Monthly Archives: September 2011

Friday 9.30.11 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.

Today’s passage brings home the point that the Bible is really only effective if we read it. Like the treadmill in the bedroom, it doesn’t really help us to be more physically fit if it remains covered with clothes hanging on hangers from its handlebars.

So what should we do? Like any exercise plan, its always seems to be more effective if you do it with someone else. Perhaps join a small group or take Alpha or Journey 101 or even better join a Disciple class to start exploring the Bible with the additional support of other growing Christians.

If those options aren’t workable at this point, you might start reading the Bible for yourself. Now some very admirable folks can start with Genesis and read through the whole Bible to Revelation. However, for me that has always proved to be a daunting challenge. Perhaps we could find another way to help make our Bible study more fruitful.

When the boys were smaller we’d all go to the Library to choose that week’s books. The librarian would always ask us, “What are your favorite subjects or what kind of books do you like to read?” We’d respond with mysteries, books with monkeys, or stories about dogs. We’d be off to the shelves to find books like Nate the Great, Curious George, or Skippy Jon Jones to take home that day.

Sometimes we forget that the Bible is really a collection of books with all sorts of different styles & varied writers. What if we looked at the Bible like a library & then started our Bible Study? Let’s peruse our “shelves” and see what we find:

If you love watching ESPN’s Sports Center with its quick review of that day’s highlights, then check out Mark’s Gospel for his version of the “2 minute drill” of Jesus’ ministry.

If you like books like “Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten” with its short pithy sayings, then consider the Book of Proverbs. You could start tomorrow reading a chapter each day & be done by the end of the month.

If you enjoy stories of espionage & intrigue, then the Book of Esther is a perfect starting point for you.

If you love music & enjoy hymns, then start with the Bible’s own hymnbook – the book of Psalms. It’s fun to imagine what the accompanying music might have sounded like as you read through these lyrics.

If you are fond the Left Behind series, then go “old school” with the book of Revelation or Daniel.

If you are plain tired of relying on the endless-loop of the Veggie-Tale version of Jonah, then go to the source & read the Book of Jonah. It’s only 4 chapters; you could read it while enjoying the Endless Shrimp special (and the irony) at lunch at Red Lobster today.

If you prefer books of great thinking & deep thoughts, then consider Paul’s letter to the Romans – viewed as one of the world’s great philosophical works.

If you want to read more about the early church & its history, go to the book of Acts. If you prefer a seamless version of Jesus’ life and the early church, the Gospel of Luke + Acts is a super combo-platter.

If you enjoy reading short stories, then skim the Gospels & select Jesus’ parables. Many literary scholars consider them to be among the greatest short stories ever written.

If you like books filled with romance & passion, then after a furtive glance around give the Song of Solomon a read. (As the French inspector on the Pink Panther cartoon series would say, “Ooh-la-la.”)

You get the idea. I don’t want to belabor the point (Too late! – Editor), so let’s go ahead & clear the proverbial clothes off our religious treadmill & give our mind & souls a great workout starting today.

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

Thursday 9.29.11 Insight from Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as a Human Resources Specialist.

I was in college when I met Larry. I had volunteered to assist a man with advanced multiple sclerosis once a week through a campus ministry. They had had tried to prepare me for what I would encounter on these visits. I knew that he wasn’t going to be entering any weightlifting competitions, but I didn’t anticipate that it would be much worse than anything I had seen as a volunteer in a rehab hospital.

I was wrong.

When I first saw Larry, he was sitting in an adjustable bed. His body, which was not much more than a skeleton with flesh, was hunched over. His legs were in front of him tucked under layers of blankets, his spindly arms to the side, and his head hung down so that the drool coming out of his mouth flowed onto the towel wrapped around his neck. Though he couldn’t see it, there was a television on in the background. His wife had turned it on for him before she left their house that morning. There were pictures on the table to the side that showed his family, his life, and the body that was now a stranger to the one in front of me.

This is how I would find him when I walked in to visit each week. I would turn off the T.V., activate the adjustable bed and watch Larry’s head flop back as it reclined. It wouldn’t be until then that I was able to see into his eyes. They sparkled with joy and pronounced that there was, in fact, a man trapped in this broken-down body.

