Monthly Archives: November 2014

11.29.14 Insight from Michelle Kirby

Michelle Kirby is the Program Director for Learning Events such as the Journey 101 courses and Destination Resurrection at The Church of the Resurrection.

I often have the news on in the morning while I’m getting ready for work. I usually listen more than I watch—but one story I saw this week forced me to stop and watch. Perhaps you saw the story of a Cleveland cleaning woman, Cara Simmons, who was hired to clean a house for an upcoming party. What she didn’t realize was that the party was actually going to be for her.

This single mom had recently been hospitalized from exhaustion but still managed to continue working to provide for her family. Her friends thought she was deserving of a day off so they nominated her to be the recipient of a day of pampering.

When she got to the home she had been “hired” to clean, she discovered that instead of cleaning the home she got to enjoy a nice meal, a massage, and other displays of kindness. When it was revealed to her that she had been set up by her friends and family to receive this wonderful treatment for the day, she was so grateful to them. What even they didn’t realize though was that the group they had been working with, “Prank it Forward—pranks for good” had another surprise in store for her. They informed her that the house she had been hired to clean—where she had spent her day being indulged—was actually her home now, and the host handed her the keys. She was overwhelmed to say the least. (You can see the story here.)

While it was refreshing to see something so positive on the news it made me think about all of the people I know who quietly go about helping those in need. Not something any of us will see on the morning news.

I’m reminded of some of our Alpha leaders, Gerry Lewis, Brian Beach, Janet Mathis and so many others who go faithfully on Monday and Tuesday evenings to Lansing and Leavenworth prisons to spend time with prisoners, teaching them about and reminding them of God’s love and forgiveness.

I’m reminded of Bobbi Jo Reed and my friends at the Healing House who spend their personal money and time preparing for weeks, to be able to provide Christmas gifts and food for those who are living on the streets. They pray for the people they encounter and tell them of God’s love for them.

I think of my own small group members who faithfully go to Wheatley elementary each Wednesday to tutor children who are struggling to understand math or learn how to read, and I can’t help but be inspired by them.

All of these friends go about doing these things not because they have to, not out of a sense of guilt, and certainly not because they’re being paid. They also aren’t doing these things because they want to rack up more “service” hours. My friends do these things because it’s who they are. They are followers of Jesus and what breaks his heart, breaks their hearts. They are trying to do their part to put things to right.

I think of all of the people being served—the prisoners, the homeless, children and people in poverty, etc. They are exactly who Jesus is referring to in our Matthew passage today, “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine.” Jesus goes on to tell us in this parable, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Bible Scholar William Barclay had this to say about this passage. “This is one of the most vivid parables Jesus ever spoke, and the lesson is crystal clear—that God will judge us in accordance with our reaction to human need. His judgment does not depend on the knowledge we have amassed, or the fame that we have acquired, or the fortune that we have gained, but on the help that we have given.”

As I reflect on my friends and the ways that they respond to the human needs surrounding them, I’m both inspired and challenged. Jesus’ words remind me that when I’m living a life that responds to the needs around me, I not only have the opportunity to bless others but I have an even greater opportunity to bless my King.

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

11.28.14 Insight from Phil Antilla

philgpsPhil Antilla serves as the program director for Young Adult and College Ministry. Before coming to Church of the Resurrection, Phil served as an associate pastor at a local church in Shawnee.

I grew up in a tradition where you were encouraged to always be ready to “share” your faith. As a child, I remember a Sunday school lesson where we shared our “testimonies.” I was told that these stories about how we came to know Jesus would be an important tool for the purpose of evangelism. Maybe a grocery store cashier would ask about your weekend plans and you could tell them about church. Or perhaps someone in a coffee shop might see you reading your Bible and ask about your faith. It all seemed so wonderful. How great it is to be a witness of Jesus Christ!

But as I grew older, I began to realize that the moments in life where we are most called to be a witness of Jesus are not in the picture perfect “evangelism scenarios,” but rather in our every day actions. Of course your personal testimony gives witness to the good news of Jesus; but does your bank account? Does the way you spend money reflect what we believe to be true about the mission of God? What about the way we interact with others on social media? Facebook is often a breeding ground for arguments about faith, politics, and all kinds of social issues. When people see how we interact with others online, are they reminded of the hope and love found in Jesus?

