Monthly Archives: November 2008

11.29.08 Saturday Insights from Pastor Laurie Barnes

Advent is one of those seasons in the church year when ordinary time is interrupted by preparation for the extraordinary.  In churches that observe the lectionary, Isaiah 11:1-10 is often the Old Testament reading for the second Sunday in Advent.  It is a picture of hope for those on the verge of destruction.  Even though the mighty nation of Assyria will destroy Israel, all is not lost.  God will fulfill His promise made to Jesse’s son, King David, that his kingdom will endure forever (2 Samuel 7:16).  700 years later, Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem because they are of the house and lineage of David (Luke 2:4).  And Jesus is born and Isaiah’s prophecy begins to be fulfilled. 

 

In Advent, we prepare our hearts not only for the coming of the Messiah but also for his second coming.  We understand from Scripture passages such as this one that the second coming of Christ will result in remarkable scenes such as these so wonderfully described.  What better pictures of peace and restored creation than the visual of the wolf lying down with the lamb and the cow feeding with the bear.

 

Just as Isaiah’s audience was given a picture of hope to anticipate, so we too look for a day of reconciliation among all of God’s created order.  This Advent, let us wait and watch with wonder as we learn more about Jesus’ mother Mary and the role she plays in the fulfillment of this prophecy.

 

Laurie Barnes is the Pastor of Prayer and Congregational Care. 

11.28.08 Friday Insights from Pastor Dagney Pullin

These verses in Luke are within a passage where Jesus is teaching his disciples about prayer. He had just compared prayer with a man who goes to a friend’s house in the middle of the night asking for bread. The friend at first refuses to come out, due to the late hour, but because of the man’s persistence, and because they are friends, the man is confident that his friend will come out and give him what he needs.

Persistence and confidence. These are key elements of our prayer life. Our confidence does not spring from arrogance, an inflated view of our worth, or selfishness, but rather from realizing how precious we are to God. In this short passage, Jesus uses both the metaphor of friendship and that of parent/child. We bring our requests to God with the same confidence that my daughter asks me to make her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. Of course, sometimes she asks for chocolate cake for lunch, but I still give her the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She trusts me enough to believe that I know what she needs and will give it to her even when her requests are not quite in line with her needs.

Persistence can be even more difficult than confidence. Why should we ask God more than once? Either the answer is “yes,” or “no,” so do we really need to ask over an over? I think we do. Not because God forgets, or because we need to talk God into providing for our needs, but rather because the more often we open ourselves up to this communication with God, the more opportunity we have to know God’s will. Our persistence can also aid our prayer because through it we can gain confidence as we begin to see that God is listening and responding.

Rev. Dagney Pullin is the pastor of community life in the adult discipleship department. She can be reached at dagney.pullin@cor.org and you can read her blog at pastordagney.blogspot.com

11.27.08 Thursday Insights from Pastor Jeff Clinger

God’s steadfast love endures forever!

For most of us there is much for which to be thankful this year:

  • Families with whom we get to share love
  • Shelter over our heads
  • Food on our tables
  • Opportunities to speak our minds clearly
  • The privilege of worshipping God publically

Yet for many in our country and our world this is a tough time:

  • Families are broken and hurting
  • The loss of loved ones stings fresh and new
  • Jobs have been lost
  • Homes are in foreclosure
  • People are hungry
  • People feel voiceless and alone

Yet, whoever we are, and whatever our circumstances, we can raise our voices together and declare the good news, “God’s steadfast love endures forever.”

Today, whether you’re spending the day working, by yourself, or gathering with family and friends, take a moment to pause and give thanks for God’s love.  God has created you, God has walked with you each and every day of your life, and God continues to call you into relationship with God and with others so that you might know and share love.

May you have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving, knowing and feeling that God’s steadfast love is with you this day and always.

Rev. Jeff Clinger is the pastor for members of the Resurrection family whose last names begin with D-I.  He can be reached via email at jeff.clinger@cor.org and he blogs regularly at Changing to Bring Change.

11.26.08 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

Earlier this week I heard an interesting story on the radio reflecting on the unique contributions of political leaders who were part of racial and ethnic minority groups. In a little over one month we will be inaugurating the first African American president this country has ever elected. But there are countless examples of mayors, governors, senators, CEOs, and other leaders who have come from racial and ethnic minority groups. During this story, Emanuel Cleaver, the Missouri congressman from the fifth district, went to great lengths to credit his success in attaining positions of significant political leadership to a man named Bruce Watkins. Watkins served as a city councilman in Kansas City for several terms before running unsuccessfully for mayor in 1979. He then died of brain cancer in 1980. In gratitude for Watkins’ profound influence on his life and career, then Mayor Cleaver named the South Midtown Freeway in his honor.

