Monthly Archives: February 2010

2.26.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

Isn’t it interesting how everyone seemed to know that Jesus habitually prayed in the garden of Gethsemane?  This realization is awkward for me.  I can just imagine a CSI-esque scene like this:  I am missing.  They search the house for clues.  The detective states confidently, “He hasn’t been gone long.  The TV remote is still warm.”  (Great.  Just g-r-e-a-t.)  Perhaps we would do well to mimic Christ’s example & use our idle time a bit more wisely.  (Note to self:  This means moi.)

Upon further review of this scene, it is intriguing to me that Jesus, who seemed to be travel a great deal, had a favored spot for time alone with God.  He wasn’t a frequent visitor in Jerusalem.  Yet, He was known to enjoy this peaceful spot to commune with God.

If Jesus required a specific place to be with God, perhaps we would be remiss if we didn’t have a similar tradition.  My wife, Doris, grew up on a farm.  As a little girl, she had her “Prayer Pasture” where she could talk & listen to God.  (Reason #514 for wishing I had known her then.)  What a wonderful place for prayer.

For me, I don’t have a specific place for prayer.  I do have a traditional time for prayer.  Twelve years ago I started telecommuting with my job.  Reading various articles & books for advice, several of them recommended starting & ending each day with a walk outside.  Feeling the weather (hot/cold, dry/rainy, etc.) provides a good boundary for your workday.  So I started walking our dog, a beagle-mix named Molly.  Each morning & evening, regardless of the weather, we make a 1-mile circuit through the neighborhood.  Below is an abbreviated journal from one morning’s prayer walk this week, with Molly’s “thoughts” in bold:

I put on my most pitiful look to make sure we are doing this.  It seems awfully cold & icy out there.  As the cold wind hits my face, I recall that God is our Creator.  Despite all of our knowledge & best efforts, simple weather can still confound us.  God is something else.

I stop at my favorite signpost to see if there have been any new visitors on our trek.  Nope.  Same crowd.  As we pause at a signpost, I start turning over my concerns to God.  Isn’t it amazing how a perfectly good morning can be quickly swamped by worries & problems?  I use this portion of my walk to clear them off of my plate & place them before God.  Today’s worries center on a proposal for a long-time client & good health for the boys.

Ah, the big evergreen bushes.  Five years ago there were rabbits here.  I check every day to see if they have come back.  I wave at our friend, Helen, as she drives by (Helen always sits by us at 7:45 church.).  I begin praying for friends & for folks in our small groups.  This morning’s focus is on money:  courage in a job search for one friend, financial peace for one family, & wisdom for a new career venture for another.

There’s Moses, the basset hound.  I dawdle to make sure he sees me.  Yes!  He starts howling.  His master opens the door & yells, “Get in here, now.”  Mission accomplished.  As we stop at the cul-de-sac, I pray on a laundry list of items for personal growth & improvement.  I ask for encouragement & patience (lots of patience) as I seek to do His will.

We are at the halfway point.  One time I saw this strange creature.  Dad said it was an opossum.  I just stood there.  I didn’t bark.  I didn’t move.  Some things are just too weird.  I now begin to chat with God about “God-questions.”  Sometimes it is about a verse I am contemplating.  This day it is for my Christian Hero class.  This week we are looking at the life of C.S. Lewis.  He was a famous apologist for the faith.  Maybe we’ll talk about what “apologist” means. (Defender of a position in a long-standing argument.)  Perhaps discuss whether we are in a position to explain our faith.  If we find that we aren’t quite prepared for that discussion, create some steps to help us become better equipped.

The hill.  And some say Kansas is flat.  I am now just quiet.  As we walk along, I just listen for God.  This is my favorite part.  My time with God is almost done.  I feel at peace & ready to start the day.

Home.  Time for some water & hanging around the table while the brothers eat breakfast.  Amen.

2.25.10 Thursday Insights from Amy Otto

Talk about a scripture passage with a lot in it! Here are a few of my thoughts.

The first 4 verses of Psalm 118 remind me almost word for word of the beginning of the song “Forever” by Michael W. Smith. “Give thanks to the Lord our God and King. His love endures forever.” Four times the psalmist makes the statement “his love endures forever”. Isn’t that a powerful and comforting thought? To know that, no matter what, God’s love endures through this life and the next? Wow!

When I think of this scripture being sung at the conclusion of the Last Supper, I am struck by the irony of it. The disciples were singing the words of this psalm with Jesus–talking about how God sets us free, and is my helper, my refuge, my salvation–and a few hours later Jesus was dying on the cross to set all of us free! Can you imagine how the disciples must have felt when they realized that the one they were singing about was with them? Can you imagine the next Passover, when the disciples sang the psalm again, how much more it must have meant to them? When I close my eyes and try to imagine myself as one of the disciples I am just overwhelmed with emotion. Try it yourself—let yourself become part of this amazing scene.

