Monthly Archives: August 2012

Friday 8.31.12 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.

Since parenthood, I’ve come to believe that New Year’s Day is mis-placed calendar-wise.  With school starting & new beginnings on the horizon each fall, it seems that Labor Day would be the perfect time to launch New Year’s resolutions & new agendas for the coming 12 months.  As we consider Peter’s charge we might see what he might teach us.

For students of the Bible, today’s passage makes one smile.  Peter, the original “Mr. Bull in a China Shop”, is urging us to be mindful of where others are in their faith walk & be humble as we present the Gospel story.  If Peter, who had every excuse to be a belligerent defender of the faith, could come to such conclusion, perhaps we, too, might take a look at how we present Christianity to others.

Fortunately, our every day experiences help us to quickly see how to not present our faith.

Consider that friend on a new diet/fitness regimen.  He shares in excruciating detail his entire intense workout routine & the joys of his all grapefruit diet, all the while shaking his head as you talk about just trying to eat less & exercising more.  Unfortunately, the phenomenal benefits of his new routine are weighed down by his condescending attitude. (I always loved the preacher story of the guy going through his fitness regimen:  I get up at 4:00, run 5 miles, lift weights for an hour, take an ice-cold shower, & only drink health drinks all day.  Wow, sounds intense.  How long have you been doing this?  Oh, I start tomorrow.”)

Or maybe you have the uber-environmentally conscious neighbor who inexplicably fills only one small kitchen trash bag every 2 weeks.  You can’t help but notice her look of disdain as you drag out your recycle bin(s) filled with 6 plastic milk jugs, 2 pizza boxes, & 5 different kinds of cereal boxes.  (With two rapidly growing boys, we just fill the feeding trough the best we can.)  You may readily concur with her passion, but the judgmental attitude is a non-starter.

So how might we proceed?  Two weeks ago as I was walking our beagles, Maggie & Sally, our neighbor was carefully drying the car on his driveway.  He had just washed it by hand & was now taking some towels & wiping down the entire car.  It wasn’t his car.  It was his son’s car.  His son, who had graduated from high school last May, was going to be off to college this fall.  When asked when his son would take off, he paused & replied, “In just a few hours.”  This simple act of washing the car wasn’t filled with bravado or self-glory.  He was simply displaying agape’ love for his son (while perhaps busying himself to keep his emotions in check).

Perhaps we could just listen, as our colleague discusses their faith & their questions – no talking points or interjections, just listening.  Possibly we could share an example of Christian love for others by asking them to join us for Sacred Steps.  Or like our neighbor, maybe we could demonstrate agape’ love & humbly offer our talents & gifts in some form of service to Christ.

As our youngsters start their next journey in learning this season, perhaps we could do some learning ourselves & strive to discover new ways to share the story of Christ & His love to those in our midst.  The countdown for our “new” year has started; let’s make some resolutions.  10…9….8…7…

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

Thursday 8.30.12 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 and J – L.

Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete (Matthew 5:48).  This is what God-in-the-flesh has to say to us about the way we should act towards (in case you missed it) everybody—which would include those whom we don’t even like—and I’m inclined (among other responses) to exclaim…Seriously God?

But as the gospel is replete in revealing, not only is Jesus serious, but the entirety of my commitment to being a Christian is measured—according to Jesus—in whether or not I live this commandment out daily.  The very authenticity of my faith is determined by whether or not I love as God does—according to Jesus.  And I must confess I found this to be an impossible task until I came to understand an accurate definition of what it means to “love” and hence, what God means when God tells me and you to (do) love…which is a verb as opposed to a noun.  You see we tend to think that love is primarily defined by how we feel; so in order to love someone you must necessarily have “loving” feelings towards them—if not romantically speaking—then certainly you must at least have feelings of warmth, niceness, and appreciation…otherwise, how could you truly love them?  …And when love is a noun; when we operate under an inaccurate and faulty assumption that love is ultimately grounded in what we feel, well then we live with these faulty assumptions as truth and the command of God is ridiculous and impossible—because I will never be able to have warm feelings towards everybody—especially those who spitefully use me.  But, when I learned that Love is not a noun but a verb—when I discovered in both the word and deed of Jesus that Love is not about how we feel but love is about what we choose…well now we are thinking about the Love Christ both lived and defined.

