Monthly Archives: August 2010

8.31.10 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Scott Chrostek

On the night before Jesus gave himself up for us, Christ gathered his friends (his disciples) around the dinner table for a final meal in the Upper Room.  Most of us, when pressed, can remember his words there. Christ said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from this, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  We can remember that.

In the church, we remember those words on a regular-basis during the sacrament of Holy Communion.  We give thanks to God for those words and the mighty acts of Jesus Christ, and then we seek to live by them, taking, eating, remembering, and then living in the grace of Jesus Christ as often as possible.  We call it communion and claim that through it, we become one with God, one with each other, and one in ministry to the entire world.  We can remember that.  That’s not a problem, but rarely do we remember the words that Christ utters in the very last moment before his betrayal in the garden.  It is in that moment that Jesus prays to God, words seldom remembered.  Christ says, “but now I am coming to you, and I speak these things so that they may have my joy!”

Jesus begins his journey to the cross; his last 12 hours or so on earth with a prayer intended to draw him nearer to God by focusing on others.  First, Christ commits the rest of his time on earth as a journey toward God by crying out, “now I am coming to you.”  And then intercedes on behalf of humanity.  In this moment Jesus prays for others, that he might drawer nearer to God saying, “Today, O God, as I come toward you, would you protect them from the evil one, sanctify them in the truth, and just as you are in me and I am in you may they also be in us!

I continue to be amazed and inspired by these words.  To be focused on drawing nearer to God in a moment like this, a moment so intense and so tragic, is one thing; but then to pray that God would intercede at such a time as this to protect, sanctify, and inspire others is simply unbelievable.

Tim McGraw sings a song about ‘living like you were dying.’ In it he talks about skydiving, bull-riding, and Rocky mountain climbing.  Those are all wonderful things, but when I think about what it might mean to live fully, I wonder if we shouldn’t be singing a song about and remembering the way Christ lived out his last in John 17.

I wonder what it might look like to approach everyday in the same manner that Jesus approached his last.  What would you do?  How would you start your day?  How would that inform your living?  How would that inform your prayer?  How would that inform your relationship with God?  How would you close your day?

What might happen if we began each of our days with a prayer that acknowledged and addressed God in the way that Christ did in John 17.  What if we began our days by declaring to God, “God, I am coming to you today.”   And then, what if we went on to pray for the sake of others.  What if we prayed, “Use me O God, so that others might have my joy. Help me to protect others, sanctify others, and invite others to be present in you!”

8.30.10 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

These are great questions in the GPS Guide today. I believe that God doesn’t tell us what to do in all cases because it would remove a need to trust God. Trust is different than following orders. There is a give and take in a dynamic relationship of trust which doesn’t exist when simply following the directive that someone else has for you. Having a chance to make decisions and to make mistakes allows for the process of learning and moving on.

Some decisions in my life I felt at the time were big mistakes, however in the long run they have turned out to be excellent. Part of what made them good over time was the learning and growth that happened as a result of the experience. I would not have had that opportunity if I would have simply received from God a directive about what would be next.

I certainly do not have it all together when it comes to trusting God. It continues to be daily decision and necessity for me to intentionally place my trust in God again. As I continue to grow in my faith, I hope to grow in my trust of God so that I truly will trust God with my entire heart, not just most of it or parts of it.

8.28.10 Saturday Insights from Pastor Bill Stephens

Paul is writing from prison. He is addressing the Church at Ephesus in such a way as they would be able to understand his message. He uses images of his day and time which they fully understood. Evil was a reality in the time of Paul and he acknowledges it. (It is still a reality in our time but we tend to downplay it. We sometimes explain why we do what we do as if we are victims of some sort of psychological attack, with no choice or responsibility for our choices.) Paul calls it just what it is, sin!

During Paul’s prison time he was chained to a Roman guard with a chain around his wrist. This means that the guard was always close to Paul, while he wrote letters or slept at night. In such close quarters you know the guard and Paul must have established some sort of complimentary relationship. In other words, they got very well acquainted. In that relationship the guard (or guards) was able to know Paul better than anyone else. It was in this closeness that Paul speaks of the “armor of God,” noting the armor which the guard wore.  The Christian too has armor; and part by part Paul takes the armor the Roman soldier and translates it into Christian terms.

