Monthly Archives: December 2012

Wednesday 12.19.12 Insight from Rev. Steven Blair

Rev. Steven Blair is the Congregational Care pastor of Celebrate Recovery and Live Well Emotional Wellness Ministry.

Some stores are advertising the possibility that your entire bill will be covered if you are the specially chosen random customer. Wouldn’t that be great? Or what if some kind soul knocked on your door and asked how much you owed on all your bills. They ask for how much you still owe on house, car, education, credit card, health bills, etc. When you give them the number they begin writing a check for that amount and then add a zero at the end. Wouldn’t that be great?

The term for that type of generosity is Redemption. In the time of the Bible, there were people who developed a bill that was so large it could only be paid through years of indentured servitude. This extended enslavement would last until the money was paid (with interest) unless you happen to have a family member who would pay the bill for you. This person was called the “go’el” or the “Kinsman Redeemer.” Their generosity and sacrifice freed their loved one from being held in their current, life limiting circumstances.

When the early Christians thought about Jesus, one of their most frequent expressions related to the cultural practice of Redemption. We have sinned and we have racked up quite a list of mistakes. Years of good work would not free us from this bondage. But thanks be to God, we know a “go’el.” We know a redeemer.  We know Jesus. Zechariah knew this was good news too. At the birth of his son John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, Zechariah declared:

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.

A redeemer exists. He comes to our houses and asks what our debts are, what our restraints are, what our mistakes are. Jesus tells us that while we have worked ourselves into a hole, his cross is the all encompassing check that removes all these sins and adds a multitude of zeroes at the end.

This is Christmas. A redeemer is born. Freedom is offered.

How can you see a year’s worth of your mistakes wiped off your record? What emotions does it raise in you?

Merry Christmas.

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

Tuesday 12.18.12 Insight from Rev. Molly Simpson

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

Names are important, sometimes defining even.  You know this if you’ve ever received an embarrassing nickname or you went through the adolescent phase of wanting to be called by something distinctly different from your name all together.  Perhaps there is a great story behind why your parents chose your name–or your name honors someone.  As the GPS suggests, there was even much more than this kind of significance ascribed to a name in the days of Jesus.  The name given to a child was thought to chart the course for their future.

We thought of something similar when considering the name of my first child.  One of my favorite girl’s names was Sally, but we decided that “little Sally Simpson” might just be asking for trouble.  (Can you imagine a little sassy girl with that name?  Not that my child would be sassy… well, you’re probably chuckling if you know me.)  So instead, my daughter is named Joy.  Her name even manages to help me keep things in perspective when I’m exasperated, shaking my head, and raising my voice to shout, “Joy, put that marker down, you CANNOT color on your brother’s face!”  She is a toddler, after all.

Well, as we read in Luke 1, Zechariah gives up the honor of passing on his name to his son–a child who is a gift from God and quite a surprise to the older couple.  Instead, following the angel’s instructions, they name him John, meaning “Yahweh is gracious.”  And this is John’s legacy–one who proclaims the graciousness of God and lives not for himself but to make way for his cousin, Jesus, the Messiah.  John is known not for the family from which he comes but for the family which we invites others to be a part of–Christ’s family.

You may not have a name with great meaning.  You probably don’t come from a perfect family.  Your legacy may not be shaping up quite like you had hoped.  But take heart–you too can be like John.  You can be among those who “prepare the way for the Lord,” among those whose lives proclaim that God is indeed gracious.  Tell someone.  Do it today.  In some tiny or grandiose way, let’s point someone toward Jesus today.

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

Monday 12.17.12 Insight from Jeanna Repass

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

My youngest child is my 8-year old son Christian. He is in 3rd grade and plays basketball and football. Christian loves video games, hates mushrooms, and likes anything that irritates his big sister. He can read fairly well – much improved from 2nd grade though we are still struggling with his handwriting and penmanship. He jokes around a lot and has an infectious giggle. About 4 weeks ago he received his 3rd grade Bible at Church. He is still working on finishing the book of Mark so he can get his cookie from Pastor Adam (*a BIG DEAL in Christian’s world right now).

Speaking of Christian’s world… it changed for him recently. It wasn’t that Christian became aware of the tragedy and horror that befell little elementary students just like him in Newtown Connecticut – because my husband and I have not yet talked to him about it. We know we need to – but after the massacre in the Denver movie theater this summer, Christian was afraid to go to a movie for several months – so we are being very cautious about what we say and when. Our television has been off more than on this weekend. Christian’s world changed for him because all of a sudden, Mom was willing to watch him play the “Mega-Man” video game after him only asking her once. Mom has kissed him and hugged him “a million-bazillion” times this weekend – and she is almost choking him with what used to be warm and fuzzy snuggles that are now full-out smotherings!

