Monthly Archives: August 2011

Wednesday 8.31.11 Insight from Angela LaVallie

Angela LaVallie is the Member Connection Program Director at The Church of the Resurrection. She provides oversight to our member connection efforts through the Connection Point, the Weekday Hospitality Team, Coffee With the Pastors, the New Member Team and our Spiritual Gifts Placement Team.

Today’s passage tells us that “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it […] Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

When this was written, the Lord’s temple was seen as the dwelling place of God. It was the most holy place. To say that people will exalt the mountain of the temple and will stream to it is to say they will be going to God. People will be following God and doing his will, which will lead to peace amongst the nations.

As followers of God through Christ, it is our responsibility—our privilege—to do his will and to do all that is in our power to bring about peace, starting with those around us. If we start to live in peace and love with our literal neighbors, we can then work toward living in peace with our global neighbors. With today’s technology, our world is growing smaller, and we have access to so much information about the world and the people around us. When we learn about the way people live around the world and see others as humans and as children of God, instead of a group who are so different from us, it can make it easier to truly desire the peace that Isaiah writes about in today’s passage.


Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Tuesday 8.30.11 Insight from Rev. Anne Williams

Rev. Anne Williams is the Congregational Care pastor for members of the Resurrection family who have last names beginning with S-Z.

I recently joined a group of pastors in a continuing education program that will meet for eleven months. At the beginning of the first session, our leaders gave us a list of ten “permissions” for the course. One of those was, “It is okay for me to succeed,” and directly following it was “It is okay for others to succeed, too.” I wondered why it was important to name these permissions.

In today’s reading, we find the story of Hagar and Ishmael being sent away from Abraham, Sara, and Isaac. We read on to find that God makes good out of what would have otherwise been a deadly situation. As Hagar releases Ishmael under a bush, and weeps for her child, God hears her cry and intervenes. And God promises, “I will make a great nation of him.” It was just a few verses before when God had told Abraham it would be through Isaac that his offspring would come. And what we learn is that God creates a situation where more than one branch of this family can ‘succeed.’ What a novel idea–God’s provision for Ishmael’s future doesn’t limit the possibilities for Isaac’s future.

Often it seems like the only option in present day relations between Christians and Muslims is for one side to win and the other to lose. Yet in this story God has shown us the way of overflowing mercy. I wonder what a win-win situation might look like for relations between Christians and Muslims today.  Could we imagine a world where giving the Christian faith permission to ‘succeed’ does not prohibit the success of others? How might we be a part of making that happen?

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Monday 8.29.11 Insight from Rev. Andrew Conard

Rev. Andrew Conard is a Christian, husband, father, son, brother, friend, United Methodist and also Associate Pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.

It is easy to skip over this scripture when reading the Bible, as the overarching story throughout the Old Testament is not about the descendants of Ishmael, but instead the descendants of Isaac. It is really helpful for me to know more of the history surrounding the descendants of Ishmael. It is good to know of the connections between Islam and Christianity through this passage that we find in Judaism’s holy book.

I find it encouraging that there is the opportunity to look to a common history among Christianity, Judaism and Islam. It helps me look at others as primarily one of God’s children, instead of the differences that exist. I hope to grow in my ability to see others first as God sees them. Where are you able to look past differences? What opportunities and challenges are in this practice?

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Friday 8.26.11 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 2nd grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

At the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit hosted at Resurrection 2 weeks ago, we heard a presentation on the concept of humility.

Aside: I would highly recommend attending the Leadership Summit. It is not only spiritually uplifting, but it has many applications to the business world and other facets of life, i.e. parenting & marriage.

A conundrum becomes readily apparent on the topic of humility: if you claim to be an authority on humility, then you aren’t really humble & therefore not an expert. Or like the old Mac Davis country song goes, “Oh Lord its hard to be humble, when you are perfect in every way. I can’t wait to look in the mirror, cause I get better looking each day.”