One last thought. Psalm 118 is one of the psalms that hits close to home for me. There have been times in my life when I have been afraid, when I’ve needed a helper to stand up for me or for someone else, when I’ve felt attacked at all sides. Through it all God is with me. Each of us have probably had feelings like these at one time or another. We’ve made mistakes and learned many hard lessons. But God doesn’t let any of that be the end of us, or minimize who we are. God transforms us, even through the hard times, to be His children, and to love like Him and care like Him. So, join me in singing with the psalmist, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Amy Otto serves on the Student Ministries staff at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

2.24.10 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Nicole Conard

Great job abiding today by reading the GPS guide online!  If you are reading the devotional book, 24 Hours That Changed the World: 40 Days of Reflection, we are on Day #7.  Again, great job abiding!

Abiding is the key verb used in today’s Scripture, John 15:5, 8-13.  Jesus commands that we abide in God.  I do not typically use the word abide in my everyday conversation. So, I appreciate Pastor Adam’s description of abiding in Christ in the devotional book:

 “As Jesus prepared to leave his disciples, he called them to ‘abide in me.’ Jesus used the metaphor of a grape vine and branches to illustrate what abiding looks like.We are to remain connected to Jesus even if we cannot physically see him. We are to draw strenth and spiritual noursihment from our relationship with him.” (p.18)

There are practices in our faith that help us abide in Christ.  John Wesley, the founder of Methodism called these practices to abide and stay in love with God “means of grace.”  The five means of grace are:

  • Holy Communion / Worship,
  • Study Scriptures,
  • Prayer,
  • Fasting and
  • Participating in Small Groups (holy conferencing).

“Means of grace” is a term used for being ordinary channels where we can experience God’s grace…..like being connected on a vine.  We practice  the ways to abide in Christ or to stay in love with God. 

You can tell when you are abiding and staying connected to the vine and when you are not.  There is great life, joy, peace and perspective that comes when we abide. When we are not, we start to slip away and notice a difference, knowing we need to get connected. After a while, we can forget and experience lifelessness. 

No matter where you are today, pick at least one way to  continue to abide in God and experience great fruitfulness in your life.

If you want to find out more about the means of grace and participate in holy conferencing with other people, I invite you to come to the Loving God Learning Community, which Darren Lippe (Friday Insight writer) and I teach.  Rez West begins the Loving God learning community on Tuesday, March 2. The Leawood campus begins on Wednesday, April 21– when you can continue to abide in Christ after Lent!

2.23.10 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

The verses in John 14:1-3 are directed to the disciples before Jesus’ death–they are given to comfort those that can’t follow Jesus to the place he will soon go, to those left living.  It strikes me as appropriate then that we so often read these very words at funerals.  They are words of comfort read to those left living.  In seminary, I was taught that a good funeral will both provide space to grieve the loss of the deceased person and comfort those in attendance in the face of their own mortality by pointing to the way of resurrection–to Jesus.  See, for most of us, a funeral is not only about the conclusion of one particular person’s life but a reminder of the inescapable fate that we will all surely face.

While we can’t fully appreciate the experience of being fully present with Jesus and then his departure, we can appreciate the promise given to the disciples about the reunion that Jesus will initiate.  He has prepared a place for us and he will come to get us.  For Jesus’ original twelve disciples and all of his disciples today, there is no confusion about where we go when we die–we follow Jesus, for as in verse 6 he reminds us that he is the way, the truth and the life.

But not all of us are in the same place as the disciples–not all of us have decided what we will do with Jesus’ call to “come follow me.”  If you are still trying to decide, know that a lifetime of following Jesus is every bit as amazing as the promise of that room prepared for us on the other side.  Won’t you join me on this journey?

2.22.10 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

I appreciated the reflection in the sermon this past weekend about what it might have been like for Judas to go through the process of betraying Jesus and then trying to return the money. I can’t imagine what it would have been like for Judas to realize what he had done for approximately $10,000 in today’s money.

This raises the question of faith and finances. Every month my wife, Nicole, and I sit down to have a conversation about how we are using our resources. Our hope is to align the finances which God has given us with God’s will for our lives and God’s dream for all of creation. Giving to the church is one of the primary ways that we ensure our finances are in line with our faith.

I have found that giving helps me make better decisions with what to do with the rest of our resources.

How do your faith and finances connect?