Christian’s world changed because his parent’s were reminded in an instant that our world is a place where darkness and evil acts sometimes happen and even the most innocent and vulnerable among us – our children – can be caught up and swept away by those acts. Thoughts beyond my imaginings have stopped me in my tracks several times the past couple of days and I’ve cried deep sorrow-filled tears for the Mothers in Connecticut who are living through what I can only imagine is Hell on Earth. My husband and I were both wiping tears away during the ringing of the bells at church yesterday. Christian’s world has changed because Mommy and Daddy were reminded that he and his brother and sister are the most precious things in their lives. Sure…my husband Kyle and I get this parenting gig right at least half of the time anyway. But we are quick to forget that every moment (even the ones spent watching Christian play his favorite video game) are gifts – precious, incalculably valuable gifts.

The day my children came into this world – into my life – I began to understand love differently. Holding my tiny, vulnerable, innocent children for the first time helped me to glimpse what God’s love for me REALLY looks, feels, and acts like. It looks like cherishing (and never throwing away!) a piece of paper with scribbling on it that your toddler tells you is “You and Me in a castle Mommy!” It feels like your heart breaking when something or someone breaks your child’s heart. It acts like a person willing to sacrifice everything – even their own life to save another. It is a God willing to take on flesh – tiny, vulnerable and innocent in order to bring His love full circle to include His children. A love that allows us to be reconciled with Him – not because we deserve it – but because He loves us enough to give it to us freely – because He wants it. He cherishes it. His heart breaks for it and because His love is a million-bazillion times more than we can imagine. “For The Lord is good! His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.” Ps. 100:5. Amen

Loving Father, in our darkest hour, in our deepest despair, smother us with your love, blanket us with your grace, and give us your peace.

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

Saturday 12.15.12 Insight from Randy Meyer

Randy Meyer is the Executive Director of Education for The Church of the Resurrection.

Reading today’s Scripture passage, I was  reminded of an interview that Pastor Adam did with then Kansas City Royals manager Tony Pena a number of years ago for a sermon illustration. In the interview, Pena spoke about the role each and every player had on the Royals team. He mentioned the importance for him as the leader of the team to spend quality time with the marginal or “lowest” players on the team and to spend time in lifting them up in order for them to reach their fullest potential. It was only then, when the team’s “lowly” players were reaching their potential, that the team would be able to operate at their full potential.

Pena mentioned in that interview that he learned that principle from the teachings of Jesus. How often we see Jesus in the Bible reaching the lowest and the least. I think God wants us to know that when we do this it not only benefits the person being served or helped, but it benefits the giver’s soul as well. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all ships. All of us are rich in some areas and poor or lowly in others. When we lift each other up, fill the hungry with good things, and exalt those who are humble, only then can we maximize the effectiveness and potential of our “team,” as Christ-led followers.

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

Friday 12.14.12 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.

 

When’s the last time you sang your heart out?

I’m not talking about perfectly pitched, well-practiced solo material here…

I’m talking about BELTING it in the car (or in your room, for our younger readers who might not drive yet.) I’m talking about that moment when that song comes on the radio or your iPod, and you say something to the effect of“That’s my JAM!” or something a little more formal like, “This is my FAVORITE!!!!”, and you precede to belt it out without a care in the world of who was listening or watching.

 

What were you singing? What emotions were you feeling? What prompted you to sing like that? I’ll take it a step further…

When’s the last time that kind of thing happened to you during a worship service?

Don’t get me wrong, I know that not everyone is an extroverted singer like Josh Groban or Sandi Patty, but as Adam mentioned last week in his sermon on the Magnificat…something happens when we sing these songs together as a group,whether we’re all on pitch or not. (The italicized portion is an insert from me.)

Although this series is on Christmas Carols, these songs we’ve been learning about remind me of a favorite hymn, “Blessed Assurance.”

The chorus goes like this: “This is my story, this is my song. Praising my savior, all the day long.”

What’s our story? What is our song?

Our “song” as described in this hymn is the kind of life we live. Our “song” is the message we send to others (whether we realize it or not) with the choices we make every single day. Our “song” is the story of our life with Jesus, and what He has done to save us.

