Ahem.  This “nickname” might need some verification – Editor.)

Aside: I like the response of the Mother with 3 toddlers when asked if she had a nickname.  She said, “Yes.  ‘Mom,’ which is short for ‘Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom.’”  Or the story of President Eisenhower’s Mother, who wanted a name for her son that couldn’t be shortened into a nickname like his older brothers, & thus selected “Dwight.”  Much to her chagrin, he became popularly known as “Ike.”

Upon our initial review of John & James’ request, we, too, might join the other Disciples in saying, “Tsk, Tsk.” (Or in the original Greek ΤΣΚ, ΤΣΚ.)  But before we jump to any conclusions, I would submit there are some off-setting aspects we might be overlooking.

John & James have been part of Jesus’ traveling ministry for some time.  During their trudging around on dusty highways & byways it shouldn’t be too surprising that their minds begin to wonder what the end-game might look like.  Being a planner by nature, this makes perfect sense to me.

Interestingly, John & James are not issuing an ultimatum, i.e., we won’t continue as Your Disciples unless our demands are met.  It is already a given that they will continue to be His followers, just asking for some extra consideration. Also, note the assumption built into John & James’ request.  They are truly believers that Jesus will indeed ascend to the throne as the King of Kings.  In fact, their belief is so strong they are plotting & planning the blueprint of the palace.  There is no wavering faith for them.

But, we also know that our friends are missing the bigger picture.  Yes, Jesus is the King of Kings, but following Him isn’t the path to self-glorification or bloated job titles or corner offices.  Rather following Him comes with a great burden to make God’s Kingdom a reality here on earth.  (Note: John & James’ selfless & sacrificial ministry recorded in the Gospels confirms that they indeed got “it” later on.)

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with an older friend who had become CEO of a small manufacturing plant.  We were joking about how cool it was to have the nice office, the convenient parking spot, & 1st dibs on the Krispy Kremes in the break room.  But he also noted that being boss was a huge obligation.  “When I walk through the parking lot, I see cars with worn tires, old, beat-up, pickup trucks, & cars with booster-seats in them.  It reminds me that all of these folks are relying on me to keep this company thriving.  It isn’t just some reward.  It’s a humbling responsibility.”

So, perhaps this morning we should pause & revel in the honor of being one of Jesus’ beloved Disciples, but know that with this distinction comes the challenge of serving Him & His children to the best of our abilities this day forward.

Who knows?  Maybe Jesus will have a cool nickname for us as well!

(One second.  I’m looking up how to say, “Long Winded” in Greek – Editor.  Sigh -DL.)

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

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10.20.16 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

When it comes to prioritizing what is most important to us in life, I think we often think of our priorities in portions. Very simply, we might divide our lives into areas like family, self, work, hobbies, God, etc.

I’ve found myself struggling with how big the God-sized piece of the pie chart is. I feel like in order to be a good Christian, it must be the biggest piece of the pie. Maybe like this:


If my relationship with God doesn’t make up the majority of my life, then I must not be faithful.

In this kind of thinking, there have to be offsets. There is only so much room in the pie. If God is getting bigger, that means my family is getting smaller, my work is getting smaller, etc. It seems very difficult to maintain a big enough God-sized piece to be a dedicated believer. I don’t know what your calendar looks like, but this just doesn’t seem realistic when you’re helping with homework, paying the bills, supporting your spouse, or meeting that deadline at work. Ugh. This thinking just sets us up for failure.

But what if we switched up how we did this priority assessment? What if it wasn’t a pie chart, but rather a group of stacked columns identifying how much God is in all aspects of our lives?

life-chart-3I recognize that my marriage is better when I’m allowing more God in it. My job goes better when I’m allowing more God in it. My friendships are better when I allow more God in them. It’s not a matter of choosing God over other aspects of my life, but how much God I’m infusing into all aspects of my life. We do this through praying, giving, forgiving, and all other ways that allow God to work in and through us.

Our challenge is to recognize what God does in each portion of our life. And when we do, we see the joy and wholeness He weaves through all of those. Knowing that, we find ways to notch that up, allowing God to be more fully revealed in all that we do and through all those we encounter.

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

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10.19.16 – Insights from Kari Burgess

Kari Burgess serves as ShareChurch Communications & Guest Relations Program Director at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

Do you find it easier to rely on God’s provision when things are going well for you or when you are struggling?  I, and perhaps many of you, find it a challenge to rely on God’s provision in either situation. But for different reasons.