I would wipe the drool from his chapped lips and use a machine to suck out the remaining saliva from his mouth and throat. I’d stretched out his stiff limbs that hadn’t moved all morning, and we would talk. Though it was hard to understand him at first, it became easier as the weeks went by. When all else failed, I’d try to guess what he was saying. He’d let me know if I was right by blinking his eyes. Twice for yes. Once for no. I cherished these conversations. We’d joke, tell stories, and he would always ask how he could be in prayer for me. He was a down-to-earth man of deep faith with a great love and respect for the Lord. When we would finish talking, I’d raise the bed and watch his head flop back down over his lap. I’d turn on the radio that he’d listen to in the afternoon, and say good bye.

When Larry’s body finally gave in to the disease, I attended the service in celebration of his life. Highlights and pictures were woven into a biography describing the man who had once been a young boy, a football player, a husband, a father, and a grandfather. At one point in the service, the pastor shared one story that I will never forget.

He told how though his disease had progressed severely, Larry’s wife would still make sure that he was able to go to church every Sunday. During one service, Larry told her that he wanted to go to the altar for communion. One could see the emotion in his eyes as she pushed him to the front of the church. She started to step back to give him time alone, but he stopped her. It wasn’t enough for him to be at the altar, he wanted to bow down. While most of us would think this impossible, with the assistance of others, Larry’s wife lifted her husband’s frail body out of his chair and onto the kneelers. “Lower,” he insisted, so they lowered his body against the kneelers. “Lower” he begged. So they lowered him down so that he was stretched out on the floor beneath the cross. With more than his body was able to give, he humbled himself and exalted God in this reverent act of worship.

I am inspired by what Larry did that day. Sometimes, my sense of worship can’t be bothered; his couldn’t be denied. When I am tapped out of lame excuses of why I am not more expressive in my worship, I am reminded of my friend. I find great strength when I picture Larry’s deteriorated body kneeling before his Savior and great joy knowing he’s no longer claimed by a disease but by the God he now worships face-to-face.

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

Though his body grew weaker, he found his strength in his mighty God

Wednesday 9.28.11 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.

In the fall of 2007, I took a Disciple 1 class.  Several weeks into the class, we read in Numbers 18:8 that the Levites didn’t receive a land inheritance as did the other tribes of Israel. Instead, God told Aaron, “I myself have put you in charge of the offerings presented to me; all the holy offerings the Israelites give me I give to you and your sons as your portion…” Our teacher, Mike, commented that the pastors and staff at the church are like the Levites in several ways. They are responsible for helping the congregation to grow in faith, and their livelihood comes from the tithes and offerings of the congregation.

When I heard this, I was a bit taken aback. I had only been on staff at Resurrection for about four or five months at this point and had not thought of my job or my compensation in these terms.  Today’s verses re-emphasized for me what I came to understand four years ago.

In the passage from 2 Corinthians, Paul writes about the importance of being responsible with what has been given in God’s name. I am grateful that our budget at the church is made known every year and approved by the congregation at the annual All Church Gathering. But what I came to understand in that Disciple class is that there are other ways to be fraudulent. If I am not doing the job that God has called me to do, I am not using the tithes and offerings given to God in a way that honors him.  Thinking in these terms inspires me to do my best work and to strive to serve the congregation as God would have me to do.

On the flip side, as a child of God, I also want to give back to God to show him my love and appreciation and trust. When I filled out my commitment card for the first time, promising to give a set amount every two weeks for the next year, I was both excited and scared. Excited because a lot could be done for others through that amount I would give. And scared because I could do a lot for myself if I weren’t giving that much away. Sometimes I still think of the ways I could be using what I am giving back to God and the things I want that I have to do without, but most of the time, I am still excited to be able to give back to God what he never had to give me in the first place. And although sometimes, money gets tight, I always have what I absolutely need. The more I give, the more I trust God, and the more I trust him, the more I love him and want to give back to him.

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

Tuesday 9.27.11 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.

