Monthly Archives: April 2010

4.19.10 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

I wonder how Solomon felt as he was praying for the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. What was it like to have seen the temple built from the ground up and to finally reach the place where it was time to dedicate this place of worship? Would it have been easier for Solomon to ask for God to forgive in this circumstance, when it is evident that God had already been at work blessing the people?

I don’t know the answer to these questions and invite you to reflect on what it might have been like for Solomon to pray this prayer.

As the GPS suggests, I sometimes find it easier to ask for nearly anything else in prayer other than forgiveness. When seeking forgiveness, I have to first recognize that I am wrong, have fallen short or missed the mark. This can be difficult for me. I like to excel, get things right and not mess up.

The reality is that I fall short of God’s dream for my life. Each of us does. This is the human condition. The good news is that “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, TNIV)

This is as true today as it was in Solomon’s day.

4.16.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

Well boys…I haven’t a thing to say. Played a great game….all of you. Great game. I guess we can’t expect to win’em all. I’m going to tell you something I’ve kept to myself for years. None of you ever knew George Gipp. It was long before your time. But you know what a tradition he is at Notre Dame. And the last thing he said to me – “Rock,” he said, “sometime, when the team is up against it – and the breaks are beating the boys – tell them to go out there with all they got & win just one for the Gipper.” “I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock,” he said, “but I’ll know about it. And I’ll be happy.” A player responds, “Well what are we waiting for?” With a single roar, the players throw off their blankets & rush through the doorway. Knute Rockne’s Notre Dame team comes back in the 2nd half to defeat Army in their 1928 football contest.

(We’ll pause briefly to allow our male readers a moment to regain their composure. – Editor)

The author of Hebrews is offering his readers (& us) a similar pep talk. He knows we believers will face valleys & struggles & all sorts of temptations in our life. He is offering a prescription to help us cope with all of these hurdles: Jesus.

In our Christian Hero class last week, we reviewed the life of Mary Slessor, a.k.a. “Ma of Calabar.” As a little girl in Scotland in the mid-1800s, Mary felt called to go to Calabar (now known as Nigeria) & help God’s children. After a challenging childhood & serving as the chief bread winner for her Mother & siblings, Mary sets off for Africa at the age of 28. (She wryly notes in her diary that her ship is carrying many casks of spirits but only one missionary.)

The Calabar region was not particularly hospitable. While beautiful, it was known for its tropical diseases, warring tribes, & a population with very little hope. As she set to disembark from the ship she prayed, “Lord, the task is impossible for me, but not for Thee. Lead the way & I will follow.”

Mary was constantly at work. She adopted dozens of orphans (many of them twins, who were thought to be cursed & doomed to death). She rigged her home with ropes & pulleys, so if one should cry in the night, she could swing the hammock to rock her child gently back to sleep. Over the course of her nearly 40 years in Calabar, she saved hundreds of twins from death, reconciled warring parties, rescued slaves, tended to the sick (including herself), established several churches, raised many orphans, set up schools, saved villages from slaughter, and constantly told her friends of the love of Christ for them.

After reviewing Mary’s life story our group simply wondered, “how could she persevere?” Our conclusion wasn’t complicated: her relationship with Jesus. He was not some far-off, distant being. He was her constant companion & friend. His love was not reserved for the hereafter, but rather for the here-and-now. Her love for Christ, which she carefully & constantly nurtured, gave her the vision for her life & her life’s work. Perhaps we can take inspiration from today’s scripture & go do likewise.

Well, what are we waiting for?

4.15.10 Thursday Insights from Pastor Penny Ellwood

I find this passage very interesting.  It seems as though the priest and his associates were more furious about the effects of the apostle’s witness than they were about the message that the apostles were teaching.  These guys were just pain jealous.  The “ugly green monster,” as my mother used to call it, had reared its head.  The Sadducee’s didn’t believe in the message the apostles were preaching but the fact that they held such sway among the temple goers was what really got their tempers flaring.  The apostle’s message had filled Jerusalem (vs. 28).  In other words, the whole city was abuzz with it.

