Monthly Archives: September 2010

9.30.10 Thursday Insights from Amy Otto

I love watching little children who are just learning how to stand and walk. They stand on their feet for a few seconds and then plop down. When they finally get their balance, they try to take a step—and usually plop down! There is a lot of holding on to whatever is handy to help them hold themselves up as they learn. We adults stand by, excited, with arms ready to help. Some children readily accept our helping hands as they learn how to walk. Others are determined to do it themselves.

When we are new to something, many of us are like a child who is willing to accept, even ask for, help as they learn to walk. Once we know what we are doing or where we are going, we stop asking for help. The very idea of accepting help becomes foreign to many of us. Often our pride keeps us from asking for or accepting help. We don’t want to look weak, needy or a “charity case.” Instead of humbling ourselves and getting help, we try to walk on our own, and sometimes end up flat on the ground!

The story of the Good Samaritan could also be called the story of the Open Israelite. The Israelite had to be open, willing to accept help from the Samaritan. He needed to love his neighbor by letting his neighbor help him when he couldn’t help himself.

Perhaps you’ve heard this joke: A man was in a sinking boat. Another boat came by, and the people on board offered to help. The man said, “No thanks—God will save me.” The boat kept sinking, and another boat offered help. Again the man said, “No thanks. I have faith–God will save me.” A third boat offered help. Once again the man refused: “God will save me.” Of course the man drowned. When he reached heaven, he asked why God didn’t save him. God replied, “I sent three boats, but you turned them all away.” We are all like that man on the sinking boat when we refuse to accept help. We do it with people—more, we do it with God.

In 1896 Charles Monroe Sheldon published In His Steps, based on a series of sermons he preached in his church in Topeka. In Sheldon’s fictional story, a homeless man came into a church one Sunday, and asked why none of the people in church had offered him any help if they were serious about living like Christ. Several people in the church, including the Pastor, decided to live each day and make each decision by first asking, “What would Jesus do?” In the book, Sheldon didn’t picture that as an easy life—some of his characters lost jobs or even their spouses as they took on this challenge. As they constantly asked, “What would Jesus do?” their relationship with God became stronger and they felt their purpose in life more deeply. They helped others, but they also found a need to ask for and accept help that they didn’t have before.

It takes courage to put our pride aside and be open to receiving help, from God and God’s people.  God will walk with us through every challenge, if we allow ourselves to be open to his constant presence in our lives. Would you join me in making one of your daily prayers a petition for courage and openness to accept God’s help, in whatever form it comes?

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

9.29.10 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Nicole Conard

Today we read about Jesus’ first sermon in the synagogue.   Jesus is in worship, preaching about service.  It is the two parts of our faith that we are called to do.  When we come to worship, it is to give our worth to God – not necessarily what we get out of it (although the Holy Spirit does usually speak to us through songs, Scripture and sermons).  We set aside time to say God is important in our lives and time during our weeks getting to know, love and serve more is what we want to be about.  Then, we hear Jesus preach on his anointed service.  Jesus served because he was God. We serve out of saying ‘thank you’ to God. As Christians, we don’t serve because we get something out of it – even though it is good for us. We serve because Jesus modeled it for us an said go and do likewise.  Today I encourage you to incorporate worship and service every week so that you may live out Jesus’ sermon in your life.

9.28.10 Tuesday Insights by Pastor Scott Chrostek

I remember my dad telling me, “Scott, you will always get what you pay for.”  To me that meant if I wanted something really great, then I needed to pay a lot for it.  The more I paid for something, the better the product.  The more work I put into something the better reward I would receive in the end.  I learned this lesson the hard way growing up, and it always seemed to happen to me when I went on vacation looking for souvenirs.  We would go to places that felt like paradise to a teenager eager to spend their hard-earned allowance, and so naturally, looking to hang onto the memories of paradise, I purchased several souvenirs from the places I liked the most.  Twenty years later, almost all of those souvenirs have been lost, broken, or forgotten.  Why?  Well, largely because spending $5 on a magnet, $10 on t-shirt, or $25 dollars on a really nice pair of sunglasses can’t pay for paradise.  So, I guess the question is how much does paradise cost?

Jesus told the thief hanging on the cross in Luke 23, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” How much does a gift like that cost?  How much work does it take to become one with God, one with each other, and one in ministry to the whole world?  How much must I pay to get something like that?

