Monthly Archives: September 2015

9.30.15 – Insights from Dr. Mike Graves

Dr. Mike Graves is McElvaney Professor of Preaching and Worship at Saint Paul School of Theology. Ordained in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, he has spent more than 25 years helping to prepare persons for ministry.

I didn’t really grow up in church, so when I graduated from high school my life goals could be summarized in one phrase: “to grow my hair really long.” This was the ’70s, and I was really successful at reaching that goal. Not having a spiritual background per se, I perceived Christianity from the outside and concluded that all they cared about was getting people “saved,” saved from an eternity in hell. I may not have paid close attention in math class, but eternity was not a hard concept to grasp. Symbolized by that figure 8 turned on its side, it was how time marches on forever and ever.

When I finally did become a Christian at the end of my freshman year in college, I was surprised to learn that when the Bible speaks about “eternal life,” it has nothing to do with a quantity of time, but rather a quality of life here and now. Maybe “eternal” isn’t really the best interpretation. Maybe a “full” life would be more accurate. I finally understood that what Jesus offers isn’t a ticket punched for the final train to heaven when you die, but a fullness of life here in the present even when you’re stuck in traffic on I-435.

But if one trap is thinking Christianity is only about a future in heaven, another is thinking it’s limited to the past in ancient Israel. The theologian Harvey Cox tells the story of a woman in New Mexico calling an operator to place a call to Jerusalem. The operator said, “Oh, honey, Jerusalem is in the Bible. It’s not a real city.”

Maybe the most important feature in these two passages is the use of present tense: “whoever has the Son has eternal life” (1 Jn 5:12). It may not be good grammar, but in the ’70s we might have said it this way: “The present is where’s it at.”

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

9.29.15 – Insights from Brandon Gregory

brandongregorygpsBrandon 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.

Jesus’s words to Martha in today’s passage (John 11:17-27) weren’t merely to comfort her in the face of her brother Lazarus’s death. Verses 25 and 26 are especially important. Jesus doesn’t just tell her about the resurrection–he asks if she already believes in it. This is not a one-time occurrence in the Scriptures. Jesus asks countless times some variation of the question: “Do you believe?”

Why is this? Isn’t it obvious that, after seeing a miracle, people will believe? Why ask beforehand?

Let me tell you a little story about a girl named Lindsey. Lindsey was a passionate girl, even at a young age, and had an affinity for art—specifically, music and dance. She wanted violin lessons and dance lessons, but she came from a family that couldn’t afford both. She ended up choosing violin lessons.

But Lindsey never gave up on dance. She continued to learn and practice just as hard without the lessons. Eventually, her parents were so impressed with her passion and tenacity that they gave her the dance lessons.

Lindsey eventually put the two together and began to incorporate dance in her violin performances. She put some videos up on YouTube and got a few likes. But she didn’t stop there. She was a contestant on America’s Got Talent and got eliminated in the final rounds. But she didn’t stop there. She recorded and released an indie album of violin over techno music. But she didn’t stop there. Lindsey Stirling is now an international touring musician and entertainer with millions of fans.

Lindsey’s passion and faith carried her to greatness. Lindsey’s parents saw those characteristics in her, even as a child, so they fostered that. They saw a fire in her, and they knew that that fire would lead her to do great things. Once they saw how passionate and serious she was about her art, they did whatever they could to feed that.

(And if you’re wondering, Lindsey is a woman of faith and regularly uses her fame to give glory back to God. She also acknowledges that she would not be where she is without the support of her heavenly Father.)

The moral of the story is that God asks us if we believe because He wants to know that we have that same spark. Do we pray for the poor believing that God can do amazing things through us to help them? Do we pray for the sick believing that they will do great things with God supporting them? Do we pray for success with the drive to use that success to give generously and help others? If we ask for something without believing, we’d be like the child that half-heartedly asks for guitar lessons without giving any indication that we’d do what it took to carry through to greatness.

When we pray, we should pray expecting greatness, and we should be prepared to carry through and make great things happen. We should pray with that spark that shows that we will persevere, whether that means giving of ourselves to make something happen, or just telling the story of how it did happen.

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

9.28.15 – Insights from Donna Karlen

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

Pastor Adam asked the question in his message this past weekend, “Will we be able to recognize our loved ones when we get to Heaven?” As he pointed out, most of us past the age of 40 probably would prefer to get back our 20-something bodies when we arrive at the Pearly Gates. But even though I have photos of my parents when they were in their 20s, those aren’t the precious faces I remember, since I wasn’t even born yet.

We have no idea what our heavenly bodies will be like of course, but I’m pretty sure I will have no trouble recognizing the people I love who will be there to greet me when I get to heaven  thanks to the grace of Jesus Christ!

