Monthly Archives: May 2015

5.30.15 Insights from Yvonne Gentile

YvonneGentileGPSYvonne 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.

On Monday, my husband changed our bathtub faucet. The old faucet had some great features that we were excited about when we first installed it. For instance, it had and extendable hose that made cleaning the tub a breeze. Over the course of time though, the water pressure in the tub seemed to slow down to a trickle. We’ve lived with that faucet and the low water pressure for quite a long time now. We grumbled about it, but we weren’t motivated enough to do anything about it. We were lukewarm. That ended when my husband decided it was time to replace the slow faucet. Now it’s like Niagara Falls!

Sometimes our faith is like that. When we first come to faith we’re excited, but over time we can become complacent and our faith can become lukewarm. In our Scripture passage today, the church at Laodicea is criticized for letting their faith grow stale and stagnant—they were “neither cold nor hot.” Their faith no longer moved them to action. But the passage ends with a message of encouragement: “So be earnest and change your hearts and lives. Look! I’m standing at the door and knocking…”

I appreciate the GPS writer’s statement: “God is still knocking… We do not simply respond once to God’s call.” In my own life I have periods where my faith is vibrant and active, and periods where I get distracted by the things of life and my faith grows lukewarm. I have to take action to re-energize my faith, even if that’s just stopping long enough to hear and respond God’s call—and I have to respond repeatedly to God’s call in order to keep my faith alive.

Worship, studying my Bible, a little solitude, or spending time out in God’s creation are the things that re-energize my spiritual life. Recently my husband and I went to Hawaii for vacation and to visit our son. The condo we rented was right on the ocean with a lanai that faced the Western horizon. I spent a lot of time there watching the ocean, the whales, the sunset, and the stars. The beauty and magnificence of the view made me praise God, and that vacation was a time of spiritual renewal for me. I am so grateful that God keeps knocking. What renews your faith and keeps it from becoming (and staying) lukewarm?gps-gentile-photo

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to read today’s scripture and reflection questions

5.29.15 Insights from Phil Antilla

philgpsPhil Antilla serves as the program director for Young Adult and College Ministry:

Today’s text tells us that we are to be “ambassadors” of Christ. However, what really stands out to me is the word “reconciliation.” In just three verses (vv.18-20) this word is used five times! It should be clear that the author wants us to understand that our work as ambassadors has a specific purpose.

Think about the work of a political ambassador between countries. Their job is to communicate on the behalf of a country. However, the ambassador does not set the agenda. Instead, they submit themselves to the purpose and the mission of their country.

When we speak about being representatives of Christ, we are often think of being the “hands and feet” of Jesus, or perhaps the “reflection” of God. This is true–we always reflect the image of God, wherever we go! But our work as ambassadors goes far beyond just reflecting or representing God. As ambassadors, we are called to actively get involved in God’s mission and agenda in this world–and this is the ministry of reconciliation.

In Greek, the word “reconciliation” literally means, “to decisively change to an exact point.”

Is there someone in your life who you need to be reconciled to? Maybe an old friend? Maybe a child? Perhaps even your spouse?

Or maybe there are some things about you that need to be reconciled. Is there an aspect of your life that you know needs to be changed?

It may seem challenging, or even impossible to imagine that these relationships or habits or wounds could ever be reconciled, but Paul tells us that if Christ was able to reconcile humanity to God, then surely we can be reconciled to each other and to our selves.

Every day we have the opportunity to decisively change, or reconcile, things in our life that have driven us far apart from family, friends, loved ones, and even God.

In Christ, all things are possible, and whether you recognize it our not, the work of reconciliation has already begun. As Paul says, “Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

Thanks be to God.

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

5.28.15 Insights 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.  

I have really struggled in my life with how to witness for Jesus Christ. Do I stand on a street corner and shout dire warnings as people walk by? Make pronouncements on Facebook? Confront people about their beliefs or behaviors? Put bumper stickers on my car professing Christ? What does it look like to witness to my faith in everyday life, or as today’s GPS puts it, to “take an active part in God’s work of calling humans back to God”?