The speaker at the Leadership Summit, John Dickson, however tweaked our view of humility with this definition: Humility is the ability to hold one’s power – for the good of others, not personal gain. As we ponder this view of humility, it seems to capture the essence of our friend Joseph in today’s passage.

We remember that Joseph’s jealous brothers sell him into slavery. His father is told that Joseph is dead. Joseph does okay in Egypt for a while, but is then wrongly imprisoned. While in jail, he correctly interprets dreams of some fellow inmates & servants. He is then called to interpret the Pharaoh’s dreams & predicts 7 fat years & 7 years of famine for Egypt. The Pharaoh is so pleased with Joseph, he places him in charge of managing the resources of the country. His brothers, meanwhile, devastated by the famine, venture to Egypt & unknowingly come to Joseph to beg for food. Joseph, remarkably, forgives his brothers & comes to their aid.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to live in a world, where we all strived to be humble like Joseph?

What if an older brother, who could easily zip through the Hardy Boys’ Hidden Gold mystery, instead patiently let his younger brother work his way through the chapter to help the younger brother build up his own confidence in reading?

What if a husband quietly washed the dishes & folded a load of laundry, not just in anticipation of a well-deserved standing ovation, but rather to simply bless his wife?

What if a workplace manager, who could easily take credit for his team’s hard labor, went out of his way to make sure management knew how well his team had performed?

What if a friend, who justifiably held a longtime grudge against another, actually let it go & let the other friend once again join him in fellowship?

And what if we started each day genuinely seeking out ways to use up our power, our energy, & our expertise simply for the good of those around us?

Oh Lord, is it hard to be humble? You bet. But what if we did the best that we can?

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Thursday 8.25.11 Insight from Rev. Glen Shoup

Rev. Glen Shoup is the Congregational Care pastor for members of the Resurrection family who have last names beginning with A – C.

Like many of the Psalms, these words from 103 are not songs of praise for the faint of heart.  Any attempt to read today’s scripture as praise-filled platitudes is quickly going to run head-on into the reality of life.  The truth of real life is that we don’t always feel surrounded with good as long as we live and our youth doesn’t seem to be renewed like the eagles (103:5).  The truth of real life is that it doesn’t always seem that “the Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed” (103:6).  And if—as Psalm 103:19 says—“His Kingdom rules over all”, then why do so many tragic and horrible things happen to so many good and innocent people?  I mean the untimely and premature death of the person whose funeral service I’ll be presiding over later this week certainly doesn’t seem to be something God’s Kingdom rules over; the couple I sat with today who find their lives terribly uncertain because jobs for recently down-sized 60 year olds are nowhere to be found–their lives don’t feel very much to them like something God’s Kingdom rules over; the effects of tribal wars and starvation going on right now in Sudan doesn’t seem very much like something God’s Kingdom rules over;  and I’m pretty certain that for 2,977 families, the events of 9/11 don’t seem like something God’s Kingdom rules over.

So any honest and integrity-filled read of today’s scripture passage is going to require an acknowledgment that how we want to read Psalm 103, and how real-life requires us to read Psalm 103, is two different things.  But that’s ok; because I think Psalm 103 wants us to read it the way real-life requires.  In fact, if King David (to whom authorship is attributed) is actually the one who penned Psalm 103, then we can be certain Psalm 103 was never intended to be read or heard as praise-filled platitudes.  David knew first-hand that there are times in this life when good seems to be absent; David knew first-hand that sometimes the oppressed stay oppressed and vindication and justice doesn’t arrive; David knew first hand that there are too many times when circumstances and experiences don’t seem—in the least—to be under the rule of God’s Kingdom.  Which is why David never intended for these things (God making sure we only experience good, oppression always being set right, and everything that happens to us being ruled by God’s Kingdom) to be heard as the subject of Psalm 103…we want to hear these things as the subject of Psalm 103, but Psalm 103 doesn’t view these as the subject.

The subject of Psalm 103 that so uncontainably elicited praises from David is repeatedly referenced throughout the chapter: God’s steadfast and unconditional Love.

Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless his holy name.  Bless the Lord…who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy (vss 1 & 4); …the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (vs 8); …He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.  For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us (vss 10-12); …But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting (vs 17)…Bless the Lord, O my soul (vs 22).

When we began to realize what David began to realize—that no matter our questions, our sins, our brokenness, or our uncertainties—when we began to realize that whether in sunshine or storm, privilege or pain, riches or poverty, health or sickness, life or death, when we began to get that always and in all ways God forever loves us and there’s nothing we (or anybody else) can do to change that…when we remember the steadfast love of God, we find ourselves honestly and with integrity joining in the praise: Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Wednesday 8.24.11 Insight from Rev. Steven Blair

Rev. Steven Blair is the Congregational Care pastor of Resurrection’s Support Ministries.

“I cried to my God for help”
WEDNESDAY 08.24.11   Psalm 18:1-19

God’s Power + The Dixie Chicks
I have two songs in mind.  The first is a new Christian song called “Our God” by the King of Christian Contemporary Music, Chris Tomlin.  You can listen to it here   The music swells with an emotional declaration that:
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…

And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
What can stand against?

 Psalm 18 is written with that same sense of awe.  God is Big.  Very Big.  God is strong.  Very Strong.  He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them (Psalm 18:14.)”  All other forces of nature, all schemes of man are incompetent in comparison to God.  Much like singing “Our God” or “How Great Thou Art,” the simple reciting of Psalm 18 raises our awareness that we have faith in a God who can provide for our greatest need, forgive our most secret of sins, and can bring light to our darkest day.  Our God is Greater, indeed.

 The second song is from The Dixie Chicks, “Wide Open Spaces.”  Psalm 18:19 states “God brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me (Psalm 19:18).”  I love this image of a spacious place as the image of what salvation feels like.  Where Sin feels more like Egypt a place of restricted movement , Salvation from that Sin looks like having space to breathe and live fully. 

 Right now, where you sit, do you feel like you are in a constricted place relationally? Emotionally? Spiritually?  Do you feel trapped or suffocated?  If that is the case, I highly suggest you take the time to declare God’s greatness.  Read Psalm 18 out loud and with feeling.  Sing “Our God,” “How Great Thou Art,” or any other song that makes you lift your eyes from the computer screen to heaven.  If you do, you will find that the simple act of praising God will bring you a feeling of “Wide Open Spaces.”

Today, praise God for one powerful thing you have seen God do.  You can praise God for something personal in your life or if you would like, choose an image from nature that you find beautiful.  Pray “You are great, O Lord.  Greater than any other” and enjoy the breath of fresh air that prayer gives you.

 In Christ,
Steven Blair
Pastor of Celebrate Recovery and Live Well Ministries

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Tuesday 8.23.11 Insight from Rev. Molly Simpson

Rev. Molly Simpson is the campus pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.

One of the tougher doctrines for me to grasp is that of God’s Providence, of God’s activity in the world.  I have a difficult time maintaining my best understanding of it in a manner that is coherent and rational.

Here’s the short version of my view:  God isn’t responsible for all of humanity’s misguided (sinful, even evil) deeds because we humans have this thing called freedom which means we don’t always do what God wants.  And God doesn’t micro-manage our world in a way that intervenes each time we are about to do something stupid (or even horrible).  BUT… God is still king of the mountain, master of the universe, the supreme one.  Somehow, in light of eternity, God has the power to subvert evil and bring all things to right.  God wins.  That isn’t something that is yet to be determined.

I know that those two things (human freedom, God power) don’t readily reconcile in our human brains with all that we know about time and causation.  That’s why many Christians pick one or the other–God is in control of all things, big and small, or God has given us all the freedom and God is stuck leaving the future of the universe in the hands of humanity.  I just can’t say that either of those seem right.  God caused people to fly planes into buildings–surely not.  Or, God is distraught but there’s really nothing he can do about any of this–again, surely not.