Cleaver was quick to acknowledge the fact that without Watkins stepping out first, paving the way through the political thickets of Kansas City, Cleaver’s career could never have happened. Someone had to be first. Someone had to take the first swings at the wall of resistance to the idea of a black man standing in a position of political authority so that those who followed might finally knock that wall down.

In our passage today, the writer of Luke’s gospel makes John’s role in Jesus’ ministry very clear. John came into the world to begin calling people to repentance… urging them to leave their former lives behind and to see the world in a brand new way. John ultimately was not successful. He was jailed, tortured, and killed for his message. We are left to ponder the question of how Jesus’ ministry depended on and benefited from John’s preparation of “a way in the wilderness.” Certainly Jesus gives ample credit to John’s ministry in later verses where he says, “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John…” (Luke 7:28).

Each of us is challenged to answer two questions by today’s reading: who has prepared the way for you? Who is following you that you are being called to prepare the way for? None of us lives as completely self-sustaining, autonomous, self-determining people. We stand on the shoulders of the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) who have gone before us. Let us always remember them and give thanks for their lives and witnesses as we feast tomorrow.

Please do not hesitate to call or email me if I can provide pastoral assistance. (913) 544-0219, or russell.brown@cor.org.

11.25.08 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

It’s odd, ironic even, that so often I find myself thinking that I am limitless and God is manageable, someone I can get my mind around. 

The words in Isaiah 40:6-15 help me realign my thoughts… we are grass that withers, but our God endures forever.  Our Sovereign Lord is powerful, willing and able to lead us as a shepherd, and able to contain the vastness of creation within his hands.  We are taught the things that we learn and we have others that show us the way, but God needs no teacher, no leader.

I love this song “Small,” by JJ Heller.  Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OiNIzu2P-8

My favorite line is “You’re closer than the tiny thoughts I have of you, but I could never fathom you at all.”  God is both very near and vast beyond measure. 

You know, when I get to thinking that God is small, I don’t have to trust God.  No need to expect much from small God.  No reason to be vulnerable–I can keep leading the way and making the decisions.  Scriptures like this one remind me that I’m the one that is small. 

So, I have to pause and give serious consideration to our GPS questions:

Are you willing to let God be your shepherd, or do you feel a need to hold onto ultimate control of your own life?

Do you trust in God’s power and promises above all others, and if so, for what reasons?

 

Molly is the Campus Pastor at Resurrection West and can be reached by email at molly.simpson@cor.org.

 

 

 

11.24.08 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

Most of the time when I read this passage, I focus on verses three to five. These verses are often interpreted to be tied with the hope of a coming Messiah and the birth of Jesus.

But today is a little bit different. I find myself focusing on the first verse. From Today’s New International Version,

Comfort, comfort my people,  says your God.

These words from God seem to be both a command to provide comfort for others and a reminder of God’s comfort for God’s people. As God’s people, I believe that we are called to be active in caring for those who are in need of physical, mental and spiritual comfort. As equally as we are called to provide comfort and care for others, I believe that we are called to receive comfort and care from others.

I sometimes resist others caring for me. This is often because of pride and the misdirected belief that I can always care for myself. I invite you today to allow yourself, in whatever ways make sense, to both comfort someone else and to allow someone else to comfort you.

11.22.08 Saturday Insights from Pastor Laurie Barnes

The passage today, 1 Timothy 6:6-10, contains a verse that is often misquoted. 

Verse 10 begins, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”  It does not say that money is the root of all evil.  It says that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  What a difference a careful reading of Scripture makes!  As we know, money, in and of itself, is neutral.  It is neither good nor evil.  We can use money for good purposes or for evil ones.  The more money we have, the greater the opportunities we have to use it one way or the other.   What a joy it is when we have disposable income available that we can use to help others! 

 

What does it mean to have a “love of money”?  Understanding that concept is probably the key to this verse.  It is helpful to read the rest of verse 10.  The verse goes on to say, “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith…”  Perhaps the answer to the question is that when we become so eager for money that it comes before our faith and our commitment to Jesus, we need to recognize that as a red flag and reset our priorities. 

 

A question that each one of us needs to ask might be, “Is there anything (or anyone) that is coming between me and my commitment to Christ”?  If so, it is time to reset.

 

Pastor Laurie Barnes is the Pastor of Prayer and Congregational Care.