For me, it helps to keep it simple. My witness is not about a set of doctrines or pronouncements. It’s about the love of God. When I can focus on this simple (and amazing!) truth and my experience of it, then I can witness authentically through my words and deeds. Most often I do this by pointing to the ways I see God at work all around me. Every day I make a point to say, “Look! See!” to at least one other person about signs of new life, growth, fruits or gifts I see, either in them or their church or in the world. This is my witness to the love of God that fills all things, my way of “calling humans (and myself) back to God.”

For many years, I thought it was arrogant to talk about my faith–that I would be imposing it on others, or implicitly judging them by sharing my own. Now, though, I realize how many people are hungry for mercy, second chances, unconditional love and grace. To not share my witness of God’s love is to withhold spiritual food to those spiritually starving. If we don’t share our verbal witness of love, then the only voices those hungry folks will hear are the loudest ones out there who scold or scare in the name of Jesus. I call that “spiritual junk food” that offers no spiritual nutrition to sustain one’s walk with Christ. The good news of Jesus is love.

What is your experience of God’s love? How do you express it? Start here.

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


5.27.15 Insights from Rev. Steven Blair

steven-blairRev. Steven Blair is the Congregational Care Pastor of Live Forward and Live Well Emotional Wellness Ministry.

Jesus is criticized for eating with sinners, non-religious and nominally religious. Jesus eats with some who are wealthy, like tax collectors. Jesus eats with some who are poor and who have to resort to prostitution to pay the bills. Jesus’ response to their disapproval? There is a shepherd who finds a lost sheep. A woman finds her lost coin.

God and everyone in heaven applaud what the religious folks criticize. Going even farther, God is better off with the lost sheep and the lost coin. God is happier to have what was lost in the fold and in the pocket. You can hear the announcement “Found!” This exclamation gives joy to both shepherd and sheep.

We can choose to applaud what God is doing or we can work against it. We can act in ways that bring God joy by reaching out to sinners, non-religious, and nominally religious or we can have a life that heaven doesn’t applaud.

May the word “Found” give you both excitement and purpose!

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

5.26.15 Insights 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.

The story of Zacchaeus was one that stuck with me from childhood, and how could it not? You have a greedy little man that got elbowed out of a crowd and had to do something as ridiculous as climb a tree just to see Jesus. If you grew up in church, you remember the rhyme: a wee little man was he. But Jesus not only stopped to address this wee, greedy little man–he had specifically selected him to be his host for his visit.

Why is this? We hear these stories so often that we rarely stop to really ask why Jesus didn’t stay with contemporaries (or at least people who are generally well-liked). Two reasons.

First, Zacchaeus needed help. As a tax collector, he had wronged a lot of people, as is apparent in the crowd’s treatment of him. (How much you want to bet the crowd would have let other short men have a view of Jesus?) Jesus came for the people that needed help, and, even though we eventually realize that all of us need help, he spent the most time with the people who needed the most help. Zacchaeus had a lot to atone for, and Jesus knew it.

Second–and here’s the big one–Zacchaeus wanted help. More specifically, he wanted redemption. Notice I didn’t say righteousness–that’s part of it, but that’s not the whole of it. Righteousness is a state of being right with God. Redemption, in its basic definition, is an exchange of something with little to no value for something of far greater value. Think about when you redeem a coupon, which by itself has no value, for something of greater value. In this case, Zacchaeus wanted to trade his riches for righteousness in the form of righting his wrongs and blessing those he had wronged. He had spent his life thinking on a temporal scale, accumulating wealth, and was ready to think on an eternal scale.

(Just to be clear, redemption and righteousness come from God; but they’re not without a commitment from us, which can come with a cost. Nothing we can do, or fail to do, will cause God to love us any less, but redeeming the things of this life for things of the next requires you to give up the thing you need to redeem.)

To see that kind of redemption in our own lives, we need to first see where we need God’s help, and then seek redemption. It takes humility and resolve to admit your shortcomings–but it takes a lot more to want to turn them around into something good, whether that means admitting this fault to people you have wronged, or being a voice for the people you used to persecute, or, yes, using money you may have accumulated by being not-so-great for a greater purpose, just like Zacchaeus. The point is, to redeem for something eternal, it costs something in this life, whether that’s pride, or time and effort, or money–or all three. Zacchaeus knew this trade was worth it. Do you?