So Love accurately defined (which is to say Christ-defined) is choosing the other person’s best interest over your own self-interest.   And this choice is not predicated in the least on what other people choose and feel—this choice of the other person’s best interest over my own self-interest is rather…loving, just as your heavenly Father loves.  When we talk about God’s love for us—we are not talking ultimately about how God feels about us, we are talking about the truth that God has forever chosen our best-interest over God’s Self-Interest (the most powerful image of which is the crucifix).  When we are talking about us loving God, we are not talking ultimately about how we feel towards God, rather we are talking about us choosing God’s purposes and God’s agenda—us choosing God’s interests over our own self-interests.  And when we are talking about us loving each other (whether the “each other” is our spouse, our child, our neighbor, co-worker, or most despised enemy), what we are talking about is us choosing the other person’s best interest over our own self-interest no matter how we feel.  Now admittedly, loving (even when properly defined) is still a difficult command for us to follow; but when we recognize that God’s command ultimately comes down to what we choose—as opposed to what we feel—well then this command of God at least becomes doable as opposed to impossible.

Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete (Matthew 5:48).  This is what God-in-the-flesh has to say to us about the way we should act towards (in case you missed it) everybody—which would include those whom we don’t even like—and I’m inclined (among other responses) to exclaim…God help me choose what You’ve modeled and made possible by Your grace..today—and always. 

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

Wednesday 8.29.12 Insight from Rev. Steven Blair

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

This Scripture has been seen as one of the clearest examples of the Old Testament referring to Jesus.  I suggest you read the full section and pay attention for the ways this Scripture seems odd; just click here.

It is odd to have a servant “raised and lifted up and highly exalted (52:7).”

It is odd for kings to “shut their mouths because of him (52:15).”

It is odd for someone to “take up our pain and [bear] our suffering (53:4).”

It is odd that we ” like sheep, [go] astray, each of us [turning] to our own way (53:6)” and YET God was so interested in our forgiveness that He sent His Son to die so we can have new life.

It is all odd.  Very, very odd.  That is the point of Grace.  It doesn’t make sense. It does not measure up.  Somehow our victory comes from what appeared to a very public defeat on a cross.  Somehow a peasant man from Nazareth is the means by which salvation is given to wayward sheep everywhere.

The Apostle Paul wrote: “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”  (1Corinthians 1:22-25)

As you read this text, notice the oddness of our Faith…

And then celebrate it because of that oddness.

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

Tuesday 8.28.12 Insight from Rev. Molly Simpson

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

These texts remind me of a really important principle of biblical interpretation–understanding context.  I look at these texts and am reminded that they were articulated at a time in history that looked very different from what we experience today.  Part of the work of Bible study is trying to understand the setting, customs, and culture of the original audience.  I mean, when was the last time you used the phrase, “bending one’s head like a reed and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes?” (Isaiah 58:5)??

At the same time, it is so important to realize that we too have a context that shapes our understanding.  I imagine that some of us hear “sins” or “oppression of workers” or “bonds of injustice” or even “do justice” today and have different images come to mind than those who first heard the words of the prophets thousands of years ago.  Sometimes, our experiences help us understand the message that God has for us in the text–and sometimes our experiences get in the way–they lead to false assumptions about what God may be trying to teach us.  This is one of the reasons why I know that the words, “do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God” mean very different things to different people today. 

When we seek to understand the historical setting of Isaiah and Micah and we peel back the layers of our own context, we find a message that points us toward something that seems to be true of God regardless of time–God desires not ritual or acts outward piety or religious practice that is going through the motions but rather a humble spirit, an attitude and actions of love towards our neighbor, and standing up for those who are oppressed and marginalized (justice). 

Then, we turn back to our setting–this day in the place we live–and ask ourselves how might I live out these instructions today?  Is there a way in which you are a part of doing violence (physical, social, economic) to another that needs to cease?  Do you need to set aside the outward appearance of being religious and humble yourself before God?  Do you need to give your time, your money, your voice, or your influence to help “set free the mistreated”?  Share bread with the hungry?  Embrace faithful love?  Start walking with God again?  There’s something in there for each of us, I’m sure.  If you haven’t found it yet, read it again.  Pray.  Ask God to show you.  

This is one of the things I find so beautiful about the Bible–God really can and will speak to us today through words written so long ago–especially when we wrestle with a text rather than setting it aside.       

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

Monday 8.27.12 Insight from Jeanna Repass

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

One of the first scriptures I memorized as a child was the shepherd’s prayer, Psalm 23. I loved it and still do. But I always got stuck on verse 5: “Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” When I was younger I thought this meant that God was bringing my enemies to my house to eat. When I was teaching this Psalm to my son Christian, he was in first grade and wasn’t bothered at all by the verse that confused me when I was his age. To Christian, the feast and enemy part made perfect sense. Christian’s interpretation is that if he has an enemy, God will do something spiteful (on his behalf) and gloat about it. To him, any enemies – and in my son’s world view enemy means anyone in his grade who crosses him – should be made to suffer and God is just the one to handle that for him. My son even referenced a boy from his class that he really didn’t like and said that he was going to ask God to “get him”. Hmmmm.

