Monthly Archives: September 2009

9.30.09 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

Biologists speak of an inborn “fight or flight” response by which living beings respond to situations of danger. Today’s reading from Psalm 46 offers us a decidedly different counsel.

No one would argue with the instinct to preserve our life in the presence of a threat from outside.  The picture of the situation of danger and chaos painted here by the psalmist is vivid, speaking of mountains that “shake in the heart of the sea,” and seas whose waters “roar and foam,” giving us the mental  image of an earthquake and a flood taking place simultaneously.

A few people I have spoken with lately would say that is exactly the way their life feels at the moment. Between jobs that are lost, marriages that are in a state of crisis, crushing depression that has set in, and sometimes even addictions on top of everything else, it is an earthquake, flood, and forest fire all at once.

But instead of being guided by the instinct to run away (flight) or resist violently (fight), the psalmist’s prescription is to, “Be still.” And not just to be passively still, but to “be still and know” the power and authority of God. What happens when we follow the psalmist’s advice is that we come to see that God’s stability is greater than the stability of the shaking mountain. It is a thousand times deeper and more peaceful than the boiling sea. God is the only foundation on which we can build a life that will not crack or buckle under pressure. God is – in the words of the famous hymn written by Martin Luther – “a mighty fortress,” capable of withstanding everything.

Be still. Know. Trust in God’s mercy and provision. Never doubt God’s ability to provide, even during the most frightening times of your life.

9.29.09 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Scott Chrostek

King Saul had disobeyed God’s ordinances, and the great prophet Samuel (Saul’s good friend) was called by God to look for the new king of Israel. He was to travel to Bethlehem to find the new king from among Jesse the Bethlehemite’s family of sons.  Samuel examined seven older, stronger, wiser and more capable brothers.  From that group, he expected that, surely, one of them would be fit to be king.  But in the end, it was David, the eighth son, the least expected son, the smallest son, the only son who was left behind, that the Lord God ultimately chose to be king.  
 
David was the unexpected choice.  Going into the search, the prophet Samuel had great expectations, but David was God’s great “unexpectation,” and he changed the world.  By God’s grace, David then gave us words to speak (wrote over half of the Psalms), songs to sing, stories of strength to fall back upon in times of need, and eventually he even gave us Christ (14 generations later).  David was God’s great unexpectation, the least expected, and he changed the world.  By God’s grace, you have the potential to do the very same thing!
 
The smallest, youngest, least expected King of Israel, penned the words we read today.  The little unexpected shepherd who became a mighty king wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters and restores my soul.”  The youngest, least expected, forgotten little shepherd boy prayed these words relentlessly, believed these words firmly, and lived these words faithfully as best he could every day of his life, saying.  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”  And when the time arrived, the Lord said to the great prophet Samuel, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.  David is the one.”

Scott Chrostek serves as the campus pastor for Resurrection Downtown. 

9.28.09 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

I appreciate the guidance from the GPS this week to Read, Engage, Pray and Live. I find it to be a helpful way to engage the scripture.

Jesus gave his life for us on the cross, but this is not the only way in which Jesus gives his life for us. One of the ways that Jesus continues to give his life for us is in the celebration of Holy Communion. At least once a month we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion as a part of the worship experience at Resurrection. This is a meal that we share with each other in which we remember Jesus final meal with his disciples and we look forward to the heavenly meal we will share together with Jesus at the banquet of God’s kingdom. Communion is an occasion in which Jesus gives himself for us and we have the opportunity to give ourselves to God.

I find that receiving communion is one of the ways that I continue to grow in my ability to hear God’s voice. There have been clear times in my life when I have heard God speaking to me, but I have room to grow in my ability to recognize God’s voice. In receiving the bread and the juice, I experience God’s presence with me and have the opportunity to listen for Jesus voice in a particular time and place.

9.25.09 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

“It’s a bird.  It’s a plane.   It’s Superman!”

So begins one of my favorite cartoons.  It can be so much fun to pretend that we are like Superman (or Wonder Woman, as the case may be) with vast powers & the ability to solve any & all problems with great integrity, intellect, & strength.

As a culture, we are often tempted to think we are like Superman.  We are so well educated & intelligent, no problem is beyond our solutions.  We are bigger, faster & stronger than previous generations.  We see ourselves as impervious to weakness or suffering or failure.  “Look out world, here we come!”

However as life rolls along, we suddenly come face-to-face with our limitations.  Perhaps it is a serious setback at work, where the fast track is filled with younger/smarter colleagues.  Perhaps it is a serious health concern for a loved one or yourself.  Perhaps it is a relationship facing great strain & tension.  We don’t feel so much like Superman anymore.

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians addresses this very realization.  Our hearts, our minds, our bodies are like earthen vessels:  imperfect, fragile, & (gulp) with limited powers.  Paul notes that we will face many trials & tribulations during the course of our life journey.