I suppose the Israelites of Isaiah’s day believed that becoming one with God required perfect obedience to the law. They could pay for it through a multitude sacrifices, burnt offerings of ram, the fat of fed beasts, the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.   They thought that if they abided in the courts of the Lord enough, if they brought enough in the way of offerings, or if they worshiped in the ‘right’ way by burning incense in solemn assemblies, that could do it.  So, the Lord speaking through the prophet tells the people of Israel, if you’re looking to acquire paradise, 12bringing offerings like the ones you’re bringing is futile; incense is an abomination to me.  Your new moons and your appointed festivals, my soul hates; they have become a burden to me. In other words, God through the prophet Isaiah was saying, ‘Look, you cannot buy paradise.  Eternal life is a gift that is given, it’s not something that can be earned or paid for, only received.”  God goes on then to speak about this gift (the servant) in Isaiah 42.  “Here is my servant. My chosen is coming, the one in whom my soul delights.  “I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2He will not cry or lift up his voice; 3bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth.”

How much does it cost?  Nothing.  That price has already been paid by the bruised reed that would not break.  That price was paid by the servant, who was filled with the Spirit of the Living God.  Jesus Christ who hung on a cross, suffered and died that we all might receive the gift of eternal life covered the cost, that we might join Him by becoming one with God and one with each other in paradise.  All that’s required on our end is to live a life of thanksgiving.  All that’s required is that we say, “Thank you,” in both word and deed.  So, perhaps one of the things we should do this morning is by looking for ways in which we can say thank you, to God for the gift of eternal life with our words and then with our lives.

Thank you God for this day and opportunity to live both with and like your servant!

9.27.10 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

I find the verses from the GPS today to be quite powerful. Abraham left all that he had and followed after God to a land which was unknown to him.  God is making a clear promise to be a blessing to Abraham and his family. The key for me in these verses is that God did not just bless Abraham and his family for their own sake. God blessed Abraham to be a blessing to others. In Genesis, 12:3, the TNIV translation reads, “…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

The blessings which God has for Abraham come at the expectation of leaving the land where he was familiar and also the outcome of being a blessing to others.

Likewise, God calls us to be a blessing to others as a way of being thankful for the blessings which God has already given us. I am looking forward to making a commitment to support Resurrection in the years ahead. I am encouraged by the story of Abraham and how he was able to be a blessing to others because of the ways that God had blessed him. My wife, Nicole and I, seek to trust God in this financial commitment and I hope that you will join us.

9.25.10 Saturday Insights from Jeff Kirby

Ephesians 3 is one of the greatest and most specific passages in all of Scripture as to what the church was intended by God to be and do. It is also one of the most complex and difficult to implement. Paul states that the church is intended by God to demonstrate to “rulers and authorities in heavenly realms” the mystery of God’s purposes in human history. Huh?
I have been a student of the Bible (almost) daily for over 40 years. There are parts so clear and comprehensible that you have to work hard to miss their obvious meaning. Then are passages like this one that makes me feel like a kid on the seashore with plastic shovel and bucket given the instructions, “empty the sea.”
I believe that in part, Paul’s vision for the church is to demonstrate to the watching world, and whatever spiritual powers lie behind the world, the loving and reconciling power of God’s love. Everywhere we look we see the alienation and brokenness of human relations. We are divided economically, geographically, racially, culturally and religiously. But God’s heart is to mend the breach and bring about healing and peace. It is only through the cross of Christ and the demonstration of His love that this will be possible.
I visited Haiti this summer. Since that trip I am daily asking myself, “What does it mean for the church, for our church, to demonstrate the unsearchable riches of Christ and the manifold wisdom of God to the citizens of Haiti?” I do not know the answer. But I do believe we must continually keep asking, seeking and knocking. What might it look like for our church to become so caught up in the love of God and His love for the destitute of Haiti that we actually put their needs before our own? Could this be part of the “mystery” Paul is talking about?

Jeff Kirby serves as Minister of Discipleship and Men’s Ministry at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

9.24.10 Friday Insights from Darren Lippe

 “I can see clearly now, the rain has gone.”

The lyrics of this Johnny Nash song seem to capture the theme of today’s Scripture reading.  The Apostle John’s letter is to our friends in Laodicea.  As background, this community was quite distinguished & prosperous.  It was advantageously situated for trade & commerce.  It was well known for being the medical hub of the day, developing an eye salve to help those with issues with their sight.

Ironically, John’s letter complains at length that the congregation of Laodicea had lost their own vision.  (Who says the Bible isn’t a fun read?)  As they became prosperous, they let money become their focal point & their reason for being

It was so tempting for the Laodiceans to become lukewarm in their faith.  Their gifts & talents were the source of their security.  God was not needed.  They looked for ways that their resources could be beneficial to themselves.  They were focused inwardly & thus were un-seeing of the great possibilities before them.

What if we were to ask ourselves, “What is our vision?”  As we seek our way during these unsteady economic times, do we have a vision for what we hope to do with our resources?  Like our friends in today’s passage, do we limit our vision & dreams to mere material possessions or the latest fads?  Or do we have a dream that we can use our resources for God’s Kingdom?