Unfortunately, I have seen how this ugly green monster works within the ranks of my own clergy colleagues around the state, when they have gotten envious over another’s success.  I recall the disparaging comments I’ve heard over the years about this church too.  It’s not a pretty picture when we succumb to envy, but we can each fall prey to it if we’re not careful.

I’m sure the priests didn’t like having their names associated with the death of this fly-by-night prophet either.  The temple authorities were weary of the whole business and ready for Jesus to just fade away like all the others before him.  This is what Gamaliel was counting on too.  He didn’t want more blood to fan the flames and extend the staying power of this two-bit messiah.  They had no idea that they really were fighting against God.  Some think that Gamaliel was eventually persuaded himself by the apostle’s message and became a believer.

How wonderful for the apostles too, to have their words and actions verified and vivified by the appearance of an angel of the Lord.  Don’t you wish there were more details about the angel and their escape from jail in the text?  What did the angel look like?  Was he/she a real presence or an apparition?  Was the angel God himself?  How did they escape with the doors locked and the guards unaware?

You can sense the effect the angel’s appearance must have had on the apostles by their rising excitement and the confidence of their message.  The flogging didn’t even squelch their enthusiasm.  And we have seen in the last weeks how painful and damaging those lashes would have been.  I can imagine that in some ways this grueling punishment might have helped to assuage their guilt and made up for those times when they knew they had failed their Lord.  Now, finally, they understood what Jesus was trying to teach them.

I wonder if we would be up to such a test of our own faith.  Even today, there are others around the world who face similar challenges for standing up for their faith.  I am grateful that here in the United States we don’t have to worry, but I wonder sometimes if our lack of testing doesn’t result in a flaccid kind of faith.  I pray that God would keep the spirit of Easter alive in our hearts so that we might have the courage to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ no matter what our circumstances.

4.14.10 – Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

In my household, it often seems as if there are only two channels on the television: ESPN for me and HGTV for Joan. I have to admit though that I really do like many of the programs on HGTV, especially those that feature a dramatic makeover of a kitchen, bathroom, or back yard. My favorite part of the entire process is seeing the breathtaking “before” and “after” pictures of the project. Most of the time it is nearly impossible to believe that I am looking at the same space.

This is the way I feel about the picture of the apostle Peter we see painted in today’s scripture passage. Peter… the loud, impetuous, “ready, fire, aim” disciple who turned tail and deserted Jesus in his most profound hour of need… is seen standing in front of, “… Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high priestly family,” (Acts 4:6) confidently proclaiming his faith in the risen, living Christ. I am not sure there could be a more stark contrast in any before and after picture than we see in this one.

Peter not only heals the sick by invoking the name of Jesus, he teaches any and all about the resurrection of the dead. He looks the religious authorities straight in the eye and challenges everything they hold sacred. As they might say in a spaghetti Western, the Peter we see here rides tall in the saddle and casts a mighty big shadow.

And what makes him doubly troublesome for the priests is his complete lack of formal education (v. 13). They cannot dismiss the power of his testimony by attributing it to that amazing seminar he attended in California. They cannot console themselves by saying, “Well, of course he’s good… those guys from Harvard just ARE!”

No… these priests and religious leaders are forced to come to grips with the distinct possibility that Peter’s transformation and power come straight from God. And if that is true, and if Peter is questioning the legitimacy of their authority, they are in big trouble indeed.

The lesson of Peter’s transformation provides a word of hope for all of us. Peter had given up hope that early Saturday morning when he heard the rooster crow. He knew he was utterly lost and broken beyond repair. But unlike Judas, Peter waited. For some reason he waited to see if something else might happen. And something else did indeed happen… the very next morning.

This story should serve as a reminder to all of us that for every time we see ourselves as the pitiful “before” picture, we can wait and know that God can provide an extreme soul makeover and bring us into the glory of God’s “after,” just like Peter.