2.19.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

The impact of the scene described by John can be hard to fully appreciate 2,000 years after the fact.  At the last gathering of my Disciple 4 class a few years ago, we ended our time together by washing each other’s feet. 

As we discussed this simple ritual, it was interesting & understandable that some of us experienced a little hesitation.  Really?  Wash each other’s feet?  It seemed rather old-fashioned and, if we were honest, a little out of the ordinary.

So we agreed to pray about it & we could elect, if it was more palatable to the group, the option of washing each other’s hands.  The next week as we gathered, everyone had opted to go with the ritual washing each other’s feet.  We all brought towels to dry our feet.  I had a pitcher of water & small plastic tub catch the excess water.  Realizing that this particular class was all couples, I suggested it might have greater impact if each husband & wife would wash each other’s feet.

The next few minutes were absolutely amazing.  As each wife sat in her chair, her husband quietly knelt on the ground before her & slowly poured water on her feet.  He took his towel & then gently patted her feet dry.  The positions were reversed as we went around the room, one couple at a time.

As we returned to our group, husbands & wives, with tears in their eyes, were holding each other’s hands.  One of our little band of believers noted that “when Larry placed his towel on his shoulder & knelt down on the ground, I could just picture Jesus doing the same.”

We asked ourselves, how could such a simple ritual exude so much power & emotion?  Perhaps, in a culture constantly “looking out for #1,” we are shocked to see someone voluntarily submit to serving.  Or perhaps, we feel stuck with the template that we have to have all of the answers & be the “alpha male/female” in each & every situation.  Maybe it is, ironically, a great relief to allow ourselves to be vulnerable & to display agape` love to one of God’s children.

As we re-read John’s passage that evening, our awe & amazement at Christ’s love grew.  Sometimes His love for us is so off-the-charts & so beyond our ability to adequately comprehend that we need to take a step back & see Christ’s love in His small acts of kindness & servitude.  (As our reflection guide notes, this is what is meant by “servant leadership.”)

As we quietly sat in our circle, we wondered what the Upper Room’s atmosphere must have been like that evening 2,000 years ago?  Were the disciples still missing the big picture?  Did some get it & were stunned into awe-struck silence?  Were others still so inwardly focused that they missed the incredible significance of this ritual? 

Within a relatively short period of time, the eleven disciples would bravely venture to all the corners of the earth.  They began to tell others of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  They faced death, beatings, & ridicule at every turn.  They must have been in a constant state of exhaustion.  I wonder, as they got ready for bed at the end of the day, if they didn’t look back at that night together.  Back to a room filled with warmth, love & light.  Back to that evening when the King of Kings bowed down to them.  (Them!)  As they drifted off to sleep, they must have felt an incredible sense of peace.  May we fully appreciate Christ’s love for each one of us this day.

2.18.10 Thursday Insights from Pastor Penny Ellwood

This week I had an opportunity to speak at the last session of the premarital preparation class that is required for couples planning a wedding at Church of the Resurrection.  There were 12 young couples in this particular class, all planning to get married sometime this year.  One of the things I spoke to the group about was the Biblical view of marriage as a sacred, life-long covenant.

The concept of the covenant is used repeatedly throughout Scripture as a sign and symbol used by God to reveal His saving grace. God chose to enter into a solemn covenant of love, not only with individuals such as Abraham, but also with the whole household of Israel. God’s covenant of love, though not always reciprocated, is everlasting, extending from generation to generation: “The Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands” (Deut 7:7-9 NIV).

To help the class understand the solemn and binding nature of the marriage covenant, I explained how covenants were made in the Old Testament days.   When two people entered into a covenant with one another, a goat or lamb would be slain and its carcass would be cut in half. With the two halves separated and lying on the ground, the two people who had formed the covenant would solemnize their promise by walking between the two halves saying, “May God do so to me [cut me in half] if I ever break this covenant with you and God!”  Passing between the split carcasses is known as the “walk of death.”

As I was re-reading the Luke passage in light of this recent discussion, it struck me for the first time that Jesus may have been thinking of this covenant process as he shared the bread and cup with his disciples.  He broke the bread in two and said, ‘this is my body given for you” and taking the cup he said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

Jesus became the sacrifice for this new covenant of love.  From this time forward, this meal we now share is a reminder and sign of his sacrificial love and commitment; a lasting covenant from generation to generation.

2.17.10 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

As we turn our attention today to the observance of Ash Wednesday (interesting how we never really refer to it as the “celebration of Ash Wednesday”!), the scripture passage we encounter shows us how Jesus prepared for perhaps the most significant moment of his life. In the reading we did today in Pastor Adam’s “40 Days of Reflection” Lenten guide he asks us to see the two disciples, Peter and John, cast into the unfamiliar roles of servants carrying out roles that traditionally belonged to women.