Are you singing your “song” loud for the world to hear?  Are you telling people your story? Are your actions of love as loud as the songs you belt out in the car? Taylor Swift fans, are you reading this? I know you’re belters. You too, Journey rockers. You too, football fans. Don’t get me started on the “Beliebers.”

Some people don’t like to sing loudly in the congregation for many different reasons, and I understand that. But I’ll be honest in saying there’s not many things more beautiful to me than hearing a group of people wholeheartedly worshipping the Lord with song and with their lives. These things go hand in hand. We sing the songs to remind ourselves of the story, and then to go out and be a PART of the story.

So, I invite you to something this weekend in worship, whether you’re at a Resurrection Campus, Partner Church, online or elsewhere… Don’t go through the motions this week. Ask God to meet you there, in that moment, in that spot that you’ll be sitting or standing in. Sing or say or pray the words straight to Him, not worrying about everything else around you. Belt it to Him (in your own way) like nobody is watching.

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

Thursday 12.13.12 Insight from Janelle Gregory

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

I can’t believe that I’m going to tell you what I’m about to say. This may ruin the few credentials I had, but I’ll risk it.

I have a sister that is 8 years older than me. When I was little, whatever music she was into, that’s what I was into too. I couldn’t afford to get my own records (yes, actual records – before hipsters collected them and changed their name to “vinyl”), so I just listened to hers. There was a while that she was really into Barry Manilow and the 80’s band Air Supply. So me? I was really into Barry Manilow and Air Supply.

I knew all the lyrics, we had all the albums, I was pretty much obsessed. Not that strange, right? Did I mention that I thought they lived in my closet?

(pause to let that sink in)

Not only that, but I would try to listen to them both equally so as to not upset either one of them. You really hate to see envy between the musicians living in your closet. It’s not pretty.

I wish that I was kidding. Or that I was only pretending. But I was absolutely convinced that this was true. Absurd, isn’t it? I mean, it’s pretty much outlandish! I wouldn’t insult you by thinking that for one second you believed that they actually did live in my closet. It’s just not possible. It makes absolutely no sense.

Thankfully, I grew to an age where the fantasy was extinguished by realities of this world. I realized that neither Barry Manilow nor Air Supply actually lived in my closet. I understand now what is and isn’t possible in the laws of nature. We all do, right?

I’m guessing that Joseph of Nazareth felt that he did too. So what was he to do when his young bride comes to him and says, “Joseph, you’ll probably want to sit down. I have news… “? And then she tells him of the baby growing inside her, how an angel came to tell her that she would give birth to a king. But this wasn’t an ordinary pregnancy. No, even though she was still a virgin, she had conceived with a Holy Spirit. I can hear Joseph now, “A holy what?!”

Oh boy – what was he going to do with her?! Not only was she obviously promiscuous, she was a liar! Or was she downright loony? I mean first this nonsense about a visit from an angel. Perhaps she was delusional. And the pregnancy… to a virgin! Well that’s a new one! And then, just to top it off, she was giving birth to a king. So then, what does that make her? Queen?!

Obviously this couldn’t happen. People don’t get visits from angels. And virgins certainly don’t get pregnant. And common girls don’t give birth to kings. This just isn’t natural. Under no circumstances would this be possible.

Or would it? It took a visit from an angel for Joseph to believe it himself. I can just picture the backpedaling happening when he went back to Mary to tell her. “Mary, my dear – of COURSE I believed you. When did you ever think otherwise?”

But you can’t really blame Joseph for doubting her. Would you believe her? Of course you wouldn’t. I wouldn’t either. Her story is absurd! It makes no sense!

But when you think of all that God has done throughout time – parting the Red Sea, manna in the desert, Daniel in the lion’s den – it shouldn’t be surprising that He would do something that not only breaks the norm, but crushes it to smithereens.

Yet all too often, I find myself exactly where Joseph was. I don’t expect God to reach outside of the boundaries of nature. I don’t look for surprises. I don’t want the unusual. I won’t buy the far-fetched notions about Him. I have it in my head that if something is too crazy to be God, then certainly it can’t be.

But what if my filters are limiting my understanding of who God actually is? After all, 2000 years later, we believe Mary’s absurd story to be true. Our lives are even built on this preposterous foundation. So why then, would we only look for God in the believable, in the realm of nature? We should see him there, that’s true. But He won’t be held back by our standards and expectations of reality. There’s a possibility that He is acting in illogical ways all of the time, but we just won’t allow ourselves to notice it. If God’s plan for the world centered upon such a bizarre, unbelievable event, why would we expect that He wouldn’t (or even couldn’t) conduct Himself in unnatural, astonishing ways now?