There is the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals, the shield, the helmet, and the sword. Piece by piece Paul relates these to the life of a Christian. The belt reminds us of truth. Others may grope and guess; Christians move freely and quickly because they know the truth and it has made them free.

The breastplate of righteousness: Words are no defense against accusation, but a good life is. The only way to meet the accusations against Christianity is to show how good a Christian can be.

There are the sandals: Sandals were a sign of that time of a person equipped and ready to meet the challenges of life. There is the shield: a shield provides protection and safety. Our faith is always complete trust in Christ. When we are walking close to Christ we are safe from temptations. There is the helmet: Salvation is not something which only looks back. The salvation which is in Christ gives us forgiveness for sins both past and present.

There is the sword: The sword is the word of God. We can never win the battle without the sword, the word of God.

Paul mentions the greatest of all weapons, prayer. Our prayers need to be constant, not sporadic. They must be definite, meaning we must concentrate on prayer. Finally, they must be unselfish. We must learn to pray as much for others as we pray for ourselves. Paul asks for the prayers of his friends. He asks not for comfort or for peace but that they may yet come to know the will of God in their lives All of us need the prayers of others as we journey through life knowing that God will truly be with us. May it be so in your life!

Bill Stephens serves as Pastor for Silver Link Ministries at The Church of the Resurrection. Bill also records a Daily Devotion, which you can access at 913-544-0234 (local) or 1-866-702-1585 (toll free).

8.27.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

Today’s passage concludes with a phrase that can be frustrating for us. Paul writes, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding….” As youngster, my queries & questions (Why did God create animals to eat one another? If no one wants war, why do we have war? Why does James Bond kiss so many girls?) were often explained away with answers like “You are too young to understand this” or “When you get older this will make sense” or “Time for bed.”

I always assumed that as I reached adulthood these kinds of challenging ideas & thoughts would be somewhat answerable. Then we have Paul’s contention in today’s excerpt. The “peace of God” is beyond our comprehension? Sigh. We are back to square one. Or are we?

A friend of ours is experiencing the joy of pregnancy. (Yes, I fully realize that being of the male persuasion makes it very easy for me to flippantly use a phrase like the “joy of pregnancy” so just move your finger away from the email key. Thank you.) How do you describe the first few months of parenthood? How do you explain that the newest movies or favorite television shows will no longer be a priority? How do you describe the joy of an evening spent just lying on the floor watching the little guy as he wiggles around on the blanket? Or that many of the routines & habits (vacuuming, dusting, shaving) of today will no longer be seen as essential? Parenthood, for someone on the outside looking in, would seem hard to fathom. Understanding can only come through experience. So, in that light Paul’s contention is a little easier to comprehend.

But, if we have committed our lives to Christ, then the “peace of God” should be readily in our grasp. But a review of our own life experiences quickly confirms that the “peace of God” is not automatically conveyed to believers. Are we back to square one?

One of my favorite theologians, William Barclay, tweaks our understanding of this passage by noting that the phrase might be interpreted to mean that the “peace of God” is impossible without God. We cannot attain this peace on our own. What does this look like then?

I recall a few years ago, Doris & I taking my 96-year-old Grandmother, Rosalie, back to Emporia. We had all spent the day in Topeka celebrating Thanksgiving. She had been surrounded by all of her children, grandchildren & great-grandchildren. We left the boys with the folks & were driving her back to her residence at the Manor. As we drove along a road she had traversed thousands of times, we noted the exit for Admire, Kansas where she lived for 50 some years. We talked about her favorite moments from her decades of teaching kindergarten, going to college in Emporia just as the Depression took hold, how she so enjoyed taking Disciple 1 (After Doris & I had talked it up, she took the class at the age of 89), and that tonight’s blueberry desert was probably her all-time favorite treat.