When things are going well in life, particularly regarding finances, it becomes easy to pat ourselves on the back and take credit for things going so well. “Look at all of wealth I have acquired!” “Check out this 401(K) balance!” “I’ve worked so hard, I deserve it.” You get the idea. It’s easy to think we are a big deal and take all of the credit when we’re successful, rather than being grateful to God for His divine provision. I tend to think the rich farmer from today’s Scripture had a bit of an ego like this and was pretty proud of the crops he produced for himself. Not only was he being selfish, only thinking of himself, he didn’t even acknowledge God’s hand in his accomplishments.

In contrast, I was thinking about the Israelites from the book of Exodus we studied in our last sermon series on the life of Moses. As they wandered in the desert, they grumbled to Moses that they would be better off back in Egypt rather than wandering in the desert with few resources. God promised the Israelites He would provide for their physical needs–he would “rain down bread from heaven.” The Israelites were to go out each day and gather just enough manna for the day and no more. But some of them gathered more than needed and kept it to the next day, worried there wouldn’t be more the next day. Guess what? It spoiled. These Israelites did not trust God would provide, even when they knew of His promise and witnessed God’s faithfulness to provide for their needs.

Why is it so hard for us to trust in His provision when we are stressed? And why do we claim self-reliant credit when He provides for us abundantly? Everything comes from God our Creator, and everything ultimately belongs to Him. So whether living in abundance or struggling to make ends meet, we should recognize that all we have is His and be grateful for what we have been given. As a result of our gratitude, we are called to be generous toward God (and therefore generous to our church, community and those around us) and give our best.

Wherever we may be in life, whether flourishing or struggling (not just financially, but spiritually and emotionally as well), it is imperative we recognize God’s generosity, care and provision in our lives. Giving back is being obedient to God’s call on us to be generous toward him.

Dear God, the ultimate Provider, Equip me with all I need for this day – spiritually, emotionally, physically.  Wipe me clean, make me new and once again “give me this day, my daily bread.” Amen.

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

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10.18.16 – 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.

I have never really not tithed. Ever since I was a little kid, I remember that my parents would give me my allowance each Sunday morning (one dollar for each year of my age) and expect me to immediately place at least a tenth of it in the offering plate at church. As a child, I participated simply because I knew nothing else. As I grew up and began working and managing my own finances, though, I was faced with the decision of whether I should continue this practice or abandon it.

Besides the occasional negligent lapse, my wife and I have maintained the giving of 10% of our income throughout our lives, and it’s been a very important part of our relationship with God. As we discussed Pastor Adam’s message this past Sunday, we reflected on why we have been so committed to giving. Was it a rote habit from our youth, or was it something we actually embraced as adults?

By the end of our conversation, we’d concluded that, for us, setting aside the tithe is an act of self-discipline. We tithe in the same way that we might exercise: it’s not always easy and it’s sometimes even painful, but it is a good habit to develop and ultimately it shapes us into becoming more healthy and holistic humans. It establishes a routine by which we are able to consistently give back to support the Church that pours so much into us. In addition, by committing the first of our resources to God, we are forced to more closely consider how we’re managing the other 90% of our income. We have to watch our finances closely to make sure we’re continually living within the portion remaining after we’ve given back to God.

In a very real way, tithing compels us to place our hope in Christ. As a spiritual discipline, it challenges us to live simply and abandon our innate desire to spend frivolously. It reminds us that the Kingdom of God is not found in money or possessions (as the world around us suggests) but, as Micah 6:8 says, in doing justice, living with compassion, and walking in humility with God.

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

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10.17.16 – Insights from Melanie Hill

Melanie Hill is the Guest Connections Program Director at Resurrection.

I currently serve at Resurrection as our Guest Connections Program Director, a job I really love. But for the 14 years before I came on staff here, I served as a Youth Director working with middle school and high school students. I loved it. One of my favorite parts of my job was planning our summer mission trips, especially our global trips. Something magical happens in the life of an American teen when you take them out of their comfort zone (and out of a wireless connection area). After the initial panic of not being “connected” subsides, they start to become more aware of life around them. I’m picking on teens a little, but this is true for adults as well. It was definitely true for me.