My men’s group is reading & studying “The Hole in our Gospel” by Richard Stearns.  The study guide offers us humbling insights into the lack of imagination of some of our financial dreams.  Consider the following tidbits:

  • $8.00 can buy 15 organic apples for us to enjoy for lunches this week or 25 fruit trees for a village in Honduras.
  • $73 can buy a new mobile phone for us to play with or a new mobile health clinic for AIDS orphans in Uganda.
  • $2,400 can buy a Hi-Def TV to watch the Chiefs play on Sunday afternoons or schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village.

 We may be tempted to think that looking outwardly with our resources is good for the rich (like Bill Gates or that neighbor down the street), but not for us. 

  • Well that is certainly true if our income is less than $1,487/year.  If we earn more than that, we are in the top 50% of the world’s wage earners. 
  • If we earn more than $25,150/annum, we are in the top 10%. 
  • If we earn more than $48,900/year, we are in the top 1% of the world’s employees.

(Whoa.  How did I become so rich this morning without doing any work?  Perhaps, perception is everything. – Editor)

So, perhaps we find ourselves looking more & more like our friends in Laodicea.  (Ugh.)  Maybe, as John urges, we need to ask God to guide our vision to see how we can use our talents to help change the lives of others or to help them come to know the Good News.

 Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind

It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shining day!

9.23.10 Thursday Insights from Pastor Glen Shoup

I remember the first time my head and heart came together to accept Jesus.  There certainly had been many times prior to this when I’d thought about God and God’s invitation for me to be in daily relationship with Him. But while I was thinking about having faith in God, thinking about following God—truth is—my heart wasn’t in it.  Then there were other times when I’d had feelings about God; times when I emotively felt my need to live a life of faith. But while I was feeling God’s Spirit and Presence inviting me into a daily relationship—truth is—I wasn’t willing to decide to actually do it. My head just wasn’t in it.

But I do remember the first time when my head and heart came together in acceptance of Christ’s invitation to “Come follow Me.” I couldn’t get enough of the scriptures, I had a real hunger to spend time with God in prayer, I couldn’t get enough Christian music (The Imperials and Petra….for those of you as dated as I am!). I was just passionate about God. I simply wanted to know God and experience God as much as possible.  It’s very much like what happened in the early days of my relationship with my wife—I couldn’t get enough of her.  We’d spend hours on the phone, I took every opportunity to be with her and when I wasn’t with her I was thinking of her constantly. I was just passionate about her and I simply wanted to be with her as much as I possibly could.

Today, we’ve been married 15 years. While we still seek to be intentional about being with each other and taking all the opportunities we can to talk, we’ve not spent hours on the phone together for a really long time.  To some degree, I suppose that’s okay, because our relationship has far more substance and shared confidence than it did in those early years. But if we’re not careful, we tend to rely so much on that shared confidence and substantial history that we begin to neglect and ignore each other. We begin to run on autopilot. We begin to get so busy living life with each other that we forget each other.

And here’s the thing–what’s true about my relationship with my wife is equally true about my relationship with God. If I’m not careful, I can get so busy trying to do stuff for God, trying to help other people get connected with God, praying other people’s prayers—I can get so busy carrying on for God that I forget God.  And then Jesus shows up in our text and says, Hey (insert your name) Glen, I’m real happy about all your projects and stuff that’s supposed to be about Me but I’ve got one problem with you: you’ve forgotten Me! You’ve gotten so wrapped up in doing stuff for Me that you’re ignoring Me. It’s time for you to turn away (repent) from ignoring Me and turn back towards passionately seeking to know Me and connect with Me!

Prayer:  Lord, forgive me for too often ignoring You.  I want to turn away from anything that keeps me from You.  Where have I let patterns of focus and listening to You slip?  Where can I rearrange my day to have some uninterrupted moments with You?  Help me to choose Your strength to do what You show me to do.  Amen.

Glen Shoup serves as Pastor of Congregational Care (last names A-C) at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

9.22.10 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Russell Brown

Not long ago, on a Friday to be precise, I remember peeking at my calendar for the coming weekend to see what was in store. I thought I mostly remembered where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be doing, but it never hurts to double check. Good thing I did, because I was suddenly reminded that I was expected to teach a Sunday School class in two days. As happens sometimes (though truly not that often), I had forgotten all about it. At that point I was faced with a decision: to invest myself completely in preparing to teach the class to the best of my abilities, or to say, “What is the least possible effort I can expend and still make this class mildly beneficial for those who attend?”