One of the last conversations I remember having with my grandpa before he died was when I was home from seminary for a weekend. Thanks to Chicago traffic and my placement to serve a church about an hour’s drive outside of the city, I was in my car a lot those days. In my childhood, Gramps and I had always shared a love for country music and when we were together we would always talk about the hottest songs on the radio and compare our favorites (Alan Jackson’s “Tall Tall Trees” his top choice for a long time). As I grew older, my taste in music began to change, but Gramps would always ask me “What are you listening to these days?”

That was the question he asked me that day – “what have you been listening to?” I will never forget the look on his face when I told him I was spending most of my time listening to news radio. He was so disappointed and tried to convince me that listening to music would be a much better use of my time. He didn’t change my mind in that moment; I kept listening to news radio, but that conversation has stayed with me. I’m still trying to sort out the details but I think he was trying to teach me about something larger than just where to tune my radio.

Singing songs can create a joyous spirit in us. Singing love songs can remind us of love in our lives. Singing songs of mourning and lament can remind us that we’re not alone in our pain. I believe God’s mysterious Holy Spirit can even work through my radio dial, iTunes shuffle, or Pandora radio station to find just the right song for the moment I’m in to remind me of my faith, or give me the spark of encouragement I need for that day. That’s why I’m following Gramps’ advice and singing loudly to the music on my radio, and trusting that as often as God blesses me through the songs I hear, I will also have opportunities to reply to God with praise and worship.

PS: The song that has been inspiring me to turn my praise to God is “Roll Away the Stone” by Mumford and Sons. The lyrics go something like this:

It seems as if all my bridges have been burned,
You say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive at the restart

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

Monday 9.26.11 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.

Isaiah’s vision of worship is powerful. While I wouldn’t say that it was like a burning coal from the altar, there was a moment in worship yesterday at Resurrection West in which I felt God’s spirit and was caught up in the music and words being sung. There are usually times each week when I feel God’s presence as a part of worship, feel connected with those around me or am inspired to take the next step in my journey of knowing, loving and serving God.

Gods compassion and love that are experienced as part of worship can be an encouragement and strength throughout the week. Worship is not just something that happens on Sunday and then doesn’t make a difference throughout the rest of the week. Instead it can be a powerful experience of God’s presence in the gathered community in which we receive God’s love. There is power when we worship God together.

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

Saturday 9.24.11 Insight from Mary Jones

Mary Jones is Data Specialist for Connections Ministry, in addition to managing Visitor Connections and Member Re-Connection Ministries. She has been on staff at Resurrection for eight years. Each role she has held has been related to connecting our congregation to opportunities to grow in their faith journey.

As luck would have it, my turn in the GPS is a message from the Book of Revelation! Anyone want to trade places with me today? I do love the poetic symbolism of this book, and find comfort in the knowledge that one day its meaning will be fully revealed! Today’s scripture gives us a picture of the dragon and the beast. It is thought that the dragon represents Satan, and the beast represents the antichrist coming out of the sea of humanity, showing evil’s grip on our humanness. Then in Ch. 15 we are shown a ‘sea of glass’ which may represent the triumph of good over evil, the presence of God, and His children praising and worshipping Him with songs and music.

‘Great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
King of the nations.
4 Who will not fear you, Lord,
and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed’

The dragon and the beast are forever nipping at our heels, threatening to drag us backward, and divert our Journey of becoming deeply committed Christians. But God relentlessly continues to reveal Himself to us in our day to day living through studying His Word; prayer, families, small group and individual communities; quite strikingly through our experiences serving; and yes even through the glory of His earth in the form of a sunflower or hummingbird. I fall far short in being relentless in my love for Him compared to the love and blessings He shows me. Participating in worship with our Resurrection ‘family’ each week helps to bring His ‘omni’s’ –  omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience, to the forefront of my mind and heart. It reinstates a posture of reverence, celebration, and peace. Sing heartily to the Lord this weekend!

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

Friday 9.23.11 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.

A few years ago while I was on the marketing side of the business, I routinely traveled through the hills of Northern Georgia visiting some of my business clients who operated carpet mills. On one of the country lanes was a small, one-room church with a huge sign out front with a “thought for the week.”

An annual sign in the midst of a typical sultry July would state, “You think it’s hot here?” Or after a particularly gloomy winter week, “The Prodigal Sun Returns!” Or one time, “God is like Dial Soap – Aren’t you glad you have Him? Don’t you wish everybody did?”