11.21.08 Friday Insights from Pastor Dagney Pullin

It’s hard to be content when hungry and in need. What is particularly difficult, especially for those of us raised with the value of rugged individualism, is accepting help. Unasked for help is the hardest. At a time when my husband and I had very little, I was surprised once by a small gift from a family member. Not wanting to accept it, I said to the one who delivered it, “What do I do with this?” She said, with great wisdom, “You accept it and say, ‘thank you.'” So simple, but not always so easy. Contentment when we are in need, though, often means accepting help with simple grace and gratitude, recognizing the love and vulnerability of the giver.

It’s also hard to be content when well-fed and having plenty. The Philippians, with whom the apostle Paul had a very close relationship, found contentment in their generosity. I know many people who have plenty, and of those, the most joyful are those who are the most generous. They find great pleasure in sharing their home, their lives, their time and their resources. They are not giving out of guilt or coercion, which is destructive to the soul, but out of a simple desire to express their love toward others and their gratitude to God. It’s simply a way of life. 

We can be content in all things through Christ who strengthens us, and Christ strengthens us most often through our community, which is his body here on earth. Through receiving and giving freely, we can find peace in whatever our circumstances.

Rev. Dagney Pullin is the pastor of community life in the adult discipleship department. She can be reached at dagney.pullin@cor.org and you can read her blog at pastordagney.blogspot.com

11.20.08 Thursday Insights from Pastor Jeff Clinger

I’ve spent a lot of time this week preparing to preach a message this coming weekend titled, “A New Kind of Christmas.”  A part of my reading and research has involved looking at our cultural Christmas celebrating and I have been amazed by some of the data that I’ve uncovered (join us in worship this weekend to hear specifics).  

The other evening, as I was doing some reading, Heather was watching TV and we were both struck by a commercial that played repeatedly for a credit card.  The basic message was this – we are a consuming society and we shouldn’t be ashamed by this, but sometimes that consumption gets costly so it’s good to have a credit card that allows you to spend more than you actually have during the Christmas season.  Don’t worry about how you’ll pay your bills, the commercial urged, just do the buying you “need” to do and figure out how to take care of it later.

I don’t think this is quite what Jesus had in mind when he said to his disciples “… do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?'”  I don’t think Jesus could have ever dreamt of what his birthday celebration would become.

Jesus clearly tells us we need not worry and as I reflected last week, God often provides for those things that we need.  However, we do need to be wise and we do need to make good decisions about our priorities.  As we continue to think about what it would mean for us to reset, we need to make sure to “strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”

As you continue to live out your reset and look toward Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, I pray that you will not be consumed by worry and that you will continue to work toward God’s kingdom in all that you do.

Rev. Jeff Clinger is the pastor for members of the Resurrection family whose last names begin with D-I.  He can be reached via email at jeff.clinger@cor.org and he blogs regularly at Changing to Bring Change

11.18.08 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

I begin with a brief apology for the missing post last week.  I’m sorry, and I’m blessed to know that there are people out there reading our musings and enjoying them. 

Now, to the text for the day:  Matthew 6:1-4.  So much in a few verses. 

This is the first of three warnings in which we are told to watch our intentions–this one about giving, followed by a similar sentiment on prayer (v.6) and fasting (v.16). 

Jesus tells us:

1. Give to the needy (the statement assumes we are already doing it and know it is a good thing).

2.  Don’t go announcing what you have done to gain the attention or approval of other people.

3.  Give in secret.  God sees what you’ve done secretly, then you will receive a reward from God (much better than the accolades of other people). *

*–We don’t give to the needy in order to be rewarded by God.  We don’t give seeking to receive some benefit, payback, or eternal bonus points, but by acting faithfully we do receive God’s esteem.   

This passage suggests that how we give–our disposition, our attitude–is in fact as important as the gift we give.  It all comes back to the idea that we can only worship God.  Either our intentions are to honor God in our giving (and praying and fasting) or they are to honor ourselves.  We can’t have it both ways.     

I can’t give you any examples of giving in secret, obviously that would defeat the point, right?  I can tell you that I know it in my gut when I am practicing my faith in a way that is first seeking the approval of others.  At first it feels good… other people say things like “oh Molly, that’s so generous”  or “you give so much of yourself.”  Then that voice in my head says, “yes, I am so good/so holy/so giving/so faithful.”  Then, my stomach starts to turn a bit, and I can almost hear God say, “so that really wasn’t for me after all.”  That’s when I’ve received my reward in full from everyone around me–at the expense of worshipping and honoring God.  Not good.  I suppose that’s what Jesus was trying to tell us in the first place. 

~Molly Simpson is the Campus Pastor of Resurrection West and can be reached at molly.simpson@rezwest.org.