4.13.10 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Scott Chrostek

About 50 days had passed since Peter denied Jesus not once, but three times.  About 50 days had passed since Peter fulfilled that which Christ foretold.  Christ knew what was going to happen, he said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.’  50 days have passed since the cock crowed, and now we seen an emboldened Peter preaching to the very same people he feared. What causes a person to turn around so drastically?  I want to know, ‘What kind of power could enable this kind of transformation?’

In his sermon, in his Pentecostal proclamation, Peter speaks of the Resurrection.  He says, “24God raised him up, having freed him from death,* because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.”

The Apostle Paul (another witness to the Resurrection) writes in Philippians 4:13 that, “I can do all things through him (Christ) who strengthens me.”  And in Matthew 19:26, Jesus tells his disciples that, “with God all things are possible.”

After witnessing the Resurrection, it is clear that Peter would agree. 50 days after being silenced by the shackles of fear, he was preaching with Pentecostal power!  The only thing that could have transformed Peter to the point of preaching in the midst of Pentecost, was a power stronger than fear, stronger than doubt, stronger than betrayal, stronger than death itself.  Peter had received the grace of Jesus Christ.  Peter had received the power of forgiveness.  He had received the Holy Spirit, and as God breathed the breath of life on him, Peter received the capacity to overcome all things, even death.

So, Peter, upon witnessing the Resurrection and being filled with the Holy Spirit, began to exhale the good news, he began to speak of God’s power, and he decided to start with the people he had called ‘friend’ for so long.  These were people who, like Peter, had denied, betrayed, doubted, and crucified Jesus.   These were people just like Peter, except that they hadn’t experienced the almighty power of God.  They hadn’t experienced the only thing impossible for death to hold back.  They hadn’t experienced transformation. They hadn’t experienced resurrection.  They hadn’t experienced a turn-around, yet…

The question is, how did they?  How will they?

Have you?

If so, how?

Go and do likewise!

4.12.10 Monday Insights from Pastor Steven Blair

“Witnessing” a car accident has two elements: 1) visibly or audibly witnessing something that happened, and 2) acting as a witness to someone who did not have your experience.  The word “witnessing” can be a great model for what we do with Easter.

Our Scripture today in Acts 1:20-22 has some vivid, scary imagery about a future day of judgment.  That image is overwhelmed with the powerful image that “everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved (Acts 1:21).”  Confidence in this claim is found in the fact that Jesus is Resurrected.  Have you experienced that claim to be the case?   If so, follow Jesus in Acts 1:8 and “be his witnesses.”

“Witnessing” is much simpler and less aggressive than it is made out to be.  It is also vastly more important than we, the spiritually shy, would like it to be.  To prepare for obedience to God, spend time following this two-fold pattern for witnessing:
1)  Ask yourself, “In what ways have I witnessed Jesus being a good force in my life?”
2)  Write out your 1-2 paragraph answer.  Learn it so that when the time comes to “act as a witness to what has happened in your life” you can have your answer handy.

This is not cheating, but instead is being prepared for an opportunity to tell somebody about Jesus, as someone loved you enough to tell you.  Telling your story is not self-righteous or angry.  It is transparent and vulnerable.  Writing out your story may just take away the nervousness from witnessing to what has happened in your life.

Be a disciple.  Be a witness.

Bonus Scripture:
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”   1 Peter 3:15

Steven Blair
Pastor of Congregational Care (M-R)
email: steven.blair@cor.org
personal blog:  www.stevenblair.wordpress.com

4.9.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all,

Gloom, despair & agony on me.

 These lyrics of a song from the old television show, Hee Haw*, seems to capture the spirit of my favorite disciple, Thomas.  With his Eeyore-like* demeanor, Thomas always seemed to be view events & conversations through a rather pessimistic lens.