Well – I told my son that I didn’t think we should be praying for God to “get” anyone specific in his first grade class. So instead he prayed that God would let him eat pizza at school in front of the kids he didn’t like. I tried to tell him that he was not quite on the right path with that prayer either but he was adamant. “Uh huh! The bible said that God prepares a feast that we can eat in front of our enemies and that includes pizza and bullies – Mom!” OK – makes sense to me. Jesus tells us to have faith like children. So pizza and bullies and a God who “gets ’em and gloats”… and all is right with the world.

Except – that I have also been teaching my son the Lord’s Prayer. “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And there are hosts and hosts of other scriptures and verses that contradict a God who helps us wag our heads at our enemies and give them the “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah!” while he is making them suffer and we are exalted. So I’m in that place of struggle (that I went through with my older two children) where I am trying to teach my young son about a God and a bible that says and does things that seem contradictory.

So which is it? Does God smite our enemies and invite us to a pizza buffet while He makes them sit outside noses pressed to the glass window – rain pouring down on them while a cold wind blows – watching us eat? Or does God ask us to bring our enemies into our home and give them food, shelter and rest if they are in need (think good Samaritan here) and offer them our other cheek when they strike us and our shirt if they also steal our outer coat? Well the good news is my parent’s had the answer and it’s the one I give to my children. (Wait for it – it’s brilliant!) “I don’t know – go to bed!”

OK – not really. The answer I give my children (and the one I was given) is: “You know, I am actually confused about this too. Let’s pray about this together.” Then we pray (as I did with my parents) that God will help us understand His will for us and help us to trust Him even when we are confused by what we read in His word. When I was a child, I thought my parents were “copping out” with that one. But as a Mom now, I get it. I find a great assurance in my confusion because in those moments I am driven to prayer. It’s as though God is saying, “Hey Jeanna I want to talk to you. I know you’re confused, so ask me about it.” So far – our talks have not ended with my total understanding – I’m still in the “I don’t know” section, but I always end my conversations with God feeling comforted even in my not knowing. So… my Warrior God is my Comfort and Nurturing God and He is indeed my shepherd in whom I shall not want. Amen

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

Saturday 8.25.12 Insight from Mary Jones

Mary Jones is an eleven-year member of the Resurrection family, serving on staff for nine. Her greatest joy is serving with My Father’s House – Resurrection Furnishings Ministry alongside her husband Kevin and the many people there who are engaged and dedicated to building God’s Kingdom in Kansas City. “Each of us has been given abilities to benefit His Kingdom. Explore your gifts and realize your life’s meaning – in Christ!

‘May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.’  Psalm 19:14

Hebrews was written to the early Christian Jews, likely for the purpose of encouraging them in difficult times. There is so much encouragement packed into today’s short verses! The first verse ties the God of the Old Testament, who was revealed to His people in ‘various ways’ (prophets, angels, visions, dreams), to His New Testament revelation in a Son, Jesus. The verses then tell us a few things about Jesus. 1) Jesus is God’s spokesperson, and anything that comes from Him is far greater and more binding than any former teaching or tradition. 2) Jesus is a cosmic Christ, creator of the universe. 3) Jesus continues as heir of all things. He has always been and always will be.  4) Jesus is the final and complete revelation of God, the light of God’s glory with the imprint of God’s being. 5) Jesus sustains all things through his message to us. 6) Jesus paid for humanity’s sins and sits at the right hand of God. The last verse states His status is even higher than angels, which reveals it to be higher than anything or anyone. Everything is measured in light of what Jesus taught.

Last weekend Pastor Adam described the Bible writings as the coming together of humanity and divinity. In these passages we see humanity and divinity coming together with the revelation of God incarnate in Jesus Christ.

If Hebrews was written to encourage and remind those early Christians of Jesus’ redemptive power, what does it mean for you and me today? Essentially it girds our faith, that we can abide in faith and knowledge that Jesus is our redeemer and that we are sustained through His message to us. Jesus’ foremost message/ commandment to us is ‘to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

Every week I see you doing just that. Individuals from our church family and the KC community come together to follow Jesus’ message and the tug He has laid on their heart. They use the abilities God has given them to show and share Christ’s love, to build His kingdom here and now. I see friends heading to KC and around the world on His mission. I see our pastor preaching when his tummy is probably still sore from surgery. I see our Blue Springs, Downtown, and West campus families growing. At My Father’s House I see our teens loading donated furniture into the pick-up truck of a family in need, or blessing a ministry space with awesome artwork via a can of spray paint. I see school kids getting a bed for the first time. I see individuals sorting and preparing your furnishings donations, serving up hospitality, and others serving as personal shoppers. I see a smile, a hug, a prayer, and much more. I see realization in those eyes that we are all one in Christ.

