12.20.14 Insight from Dave Robertson

Dave Robertson is the Director of Community Life at The Church of the Resurrection’s West Campus. (Dave first shared this reflection on Revelation 21 on July 26, 2014.)

I love the passage from Revelation 21:5 which says, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’  Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”  One of the reasons I love these words is they are recorded at the end of our Bible and because of what happened at the beginning of the Bible.

Dennis Garvin says it this way, “The last Bible I looked at contained over 2000 pages, and you humans managed to get yourself kicked out of Paradise by page 5. That has to be some kind of record.” God set us up for paradise with God and yet that wasn’t good enough for us. We now get to taste what life outside of paradise is like while ever longing for what was lost.  While we seek and strive for the Kingdom of God, we receive from God glimpses from time to time to show us what it is like. We also have God’s trustworthy, true promises to stand on.

One such time I received a glimpse was when I was in college. I never knew my grandparents, three of whom died before I was born. After my mother’s death, my father remarried and my step-mother’s parents were still living. I considered them grandparents. I was in college when my step-grandmother, Honey (her nickname) died. I had a three-hour drive back home and I remember being sad about her loss. I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular when all of a sudden, as I was driving, the Spirit of joy filled my mind and body. For a brief glimpse I felt like I was experiencing what Honey was experiencing–the pure joy of salvation and paradise with God. I believe God had made her new with a new spiritual body. I also believe God to be at work in this world making it new, getting us back to where God originally designed us.

This experience has lingered in my soul these 30 years. I long for that time of getting to once again experience that level of joy, but am also grateful for the chance to experience it already in that small moment in time. It was truly a down payment and a foretaste of heaven.

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

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12.19.14 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

It has been said that everyone needs some creed or set of principles to live by, because if you don’t know what you believe – you will believe anything. Fortunately, with the gift of Google, T-shirts, & chain emails from elderly parents, we have a huge selection of principles to help us live our lives:

  •  Keep Calm & Follow Your Dreams.
  •  When writing the story of your life, you get to hold the pen.
  • Don’t look back; you aren’t going that way.
  •  Knowledge will give you power; Character will give you respect.
  •  Or there was the young boy sharing his “motto” on a drawing at school: Always Be Yourself! Unless You Can Be Batman. Then Always Be Batman.

Of course, Christianity also offers a set of guidelines/creeds to help us live our lives to the fullest. Creed comes from the Latin word, credo, which means, “I believe.” Today’s passage offers a series of statements of what we can believe about Jesus Christ. Biblical scholars debate whether this passage is an early Christian hymn or perhaps a creed of the early church, but for our purposes we’ll just consider what a paraphrase of the text might say to us today:

So, Jesus had equal status with God, Himself. But, He didn’t revel in all of the prestige He was due or take advantages of the privileges this status afforded Him. He became like a slave. Now, Jesus, once realizing His predicament, could have said, “No thanks. This isn’t what I expected. I’d like to return to being God-like.” But He didn’t. He was obedient. He was selfless. He allowed Himself to be put to death. Not just death, but death via the most excruciating means known – crucifixion.

Wow. Is this what we believe about Jesus? Do we believe that Jesus loved you & me so much that He voluntarily gave up everything He had just for us? How might/should this realization then change our lives?

Paul offers us a challenge: As we go about our relationships with one another, we should take on the same humble view that Jesus had of Himself. What might that look like? We might consider a Christmas Creed written in the 1940’s by Reverend Ormal Miller, then the Pastor at my home church (First United Methodist Church) in Topeka, Kansas. We place this card on our refrigerator each year as we put up our Christmas decorations:

I believe that Christmas is a spirit, and they that find it must seek it in spirit & in truth. I believe that it is not a season of the year, but a way to live. It comes whenever wise men & shepherds bow down at the same shrine; whenever charity displaces intolerance; whenever old enemies forgive one another; whenever kindliness takes the place of ill will. I believe in the Christmas hope as the way to life for all persons & nations. I believe that peace on earth & good will among all can become living realities in this generation.

So, as we continue to mark the progression of the Sundays of Advent, let’s prepare our hearts for Him & let’s strive to relate to others in a way that follows the example Jesus has set before us. Oh, & as a bumper-sticker proclaims, “Never Second-Guess Yourself!” (Well…maybe sometimes – Editor.)

