Monthly Archives: January 2009

01.31.09 Saturday Insights from Pastor Laurie Barnes

Chapter 11 of Hebrews is the “Great Hall of Faith.”  It contains example after example after example of wonderful stories of faith from the Hebrew Scriptures.  Due to space limitations, the stories themselves are not fully re-told.  However, for the original audience (Christians who had been Jews initially), an allusion to an individual or a story was all that was needed.  Given the various internal clues in the book, these Jewish Christians were on the verge of apostasy – of turning away from Christianity and returning to Judaism.  In Chapter 11, the author makes the point that if all the people listed in chapter 11 could have faith (knowing as little as they did), how could they – the Jewish Christians to whom the book is directed –  shrink back and not go forward in faith?  If we read the rest of the book of Hebrews with chapter 11, which we need to do, we see that it is not so much the people themselves but the undergirding of a faithful God that enables these people to have faith and keep enduring. 

 

My favorite verse in chapter 11 is verse 6 which reads, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  Clearly, there is no substitute for faith. 

 

In what are you putting your trust today?  In what or in whom do you have faith?

Maybe we all need to pray the prayer that the father prayed in Mark 10:24, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” 

 

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

 

1.30.09 Friday Insights from Pastor Dagney Pullin

I absolutely love math and science, which is one reason why I pursued a science degree in undergraduate school. I love the exploration, the problem solving, and the incredible complexity in the scientific fields. The more I study, the more in awe I am of God’s creation, but I have always understood that the aim of science was to understand and to work with and in the creation, not to prove or explain the Creator. How are we to better understand God, then?

This passage from I Timothy instructs the reader to “keep this command without spot or blame.” The command to which it’s referring is to, “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” It is by following this command that we can most fully know and experience the God who exemplifies all these qualities and created in us the capacity to live into them as well.

We will never perfectly live up to this command, though, so we also look to the person of Jesus, who did live this out perfectly, to see the face of God, to understand better the Creator and the purpose behind the creation. The more our lives and hearts reflect the life and spirit of Jesus, the more we know God, and the more we can show the world a glimpse of our common Creator.

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

1.29.09 Thursday Insights from Pastor Jeff Clinger

My mother was and is a great influencer of my faith.  I will always remember returning home from summer camp one year to find a letter waiting for me on my pillow.  The gist of it was this – I know you’re coming off of a great week of camp, but I also know that middle school will be tough and frustrating so I want you to always remember that I love you and that God loves you and that nothing can separate you from God’s love (she then quoted Romans 8:38-39).  Her encouragement and her love played a big role in shaping me to the man of faith I am today.

My mom is a pastor now, but was a teacher while I was growing up, a science teacher to be specific.  In fact, she was my seventh grade science teacher.  Understandably, I never thought of science and religion as mutually exclusive concepts.  Early on I understood science to be the how of the world and religion (or theology) to be the why.

So, which is more “true”: a geologist’s technical description of the Grand Canyon’s rocks or sediments or a poet’s imagery evoking the Canyon’s grandeur and majesty?  I’d say neither.  Science is an incredibly important tool for helping us understand the world.  The language of poetry (especially as it shapes our faith) is an equally important tool for helping us understand the world.  As we journey through life, science and the poetry of religion can help us engage both our heads and our hearts as we grow.

It is my hope that as we all seek to become deeply committed Christians we will continue to learn all that we can about how God is at work in the world through the sciences and the things that they have to teach us.

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.organd he blogs regularly at Changing to Bring Change.

1.28.09 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

What a great opportunity we have been given this week to compare and contrast the two accounts of the Creation of the world told through the writer(s) of Genesis. It is widely believed among Bible scholars that the two Creation accounts come from two different sources… one source is known as the “Yahwist” account (because this writer uses YHWH, also pronouced as Yahweh, for the divine name), and the Priestly account (whose writer refers to God as “God.”) These accounts have some striking differences, but also some intriguing similarities. The Genesis 1 version, for example, details the specific Creation task of each new day, ending with God’s naming of that day’s work as “good.” The Genesis 2 account, on the other hand, sums the whole Creation project up in two terse sentences, focusing most of its attention on the interaction between God and human beings.