In addition to this element of the story, I am particularly moved by the care and the exquisite attention to detail Jesus puts into this moment, seemingly intent on wringing every drop of meaning from it he can. Because we have seen where the story goes from this point, we can share Jesus’ perfect foreknowledge of just what was at stake at this gathering. Though he was the central character in the drama that was about to unfold, Jesus’ entire focus seemed to be on arranging everything in such a way that his disciples – both then and now – would have no doubt about what was really happening in that upper room.

It causes me to reflect on the kind of heart I bring to the “tasks of preparation” I am regularly faced with in my life and how I carry them out. As I set up the classroom where men will come to share with each other about their experiences with divorce, am I treating this preparation as a holy and spiritual discipline? As we choose the songs and approach the readers and arrange the chairs for Celebrate Recovery on Thursday night, are we doing so with the conscious guidance and presence of the Holy Spirit?

The events that took place in that upper room on the night that Jesus willingly gave his life for us have changed the course of the world forever. And while we are not likely to be part of a gathering with an equal level of world-changing import, we should never doubt God’s ability to use every moment as a moment of grace and glory. When we demonstrate our obedience by our careful preparation and attention to detail, we demonstrate our expectation that God will act… the Spirit will move… lives will in fact be changed.

God stands ready to speak at every moment we are a part of. During this time of reflection and preparation, let us make room in our hearts for God’s divine and redemptive voice.

Pastor Russell Brown is the Pastor of Support Ministries which includes Celebrate Recovery and the ReSet Ministries.

Phone: 913-544-0219

Email: russell.brown@cor.org

2.16.10 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Scott Chrostek

We’ve all heard the expression, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  I heard that expression for the first time in my high school keyboarding class.  My teacher was instructing us on the importance of keeping our wrists and palms off of the computer keyboard while typing.  I remember her always telling our class, “If you don’t keep the right form, then you’ll run the risk of getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (a painfully debilitating injury).  The irony was that she routinely rested her palms on her keyboard whenever she typed and whenever we pointed that out (and were sure to point it out) she would reply, “Do as I say, not as I do!”  I remember seeing my keyboard instructor a few years after graduation and as I went up to say, ‘Hello,’ and shake her hand, I noticed that she was wearing a wrap on each of her wrists.  She was recovering from Carpal Tunnel Surgery.

In today’s passage of scripture, Jesus tells his friends, his disciples (or what I like to think of as his class) to “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down…36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  Jesus is telling his followers to protect their hearts and minds, to guard their lives in such a way that would prepare them for the painfully debilitating event (betrayal and crucifixion) coming their way.  He then instructs them that the best way to prepare (or to stand guard) is through prayer.  He says, “Pray every day. Pray without ceasing.  Pray fervently.”

The passage then concludes as Luke reveals the details of Jesus’ life going forward.  He writes, “Every day Jesus was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called.”

I often wonder what Jesus did on the Mount of Olives in the night?

My best guess…he was praying.

My hope is that you might find time today to pray.  Thank God that Jesus never uttered the words, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Ask God to give you the strength and the courage to live the same way, and then with the blessing of a new day, thank God for the opportunity to live this day in a way that seeks give glory to Jesus Christ, whose words and deeds matched and made possible a hope that never ends.

2.15.10 Monday Insights from Pastor Steven Blair

The Hebrew word for redeemer is “go’el.”  A “go’el” referred to a person’s next of kin who would have the power and responsibility to protect the family.  The “go’el” was connected by blood and would use his position to buy back or redeem a family member in trouble.  If one member of the family became indebted to the point of having to become a slave to pay off the debt, the “go’el” would pay off the amount to liberate his family member.

Luke 21:5-28 is a dark passage, predicting everything from Jesus Followers being betrayed in the future to the Temple in Jerusalem being destroyed.  Jesus describes a hard time ahead, yet he throws in a very important truth: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28).”  Jesus promises that when things get tough for his people, he will act as our “go’el.”  Jesus promises to take the role of our next of kin redeemer and save us from future pain.

Pain is part of the human condition.  Some pain will always be with us precisely because we are human.  But much of our pain can be dealt with if we call upon our “go’el.”  Jesus can save us from the pain of our damaged egos and the pain of a tattered relationship, instead of trying to fix things by not following his commands.  With the right obedience of God’s people, even those suffering the pain of poverty and worldwide sickness can be saved.

Jesus identifies himself as our “go’el,” our source of redemption.

How can we look to him to save us and set things back to right?