Interestingly, God never promises us that we will have a life free of pain, suffering or disappointment.  However, God does promise us that He will always be with us during our time in the valleys of life.  Our earthen vessels may be drab & cracked, but with God’s love they can still be filled with priceless treasure.  As Paul notes, with the love of Christ we will always ultimately triumph.

Perhaps we aren’t Superman or Wonder Woman.  But with a life dedicated to Christ, we can still enjoy a life that is “Up, Up, & Away!”

Darren Lippe co-leads the “Loving God” Learning Community at The Church of the Resurrection.

9.24.09 Thursday Insights from Pastor Wendy Chrostek

On our day off, my husband Scott and I went to see a movie at the new AMC theater downtown, Love Happens.  The main character, played by Aaron Eckhart, is a widow who writes a book to help him cope with his grief over the loss of his wife.  Part of the process he outlines in his book is coming to grips with the feelings of pain and grief that you are experiencing rather than hiding them and pretending that they aren’t there.

I was reminded of this movie as I thought about the GPS guide’s invitation to think of the places we’d rather leave God out of our lives.  Truth be told, we all have painful places in our lives that it would simply be easier to forget exist–grief we try to ignore, problems we’ve convinced ourselves we’ve worked through, or mistakes we’ve made that we’ve tried to forget.   We have a way of convincing ourselves that things are okay, when they really aren’t.

If we are ever going to invite God in and allow God to help us heal in those places, we have to be willing to go there ourselves. Sometimes it’s hard to face these things in our lives, but hiding them won’t make them go away.  And pushing God out of these places in our lives will only prevent us from receiving the healing that God longs to provide.  So, I wonder, are there places in your life that not only are you afraid of inviting God into, but you’re also afraid of going there yourself?  And what might it take for you to have the courage to look at these places, and invite God to help you through them?

In the film, Love Happens, I watched as people found the courage to face their painful past and felt a remarkable sense of joy as their lives were transformed when they did.  Transformation might not be an easy process, but it is one that God promises us we never have to do alone.   It is my prayer that you’ll take the courage to invite God along with you in this journey.

9.23.09 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Nicole Conard

Today’s reading is a vivid scene in Israel.  The first part of the reading in chapter 16 sets up who King Ahab is.  The writer says twice, “Ahab son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him” (v.30).  What a way to characterize someone!  He was the most evil of all the kings of Israel so far.  This is not good.  King Ahab set up an altar for Baal – making an idol, a god for the people of Israel to worship.

In chapter 18, we see the confrontation of King Ahab and the prophet Elijah. Upon Elijah’s request, King Ahab called together the 450 prophets of Baal and Elijah, the one prophet of God.  The showdown is found in verses 22-36. (This is a part we did not read in today’s readings, but it provides a great action scene of ‘the test’ – for the true God to make fire come down from heaven. If you  have a moment, I recommend reading the 14 action-packed verses.)

After the test, it was an ‘aha’ moment of turning back to God. The people  recommitted to obey God’s commandments.  As we start this new sermon series on being ordinary saints, we believe that God is with us every single day.  It may come in the dramatic but more in likely in the ordinary day in and day out part of life. Each day, we can turn ourselves to preparing ourselves to see God’s  presence, like Elijah.  His prayer is similar to the one we can pray every morning. I invite you to pray Elijah’s prayer today:

O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be know this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have turned their hearts back.”

This is part of an being an ordinary saint.  Enjoy your day experiencing God’s presence in the ordinary.

9.22.09 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

Sometimes we have to make “all or nothing” choices in life–we have to fully commit and give ourselves fully. 

Take marriage, for example, you can’t be sorta married–either you are or you aren’t.  If you step up to the altar on your wedding day planning to give yourself halfway to the commitment, you might as well have stayed home.  I’ve recently become a mom, and I think parenthood is another one of those all or nothing choices, at least in the early days.  My little girl, Joy, can’t take care of herself, and if she’s going to survive she needs me to set my priorities aside and address her needs on her timetable, not my own.   

It seems to me, this is a bit of the message of 1 John 1:5-2:6.  Following Jesus, having fellowship with God, is one of those all or nothing choices.  It requires giving the whole of ourselves, precisely because we do sin and are sinful (v.8), we need to confess our sin and be made clean by Jesus (v.9), and if we are going to walk with God, we need to be willing to let go of the darkness.  We can’t have it both ways with God–light and dark–because there is no darkness in him, we can’t be with God and hang on to our junk, our selfishness, our fatal habits, our vices, or our sin.   

This is where the spiritual journey of becoming “ordinary saints” truly begins–giving ourselves fully to God and cooperating with the transformational work of the Holy Spirit in us. 