 

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

 

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12.18.14 Insight from Mike Wilhoit

mwilhoitMike Wilhoit serves at The Church of the Resurrection as Local Missions Director.

My Grandpa Wilhoit loved to fish, eat and watch St. Louis Cardinals baseball.

During one of my many childhood visits to Collinsville, Illinois, Grandpa took me fishing. The summer heat had almost dried up a nearby lake. Instead of poles, we caught fish by placing bottomed-out barrels on top of them. Talk about easy. Grandpa taught me to pick up the fish by placing my thumb in the fish’s mouth while pushing my finger through the fish’s gill until it touched my thumb. It was great fun for this city boy, especially when I picked up a catfish & started screaming. Grandpa Wilhoit couldn’t stop laughing. Catfish have teeth!

I’ll always remember that day fondly. My somewhat quiet grandfather made a special effort to be with me, his loud, chatterbox grandson.

During this advent season, I am equally intrigued by a God who didn’t just send an email telling us how much He loved us. He made a special effort to be with us in Jesus. When I am afraid or discouraged, I remember that God made, loves and enjoys being with me. I am also challenged to love those dear to me and those in need by being WITH them.

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

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12.17.14 Insight from Angela LaVallie

Angela LaVallie is the Worship Logistics Program Director at Resurrection. She oversees preparing the Sanctuary for worship, supports Vibe worship and volunteers in the Student Center, provides oversight for Holy Communion at the Leawood campus, and assists with worship logistics at conferences.

As Pastor Adam mentioned in his sermon this past weekend, one of the reasons Jesus came was to show us more accurately what God is really like. It is our responsibility, as his followers, to continue to show people what God is really like by following Jesus’ example of living a life of love and service.

No matter how much we tell people about Jesus’ love, they’ll never truly believe it until we show them his love. And sometimes it’s more about the attitude with which we say or do something than what we actually say or do.

I had the opportunity during the summers of 1998, 1999, and 2001 to visit San Pedro Sula, Honduras on mission trips. On the first trip, I got to meet three upper-elementary-school age girls – Heidi, Nancy, and Heidy – at a morning church service at Colonia Gonzales. That afternoon, our mission team traveled to the beach where I was stung by a jellyfish and had an allergic reaction. For the next couple of days, I was in bed with a fever, chills, and exhaustion. On Wednesday, I joined my team and went back to work at the church and school. While I was taking a break that afternoon, the three girls I had met on Sunday morning came up to say hello. They asked if I was coming to the church service later that evening, and when I somehow conveyed that I didn’t know because I was sick (I speak very little Spanish, and they didn’t speak more than a few words of English), this little girls looked at each other, said something I didn’t understand, grabbed my hands, and started praying.

The next year when I came back to church on Sunday morning at Colonia Gonzales , I again saw Heidi, Nancy, and Heidy. At the end of the worship service, Heidi wanted to take my Bible with her. Since neither of us spoke any more of the other’s native tongue than we had the last year, I wasn’t sure why she wanted an English Bible, but I let her take it anyway, Wednesday evening church rolled around, and Heidi introduced me to her mother who gave me my Bible –covered in a beautiful, handmade yellow cloth cover with lace trim.

It is so easy to get stuck in the mindset that only we can share God’s love because we are somehow more qualified to embody his Spirit. When I first went to Honduras, I (as almost anyone who’s ever gone on a mission trip will tell you) thought I was going to help change lives there – and I might have – but the faith and love I experienced when three little girls prayed for my healing touched me in a way that is still very meaningful to me today. When a woman used material she probably could have used in a more practical way to make a gift for me, a stranger, I got a glimpse of true generosity.

As important as it is for us to be willing to let others see Christ in us, it is just as important for us to be open to seeing Christ in those we wouldn’t initially expect to do anything for us. Those early Christians were expecting to find a much different savior than what they got in Jesus, and their openness in seeing God’s love in Jesus is what blessed them and helped them to understand how to, in turn, share that love and bless others.