I am deeply convicted by the words of 1 Peter 3:15. You may proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord with your lips, but what about in your heart? 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts, sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.”

Take note of the last few words in that verse – “The hope that is in you.”

Does your life give witness to the hope of Christ? Or does your life express hope in something other than Christ? Maybe money, or politics, or even ourselves.

Peter tells us to “sanctify,” which means to “set apart,” Christ as Lord in our hearts. This means that if Christ is Lord, nothing else is. It might seem like a cheesy question to ask “Who is the lord of your heart?” But I dare you to seriously consider that question.

Have I really placed my trust in Jesus Christ? Or is my hope found in other powers that I have allowed to be lord of my heart?

We may need to be reminded that if Christ is Lord, we are not.

If Christ is Lord, then our work is not.

And if Christ is Lord, then money is not.

Our hope is not found in wealth, or any political power, or ruler, or government, but in the resurrected Christ Jesus, who suffered for sins once for all, in order to bring us into the fullness of life with God. Therefore, may your life, and the words of your mouth, and the actions of your heart, give witness to the hope of Christ that is within you.

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

11.27.14 Insight From Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality at Saint Paul School of Theology at OCU. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. For 25 years, Amy has taught theology and history, pursuing scholarship in service of the church.  

“No one has ever seen God,” (1 John 4:12) but we all have pictures in our heads, whether we want them or not, about what God looks like. For many of us, the picture of God is pretty specific, an old white man with white hair and a beard, usually up in the clouds somewhere. At least that is often the picture many of us start out with as kids. Yet as we grow up, our childhood picture of God seems, well, childish. As young adults, we can’t buy any longer the idea of a God who is a kindly old man in the clouds. The world is too big, and our lives are too messy for that to make sense. But we don’t replace that picture with anything else, leaving us sort of stuck with this picture of God that doesn’t really work for our real lives. (Click here to check out the great song about this by Michael Gungor.)

As I young adult, I struggled to find a view of God that seemed real. I had a vague idea about God, but nothing very concrete. I knew the “old man on a cloud” wasn’t it, but I didn’t know what was. It helped once I could admit this out loud to some trusted friends. These wise Christians encouraged me to experiment with lots of images – mother, father, friend, lover, creator, rock, shepherd. They also cautioned me always to remember that these images are not actually God. Words and images can give me doorways to picture God, but God is always bigger than any one image. That began a journey that has lasted my whole life.

These verses from 1 John help guide me on this journey of knowing God. The rest of verse 12 goes on to say, “If we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” Any picture of God we have in our minds, then, must be rooted in God’s love. We come to know God through the people who love us, who make God’s love real to us. So many people have loved me, becoming God’s hands and feet. God became real to me through that love. God becomes real to others through your love.

How do you picture God? Has it changed through the seasons of your life? These days, I find that I experience God most often as Presence, and while that is not exactly a concrete image, it gives a name to the One who knows me better than I know myself. “No one has seen God,” yet each of us pictures this awesome God in different ways. Even more than our picture of God, it is through our love for others – our families and strangers, our near neighbors and far neighbors– that God makes a home in us.

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

11.26.14 Insight from Kari Burgess

Kari Burgess is a Program Director for the Catalyst team, handling promotion and marketing for all of the conferences held at Resurrection, as well as registration and coordinating hospitality volunteers.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I plan to EAT tomorrow. I love Thanksgiving, and I love Thanksgiving food. I love it for the traditions and memories it evokes and I love it purely for the deliciousness of it. Turkey and stuffing with gravy drizzled over the top, real mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, my grandmother’s cranberry salad…all of it. And then the pie. I love pie. I may heap a tablespoon of whipped cream on top of my pumpkin pie. And maybe another heaping tablespoon. Don’t tell anyone, but maybe even ANOTHER heaping tablespoon of whipped cream. And I don’t deserve it. Not at all.

Imagine those heaping tablespoons of whipped cream being the grace extended to us by God. Would you like another one of those? I know I sure would. And do I deserve it? No way.

Simply put, grace is God’s unmerited favor. A kindness from God that we don’t deserve. God sent his grace down to all of us in the form of his son, Jesus, to save us from our sins.

But what does it mean to show grace to others? Extending grace to others is to show kindness even when it’s undeserved, a reflection of what God does for us. Being kind to someone even if they are not kind to us, forgiving, responding kindly to a criticism, looking for ways to be kind to a stranger, saying you are sorry are all ways to show grace to other people.