After leaving her in the care of her stewards, we quietly drove home. We were both struck by Rosalie’s sense of peace. It didn’t make sense by our standards. She wasn’t able to care for herself. She wasn’t living in her own home, as she might prefer. Many of her close friends had long since passed on. Her calendar, which used to be full of activities, organizations & clubs (I once counted that she belonged to 18 different groups like Eastern Star, bell choir, church groups, volunteer commitments, etc.), bore only birthday reminders & doctor appointments. Yet there wasn’t anger, resentment, or bitterness. There was only tranquility & serenity.

As we celebrated her life just a few weeks later, everyone spoke of Rosalie’s life as being filled with peace & contentment. Her sense of harmony was amazing & hard to understand. Reviewing her life, I submit that it could only have come from God. May we seek such “understanding” in our own lives starting this day.

8.26.10 Thursday Insights from Pastor Glen Shoup

On first glance, we hear this image of a dishonest, lazy judge who just finally makes a ruling in order to shut everybody up and get some peace—and we wonder to ourselves if Jesus is suggesting that if we pester God long enough with our wish list, then we might actually get what we want just for being the most persistent.  But of course, Jesus is actually drawing one of those “how much more” contrasts he often made (…if you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more does your Heavenly Father?  …if God cares about the grass of the field and the birds of the air, how much more does God care for you?  …if a self-absorbed human judge will grant a request simply to get some peace, how much more will God listen and respond to you?).

I suppose most of us can get our minds around the contrast thing. But if we’re not careful, we can understand the contrast, and then get the point that because God loves us relentlessly God will always listen. We can think, ‘OK…we’ve got what Jesus is trying to say here’.  But I’ve got to tell you, those last words of verse 8 nag at me: …And yet, when the Son of Man (a term that means Jesus) comes, will he find faith on earth?

Those last words of verse 8 make me wonder if—in addition to getting the “how much more” contrast, in addition to getting that because of God’s unending love for us He will always listen to us—in addition to that, I’m wondering if maybe Jesus is trying to say just a bit more with this parable. You see, faith (Hebrews 11:1 says) is the substance of hope and the conviction of what we don’t yet see; or, I like to say, faith is the “stuff” of hope!  In telling this story about a persistent widow in the midst of a “how much more” contrast, Jesus ends by asking “when I return will I find faith (the stuff of hope) on the earth?”  This suggests to me that perhaps Christ wants me to be so consistently persistent in my pursuit of conversation and intimacy with God that my praying and my thinking, my living, planning—all of my life will increasingly take on the stuff of hope. Maybe God would have me, and us, be so persistent in pursuit of Him that faith (the stuff of hope) would begin to overtake every part of our lives.

Maybe God would have us be more like that persistent widow after all. Not in some attempt to wear God out, but because in persistently seeking God, we might just find faith.

Glen Shoup serves as Pastor of Congregational Care (last names A-C) at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. Glen just joined the staff this month, and we’re delighted to have him add his insights to this blog.

8.25.10 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

I love the picture of Jesus that today’s reading paints. It paints the picture of someone who NEEDS to pray. In much the same way that you and I need to eat or need to sleep, Jesus needs to pray. He understands prayer on an entirely different level than you and I do. Rather than an optional “enhancer” to his daily routine that he can fit in when nothing else pressing is going on, we see Jesus actually turning his back on crowds of people and going off to pray. I believe the writers of each of these gospels intended us to understand that for Jesus, prayer was a primary source of connection to his life’s meaning and direction. Without it he was like a boat without a rudder.

Reading this reminded me of a posting I saw recently from my pastor friend Eric. Eric used his Facebook page to take and present a challenge he called the “Distraction to Discipline” challenge. The idea was that every time he was tempted to engage in one of his customary distractions – distractions like obsessively checking his email, logging on to Facebook, or Twitter, or playing a video game, or going to www.espn.com to check scores, – he would try to replace that with one of the classic spiritual disciplines. In other words, whenever he felt the urge to check his Facebook account, he tried to morph that instinct into a time spent alone in prayer. Or instead of checking email, he would open the Bible and read.

Eric confessed in the early stages that he struggled mightily with this practice. He began to realize that he had a not-so-subtle addiction to the stimulation provided by the electronic media in his life. And I read his confession, I began to squirm uncomfortably with recognition of a similar instinct. You see, the problem is not the media, per se. The problem arises when we begin to see these channels and the messages they bring us as the source of meaning and direction for our lives.