I remember initially being confused by the existence of two accounts of the Creation story. My instinct was to ask,  “Which account of Creation is the right one?” I found it hard to imagine that I could find elements of truth in different versions of the same story. And yet, isn’t this the way God continues to invite us into an active exploration of divine reality? I find myself regularly challenged to pray over and ponder the meaning of the things I read in the Bible.  I would love to open its pages and see a crystal clear instruction telling me how to make some decision. But very often that is not the case.

 Jesus spoke in parables, regularly leaving his listeners scratching their heads, unsure what the “moral of the story” really was. His teaching style forced his listeners to engage the critical faculties of their own minds to fit the pieces of the puzzle together rather than having it neatly handed to them. And what they found was that when they did some of the work themselves, the lesson became theirs in a lasting and meaningful way. I firmly believe this is why we find things in the Bible – things like two different accounts of the Creation story – that make us stop and scratch our heads and think. In this way we become owners and in a real sense, “co-creators” of the truth God seeks to impart to us.

Happy pondering this week!

Rev. Russell Brown

(913) 544-0219

russell.brown@cor.org

01.24.09 Saturday Insights from Pastor Laurie Barnes

The most important passage in the book of Acts is the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost as described in Chapter 2.  This passage in Acts, which could be described as the Gentile Pentecost, is probably the second most important passage in Acts.  While a social inter-relationship question is raised in Acts 11:1-3, the key issue is whether Gentiles have to become Jews before they can become Christians.  While the issue was not definitely decided until the Council at Jerusalem (as described in Acts 15), it is clear to all that heard Peter’s story that, “…God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:18).

 

When we are doing our GPS readings at home, how can we tell if a particular passage is critically important?  One way would be to notice how much space is devoted to it.  Here, the account of the Gentile Pentecost takes up 66 verses (all of chapter 10 and through verse 18 of chapter 11) of the book of Acts.  Also important to notice is the repetition of words and stories.  Within these 66 verses, the vision of Cornelius the Gentile is described four times and Peter’s vision is described at least twice.  God clearly validated the expansion of the early church to include Gentiles.  And Luke, the author of Acts, wants to make that point crystal clear.

 

What is the lesson for us today?  Though it sounds simplistic, it could come down to Luke 10:27, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Because of our love for God, we are enabled to love our neighbor.  Regardless of our differences.

 

Rev. Laurie Barnes is the Pastor of Prayer and Congregational Care.  She can be reached at laurie.barnes@cor.org.

 

1.23.09 Friday Insights from Pastor Dagney Pullin

When I was a freshman in college, I had turned away from God and from my faith. I wasn’t angry, I just had no need for it anymore. Several religious organizations on campus handed me their literature, but I wasn’t interested. But then one woman, a year ahead of me in the same major, befriended me. I knew she was involved in a campus ministry, but she didn’t invite me for a while. Instead, she helped me learn the ropes of the engineering department, introduced me to her friends, and made me feel at home. 

The first time she invited me to a party at the ministry, I told her I had no interest in religion. She said, “Ok, that’s fine,” and our friendship continued as normal. She was so incredibly generous toward me, never saying a word of judgement about any of my less than morally upright behavior, and overlooked so many incredibly stupid things that I said and did.  She intrigued me, and I wanted to spend more time with her, and so finally followed her to the Wesley Foundation, the Methodist campus ministry, one day. That changed my life.

Jesus crossed all sorts of boundaries when he befriended people, and though it bothered the religious leaders and even his disciples, it didn’t phase him. Even knowing everyone’s deepest, darkest secrets, he loved them extravagantly, and his love changed, and continues to change, one life after another. 

It’s very easy to grow so comfortable in our circles of friends and acquaintances that we forget to cross boundaries to form relationships with those who do not share our beliefs or lifestyles and have no desire to change. We need to seek out these relationships that stretch us and  offer friendship with no strings attached.

And just as Jesus asked the woman for a drink of water, everyone we meet will have a special gift from which we can learn and grow. Appreciating this and expressing our gratitude to others for what they give us is one of the most powerful proofs of real friendship.

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

1.22.09 Thursday Insights from Pastor Jeff Clinger

Each summer during high school I attended a mission work camp called Mt. T.O.P. (Tennessee Outreach Project).  The organization that ran these camps had United Methodist roots and was explicitly Christian.  Each summer our youth group from Lawrence would gather with other youth groups from around the country to spend a week in a camp setting during which our days were spent working on the homes of some of the poorest of the poor in Appalachia.  One summer, a young Jewish woman who had a friend in our youth group joined us on the trip.  Everyone in our youth group knew and liked this girl, but when we arrived in Tennessee, she encountered tension and criticism that we never would have imagined.