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


5.25.15 Insights from Donna Karlen

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

“The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me …’” Ouch! You don’t see that on any Mother’s Day cards.

It certainly didn’t take long for humanity to act against God’s wishes. Followed almost instantly by turning against each other and casting blame.

But while the story of Adam and Eve outlines some of the worst in us, it also portrays the best about God. Simply put, God forgives. Adam and Eve were supposed to die if they ate the forbidden fruit. But while God is the ultimate judge, he is even more the ultimate loving parent. God so loved his created children that he couldn’t bear to lose them. He certainly disciplined them – isn’t that a part of being a loving parent? – but did not destroy them. God fully forgives because he fully loves. Want proof?

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.”

On this Memorial Day as I think about how Christ died for me to be forgiven, I am grateful for those who died for me to be free.

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

5.23.15 Insights from Jeff Kirby

Jeff_KirbyJeff Kirby serves as Minister of Discipleship and Men’s Ministry at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

I was recently trying to explain the Christian faith to a person from our community who used to consider herself a Christian but has since rejected the faith she once embraced. At one point in our kind and spirited, yet at the same time strenuous conversation, she challenged me with these words: “You Christians don’t really believe what you say you believe!” I countered, “Why do you say that?” She said, “If you Christians really believed that people outside of faith will perish, and that by your clear and confident explanation of the gospel you had the chance to save someone from a life without God, you would all do everything within your power to reach others with your message. Yet the majority of church goers I know very rarely if ever try to evangelize those of us on the outside.”

My heart sank at her words. I thought, “Either we don’t really believe the gospel to be true, or we don’t really care about the fate of those who have yet to understand and embrace our faith.” Either way, I saw her point and I confessed she was in many ways right.

When Jesus says that “the broad road leads to destruction,” do I really believe His words to be true? Are the stakes as high as He/we claim them to be? Does how I live out my faith communicate to the outside world that I trust deeply in the truth of His words? My new friend reminds me that the world is watching. How do we respond?

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

5.22.15 Insights from Darren Lippe

Darren_LippeDarren 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.


Considering today’s Scripture’s discussion of the Golden Rule, I thought we might “visit” with Dave Cree of R.A.S.H. (Rapid Assessment for a Skeptical Humanity), an organization devoted to helping its clients to jump to conclusions & rush to judgment.

DL: With cynicism & criticism so prevalent in our society, it seems that your organization is quite topical. How did you get started?

D. Cree: Business IS booming; our motto is “A R.A.S.H. Is Always Spreading.” I loved the story of the diva actress who was notorious for her overbearing & prima donna behavior. During a rare introspective moment, she asked one of her writers why everyone took an instant dislike to her. The writer replied, “It just saves time.”

That got me to thinking that there has to be a market to help people to quickly categorize the motives & thoughts of those we encounter in our daily life. This immediate judgment, then, would provide instant protection from our ever being naïve or too trusting of others & would help you to never let your guard down.

DL: So you are encouraging me to immediately offer conclusive judgment on that breaking news story, or to wonder why my wife is so disrespectful as we wait for her in the van as she winds her way through the narthex, or to conclude that the only reason our teen-aged son is texting me to see if I have arrived at the track-meet is because he wants money for some food?

D. Cree: Absolutely.

DL: But what if that initial judgment isn’t accurate?

D. Cree: That’s the beauty of our “hot take.” Who cares about facts or alternative explanations? We’ve already made our conclusion & moved on.

DL: But Jesus offers us a different framework for our decision-making. At the root of His teaching is the radical idea of thinking the best of others. What if we wait for the facts on those initial news reports before rendering our judgment? What if our wife is slow to exit the narthex because she stopped to visit & encourage a friend preparing for surgery? What if our son is genuinely interested in us watching him compete in the long jump? (Okay. Maybe that last one isn’t such a good example – turns out our son was seeking cash for a Kona-Ice; so maybe a tiny bit of skepticism is healthy when dealing with those who share our DNA.)