Replacing a distraction with a discipline puts things back into their proper perspective and reminds us where we find the TRUE source of meaning and direction. Jesus didn’t have Facebook to contend with, but his example in these passages of scripture for today should help remind us that it is only in prayer and connection with God that we truly receive the meaning and direction we seek.

8.24.10 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

Reading our passage for the day, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, a couple of things stand out to me.  Paul is speaking about an ailment that he has asked God in prayer to heal–the thorn in his flesh.  He’s turning to God in prayer, but he doesn’t consider God the source of his pain nor does he direct blame to God.  In fact, Paul says that the thorn was given to him by Satan, to torment him and to keep him from being too elated.  Paul asks God to take it away–three times–and God tells him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”  It is as though God says, “I am all you need, Paul.”

When we approach God in prayer about our “thorn in the flesh,” or to ask for healing on behalf of another, we enter into the mystery that exists in the overlap of heaven and earth.  Sometimes, God changes our circumstances and sometimes God changes us to be able to bear the circumstances.  Sometimes healing takes an unmistakable physical form, other times our heart, our spirit, and our relationships are healed while the physical circumstances don’t change.

What if we hear God whisper to us, “my grace is sufficient for you?”  How might we have the same attitude as Paul, being “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong?”

In the last year, I haven’t faced much in the way of physical ailments, but I’ve faced my fair share of very challenging situations.  I’ve tried to juggle being a good mother and wife, working really hard during a very busy season at the church (Rez West is in a building process), investing in my friendships, taking care to exercise and eat right, and, oh yeah, stay grounded in Bible study and prayer.  At times, I felt like I have failed at them all, and I’ve gone to God begging for the circumstances to change and the stress level to die down.  While the situations haven’t changed, taking a look at these circumstances through Paul’s eyes makes a lot of difference in my ability to cope.  And somewhere along the line, my prayer becomes “God, may your power be perfect in my weakness.”

Praying that you find God’s grace sufficient for you today.

8.23.10 Monday Insights from Pastor Steven Blair

My bus stop was .7 miles away from my house.  That is pretty far for the short legs of a 7th Grade Boy.  That is also a long time to think, two times a day every school day.  Most of those thoughts centered on prayer and whether prayer was even worth it.

As I walked home, I allowed my pace to place me yards behind the other kids.  In the relative privacy, I lived out the questions I had about prayer.  As I would walk, I would quickly flail my right arm to the side.  I would then quickly flail my left arm.  My intent?  I was trying to make a sudden movement before God knew I was going to make that move.  After each flailing of the arm, I assured myself that God must have know which arm I was going to flail regardless of whether I had known beforehand.  I tried to complicate matters by faking left, then faking right, and then flail left in hopes of fooling God. I painfully consented that God knew everything I would do and would not be fooled by my fakes.  I concluded that nothing I did mattered because either way God already knew what I was going to do.

And that was when I stopped praying.

For over a year, I continued to attend church and read the Bible, but I did not pray.  I thought “Why pray for something that God already knows will happen or not happen?”

In Luke 22, Jesus knows God’s Mission for sending him to earth and yet he prays.  He prays that God would intercede and remove the pending crucifixion that waits for him.  So, either Jesus is a fool who does not know what a 7th Grader knew or Jesus knew that our futures are not all determined.

Somewhere during those obligatory trips to church in middle school, I caught a glimpse of praying Jesus.  I noticed that even though Jesus did not get the answer that he may have been wanting, his simple act of prayer meant that he believed in prayer.  His prayer was not futile. My prayers are not futile.  Prayer is not a waste of time regardless of whether you get what you prayed for or not.

Prayer can change things.  It can change the future, or in this scene of Jesus’ life, prayer can change us in the present.  After over 18 months of not talking to God, I learned enough of this lesson to renew my belief that God was acting in this world.

And that was when I started praying.

Reflection
1.  When was a time in your life when you stopped praying?  Why?

2.  When was a time when you did not “get what you were praying for” and still received the intimacy with God that you needed.