Youth from some of the other groups who were there immediately saw this young girl as a mission “opportunity.”  Word quickly spread through camp that there was a non-Christian present and people didn’t even take the opportunity to get to know her before they began trying to convert her.  This young girl quickly became overwhelmed by the pressure that so many were putting on her and the ways in which she was being treated as an outsider and a “target.”  On one of the first days in camp I found her sitting by herself under a tree crying.  I approached her and sat with her and asked her if she wanted to talk.  We began discussing the things that people had been saying to her and the conversation eventually led to talk about why we were both there – my Christian understanding of mission work as a part of building the Kingdom of God and her Jewish understanding of Tikun Olam (working for the repair of the world).  We finished our conversation by praying together, her in Hebrew and I in the name of Jesus.

As I read Paul’s story in Acts I think back to that summer and the hurtful and manipulative ways in which so many tried to convert or to win this young woman over to Christianity when they weren’t even willing to get to know her.  Paul shows us a much better way.  As we engage with people of other faiths (as well as those who are non and nominally religious) we should take the time to get to know who they are, to hear their stories, to know how they operate, and to understand how they view God and the world.  As we grow in relationship with them we will then have ample opportunities to share our faith and to invite them to consider the truth of the gospel.

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.

01.21.2009 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Nicole Conard

As Naaman tried to find healing, he was trying out all the options. He was a man of high stature (because of what the Lord had done through him), and he had many options for healing.  A young servant indirectly shared about a place of healing, the prophet in Israel.  The king of Aram even sent a letter of recommendation and lots of money!  Yet, the king of Israel did not believe him.  Elisha heard what was going on but did not even come out to see Naaman. He just gave instructions to him through a messenger.  Naaman expected more!  At least Elisha would see him…but, with the help of his servants, Naaman reluctantly did as he was advised and was cured.

Sometimes we look for answers and we are expecting the answers to come a certain way.  We, like Naaman, remember that God speaks through people and circumstances –even the people and places we least expect.

That’s one of the amazing characteristics of God through Scripture. God meets people where they are and then takes them to a whole new level.  God is at work inside of each person, no matter if he/she knows it or not.  God works in and through people at all stages — even you and I.

Today –are you searching for something?  Open your eyes to the places even where you least expect and see how God may be at work. Remember God is at work in all of us!

01.20.09 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

Yesterday we celebrated the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who stepped out boldly to proclaim that God lovingly created all people, all races, and that all humans were worthy of respect, dignity, and civil rights.  God did amazing things through the faithfulness of Dr. King in his short 39 years of life. 

In thinking of Dr. King and reading this Genesis passage, I’m reminded that we can do a lot through our efforts, but it is by God’s power working in and through us that the world is changed.   Abraham wasn’t triumphant hero that set out to change the world–he was a man who responded in faith to God’s work in his life.  God’s promise to Abraham is this, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Sometimes I wrongly assume that I’m the one is accomplishing good things for the sake of God’s glory rather than God at work in me.  It’s not that we have a puppeteer God making us do certain things, but I believe that our labors would be much less fruitful were it not for God’s blessing.  And the world changing stuff… we could never dream of accomplishing that on our own. 

What would it look like for you to participate with God for the good of others?  How might God bless other people through you? 

Oh, and one more thing… will you join be by pausing at some point today to offer up a prayer for God’s wisdom and leadership in the life of President Obama?  I’ll also be praying for his wife and daughters as they begin this new journey.   

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

1.19.09 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

The GPS guide reminds us that both the wise men and Herod indicated that they desired to worship Jesus and then asks what it means to worship and what qualities are needed to enter in to worship. Great questions.

I find that there are times when I am eager to come to worship. I am excited about singing the songs, praying together as a community and hearing God’s word preached. There are also times when I am not as excited about coming. I know that it is important to worship with others and it is also part of my job!

What happens most often in these times is that my heart is changed by the time that the service is over. When I hear the benediction, I do feel sent out to be God’s hands and feet in the world, despite having not been sure that I wanted to worship in the first place.

God welcomes all to worship and through the experience of worship gives each of the opportunity to reset our view on God.