Today’s readings from Isaiah 40 seem to help a bit.  They put things into perspective–we are tiny, and our troubles are short in the light of eternity.  God really is able to bring about justice–bringing down the princes that make themselves high and mighty (which clearly God wasn’t responsible for having caused).  And yet the powerful, everlasting God cares to empower those who hope in the Lord–giving us strength and enabling us to soar.

So, bottom line… we can mess up and be like those rulers who get reduced to nothing or put our trust in the Lord and soar on wings like eagles.  Either way, God is going to be sure it all turns out alright in the end.  Better to go with the eagles.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Monday 8.22.11 Insight from Jeanna Repass

Jeanna Repass serves as the Kansas City Missions Program Director at Resurrection.

I saw a bumper sticker once that said, “Life is short – so live like there’s no tomorrow.” That old cliché is often used to justify people’s need to do something adventurous or frivolous or even dangerous. There are people today who are so convinced that the end of the world is coming soon – at a certain date – that they are truly living like there’s no tomorrow. As I read today’s GPS scripture it’s hard not to think a little about this idea of life being short and today being all there is. In today’s psalm, verses 5& 6, our lives are compared to weeds that grow in the morning and are dead and blown away by the evening. Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has enough to worry about in itself.  

 So, if we’re not suppose to worry about tomorrow and life is genuinely like “…a short hour in the night.” (verse 4) then what’s the point? Why bother working or saving or planning for a future? Why not live like there’s no tomorrow? I have to admit, there was a time in my youth when I often tested out this philosophy – usually when there was something expensive I wanted to buy (frivolous with money) or something risky I “had” to do (foolish with my life). I praise God that the consequences which inevitably followed this line of thinking happened not to be permanent. Well, “older-and-slightly-wiser” Jeanna definitely does not have it all figured out. But I have learned a couple of things along the way.

 First, in terms of time, it’s true, life is indeed short. The psalmist says in verse 10, we may have 70 years or 80 years if we are strong. I think the oldest recorded living person lived less than 120 years (Methuselah notwithstanding). But I’ve come to understand that life, while short, can feel very long in certain circumstances. For a person living without enough food to eat or no clean water to drink or some one who is watching their loved one or their child suffer, life can feel very long. For people who are imprisoned, whether physically or emotionally or by the chains of addiction or depression & anxiety, life can feel very long. For people who feel like they are all alone in the world and live without hope, life can feel very long. Now there’s a paradox, a short life that feels like an eternity.

The good news is that regardless of how short our lives actually are or how long our days may feel to us, the measure of time that truly matters is the amount of time that we will be under God’s love and grace. The bible tells us that that amount of time is everlasting to everlasting. The psalm today reminds us that God was here before he created the hills and brought the world into being and that He will be forever (verses 1 & 2). God is bigger than time. His love for us and His grace towards us is beyond any measure. This love is expressed wholly and perfectly to us in Jesus as He made the ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross. He died so that we can live eternally. Through Jesus’ death  and His resurrection, we’ve been granted access to the eternity of time, as resurrected people in a resurrected Christ. Amen.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Saturday 8.20.11 Insight from Clifton Guy

Clifton Guy is the Director of Information Technology at The Church of the Resurrection.

Today’s reading offers a simple bit of wisdom for better living.  I particularly like The Message paraphrase of Gal. 6:4-5:

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”

This passage relates to yesterday’s reading from the fishing story at the end of John in which Jesus forgives Peter and challenges Peter to follow him and feed his sheep.  Peter then asks Jesus about what would happen to another disciple.  Paraphrasing Jesus, he says, “Worry about yourself, Peter. My relationship with someone else is not your concern.”

This bit of wisdom is difficult to live out because of the nature of human intelligence.  Our brains are designed for making comparisons.  For example, without training it’s very difficult for a person to say precisely how loud a sound is but it’s quite easy to say whether one sound is louder than another. Similarly, unless you have perfect pitch you can’t name the note being played on a piano just by the sound but you can easily say whether another note is higher or lower. I’m reminded of the Sesame Street song, “One of These Things (Is Not Like the Others).” Noticing whether two things are the same or different is so fundamental to the human brain that Sesame Street made the process into a preschool child’s game.