One of my grammas will be painting heaven’s lovely landscapes, the other will be baking frosted sugar cookies. I’ll find my mom from her beautiful singing voice, my dad from his not-beautiful singing voice but his funny laugh — plus he’ll probably be coaching a team of angels in whatever sport goes on in Heaven. I’ll know my brother by his over-the-top enthusiasm for all Heaven has to offer, my father-in-law will be surrounded by people because he never met anyone who wasn’t a friend. Uncle Wendell will try to comb my eyebrows and he’ll be singing Barbershop with Aunt Joy and Mom. I could go on and on to name every precious loved one … but this is how I imagine Heaven.

So I’m not worried about recognizing my loved ones, I just hope I get enough time with them all. Well duh – I guess I’ll have all of eternity, right?!

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

9.26.15 – Insights from Todd Maberry

Todd MaberryTodd Maberry is an Associate Pastor at The Church of the Resurrection’s Downtown campus.

One of the greatest myths our society wants you to believe is that you are an individual. In our consumeristic culture, individuality is the result of the particular choices you make. It is ironic to think that people believe themselves to be unique individuals because of you can have your burger your way, or by personalizing the apps on your smartphone. An individualistic understanding of life fails to recognize the interdependence we have with all other human beings and indeed all things in God’s creation. A danger exists when we apply the individualistic lens to the gospel.

John 3:16 is perhaps the most popular Scripture in the Bible. You can find it literally everywhere in our culture, including the backdrop of most sporting events. [I often thought it would be hilarious to bring a sign to a big sporting event simply saying ‘Proverbs 21:19,’ though I doubt my wife would find the humor in it.] Most of my life, I have read this verse through the individualistic lens–I thought it was about believing in Jesus so I would not perish but have eternal life. I failed to notice that it starts by saying that God loves the world. God loves the world. All of it. Not just individual human beings, but the entire cosmos. This means that God loves the moon, sun, stars, plants, animals, oceans, bugs–and even you and me.

In my individualistic excitement about John 3:16 being my key to the secret of eternal life, I failed for years to notice John 3:17. In John 3:17, we learn that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world, but to save the whole world through Jesus. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God is seeking to reconcile and forgive the whole world. And yes, the work of Christ matters to us on an individual level, but our salvation is a small part of this much larger thing that God is doing in the world.

Have you ever thought about the fact that God intends to reconcile and forgive the whole world? What does it mean for your life that God forgives, takes away the sins, and seeks to reconcile and forgive the world? How will you live your life differently?

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

9.25.15 – 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.

I have always loved the old preacher story of the creation of the camel. The story goes that God was getting a bit tired during the creation process & asked a committee of human experts to design the horse. The camel was the result of their ingenuity. Needless to say, God administered the rest of creation Himself.

This idea made me think how blessed we are to worship a loving & merciful God who created such an amazing framework for forgiveness. What if God had let we humans try our hand at absolution? It might have looked like this:

Good afternoon. Sorry to have kept you waiting. My meeting with the Office to Reduce Repetition & Redundancy ran twice as long as scheduled. Go figure! Anyway, welcome to the Departmental Office Of Mercy, Exoneration & Deterging1.

Let’s get started on your form. You have your name, PIN – Personal Identification Number, address, & phone number already filled in. Nice.

The Sins of Commission (SOC/145) section shows an instance of using foul language. I understand. We get a lot of these when folks are visiting the Hoover Dam. Yes, I know you rode the – – – elevator & visited the – – – bathroom. Um. That would be clever, if you were like, maybe, 11 & 13 year-old boys. Anyway, now you have to seek clemency for this infraction. We’ll need a 450-word essay on why you should be forgiven & 3 affidavits from friends or family, notarized of course, attesting to your sincere desire to atone for this violation.

Now the Sins of Omission (SOO/982) section shows an instance where you deliberately & maliciously drank the last of the coffee from the office coffee station & did NOT make another pot. O-k-a-y. You are just lucky the days of vigilante justice are over – I’d have strung you up myself. For a Sin of Omission, meaning something you didn’t do but should have done, you have to apologize in writing to each person you may have impacted by your thoughtless behavior. You will then need to have each of them sign on row 44 on page 18 & provide their PIN. No, you are right. It is going to be hard to figure out whom you may have hurt by your inconsiderate conduct, but as we say, “If you can’t do the PIN, don’t do the sin.” No, I suppose that isn’t so funny.

We do need to ask: Are you one of those Christian types who declare Jesus Christ as their Lord & Savior? No? Oh. Just asking. If you were a Christian the clemency process is quite different. You go to God in prayer. You apologize for your shortcomings- intentional & unintentional. You ask God for His mercy & His forgiveness. You then accept His compassionate gift of grace. Next, you repent – change your life’s routines & habits to help you to avoid that sin again. Now you smile, knowing you can begin anew – a refreshed & rejuvenated child of God.