(Note:  For our younger readers, this was the ad jingle for a yellow-colored bar of soap called Dial.- DL   Um, just how long is “a few years ago?- Editor   Let’s say 20ish years & leave it at that. – DL)

I recall one sign that seems pertinent to today’s passage, “What if today was filled with only the stuff you thanked God for yesterday?”

The author of today’s Scripture verse is acknowledging that the previous motivation to worship God seemed to focus on a “sin offering.” God was more frequently considered only in times of trouble or woe. However, the writer contrasts this idea with Christian worship where we can also go to God with great joy & thank Him for the blessings in our lives. In short, we can come to worship with an attitude of gratitude, not just a posture of penitence.

What if we changed our perception of worship to make sure it included offering thanks to God? Sounds easy enough; yet, how often do we truly express our gratitude to God?

Perhaps we are like children who enjoy receiving gifts; yet find the simple process of writing our thank you notes becomes a pains-taking, drawn-out ordeal that finally ends with the mailing of a stained & crinkled letter that has traveled in the van, been left on the counter on spaghetti night, & used as a bookmark of the latest book. (Hypothetically speaking? – Editor. Of course. – DL)

Or maybe we are like the small boy who had neglected to send a thank you to his elderly Aunt for his birthday present then wrote a note saying, “I am so sorry I forgot to properly thank you for my gift last year. It would certainly serve me right if you forgot my birthday next week.”

But surely we adults don’t hoard our gratitude to God in similar fashion. Right? Or do we take a beautiful day of sunshine for granted? Or do we overlook the many miraculous things our body can do and consider them to be blasé’? Or do we forget ourselves & assume that all of our accomplishments & awards are solely due to our brilliance, our abilities or our talents; as if we attained this great stature in some sort of vacuum.

Perhaps today would be a good day to start displaying our gratitude to God. An ancient theologian once noted that one of the most powerful prayers one can say is simply, “Thank you God.”

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

Thursday 9.22.11 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.

It’s all true—that’s what the Resurrection of Jesus Christ means.  Every word, every promise, every beatitude—it’s all true.  Every parable pointing to the unending, relentless love of God who is like a father out searching the horizon for the silhouette of his prodigal child; or, who is like a shepherd, engaged in a search and rescue mission for the one sheep who has wandered off—it’s all true.  That’s what today’s text eternally announces to the cosmos: Jesus—the human face of God—has come to seek and to save all that was lost and broken, has come that we might have life and have it to the fullest, has come so that whosoever will, might be saved—it’s all true.  And make no mistake about it, when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb and encountered the living Christ—they knew it.  What part of the truth of the gospel (Good News) crossed their minds, we do not know; but the essential reality that all Jesus had said and done—all that Jesus had embodied and endured—everything the last 3 years had grown up within them and everything the crucifixion had violently sought to kill…all of it was true; and in a fear-filled moment of seeing the resurrected Jesus—they knew it!

            So they did what we would do when encountered face-to-face with the living Christ: they fell down on their faces and worshiped him.  They clasped his feet and I’m sure wept.  Their tears serving as the utility emotion expressing joy overrunning their despair, their doubt being trampled by hope, and their pain being driven out by peace—they worshipped.  Why?  Because it was all true.  And Jesus’ response to their worship…was to give them a mission (Jesus always responds to our worship by giving us a mission); and their mission was to go and tell the 11 remaining disciples that…it was all true.  Death had lost and life had won.  Jesus was alive, so they could be too.  So the women left their place of worship there in the garden and carried out their mission—and the disciples listened to them and went to Galilee.  And there, perhaps on same hillside where the beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount had been proclaimed 3 years earlier, the 11 saw Jesus and they too—worshiped him—because even in their doubts, they knew his presence meant it was all true.