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

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12.16.14 Insight from Rev. Glen Shoup

Before I offer a brief reflection on today’s reading, I want to share just a quick bit of contextual information to address a question that could arise in reading today’s passage: you will notice that the author (whom Christian tradition holds to be John, the author of the 4th Gospel) throughout the verses in our reading today uses the first person plural “we”.  This “we” likely refers to a circle of teachers who had been converted to “The Way” (one of the earliest names for those who believed in and followed Christ)—either directly through Jesus’ ministry or through John’s preaching and teaching of Jesus’ ministry.  So perhaps the easiest way to think about what this “we” might have looked like is to think of John as the senior pastor/missionary and these other teachers as the associate pastors/missionaries.  Thus, when our reading today talks about “we”, it most likely refers to the collection of teachers and leaders whom John had, to some degree, trained in the Christian gospel.

 

As I read today’s passage I’m captured by the magnitude of the opening phrase of the opening verse: We announce to you what existed from the beginning

Have you ever stopped to consider that there has never been a time when God wasn’t?  Have you ever stopped to consider that time is margined and both inside and on the other side of those margins is God? [Now we’re beginning to bump up against what that opening phrase is naming.]  Have you ever thought about the fact that the mind-blowing phenomenon of the story of creation is not how or when the trees or the animals or even humankind came into existence but rather that time and space itself was created?  The whole time/space continuum (and this is where my 3lbs of brain matter starts to feel woozy)—in which the sum total of all reality we can conceive of resides—time and space are nothing more than the creative impulse of the One we call God.  I wonder what else God has created outside of time and space…and lest you think I digress or have been hitting the hallucinogens…let me quickly point out that I raise all this simply to push us toward the mystery and indefinable magnitude of what’s captured just in that opening phrase of the first verse: We announce to you what existed from the beginning

So it is none other than the One who thought the time/space continuum into existence; it is none other than the One who is outside of time and space and has origined who knows what else (other than Him) beyond time and space; it is none other than the One we call God who has come to us in Jesus Christ and tells us “if you have seen me you have seen the Father for I and the Father are one” (and I’ve not even touched on the incredible notion that, prior to Jesus, it was unthought-of that the likes of us could not only know this God but call God Abba…Father…parent)—this is [one small portion] of the magnitude of the Incarnation–of what it means that God has come to us born to us in Christmas [Emmanuel]…that is narrated in today’s reading:

We announce to you what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have seen and our hands handled, about the word of life. The life was revealed, and we have seen, and we testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us. What we have seen and heard, we also announce it to you so that you can have fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

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

 

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.
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12.15.14 Insight from Melanie Hill

Melanie Hill is the Guest Connections Program Director at Resurrection.

I love Christmas–the whole season.

Yes, I am one of “those people” who start listening to Christmas music in October and decorate my tree before Thanksgiving. I just love everything about it. The lights, the traditions, the carols, the giving, the wonder and the awe. It’s something I anticipate all year long.

It seems these days we don’t do a whole lot of anticipating. We live in a culture of instant gratification. When I want it, I get it. I was thinking about this the other day while shopping for Christmas gifts for my kids. I was anticipating the looks of joy they will have on their faces when they open their gifts Christmas morning. And that got me thinking about anticipation. When I think back on the most joyful times in my life they were all preceded by a period of anticipation. I remember my freshman year of college and being so excited for winter break so I could go home and see my family if only I could get through finals. I remember the season of being engaged and planning for a wedding celebration until finally the big day was here and I got to say, “I do.” And I remember waiting for 9 whole months to meet our first child until he was placed in my arms.

I realized that anticipating is different than waiting. Yes, anticipation includes waiting but it is something more. It includes with the wait an expectation or hope. It’s the knowledge that something joyous is going to happen that allows a tedious wait to become anticipation. And in that anticipation, when the day finally arrives, our joy is made even more complete. We all have these events in our lives in some form or another. And it seems the longer we anticipate the greater the joy as well.

I imagine that this must have been what it was like for the Israelites, waiting and anticipating the coming of their King; their Messiah. The anticipation would have been passed down from generation to generation until finally it happened. Emmanuel; God with us. I think of those first shepherds who heard the good news. What must it have been like to watch the skies open up with the overflowing joy that God was here with us? The anticipation was over. The celebration was just beginning. The idea that God came down, became one of us and dwelled among us boggles my mind and delights my heart.