In today’s text, Paul speaks to a group of skeptics and extends grace to them in a way that meets them where they are theologically and uses their current context to show them the love of God. He doesn’t criticize or tell them they are missing the point. He doesn’t belittle them or tell them that their idols are blasphemous. Instead he finds common ground and builds the case for the one true God using examples they could understand.

We are called to heap grace on skeptics and sinners the same way that God heaps grace on all of us. We are called to meet skeptics where they are, on their terms, finding common ground and ways to engage in their own environment. This doesn’t mean endorsing a faith you don’t believe in or engaging in sinful activity in order to make friends with a skeptic. But it does mean withholding judgment and loving people regardless of circumstances.

This Thanksgiving, let’s heap tablespoons of grace on those around us.

Thanksgiving Life Recipe
2 Heaping cups of patience
1 Heart full of love
2 Hands full of generosity
Dash of joy
1 cup full of understanding

Sprinkle generously with kindness
Add plenty of faith and mix well.
Add heaping tablespoons of grace
Spread over a period of a lifetime.
Best shared with everyone you meet!
~Author Unknown~

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

11.25.14 Insight from Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at the Vibe, West, and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

When birthdays and Christmas roll around, my son actually picks out the gifts he wants to give to each parent himself. (I don’t know if that’s especially common or not, being that I haven’t been a father all that long.) It’s always interesting to see what he picks out, because it’s always something he likes and understands. He picks out the thing that’s funnest for him, not because he wants it, but because he wants to share that joy with me. I’ve gotten Annoying Orange and Jimi Hendrix t-shirts. My wife usually gets a video game. In all cases, the gift isn’t terrible by any means, but it’s not really the perfect gift for us. Here’s the thing, though–it’s the perfect gift from him. He picks out the coolest, funnest thing he knows and he wants to share that with you, he wants you to share in the joy that he has. It’s that thought that means the most to me. Of course, I then have to explain why I can’t wear my Annoying Orange shirt to a business meeting, but it’s still meaningful.

The story of the prostitute washing Jesus’ feet obviously has a much different feel to it, but there are some similarities there that are often glanced over. Here’s Jesus, who had been invited over to a religious leader’s house for some serious theological conversations, trying to show these pharisees what it means to live out God’s love. I imagine this woman standing outside for a very long time, catching parts of the conversation within, understanding even less of it, knowing that her place wasn’t there. Bear in mind, we’ve seen pharisees in other verses condemn prostitutes to death. The religious leaders within knew who she was and may have been looking for a reason to kill her. Even in a good scenario, she would be ridiculed, humiliated, devalued as a human being.

So when this woman picks up her jar of ointment and steps into this pharisee’s house, silent and shaking, she steps into the heaviest silence she had ever experienced. The glares are obvious. She knows she’s not welcome. And then she approaches Jesus to wash his feet with her hair–scandalous at the time, and reminiscent of the way she treated some of her customers. We like to look at the pharisees in this passage and think about how awful they are, but let’s be honest: if we saw this scenario go down in real life, we would probably do the same thing.

That’s when I imagine the murmurs starting. She can make out some of the statements, and they reaffirm all of her fears: she wanted to honor this savior, and she had completely missed the mark. She begins sobbing silently and the murmurs get louder, but she presses on, determined to do what she came there to do.

Her gift that night was much like a child’s gifts to his or her parents: not terrible, but not really what the son of God needed, or possibly even wanted. But she gave what she saw as the most valuable thing she could. The pharisees saw the gift, but Jesus saw the thought.

What I often hear taught on this passage is that we need to be more like Jesus and not be judgmental. I think there’s something else we can learn from this passage. I think we also need to be more like the woman.

I have to say, this nameless woman is kind of my hero. We look at people like king David, who worshiped so hard he took his clothes off and danced in the streets, and we commend them for their spirit. Where’s the praise for this woman? Her act of worship is one of the bravest things in the Bible.

I wish I had the courage to worship God in the face of such overwhelming odds as this woman did. I sometimes get self-conscious singing too loudly in church. Even when I’m worshipping at my best, I know my offerings to God are not much better than this woman’s misguided but genuine gift. Even when I realize that my gift is insufficient–and, let’s be honest, all of our gifts are insufficient for the creator of the universe–do I have the determination to worship God even when I know I’m wrong?