So while our faith is not dependent upon miraculous gestures and obvious signs from God, I pray that we are open to see when the God of absurdity crashes through our very reality. And that we will not only perceive but actually believe His illogical, irrational, nonsensical acts of hope, love, and redemption.

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

Wednesday 12.12.12 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 New Member Welcome Team,  and our Spiritual Gifts Placement Team.

I wonder if the reason we sometimes are not willing to trust God with our futures is because we don’t have an answer to that question “How can this be?” The angel explained to Mary how this could be, that she would bear the Son of God. Even with this explanation, I can’t imagine that Mary fully understood what would happen.

I read a book several years ago—and I’m sorry to say the names of both the book and author escape me—that said something to the effect of “God has never given me a reason in the past not to trust him with my future.” This idea really resonates with me because I know that I have come through every obstacle I’ve been presented with; it encourages me that God will sustain me through any circumstance. I think it was probably Mary’s faith in God’s unending love for and faithfulness to her in her young life up to this point and her ancestors before her, more so than the brief explanation from the angel, that caused her to say, “May it be to me according to your word.” God had never given her a reason in the past not to trust him in choosing her to be the mother of our savior.

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

Tuesday 12.11.12 Insight from 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’m an escapist when it comes to entertainment. The more outrageously unexpected a show, movie, or novel is, the more likely I am to completely love it. One of my favorite shows was the short-lived Pushing Daisies about a man who had the power to bring people back to live by the touch of his hand. He worked in a pie shop with his adorable girlfriend who he was forbidden to touch because, having brought her back to life once if he were to touch her again he would kill her once and for all. It was simply the best. I will always love Home Alone which portrays a young boy fending off a couple burly burglars when his family forgets him at home for a few days when they travel for the holidays. I read Janet Evanovich’s ridiculous Stephanie Plum series about a pathetic clutz of a woman who makes her living as a bounty hunter like it’s going out of style. And all the while I know it’s all out-of-this-world fiction.

To me, part of the majesty of the Christmas story is that same element of the outrageous. How could God create a great and mighty King that would go on to save the world out of a poor unwed virgin who would not even be given the dignity of a bed at an inn? But there’s one big difference. In Hollywood and fairytales we find the storyline unbelievable or unrealistic. But when we take a moment to look back on God’s reputation, we see in fact God has been an expert at these same kinds of amazing feats throughout all of time, especially when providing deliverance. That the Red Sea would part for just the perfect amount of time for the Israelites to pass safely through and the Egyptians to be swept away. That the scrawniest runt among the sons of Jesse would be chosen to serve as Israel’s great King David. That the wildly evil city Nineveh would be saved by a wayward and disobedient prophet, Jonah. The unimaginable appears time and time again. It’s God’s way.

So I invite you. This season when the story seems unbelievable, and the saving acts of God too outrageous to be true, may your response be a quick and hearty affirmation of your trust that just when we think there’s no way, God makes a way!

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

Monday 12.10.12 Insight from Chris Holliday

Rev. Chris Holliday serves as the associate minister at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.

God’s gift of peace reveals itself in many ways and at many times throughout our lives. Here are some ways that really resonate with me:

  • Listening to the soothing sounds of a mountain stream and breathing the crisp, fresh mountain air.
  • Looking up at a beautiful star-filled sky and marveling at the awesomeness of God’s creativity and majesty.
  • Working or resting on the couch with one of my puppy dogs sleeping to my right and one to my left.
  • Sitting on the back deck of a beach house and watching the sun sink into the ocean, while the waves dance and play on the shore.
  • Singing a song in worship, and getting that tingly feeling which reminds me that God loves me and that there’s always hope.
  • Listening to someone’s story, and seeing them smile a little because they appreciate someone taking the time to care.
  • Serving a meal at a soup kitchen or helping build or repair a house so that some of those who are in need can have food and shelter.
  • Watching over 150 children present a Christmas musical at Resurrection West and knowing that we are in good hands, because the next generation is already learning about and reminding us of the true reason for the season.
  • Seeing one of my daughters rock a baby in the nursery and watching her face light up as her compassion, gifts, and calling intersect in a moment of sheer joy and peace.
  • Knowing I am in the right place at the right time to be used by God to make a positive, Christian difference in someone’s life.

May you take the time to consider when, where, and how you have experienced God’s peace in your life; and may the light of God’s peace shine brightly in and through you during this Advent season and throughout the New Year.