*Hee Haw was a country themed television show aimed at the demographics that Laugh-In & Lawrence Welk missed. Eeyore is the small gray donkey from the children’s book, “Winnie the Pooh.”  That should just about wrap up the cultural trivia for the day. – Editor

Consider when Jesus said He must go to Jerusalem, Thomas replied, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16) Thomas was probably the only disciple not shocked by the events of Good Friday.  Deeply saddened?  Yes.  Surprised?  No.  Interestingly, even though Thomas viewed the Jerusalem excursion with doom, he still went.  Sometimes pessimists are the bravest of all souls.

Then we have today’s scene.  Thomas slips out of the stuffy, tension-filled room for a coffee run (or what have you) & this is when Jesus reappears?  His initial reaction was probably, “Typical.  Just my luck that I’m out during the greatest miracle of my life.”  Seeing & hearing the others excitedly chatting about this miraculous reappearance, Thomas was probably bewildered.  Could it really be true?  Is He really resurrected?  Thomas, though, is reluctant to get his hopes up.  If his friends are wrong, he couldn’t possibly face the crushing disappointment.  So, Thomas issues his belligerent test.

Let’s walk through this scene to see what we can pick up.  The week between the 2 appearances of Christ must have been excruciating for Thomas.  His friends are filled with joy & peace, while Thomas is grimly stuck in his world of disbelief & gloom. Perhaps we allow ourselves to be stuck in similar straits.  Perhaps we let ourselves get sidetracked with questions or doubts that rob us of the joy Christ promises us.

Now, Thomas is still around the next Sunday.  He could have just bolted & returned home.  Yet, he was still eager to learn the truth & was open to being proven wrong.  Sometimes our faith walk, like Thomas, requires us to simply “show up” on Sundays & be open to learning the truth.

When Jesus does return, Thomas doesn’t need to re-issue his test.  Jesus already knew his doubts & fears.  Jesus willingly humbles Himself to Thomas to help him believe.  Christ knows our hearts & knows just what we need.  Perhaps we should just be still & listen.

Then we have Thomas’ beautiful reaction.  There is no reluctance or hesitation in Thomas.  He declares that Jesus is his Lord!  Oh, to be able to see Thomas’ face as he reaches this realization!  In my mind’s eye, I see a face glowing with joy & contentment & peace, ala Moses after His encounter with God.

Thomas, legend says, spread the Good News of Christ to India.  Thanks to a Sunday surrounded by fellow believers, Thomas came to believe.  While Thomas’ nature probably didn’t change, his life was no longer characterized by gloom & despair.  His life was now a life of hope & love.

4.8.10 Thursday Insights from Amy Otto

“Go and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19)

Growing up I was afraid of the word “witness.” To this day, when I think of “witnessing,” I get an image of going out on the street with a pamphlet and a Bible and talking to strangers. This scares me! I don’t have the courage to go up to strangers and talk to them…or do I? How many strangers are in our lives on a day to day basis that we could be a witness to? There are people at the gas station, at the grocery store, at Wal*Mart and Target. I see many of the same people every time, since I normally visit the business at about the same time of day. Each time we are around people we have the opportunity to witness with our actions and our words. People pay attention. They see us scowl at the long line, overhear our grumbling when someone slows down the line, feel the anger when we honk the horn obnoxiously or cut someone off. But they also see us wait patiently, chat about the weather when waiting in line, wave to someone when we are driving, let someone who doesn’t have many items go ahead of us, park farther away so someone else can have the closer spot. Which one do you think shows the example of a disciple or witnesses?

A lot of futuristic movies imagine ways to create clones to rule the world–taking the best (or the worst, depending on the movie) to replicate over and over again. So how would we “clone” disciples of Jesus? The answer is both simple and challenging. To “clone” (or make) disciples, we must be disciples. We must be actively living a life in pursuit of a deep relationship in God. We must be willing to humble ourselves and serve, take time out of our day to be there for someone in need, to share our testimonies with others, and have faith discussions with our friends, families, and even strangers.