God delights in all of our gifts, even the ones that are misguided and insufficient, simply because they’re from us. We should delight in giving them as much as He delights in getting them.

In closing, I’d just like to say that my son has gotten better at buying gifts. For my wife’s recent birthday, he picked out a nice scarf and some useful car accessories for her. Of course, he also picked out two gallons of cranberry juice. Well, it’s the thought that counts.

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

11.24.14 Insight from Donna Karlen

Donna Karlen serves in Campus Communications at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

You know those emails you get that share a wonderful message about Jesus – and then try to guilt you into forwarding it to all your contacts. “You will forward a joke,” the condemning text reads, “but most people will not forward this.”

You’re right, I won’t. (Actually, if the main message is really good, I will forward it – after I delete the guilt language at the end of it.)

While guilt may be a powerful motivator, I wonder if it would bring God much joy to have a kingdom full of people who are there only because they  “got should on.”

But guilt can do far worse things than just dampening the enthusiasm of those who actually want to spread the good news of God’s amazing grace. Trying to guilt someone into accepting Jesus could become the “bitter root” that today’s scripture talks about – turning them off from any desire to discover and follow Christ – and turning them away from God’s grace.

Certainly guilt has its place in our lives. Feeling guilty about our sins generally is the prerequisite to repentance and asking to be forgiven. But maybe we can make the road to finding Jesus less of a guilt trip, and more about coming along on one amazing journey!






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

11.22.14 Insight from Yvonne Gentile

Yvonne Gentile serves on The Church of the Resurrection staff as the Director of Connections. Yvonne directs the team that helps people get connected into the life of the church through service, studies, group life, and other ways of involvement.

In his sermon last weekend, Pastor Adam said the overarching lesson in this passage is that – whether we like it or not, whether we’re even aware of it or not – how we live our daily lives is a reflection of what’s in our hearts. The way we think about and interact with other people either confirms our faith in a tangible way, or it contradicts our faith. James 1:21 says, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” It’s one thing to say I’m a Christian and come to church every weekend, but it’s another thing entirely to pattern my whole life after Christ’s. That requires considering others’ needs before my own. When I ask myself, “Are my actions consistent with what I say I believe?” the truthful answer is: “Not as consistent as I’d like them to be.”

I read a blog post last week in which the author, John Sowers, talked about the importance of “showing up” for the people who are in your life. You can read the full post here. The author said that the people who have the biggest impact on our lives aren’t necessarily those who do extraordinary things, but are those who show up in small ways – day in and day out. They are there with us in the messiness of life. It’s not that they fix things, but their very presence demonstrates to us that we matter.

Often when we read today’s passage, we understand it as a statement that we are called to enter “the mission field” – to serve the poor, the sick, the disadvantaged in our cities and across the globe. It IS important to serve those who are disadvantaged. It’s equally important to live out our faith with (show up for) the people who are part of our everyday lives, to see Jesus in a co-worker who’s poor in spirit and needs encouragement, a friend who’s feeling anxious and hungering for security, a family member who’s sick and needs care, or the cashier at the grocery store who’s having a bad day and simply needs a kind word. Your mission field is as close as the person next to you – and so is mine.

I’m practicing showing up for the people in my life. I don’t do it nearly as well as I want, but with practice, I hope to improve. John Sowers suggests some things to practice: “We can slow down, turn off our phones, see the person right in front of us, and be fully present. Our calling is the person right in front of us.” Who do you need to show up for?

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

11.21.14 Insight from Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group & a men’s group, and serves on the Curriculum team.

Today’s passage referencing freedom prompted me to visit with Mr. Lawrence Iberty, Professor of Philosophy and author of “This Book is Not Free – But You Are!”

DL: While browsing at the bookstore, I was intrigued by your book’s discussion about freedom & liberty

L. Iberty: Huh. No offense, but you don’t seem like the type to be browsing the philosophy section of the bookstore.

DL: No offense taken! Actually, it was in the bargain bin….

L. Iberty: (Sigh.)

DL: …right next to the “Math for Dummies” book which had a special offer: 1 for $9.95 or 2 for $28.05.

L. Iberty: A-n-y-w-a-y. You were asking about my book. When thinking of freedom most people think of the writings of great thinkers like John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, & John Stuart Mill, while others might focus on my colleagues’ various studies like the Index of Economic Freedom or the CIRI Human Rights Data Project, but most people aren’t even aware that some of the earliest writings about freedom are actually Biblically based.