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

Saturday 12.8.12 Insight from Chris Folmsbee and Debi Nixon

Due to a communication mixup, we have a bonus treat for you today: not one but two powerful Insights reflections. Enjoy!

Chris Folmsbee is Resurrection’s Director of Group Life.  He is the author of several books, with an extensive background in applying principles of spiritual growth to real life. He, his wife Gina and their family have been attending Resurrection since 2008.

A few nights ago I was sitting on the floor of our family room playing a card game with my three kids. It was my son’s turn to draw from the deck. Just before he reached his hand out to draw a card my other son said to him, “I hope you get the card you need to win.” Wow! What a profound moment, I thought. “One of my sons is actually putting winning the game aside so that another can experience the joy of winning,” I said to myself. Just as I felt the pride oozing through me his brother said in return, “I hope so too!  I want to crush you!” Ha! Later that night I asked my son, “Why did you want your brother to win that game?” My son said, “He hadn’t won a hand in a really long time. I think he was beginning to lose hope and I don’t want that!”

Like my son, I don’t want people to lose hope either. Gosh, that’s the worst. To view the world through the lens of what’s wrong (despair) instead of what is right (hope) can be so paralyzing. How can we, during this time of Advent, help people see through a lens of hope?

I completely trust that God is in fact restoring the world to its intended wholeness, just as God promised to do. I trust that God’s promise to act in the coming days is as real and significant as the fact that God has acted in the past. Therefore, my hope in the future promises of God (think: restoration, justice, peace, ‘on earth as it is in heaven’, etc.) does not make me want to withdraw from the world with the wish that a better world will somehow evolve. Instead, it pushes me to choose to live into the hope that we’ve been promised. The promise of God given to the Israelites in Isaiah 40 remains true today. God is and forever will be an incomparable God who still cares and has not given up on humanity (Is. 40:27).

And so we advent – we await the arrival of Christ. We wait expectantly but patiently too knowing that “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:12-13)

 

Debi Nixon serves on the Executive Staff of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection as the Managing Executive Director of Regional Campuses and Catalyst Ministry.

In Isaiah 40, the prophet is speaking to the Hebrews returning from exile in Babylon about hope, this week’s Advent theme. “Exile” means they were forced to live outside of the Promised Land, but yet even in this “exile” God was showing them He had never abandoned them—they could always keep hoping. God does not call us to live in exile. Yet, even today, we may temporarily experience what may feel like “exile.”

For me, it was exactly 5 years ago when arriving home on Friday evening excited to decorate for the holidays, I found my husband’s car was in the garage. Normally, I arrived home before him so seeing his car was a surprise.  I bounded into the house, yelling, “I’m home,” but my husband wasn’t in the kitchen or family room so I went upstairs and found him sitting on our bed. As I approached, he looked at me with sad eyes, and said, “Debi, I lost my job today.” I was in disbelief, waiting for that next moment when he would tell me he was just kidding, but the deep hurt in his eyes let me know it was true.

At first, I was strong: “We will be okay. We will figure this out.” But that sense of strength, that sense of peace, that sense of hope didn’t last long. Within days, I moved to despair, anger, fear, and anxiety. What would we do for Christmas? What if he didn’t find another job? How would we pay our daughter’s upcoming college tuition? Our son and another young man living with us were in high school. One was a senior preparing for graduation and college, and the other a junior. How would we make ends meet? It was unsettling. An experience of exile, forced to live outside of my own “promised land.” Had God abandoned us? Why? And how could I even be having these thoughts? I work in the church. Yet, in this period of waiting, this exile, the reality was that I was afraid, questioning, grieving.

In today’s passage of scripture, Isaiah reminded the Israelites in their exile to wait, to put their trust in the Lord. When Zechariah and Elizabeth were unable to have a child, they waited, putting their trust in the Lord. When Mary found out she was with child in such an unexpected way, she waited, putting her trust in the Lord.

So, in my exile, I learned to wait. To be like the Israelites, Elizabeth and Mary, waiting with expectation towards what God was going to do, confident that God would give strength to my husband and me as we waited upon him. Isaiah 40 gave us this assurance, and although our circumstance didn’t change immediately, it gave us a sense of peace and hope that the God of the universe would never abandon us, never leave us in our predicament, but instead would provide us with strength, even in the midst of our weakness.

My husband found another job, college tuition for the children was paid, and I received the gift of learning that hope can only be found when we wait fully upon the Lord. If you are facing your own season of “exile,” weary, tired, anxious, considering giving up, take time to consider the promises of Isaiah 40:31. Wait before the Lord, and let Him give you His peace and His hope this season.

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