While we no longer anticipate the coming of our King a whole new kind of anticipation takes its place. It’s the anticipation that asks, “What will God do next?” that not only keeps us on the edge of our seats but also invites us to jump up and join in. What are you anticipating this Advent season? As we celebrate the joy in the miracle of Jesus’ birth, may we also anticipate that God is not done. He is doing a new thing!

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

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12.13.14 Insight from Chris Folmsbee

Chris Folmsbee is Resurrection’s Director of Discipleship Ministries.  He is the author of several books, with an extensive background in applying principles of spiritual growth to real life. He, his wife Gina and their family have been attending Resurrection since 2008

Mary knew her son was the Savior of the world as she held him close upon his birth that “not so silent night” (as Pastor Hamilton describes it for us in his book Not A Silent Night).

The angel Gabriel told Mary that her son would be great and that his kingdom would never end (Luke 1:2638). Mary even proclaimed through song months before the birth of Jesus that Jesus would be the very King that the nation of Israel was desperately longing for (Luke 1:46-55).

As Mary held Jesus close she knew and believed what we have come to know and believe through history and through our own experience – that God sent salvation into the world that Christmas morning. God sent salvation into the world to rescue us from ourselves and ultimately to defeat death with life.

Jesus, the baby, was and is God reigning, returning and redeeming. This is the message we “Go and tell on the mountain” – a message that God reigns with love, returns with forgiveness and redeems all of creation through the person and work of his Son, Jesus (Isa. 52:7-10). We are, in accordance with our reading for today in 2 Corinthians 5:14-6:2, ambassadors who are called to “go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere, that Jesus Christ, the Savior, is born.”

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

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12.12.14 Insight from Phil Antilla

philgpsPhil Antilla serves as the program director for Young Adult and College Ministry. Before coming to Church of the Resurrection, Phil served as an associate pastor at a local church in Shawnee. www.cor.org/youngadults

There is a remarkable line at the end of Ephesians 2, but unfortunately, many English translations don’t capture the full essence of it.

 

Paul says “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

At the end of verse 10, most translations say something to the nature of “God prepared good works for us to do.”

How exciting does that sound? It’s as if God has created eternal chores for us to do!

This, of course, is not the intended meaning, so how can we better understand verse 10?

Two Greek words are worth pointing out.

The first is the word “ἵνα” (pronounced “hin-ah”), which means, “In order that.” Many English translations just use the word “to,” as in “TO do good works,” but in Greek, “ἵνα” is an important conjunction that ties everything in this passage together.

The second word is “περιπατήσωμεν” (pronounced “peri-pah-tay-omen”), we is often translated as “way of life.” Another way to translate it is, “walk in this way.”

Therefore, after verses 3-9 describe how our salvation is a pure gift, which we do not earn, and which we cannot boast about, and how Christ made us alive, even while we were still dead in sin, Paul finishes with these words to tie it all together:

“For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, in order that this might be our way of life.”

Think about this for just a moment. After all that Paul has said, he wants you to know that salvation is not just another good work itself, rather, it is supposed to lead you to new way of living – defined by the goodness of life in and through God.

When I hear the phrase “good works,” I often think about doing simple, short charitable deeds. Maybe I’ll give some money to a charity. Or perhaps I will bake some cookies for my neighbor. However, the image of “good deeds” that Paul describes here is less about random acts of kindness and more about a radical way of living.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that donating to a charity is good. So is showing kindness to your neighbors.

But I also believe it is good to feed the poor.

I believe it is good to be a caretaker for the wounded.

I believe it is good to care for animals and creation.

I believe it is good to share a meal with your family.

I believe it is good to love and be loved by others.

These are all good things, and together, they only make up a fraction of the “good works” that God has planned for this life and the life to come.

Through our hands and feet, God is restoring all creation. And even while we were dead through our sins, God made us alive to this way of life through Christ. As Paul said, “We are what he has made us” – people created to experience and share the goodness of God.

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

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12.11.14 Insight from Gia Garey Moser

Gia Bio Photo
Gia Garey Moser is the Hospitality Program Director at Resurrection.