Consequently, being content with your own life without comparison to others is not easy. If you’re a business person, it’s hard not to compare yourself to Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey. If you’re in politics, you might wish you were like Margaret Thatcher or Nelson Mandela. If you’re a religious leader, perhaps you envy Billy Graham or Mother Teresa.

While very natural for the human brain, these kinds of comparisons are unhelpful except when they motivate you to excel at the particular work God has given you. That is the lesson from today’s Galatians reading: understand how God has gifted you, evaluate your situation and opportunities to serve, and give your all to the unique calling God has for you. When you do that, without worrying about how your life compares to anyone else, God is honored and God’s purposes in the world will be accomplished.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Friday 8.19.11 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 3rd grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

With August & back-to-school routines in full swing, I’m reminded of one of the favorite stories from my Grandmother Rosalie (long-time Kindergarten teacher). There was a little boy who was very reluctant to start Kindergarten. His mother made the full sales pitch about the wonderful teachers, the new friends, the fun activities, the new supplies, etc. Finally, he tentatively agrees to go & trudges off to the 1st day of school. He returns that day with the report that it hadn’t been as bad as he thought. The mother is greatly relieved & the next morning opens his blinds & cheerfully announces, “Rise & Shine! Time to get ready for another day of school.” The boy looks at her & says, “What? Again?”

So before we let ourselves become overwhelmed with schedules & commitments this fall, let’s consider today’s idea of what God might have in mind for us.

Our small group had a family event with 10 adults & 11 youths gathered to watch the 1981 film “Chariots of Fire” (When asked what he thought of the movie, our youngest male attendee, noted that “fortunately the lady’s big hats blocked all but one of the kissing scenes.”  Just goes to show that everyone has a different perspective of a movie that focused on the 1924 Olympic games.)

After the movie, we had a discussion time focusing on the life of one of the main characters in the movie, Eric Liddell. Eric was of Scottish ancestry born of missionary parents in China. He has the gift of running, yet also wants to serve God as a missionary. His mother helps him resolve the dilemma by saying, “God has given you a tremendous gift. Run now & give God all the glory of your gift.” At the Olympics he is slated to run in the 100-meter race, but the heat is scheduled to run on a Sunday. He opts not to run. There is a great controversy and he is called a publicity hound, a traitor, & worse. Eric stands firm, but is given the opportunity to run in the 400-meter race later in the week & wins the 1st gold medal by a Scotsman in Olympic history. He then finishes his schooling & goes to China as a missionary.

That evening’s discussion offered a nice transition for us to chat with the boys the next day about their plans for this school year. What activities might we pursue & which ones might we like to do but have to reluctantly take a pass? We started the list with Worship & Sunday school. Then added piano, church choir, Scouts, W.I.L.D. ones, soccer, band, some fun extracurricular school activities, and so on. Recognizing that we can’t do everything, we started focusing on those activities that would not only be fun but helpful to their development.

As we think of our children & their promise, we adults tend to naturally exclude ourselves from the discussion; its almost as if we think we have already maxed out our “God-potential.” But what if God doesn’t see our lives as being half over, but rather as half lived? (Verifying, once again, that God is a true optimist.)

That spreadsheet about the history of natural gas Operational Flow Orders & their financial impact on customers in the southeastern region of Georgia WAS awesome, but might God have additional expectations for us when He designed one’s mental capacity? Yes, setting that new personal time on the CST-3.5 Treadmill is impressive, but what good is one’s physical prowess if not serving as Christ’s hands? And that heart-healthy diet is fantastic; but if one’s heart isn’t growing each day toward God then might this focus on our physical well-being at the expense of our spiritual well-being be misplaced?

As we learned in that evening’s discussion, Eric Liddell would challenge himself each day with the question, “What does God want me to do today & how does He want me to do it?” Perhaps we could give it a try. What? Again? Yep!

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.