What are the ways that the Holy Spirit is changing darkness to light in your life?  What are the dark corners that you have been holding on to?  In prayer, turn them over to God.  What are the ways that you can see that God has changed to for the good (light)?  Give God thanks in prayer for those.

Rev. Molly Simpson is the Campus Pastor of Resurrection’s West Campus in Olathe KS and can be reached by email at molly.simpson@cor.org.

9.21.09 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

I believe the promise in 1 Thessalonians 5:24. Recently the small group of which I am a part has been studying a book in which we have been studying the stories that we tell ourselves about God and learning about the God that Jesus knew in scriptures. The narrative that I have in my mind about God is not always about the God with which Jesus had a relationship. I believe that God is helping me grow my spirit in the areas of trust and gratitude. I sometimes find it easier to trust other people or myself instead of God. Ultimately I know that people will fail, but God is faithful. God will continue to work in my life if I continue to open my life to God.

I do not believe that I can consistently treat others well if I am not committed to allowing God to transform me through my own spiritual formation. I find that when I do not allow God to be part of the network of relationships with whom I interact every day, I do not treat people as well. Inviting God into the conversations that I have with others helps me to focus on being part of God’s work in the world and effects a change in others as well.

Each day, I am learning to trust God and with that trust I find peace.

· Go through this passage and note all of the sweeping, inclusive words like “everyone,” “nobody,” “always,” “continually,” “in all circumstances,” and the like. Do you believe the promise in verse 24? Where do you see you and God making progress in your spiritual growth? Where are you patiently awaiting growth?

· Verses 14-15 deal with how you treat others. Verses 16-18 focus more on your personal spiritual practices, on how your character grows. What links do you see between the two sets of verses? Can you consistently treat others well if you are not committed to walking with God in your inner growth process?

9.18.09 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

Thinking of Paul’s relationship as mentor to Timothy reminds me of an old story:  A 3rd grade boy is assigned to list the 9 most important people in his life.  His teacher notes that he seems to be struggling with the list & asks if she can help him.  The boy replies, “No thanks.  I just can’t decide on my 3rd baseman.”

Of course, we realize what a blessing it was for Timothy to have a teacher like Paul.  How fortunate for Timothy to have a guide so willing to share his experiences.  Thinking back, I gratefully remember my Scoutmaster, Mr. Anschutz.  He offered a challenge to 7 of my friends & me at an Eagle Scout Court of Honor years ago.  He encouraged us to be “squares,” to balance our lives in respect to 4 areas:  Social/Family, Intellectual, Religion, & Physical Fitness.

It is often too easy to overlook or to take for granted the amazing men & women who have helped shape our lives through the years. So take a moment & write down the 9 people who have been significant teachers or guides or mentors for your life.  My list, taking inspiration from the opening story, is in the shape of a baseball field layout below.

Now we aren’t done quite yet.  As Luke writes, “to whom much is given, much is expected.”  As we recognize all the people who have influenced our lives, we also have to consider those who might think of us as their mentor or guide.  (Admittedly, this is a tougher assignment due to our humility, & perhaps the lack of confirmation of our influence.)  But let’s try to make a list of those whom we are actively guiding or have influenced over the years.

If this list seems particularly lacking, perhaps we should start to work to change it.  We could seek to become a Confirmation class mentor, a tutor, a Sunday school guide, or check out a wide variety of other volunteer opportunities that match our experience & talents.  As we all know, the teacher-student relationship is a mutual blessing. May our lives enjoy such blessing this day.

Darren Lippe serves as co-leader of the “Loving God” Learning Community at The Church of the Resurrection.

Mr. Goheen
(Teacher)

Rosalie                                                                                                  Mr. Anschutz
(Grandmother)                                                                                     (Scoutmaster)

Dad                                    Brother David

Mom                                                                                                              Dave Robertson

Christ

Doris
(Wife)

9.17.09 Thursday Insights from Pastor Penny Ellwood

I have always admired the response of Mary to God’s call on her life.  If you were to draw an image for my own response to God’s call it would look more like a donkey with his heels firmly planted in the ground being tugged unwillingly forward by a strong hand.  I didn’t say, “may it be to me according to your word,” I said, “I’m not sure I want to work that hard, God” and “I’m pretty comfortable right where I am, Lord. Are you sure you don’t mean someone else?”     

Mary had much more at risk in responding to God’s call too.  Had Joseph not supported Mary, she could have been ended up being stoned for turning up pregnant.   I sometimes wonder what went through Mary’s mind.  “How can this be possible? What is Joseph going to say?  Will he ever believe this?  What will my parents think?  I could die for this.” Yet, Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant.”  She never lost sight of whose she was.  She believed that God could use her, humble and lowly as she was. 

This young woman inspires me.  I pray that I will someday have the courage to express the same willingness and obedience to God’s call on my life.  I’m learning but it’s a slow process.