            And then Jesus came to them—in their worship—and did what Jesus does when we truly worship Him: he gave them a mission.  Go into all the world, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20a).  Why?…because it was all true!  I’m not sure what particular part of the gospel message might have emerged in the minds of the 11 when they saw the resurrected Jesus, but of this much we can be sure—standing face-to-face with Jesus, they were overcome with the reality that despite their confusion and questions—it was all true.  And so (reluctantly and imperfectly to be sure), they undertook the mission Jesus gave them in their authentic worship; and because they did, you and I are recipients of the Jesus gospel today.  And just like the women and the original disciples, encountering the resurrected Jesus still prompts us to worship; and just like them, when we authentically worship, the living Jesus comes to us with His mission of reconciliation.  But I wouldn’t want you to miss that the mission Christ gives us that flows out of our authentic worship also comes with a promise:  I am with you always, even to the very end of the age (Matthew 20b). 

It’s all true…and that’s what authentically worshipping the living Christ compels us to remember.   

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

Wednesday 9.21.11 Insight from Rev. Steven Blair

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

Magi worshipped a new-born king

WEDNESDAY 09.21.11   Matthew 2:1-12

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts  absolutely.” Lord Acton
Those words were spoken by Lord Acton (1834–1902), a historian and moralist.  We see the words played out in today’s Scripture.  King Herod hears that another “King of the Jews” was born, which happened to be the same job title that Rome had given him.  To understand Herod, imagine if you hear that your company had a new hotshot employee that just happened to have the same job title as you.   Would you feel threatened or would you welcome them?  Herod heard those words from the Magi “King of the Jews” and I imagine he thought something along the lines of “I’m going to lose my job.  I’m going to lose my power.”  His fear of losing his power led him to anger and violence.  King Herod probably never thought he would grow up to be a man who would command the death of innocent babies, but here he is: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The Magi were powerful men in their own means.  Their ability to afford expensive gifts and their education suggests that they must have been significant members of their home community.  Yet, when they saw the star, they traveled joyfully to see this new king.  When they saw Jesus, they bowed in worship.

Here are two examples of what people in power did with the news of Jesus.  One person gripped tightly to his power and caused violence.  The other group of people bowed.  They humbled themselves in the sight of the True God lying in a manger.  They recognized the epitome of power and instead of trying to kill it to make themselves feel bigger, they humbled themselves and became the bigger men because of it.

Worship is a litmus test.  Recognizing God’s Power can invoke these totally different responses.  Do we willingly bow before God like the Wise Men or do we puff ourselves up?  There are times that people don’t participate in the singing, etc. because they are still trying to figure God out.  These people are still searching and that is a wonderful expression of faith in itself.  Others however struggle to Worship because raising God to a pedestal means that we cannot stand on top of it. Perhaps there is a bit of Herod and a bit of the Magi in each of us.

How can we respond to the bigness of God?  How can we follow the example of the Magi today?

Today, find a way to dwell on these words in prayer.

“God you are bigger than me.  You are more powerful than me.  And I am completely OK with that.  I am actually quite thankful to have a loving God who exists that deserves worship.  I want to be like the Magi and worship You.”

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

Tuesday 9.20.11 Insight from Rev. Molly Simpson

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

What happens when your life depends upon surviving fierce storms and yet also on having enough rain to sustain your crops, livestock, etc.?  My hunch is, that like the psalmist, you worship the one who sustains your life in either drought or deluge.

Some days, I don’t notice the power of God from within the walls of my temperature-controlled house or behind the digitally mastered images or video that pop up on my computer.  My life is often buffered by controllable, human-powered forces rather than beyond-my-control, God-created forces of nature.

Somehow, though, things have been a little different this summer.  News of impending rain has been more quick to draw my interest than in times past.  Where?  Where is it coming from?  Where is it headed towards?

It’s interesting the kind of attention that you will give a wet weather report when you have friends to the northeast who fear that their house is going to get washed away and friends to the south who fear that their house is going to get burned down.  But there it is, out of your control, the rain that you hope will dry up or the rain that you pray will quench the wild fires.

Maybe we should take time today to notice the ways that the Lord’s majesty and power can be seen the world around us.  When you see the sun breaking through the clouds, when you feel the cool breeze through an open window, when you see the leaves changing colors… may there be something that causes you to cry out in worship, “Glory!”

And even on those gray, gloomy days or when the weather gets dangerous, may you remember that “The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as King forever” and find peace.

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