DL: Really.

L. Iberty: Oh yes. Think of the Exodus story of the Israelite slaves’ dramatic escape to freedom from the Pharaoh’s brutal regime, or the Year of Jubilee celebration specified in Leviticus, or even Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

DL: How so?

L. Iberty: Paul’s letter to the Galatians is sometimes referred to as the Magna Carta of Spiritual Liberty or the Declaration of Independence for Christians. Paul’s thinking here is theological & philosophical dynamite. The Galatian church was tempted to fall into a briar patch of superstitions, ceremonies, rituals, and “labor for the sake of labor” in order to earn salvation. But Paul quickly blasts that thinking. Not only are we freed from the bondage of sin via Jesus’ awe-inspiring sacrifice on the cross, but also we are free of the burden of trying to earn our way into eternal life. We are saved by grace and by grace alone.  Martin Luther, the initiator of The Reformation, considered Galatians to be one of the greatest theological essays in the Bible.

DL: So we are free, free to do whatever we like?

L. Iberty: This is where Paul’s thinking becomes truly revolutionary. Yes, we are free citizens of the Kingdom of God. But, after we attain this citizenship we then have a responsibility: to love your neighbor as you love yourself.   You see, when our hearts are filled with God’s love, we will then feel compelled (in a good way) to show charity to our brothers & sisters. Imagine not needing a Byzantine collection of laws/rules/regulations to tell us what we can or can’t do. This is liberating. This is emancipating. This is true freedom.

If you’d like, I’d be happy to inscribe your copy of my book.

DL: Oh! Um, I…didn’t bring it with me. But, I would be happy to buy you lunch if you are, you know…

L. Iberty: Free? No thanks, I have tickets to an Andy Williams Retrospective: Born Free

DL: Were the tickets expensive?

L. Iberty: Nah. They were buy one, get one…

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


11.20.14 Insight from Mike Wilhoit

mwilhoitMike Wilhoit serves at The Church of the Resurrection as Local Missions Director.

Acts of humble service tend to have a lasting impact.

On April 28, 1999, my wife gave birth to quintuplets at the University of North Carolina Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill, NC. The birthing room was packed. In addition to two obstetricians and an anesthesiologist, each child had a 3-person team consisting of a doctor, nurse & respiratory therapist waiting for their arrival. Everyone seemed to have a role, except one woman standing quietly near the side of the room.

I was sitting by my wife’s head. When the scheduled cesarean delivery began, the babies came fast. First, Noah, followed by Mia, Ben & Zach. Finally, Chloe was born without breath or heartbeat. She was stillborn. Then the quiet woman from the side of the room introduced herself. She was a Social Worker, trained in grief therapy, and she coached us through the delicate process of saying goodbye to a child we had just met.

This humble act of service during a very challenging moment remains incredibly comforting to both my wife & me.

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

11.19.14 Insight from Angela LaVallie

Angela LaVallie is the Worship Logistics Program Director at Resurrection. She oversees preparing the Sanctuary for worship, supports Vibe worship and volunteers in the Student Center, provides oversight for Holy Communion at the Leawood campus, and assists with worship logistics at conferences.

I have to confess, I like recognition for a job well done. Several years ago, I read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book explains the five primary ways each of us feel most loved.  After taking the quiz, I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that my primary love language is “words of affirmation.” If you haven’t read the book, this means I feel the most loved and appreciated when people use words to build me up. This doesn’t mean that I serve in order to hear what a great job I am doing. It does mean I have to be careful to do my best even when I know I won’t be acknowledged for serving.

There are nearly 100 people who come in on a rotating monthly basis to prep the attendance notebooks, the seatbacks, and the candle carts for weekly worship. These people give generously of their time every month (and some more often) to do a job that benefits every person who attends worship; they usually work in the empty Sanctuary (or Wesley Chapel) and they receive little to no recognition. I mention these servants because I get to work directly alongside them, but there are countless other volunteers who serve both at the church and out in the community. Some of them are leaders, and everyone knows who they are. Some are made examples of in sermons and newsletters. Some, like those I mentioned earlier, humbly and quietly go about their service behind the scenes.

I know it’s okay to enjoy the recognition we get from a job well done, but how much more will we bask in the glow of God saying to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when we aren’t working to hear those words here on earth?

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