Long before we ever boarded a plane for Guatemala or Brazil, we spent weeks preparing for what we would encounter when we got there. We would talk about the work projects we would do, plan the teaching time and the games we would play with kids, even discuss culture shock. But I could never fully prepare them for the shock of poverty and how it would affect them. If you asked one of my students how they thought it would affect them, they would probably say that they’d appreciate what they have at home more. That’s definitely one aspect of what they experienced, but it wasn’t the most profound one.

During each trip there was a time when one of the families we worked with would prepare a dinner for our team out of gratitude for how we had helped. Every student I ever took on a trip struggled to accept this gift. And it was a gift. These families had far less than we do in the States, but they would serve us a special meal that cost them greatly. Often they would purchase meat, something they rarely got to have themselves. And while the meal was special, it was the attitude with which it was given that had the biggest impact on the teens. Many students asked me after those dinners how the family could have such peace and joy when they had so little. The students had expected to feel grateful for what they had. They hadn’t expected to feel as if they were the ones lacking. And that’s how they felt–lacking in the peace and joy of those they had been serving all week. It’s not exactly an American concept to think that having less will equal greater contentment, but they got to experience it firsthand. There is something so beautiful and profound about relying on God for all our needs and the blessing that comes from seeing how He will provide.

I am immeasurably grateful for all I have living in the United States. But I have often wondered if I miss out on the true blessing of the good life because I am so comfortable. If you have never considered being part of a global impact team, I encourage you to pray about it and take advantage of some of the amazing trips Resurrection offers. I also encourage you to consider helping out with one of our Rezlife summer trips. Not only will you get to help shape some young hearts, you will be surprised by what they can teach you. Sometimes we need to step outside of what we know to really grasp the good life.

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

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10.15.16 – Insights from Chris Folmsbee

Chris Folmsbee is Resurrection’s Director of Discipleship Ministries. He is the author of several books and has 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.

“I hope so.” Three words we often use to indicate a resilient desire for a positive outcome. For example, “Will the Royals be back in the playoffs next year?” “I hope so.” “Will this fantastic weather remain so that we can enjoy autumn longer?” “I hope so.” “Will the stock market continue to remain stable and strong?” “I hope so.” You get the point.

To bring it closer to home, however…“Will I be able to overcome my addictive behavior?” “Is there a way out of the mess I have created?” “Will this pain and grief ever go away?” “Is there ever going to be peace in this world?” “I hope so.”

For Christians, it is not a stretch to think that we can answer the above questions, and questions like them, with more than a worn-out “I hope so.” Christians can confidently say, with fresh enthusiasm, “I know so.”

When we are “glad” and live as though the Lord is “near,” as today’s Scripture reading suggests, we do so reflecting on the truth found a page or two earlier in Philippians 3. We find in 3:20-21 that the reason for Paul’s exhortation to be glad, generous and grateful and to ultimately be at peace with a contented awareness of being reconciled to God, is that hope is 100% real as evidenced in the life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

The reason we can say, “I know so” and “be glad always” to all our challenges, trials, pain, grief, confusion, or angst  is simple. One day, because of our reconciliation with God through Jesus, we will experience the glory of God in heaven. “I know so” means, “I believe in everlasting, heavenly life – a life in Jesus Christ our Savior that surpasses any earthly concern or worry.”

Rejoice and be glad this day, for you are able to say with passion and confidence, “I know so.”

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

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10.14.16 – 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 Paul is preparing to go to Jerusalem, he realizes that it is risky work to teach people about Jesus, “but nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission.”

Paul knows he is doing the work he was made to do. Paul is living a meaningful, purposeful, fulfilled life, recognizing that nothing is more important than serving God.

I commonly get these questions from people as we talk about callings: Do we really have a mission? Is God really calling us to do something specific? How do we know what we were made for? I feel like God has something for me to do, but how do I figure out what that is?

I have found that my calling is to help people find their calling. In this work, I have come to believe that we are all searching for a life with a sense of meaning, work that serves God with a purpose in helping others. We hope that God will somehow package our experiences, education, talents, and gifts into a clear mission that serves a larger purpose.

Maybe this resonates with you as well, but sometimes we overthink this calling stuff. We want a billboard with neon flashing words to spell out our mission. But you already know what you need to know: God created you. God has purpose for your life. That purpose is to love others. You are here to make a daily contribution of love and peace. So, what’s it going to be today?

Ask God to use you every day and your mission will become very clear. It may be smiling at someone, teaching what you know, or initiating large-scale change. When you are in your mission, it won’t feel like work. You will know deeply that nothing is more important than serving God in this way. And life will be good…for you and those you serve.

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

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