Thank you, Jesus, for your teachings. Thank you, church family, for how you show His love.

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

Friday 8.24.12 Insight from Sarah Newberry

Sarah Newberry serves as the Worship Arts Leader at the West campus of The Church of the Resurrection. Sarah joined the church staff in March of this year, and was a volunteer with the Vibe service before that.

So I’m going to pull my worship leader card here (if there even is such a thing), and talk about a song that crossed my mind when I thought about this passage and the words of N.T. Wright that the GPS points to.

Many of you might recognize the popular 90’s tune “What if God was one of us?” by Joan __________. Anyone? No, not Joan Jett. Not Joan of Arc. Give up? Osbourne; Joan Osbourne. To tell you the truth, worship leader and all, I had to Google “What if God was one of us + nose piercing” to find out.

Moving on…in the song, she asks, “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus?” Now, I don’t know how many of you ride the bus, but you have to ask yourself when you hear these words, “Would I have recognized Jesus as God in the flesh if I were living when He was here on earth?” It’s easy to point at the Pharisees, Sadducees and others of that time and think they couldn’t have possibly been any more blind to not see that Jesus, the fulfillment of all the scriptures they’d been pouring over their entire lives, was standing right there in front of them. But that’s easier said than done.

Looking deeply at the stories of Jesus, and knowing the kinds of people he surrounded himself with, would we recognize Him now? Who would he be spending the majority of his time with? Would he be hanging out where we hang out? This trail of questions leads to one big one: What was occupying the minds and hearts of the Pharisees so much that they couldn’t see what was plainly in front of them? They yearned for the Messiah, and they were looking at the same scriptures that we read today, but they still didn’t recognize our Savior in the flesh. The story of the Pharisees shows us that there is a difference between knowing about God, and knowing God.

I’m asking myself this question today: if I had lived when Christ first came on earth, would I be the person who fell at His feet and proclaimed His glory to everyone around me, or would I be the person plotting against God in the flesh? Nobody can accurately say who they would be in the past, but we most certainly have a choice now, today, as to how we let God mold and shape us into being more like His son, Jesus.

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

Thursday 8.23.12 Insight from Janelle Gregory

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

I was talking with an acquaintance once and he said, “You should meet a friend of mine. You two are exactly alike.” Obviously upon hearing this, my interest was immediately piqued. Who is this fun, smart, witty person? She must be amazing! “Yeah,” he continued in all seriousness, “you are both super quiet.”

I’m sorry, what?

Me?

Quiet?!!

NO ONE has ever accused me of being quiet. I’m the one who always got in trouble for talking in school. With each new teacher, it was just a matter of time before I heard, “Janelle, I’ve got a seat for you right up here.” I’m sure that the teachers were discouraged to discover that each new seating arrangement just gave me an opportunity to talk to different people. Yes, there are a lot of things that I am, but quiet is not one of them.

Obviously this acquaintance didn’t know me well. He just knew his perception of me, but he didn’t actually know me. And even though he thought I was soft-spoken, it certainly didn’t make it the case.

I wonder if we don’t find ourselves in a similar situation with God at times. I often assume that He thinks a certain way, acts a certain way, believes in certain things… of course these just happen to conveniently be the same ways that I think, act, and believe. And having a “higher power” that is always on the same wave-length comes in very handy for making decisions or points in a debate.

It’s easy for us to mold God into what we want Him to be, isn’t it? After all, we don’t want our God to make us feel uncomfortable, angry, or embarrassed. We say things like, “I’m certain that God is like this, because I could never believe in a god who (enter your own controversial act or belief here).” But in the same way that I’m not quiet, God isn’t always necessarily how we perceive Him.

The Bible gives us a very full picture of God in both the Old and New Testament, but we tend to skip over or skim through the parts that we don’t like. There are times that some of these troubling verses are due to cultural differences or human interpretation, but I think we should be extremely cautious prior to jumping to that assumption. Doing so encourages us to pick and choose all of the attributes that fit our personal beliefs, leaving us believing in our own perception rather than in God Himself.