In this section of the letter to the Corinthians, Paul is offering his readers (and us also) the same insight. In essence Paul tells us that the way life works is that we tend to get what we give… when we give (of ourselves, of our money, of our attention) sparingly, we receive sparingly. When we give generously, on the other hand, we receive generously. Late on that Friday and then for several hours the following day, I decided to invest myself fully and completely in preparing to teach the very best Sunday School class I could possibly teach. I don’t know how the class members felt about it, but what I DO know is that I received much, much more from that experience than I dreamed possible. I have no doubt it blessed me much more than it blessed any of the members of that class.

How will we choose to invest ourselves today? Will we hoard our energy and ideas, saving them for another time that we deem “more important”? Or will we pour ourselves fully into the day, the life, the mission God has given us? As Paul reminds us so powerfully in verse 10, “You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us…”

Invest wisely by giving generously.

9.21.10 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Molly Simpson

“… see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

How amazing would it be to live a life marked by excellence in the grace of giving?  What if that is what people said things about us like the things that Paul said about the Macedonian churches in 2 Corinthians 8?  She is rich in generosity.  He gives his time, his resources, and his money for others in need. What if someone once wrote about us saying, “they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability”–wouldn’t that be awesome?

We want to be a congregation that is open-handed–giving away any resource, lesson, insight, and practical steps that might be helpful to another congregation.  We long to see renewal in the church, and we support our Senior Pastor and staff team in spending significant time encouraging and equipping congregations beyond our own–we even include it in the job descriptions!

We also want to be open-handed people–not clenching tightly to the stuff that is ours, but rather freely, generously sharing with others in need.

I think it would be a great honor to be remembered as a person who gave–and gave joyfully–of her time, resources, herself, and her money.  God’s been helping me unclench my fist for a few years now, but there’s still a ways to go.

I grew up in south Johnson County, just a few minutes away from Resurrection’s home base in Leawood.  We had enough money for all the things we really needed in life and usually quite a few of the things we didn’t need but were nice to have.  My parents were really good about exposing me to the fact that we were fortunate and that our experience was far from normative.  They taught me, by their example, about appreciation and generosity.  But as an adult, I’ve really struggled between how I ought to be and my natural inclination.

The thing is… I have a really big “I WANT” problem.  I want new windows for my house, and new countertops, and to redo the bathroom, and new shoes to replace all the ones that are too small after pregnancy, and some new clothes, and maybe nicer makeup, and to be able to hire someone to clean my house, oh and a new car, and maybe a new house altogether now that I’m entertaining the I WANT.  There’s more, but I’m pretty sure you get the point.

But what I really, really want… is not to want anymore, or at least not the stuff I’ve been wanting.  I want to give.  I’d like to be like those Macedonian church people.  So, I’m trying… and with my little bit of willingness, God is helping me not only write checks but to want to bless others and to please God instead of myself.  Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians to “finish the work,” so that their eager desire would be matched by their completed action is a good word to me today.

What about you?  What do you want?

Rev. Molly Simpson serves as the Campus Pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection’s West Campus in Olathe.

9.20.10 Monday Insights from Pastor Steven Blair

Do you remember your high school science class centrifuge?  First you add some liquids together in a test tube.  Then you turn on the centrifuge and watch the test tube spin quickly in a circle, pushing all of the solid substance in the test tube away from the center to the outside.

In Acts 1:8 Jesus says: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The author of Acts uses Jesus’ words as an outline for the entire Book of Acts.  The Church’s ministry in Jerusalem and the surrounding region of Judea is covered in Acts Chapters 1-7.  The Church’s ministry in Samaria, the region the Jews avoided, appears in Acts Chapter 8.  The rest of the Book of Acts, Chapter 9-28, cover the church’s ministries “to the ends of the earth.”  The Church began in Jerusalem and then, like a centrifuge, radiated outward from the center.

Someone once said that the Church is odd because it is one of the only organizations that does not exist for the benefit of its members.  The Church exists for the world.  The Church is still called to be a centrifugal force which radiates light and ministry outward. When the Church is reaching beyond its walls, it is being the Church.  When the Church is not reaching beyond its walls, it is not being the Church.

Which leads us to you and me.

Hymn #558 in the United Methodist Hymnal is “We Are the Church.”  Its lyrics include the words “I am the Church.  You are the Church. We are the Church together.”  I believe it is also appropriate to say: “I am the Church of the Resurrection.  You are the Church of the Resurrection. We are the Church of the Resurrection together.”

Our responsibility as Church of the Resurrection is the same as it was for the Early Church: to be a centrifuge of Jesus’ Light.

So whether your home base is Leawood, Olathe, Kansas City, Blue Springs, or your home town, be the Church today and take the Light of Jesus beyond the walls.

Radiate.

1.  What is one way you can radiate Jesus’ Light outward to a new place today as an individual?
2.  What is one way we can all radiate Jesus’ Light together as Resurrection?

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