Steven Blair serves as Pastor of Congregational Care (Last Name M-R) at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

8.21.10 Saturday Insights from Jason Huwe

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. The summer heat is ending, the school year routine returns–and most importantly, it is football season! Now regardless of your personal rooting interest, early fall provokes rousing conversations and spirited debate wherever you go because the season begins with a clean slate. No matter the struggles of seasons past, true fans can always find an optimism that only a fresh start allows. There is something in the air; and that something is hope.

Renewal of hope in the midst of trying times is a very powerful thing.  This is why taking a step back from the struggles of life is so vitally important. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always give us an off-season to renew our hope for what is to come.  Sometimes it feels as if we’’re caught in a never-ending losing season. We lose a job and then a loved one. Struggles with health blend with struggles at home. How can I have hope when there is never a fresh start?

Thankfully, as followers of Jesus, we can carry our hope with us wherever we go. Today, we learn that “God himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3). Christ’s death on the cross did not promise a reprieve from struggles, but it did allow for God to walk alongside us through the Holy Spirit during those struggles. With the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to wait for the off-season to have hope. The Holy Spirit travels with us through all seasons of life, even the seemingly never-ending losing seasons, and renews our hope that the worst thing will never be the last thing.

Jason Huwe serves as Young Adult Program Director at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

8.20.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

Zephaniah’s prophetic preaching is only three chapters in length. The first 2 chapters are filled with doom, despair & dire consequences. Today’s reading from Chapter 3 shows a remarkable turnaround as Zephaniah proclaims God’s promises of hope for His people. While considering today’s excerpt from Zephaniah, I recalled a “transcript” from a baseball post-game show from a few years ago.

Announcer: Let’s re-set the scene for our audience just tuning in. It was the bottom of the ninth. Our hometown heroes had really struggled this evening. What did you think Clint?

C. Liche’: There wasn’t much hope. Between Ernie trying to steal home, Gaylord getting caught illegally scuffing the ball, Greg’s three errors in the outfield, our team had been a complete mess tonight. They even suspended singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch. It just didn’t feel right to sing any kind of song tonight. For the few fans willing to hang around for the last 3 outs, they didn’t have much optimism.

Announcer: Then our friend, hometown kid, Stefan Iah, joined us in the booth. He had been particularly critical of the team as of late. We fully expected him to unload again, but he made a most incredible prediction. Let’s run the tape.

(Pre-recorded) Stefan: Fellas, this game isn’t over yet. Sure, the boys have made a ton of mistakes tonight & this season for that matter. But this isn’t a time for despair. Redemption is on the horizon. I think this team will be transformed this evening. Mark my words.

Announcer: And he was right! Suddenly, a team that looked full of gloom & doom came together. Everything began to click: Singles. Bunts, Daring base running. It all worked to perfection as the Boys in Blue rallied. Then Stefan made another startling statement:

(Pre-recorded) Stefan: We are going to win. Don’t grind on the past. It is over. The days of darkness need to be placed in perspective. Don’t let them distract us from our efforts right now. Tonight will be one of great celebration.

Announcer: And he was right. We had actually closed the gap to only 3 runs behind. Then with the bases loaded, 2 outs, we had Mendoza approaching the plate. Mario, whose batting average hoped to someday break triple digits, was our only hope. How could this possibly end well? And then Stefan said this:

(Pre-recorded) Stefan: Mario’s been in a rough slump, to put it politely. He’s been pulled from the starting line-up. His hitting has been extremely lame. But tonight he will be celebrated.

Announcer: Before Stefan could finish his sentence, Mario hit a grand slam home run. Holy cow! The crowd went wild! The players all gathered at home plate to congratulate “Super Mario!” What a game! What a team! This was a great bunch of guys who miraculously willed their team to a great victory! And then Stefan said this:

(Pre-recorded) Stefan: This was a great victory. But this team didn’t do it alone. They were never really alone. They felt at times as though they were forsaken & mocked. But that period of trial & tribulation has passed. They are complete now. They have been rescued & redeemed. They are restored. Now let us rejoice!

Announcer: And just listen to the crowd!

Crowd: “Take me out to the ballgame…”