And God is a being. We can’t design Him or change Him. He is who He is whether or not we approve of all of His decisions. It’s hard to stomach that the 10 plagues actually happened. And nobody wants to think that someone who claims to follow God could possibly be denied by Him. But what if these are true? Are we so arrogant that we hold God to our standards?

I’m not saying that we should just follow blindly and never wrestle with scripture. In being in a relationship with God, I think that we are allowed to question Him. But we can’t change Him. There will still be times that we may disagree or have difficulty comprehending His actions, yet at the end of the day I really do believe that God loves us intimately and is excited for us to fit into his incredible, eternal plan. And I would much rather follow and be molded by a real being that that I don’t always understand than spend my life worshiping an empty perception.

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

Wednesday 8.22.12 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.

I expected the first time I visited Resurrection to be the only time I attended. The first reason was that I thought it was too big. The second was that it was a part of the United Methodist Church.

I grew up in an independent, non-denominational church where there is no denominational head over the church and the congregation is self – governing and has Christ as its head. (That is taken directly from a description of that church in its bulletin) I thought that because most denominations have some sort of governing body or committee that guides all the churches within the denomination that meant they relied less on Christ and more on man. I thought that specific denominations had too many “rules”, whereas my church relied on the Bible for guidance.

I am not sure what it was that happened in worship during that first visit to Resurrection—I don’t know if it was the music, the sermon, the prayers—but something drew me back the next week. Over time, I came to see denominations as being less about rules and more about finding the best ways to connect with Christ—and that is not the same for every person. Just as some styles of music may speak to one person more than others, I now understand that different denominations of Christianity provide different insights that help people better understand how to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have found that the way the Methodist church combines personal faith and social justice helps me to better understand the message of Jesus to be both connected to God and to live out that connection through service to others. That doesn’t necessarily mean I agree 100% with the rules in the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. But that’s not what it’s about anyway. The most important rules (the greatest commandments), according to Jesus, are that we love God and love our neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40).

I recently attended the Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit where Pastor John Ortberg was one of the speakers. To begin his presentation, he said, “Too often, we argue about Christianity instead of marvel at Jesus.” When we are arguing over Christianity, it is those so-called rules that we argue over. If we truly marveled at Jesus and what he did (and is still doing!) and followed his example, we would more likely live out those two greatest commandments…and what a lovely world we would live in were that so!

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

Tuesday 8.21.12 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.

There’s a quote from Pride and Prejudice that says “You can’t learn from other people’s mistakes; you can only learn from your own.” But I believe hearing the stories of other peoples’ lives can make us wiser. That’s one of the things I love the most about the Bible. We hear in the passage from 2 Timothy that the scriptures show us where we need correction, teaching and training. And there are certain places that have clear instructions about the way we should live. But more often than not, I find it is the stories of our people that remind me of the way I am called to live. We hear these stories in the first five books of the Old Testament, in the wisdom literature, and in the prophets. Then again in the New Testament as we read of Jesus’ contemporaries trying to make sense of him, and then later the first apostles as they worked to figure out what the church should be like.

In reading these stories we see our own struggles. We have the same flaws that keep us from pure relationship with God and others. Our sins may be slightly different based on historical time period, but the overarching issues can be easily generalized. Pride, arrogance, and thinking our own intellect can give us all the answers. Worshiping idols instead of God, becoming distracted and giving in to the temptation of immediate gratification. The inability to see our own self-worth and to perceive the image of God within us. The struggle to not judge others. The frustration about life’s big, unanswerable questions and unfairnesses. Our tendency toward hoarding the gifts that have been so freely given to us. Our habit of blaming God for bad things that happen, but taking the credit to ourselves for the good and successful things.

All these (and more!) are found throughout the stories of our faith. It doesn’t take much reading to find a story that hits a little too close to home, or holds a mirror up to our brokenness. This is useful for reproof and correction. The great treat is that in addition to reading about human failure we also get to read about God’s faithfulness through the ages, and we learn that God has always been serious in promising to be our God. The covenant relationship God was insistent and consistent about for all those years is still offered to us today. We are connected to those stories because they make the way for our own stories. They shaped the faith we have claimed. How have you found usefulness in reading these stories?

One more thing – have you ever thought  that in fact we are writing our own Bible stories even today? In the large sense that the Bible is a book about God’s relationship with people (a great love story, some might say), then we find that our own life stories could just as easily be added to the back of the collection. Just like the people in the stories that have been passed down the line generation by generation, we are ordinary people met by God’s amazing grace. And I wonder: how might you think of your own story of faith differently when you think that it, too, could be a piece of text marked by both the human and divine touch, and be used for teaching, reproof, and correction?

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