Two quotes from St. Francis of Assisi particularly challenge me in my daily life. “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching,” he said, and “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” Some of our best witnessing happens when we are living as a devoted follower of Jesus. When we do this, cool things happen. God opens doors for conversations, and helps us build relationships that grow His kingdom. So, don’t feel afraid to “go and make disciples.” Be challenged, because God will do amazing things!

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

4.7.10 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Nicole Conard

The story continues…..Yesterday we read about the Walk to Emmaus at the end of Luke’s gospel. Today we continue reading Luke 24 as we read the appearance of the risen Christ to the disciples.  This is the second account of Jesus’ resurrected appearance according to Luke. There are three parts to this story:

1- As he usually does, Luke gives a detailed account of the conversation with the disciples.  The disciples were frightened and terrified and thought they saw a ghost.  Jesus point blank asks them – Why do doubts arise in  your hearts? (verse 38). After showing his wounds, Luke still says – while in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering. Jesus invites them to touch him and then he eats something to show the disciples that he is not a ghost. Like the disciples, we all have doubts at times, but it is good to remember that Christ will help us in our disbelief.

2- Jesus gives them a commission and a promise. He commissions his followers to be his witnesses.  He promises them that they will be filled with power from on high.This is the Holy Spirit – the third person of the Trinity (God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  God did not leave us but sent the Holy Spirit to guide us in life.

3- Jesus blesses the disciples and ascends to heaven at the end of Luke. But the  story continues…..in Acts.  Like a tv show after the commercial break, Luke recaps the end of the chapter in Luke (with the promise and ascension) and starts on the second episode of Acts.

The rest of Acts tells about the disciples sharing Jesus’ message  and the story of his life, death and resurrection.  The church is being built by the disciples sharing the news.  The sharing and gathering of people is only possible with the promised and given Holy Spirit.  This story continues today.  We continue the story of Acts by sharing the news and gathering to learn more.  God who comes and leads, directs, and shows us how to follow God in the day to day. Jesus does not leave us to our own but gives us the Holy Spirit to continue God’s mission.

So today, I invite you to pause and look for the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life.  Throughout the day pray – O God, help me not to do something without you today. Guide me so that I will not go alone but rely on you. I promise not to lead , but to follow you today so that I can continue your story in my life. Amen.

4.6.10 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

It wasn’t long ago that a 7-year old boy came to visit me (with his mom) to talk about some questions that came up following the death of his grandmother.  He told me that he saw his grandmother in the casket, then they buried it in the ground–but he wanted to know how he could know that she had gone to heaven to be with God and how she had gotten there if her body was here.  Those are really good questions!  While I couldn’t answer either one in a simple, definitive way, I asked him if he felt like his grandmother was “there” when he saw her in the casket.  He said no (and that it didn’t really look like her either!).  Perhaps you can identify–when I’ve seen loved ones placed in a casket, it does feel as if they are gone, that their spirit is not there.  And, we as resurrection people don’t believe that their life has just come to a halt, but that the spirit lives after death.  But when I go to a funeral, I expect to see a body in a casket or an urn of ashes–we will all experience death and the body reminds us of our mortality.

Can you imagine the surprise of the women showing up on Sunday to find that Jesus, body, spirit, and all, was not there?!   And is it any surprise that the disciples thought the women were talking nonsense when they told them?

So why do you believe it?

I believe it because I believe that Jesus is who he said he was–the Son of God.  I believe that the things he taught are true and accurately captured in the Bible.  Jesus told the disciples about the resurrection before it happened–he said that he was going to die and rise three days later.  I believe it because I trust the eyewitness accounts in scripture and the reports that hundreds of people saw Jesus after the resurrection before the ascension. I believe it because I, like the disciples, have been startled to find myself in the unmistakeable presence of the risen Jesus.  No, I didn’t see him, but you know him when you encounter him.

And I believe that Jesus really will take all those who put their faith in him with him into resurrection life.  That’s good news, indeed.