But the danger of letting ourselves be in this constant mode of negative thinking is that it will eventually rebound on us. Our internal voice will become more self-critical, we’ll struggle to maintain relationships because every perceived slight must indicate an ominous problem, & we’ll find our lives filled with stress & unhappiness.

D. Cree: Whoa. Look at the time. I’ve got a speech to give at an Optimist Club meeting.

DL: Really?

D. Cree: You know, for $1, I can tell you if you are gullible.

DL: Good one!

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


5.21.15 Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

Mothra-1You get Jesus talking about money, and he can be a bit overdramatic, right? I mean seriously – “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy… “ Am I the only one that pictures Mothra when you hear this? Do we need to be that paranoid about moths and vermin? Sure, I recently had a squirrel chew her way through our siding and into our drywall, but that was an easy (though slightly costly) fix.

Or what about:

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

So in order to love God, we have to hate money? Is that right? The last time I came across someone who actually hated money was… well never. We’re all in trouble.

So what’s Jesus really trying to say about money then?

I’m wondering if his modern-day version of a parable would look something like this:

Consider a can of hairspray. It’s great for keeping your style in place, your ponytail up, or your curls from falling. Nobody thinks a thing about it being a dangerous product, right? As long as you keep it out of your eyes and try not to ingest it (as if you’d like the taste), you should be perfectly safe for daily use. Hairspray isn’t something we keep in a locked cabinet.

But each can of hairspray comes with a label that says something like: CAUTION Highly flammable. Because while hairspray is great to use under normal circumstances, it can easily turn into a blowtorch when mixed with fire. Hairspray is highly flammable.

And so when we talk about money we have to know that it is also, figuratively speaking, highly flammable. If  you think of money as hairspray, consider how our sin and selfish desires are the fire.

  • When we rack up mounds of credit card debt, we’re spraying by the flame.
  • When we’re jealous of the wealth of others, we’re spraying by the flame.
  • When we would sacrifice our integrity just to get a little more dough, we’re spraying by the flame.
  • When we won’t give back to God, we’re spraying by the flame.

Is having money a sin? I don’t think so. Having money in and of itself isn’t a problem. It’s perfectly safe to have when we are living below our means, when we’re giving it to serve God’s purpose, or when we’re saving for the future. You don’t often see money causing issues under these circumstances. In fact, having money to give away can be quite the blessing!

But at the same time, we should picture money with a warning label that says: CAUTION Highly flammable. Because when you get money next to your desires for this world, you’re more than likely to get burned.

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

5.20.15 Insights from Angela LaVallie

Angela_LaVallie[1]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.


One of the most comforting things, for me, about having friends and family I can trust, is that there’s very little urge for me to feel like I need to impress them. They already know who I am, and if I pretend to be someone I’m not, they’ll call me out on it – this helps to remind me to just be who I am.

Christ knows who I am and who I am not even better than my family and friends. If I try to sound eloquent or am dishonest in my prayers, he knows it. Trying to make myself seem impressive does nothing at all to help me in my relationship with him.

It’s especially tough to not toot our own horns when we do something good in a world where we’re encouraged to always make ourselves shine brighter than others, to be the best. When we come to Christ in prayer, it is a safe place to share anything that is on our hearts. It’s okay to tell him, “I did this great thing, and I feel really good about myself because of it.” It’s also a good opportunity to ask his guidance to overcome any pride in our good works and ask him to remind us that the good we’re doing is in his name.

In his sermon this past weekend, Pastor Adam mentioned the prayer on a shower tag that is available at The Well Bookstore: “Lord, as I enter the water to bathe, I remember my baptism. Wash me by your grace. Fill me with your Spirit. Renew my soul. I pray that I might live as your child today and honor you in all that I do.” He said that if we pray that each day in the shower, it’s easy to remember who we are and how we’re to live.

In the same way, if we make a practice of sharing our feelings about and reviewing our good deeds in prayer instead of telling others, we’ll more easily remember why we’re really loving and serving others.

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