“It’s the holiday season…with the whoop-de-do and hickory dock…and don’t forget to hang up your sock…” Oh, my goodness, now that song will not stop replaying itself in my head! (Sorry about that!  I’ve done it to you, too, haven’t I? :-) ) And I think that pretty much sums up the ‘holiday’ season for many – consumerism, hectic schedules, jingle overload, and so on.  One literally needs a vacation after the holidays to find peace and quiet!

Or do we?  Perhaps it’s a choice, our choice on how we approach Christmas as people of faith.  Our approach could be much different than how the world tells us to experience Christmas.  But then that is the over-arching theme of the Bible, right?  To be in the world, not of it. (Romans 12:2)  I reflect on this for myself and wonder what I might do to approach the Christmas Season differently this year, in a way that would honor our Lord and my faith.  First of all, I remember that the greatest gift I will ever receive is God’s gift to us in Jesus the Christ, who walked the earth in profound ways teaching us how to live and love – deeply and well.  How would Jesus be spending His time this holiday season?  I imagine in prayer and communion with God and serving those in need.  So, Gia, are you living as Christ this season?  Secondly, the result of God’s greatest gift to us is our ultimate gift – the gift of eternal salvation, saved by grace, through Christ.  The gift of living eternally in the presence of the Triune God!

 

So for now I am going to simply ‘be,’ to seek quiet for my soul in mindfulness of Christ’s presence surrounding me every minute of every hour of every day if only I am still enough to experience it.  This special season is about Christ’s presence with us, Emmanuel.  We celebrate His birth, His ultimate sacrifice and His gift of eternal life.  What better gift is there than that?!  Will you join me in slowing down, hitting the ‘pause button’ and reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas?

 

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the gift of You – the greatest gift ever given, the greatest gift we can receive!  Help all of us to sense your presence in a profound way each and every day of life, not just at Christmastime.  We give You praise and honor as we sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King!  Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing…”  Yes, Lord, prepare You room…in our hearts every  day.  Amen

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

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12.10.14 Insight from Steven Blair

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

Jesus as Savior from Sin (The Real Enemy)

WEDNESDAY 12.10.14   Matthew 1:20-21, Acts 5:27-32
Let’s say Jesus was the Savior in the way many in his time were wanting him to be.   He leads a revolt to overthrow Roman occupation of Israel and is successful.  Now what?  Then he defends this kingdom against Rome or another power.  Let’s say he wins this one, too.  Now what?    The results of each battle may have varied, but the cycle would stay the same.    Jesus knew this.  Jesus knew that to be a Savior for the Jewish people and the rest of the world would require a different approach. From his birth, readers of the Gospel were keyed in to the Salvation Jesus brings.

Jesus would be the Savior for the World by saving us from Sin.   This is how Jesus was introduced to Joseph. An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1:21-22

What lies beneath human oppression, arrogance, and hatred is Sin.   No sword could save us from the decay of the human heart.  Only love can do this.   In Jesus we find perfect love that led to death, even death on a cross.   Because of this death on the cross, we can be forgiven and   become new people.    With Sin forgiven/erased/removed/washed away, we can get on with living the life God meant for us.

Here is how I see it working. Salvation has almost exclusively referred to what we are being saved from.  We are saved from sin, sadness, bad habits, etc.  But salvation liberates us in order to point us in another direction.  A person who is saved from selfishness is saved for God’s mission of extending compassion to all people. A person who is saved from prejudice is saved for God’s mission of reconciliation.   Jesus’ act of saving us from our sin is to make us into a new creation who takes part in spreading this new creation.

Reflection Point Here’s a tip to better apply Jesus’ title as Savior to our behavior for this Christmas.   Take out a sheet of paper and create two columns.  Now list 2-20 things God has saved you from, or is saving you from.  Now connect that salvation to what you see God saving you for.  If that Sin was not controlling your life, what would you be freed to do?  Here are some examples.

Saved from                         Saved for
1.   Prejudice                       Reconciliation
2.   Selfishness                    Compassion
3.

May you receive God’s salvation this Christmas and may that salvation free you up to extend God’s message of love to others.  It is the only force that can change what is happening.

 

Merry Christmas!
Steven Blair
Pastor of the Live Forward Program for People Stuck in Hurts or Habits www.cor.org/liveforward.

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

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