Anyway, you can fill in the rest of the form at home. If you have any questions, our online website is available from 9:00-4:00 (AEDT) Monday through Thursday. What’s that? Oh, no it’s not one of those fancy-shmancy 24-hour web sites. Huh? Oh, AEDT is Australian Eastern Daylight Time.

Also, remember the form will need to be typed on legal paper & turned in with 3 carbon copies. What’s a carbon copy? Wow. You are like the 4th person to ask that today. A full explanation is on our FAQ page – which, by the way, is accessible only if you have the Windows 3.1 Operating System.

What’s that? Oh my. Looks like we’ll need to fill out another SOC145. Sigh. Thanks for visiting D.O.O.M.E.D.

1 Editor: Deterge is defined as “cleanse thoroughly” as in detergent. You are welcome.

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

9.24.15 – 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.

When we say the Apostles’ Creed, I love to picture Christians throughout the centuries standing with us. Different skin tones, sizes and ages from around the world, all of us professing our belief “…in the forgiveness of sins.” We say the Apostles’ Creed to help us live forgiveness-shaped lives.

What does a forgiveness-shaped life look like? The scripture for today (Luke 7:36-50) gives us a picture:

Generosity. “A woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment” (Luke 7:37).

Tears. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears” (Luke 7:38).

Love. “Her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love” (Luke 7:49).

Faith. The woman trusted in God’s loving mercy. “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:50).

We need the Creed and each other to remind us it’s really true. We are set free to live abundant life. Set free for generosity, tears, love and faith–a forgiveness-shaped life.

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

9.23.15 – Insights from Wendy Connelly

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 8.55.49 PMWendy Connelly, wife to Mark and mom to Lorelei & Gryffin, is Community Outreach Director at the Leawood campus, a graduate student at Saint Paul School of Theology, Faith Walk columnist for the Kansas City Star, and co-leads the “Live and Let Think” dialogues at Resurrection Downtown.

We live in a society that tilts toward two toxic extremes: blame and shame. Blame rears its ugly head as self-exculpation, unloading guilt on others. Shame takes that guilt, and turns it back on us. Chances are, on this scale of outward and inward condemnation, we all lean toward one extreme, or the other. As a recovering perfectionist, my struggle is with shame — can I ever kick up a wicked shame storm!

Society’s complacent, feel-good antidote to both blame and shame wreaks its own havoc on our souls. It tells us “I’m okay, you’re okay. No shame, no blame.” And just like that, we’re off the hook. Who needs a Savior?

But we all need a Savior, and not of this world. A Savior who does not condemn (blame/shame), nor allow us to remain complacent (“I’m okay, you’re okay”), but who convicts. Sets us to rights. Conviction is the only therapeutic and viable alternative to the world’s bad medicine of condemnation and complacency. Godly conviction reveals our sin, but it doesn’t leave us in it. Rather, conviction gently recalibrates us to the Source of life — setting our disorder back into the divine creative order — so that we might live at a higher pitch of existence

Gloria Dei vivens homo. “The glory of God,” in the words of the ancients, “is a human being [blamelessly, shamelessly] fully alive.”

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

9.22.15 – Insights from Nicole Alison

Nicole-alisonNicole Alison serves as Coordinating Assistant to Operations at The Church of the Resurrection. Nicole finds her voice through writing. In her spare time she is a personal blogger and a ghost-writer for the Next Steps Pastor at a local church in Lenexa. Her passion is to share the love of Jesus through personal stories of redemption.

Forgiveness can be such a hard thing to accept for ourselves or give to others. As I ponder this week’s scriptures, I remember a time when I was lost and searching for a love I couldn’t give myself. In quiet need, I had peeled open the cover of the neglected Bible on my bedside table, aching for some answer. As I flipped through the thin, unused pages, my heart found a glimmer of light in an unlikely place. I met a scorned, dirty, and forgotten prostitute with an alabaster jar. I was mesmerized. Her deep need to be loved and accepted despite her wretched nature tugged on my heart strings. Others’ harsh judgments and her raw vulnerability brought beauty to her plight.

I am taken back in time as I ponder the story of the woman with the alabaster jar. I imagine her eyes welling up with tears as she picks up the beautifully made calcite jar with swirls of cream and brown from her bedside table. I picture her gripping it close to her heart to breathe in the lovely scent one last time. I can see her surveying the meager room in which she lived, knowing that she would be giving away her most prized possession. But giving up the expensive perfume was not why she was about to give in to weeping. She was anxiously searching for something more than momentary passions that secured her future. Her soul detached, she wanted so badly to feel again. She was desperate for love.

When she had overheard that Jesus was eating at one of the Pharisees’ houses, she had run as fast as her sandaled feet could carry her to fetch the precious jar of perfume. Her only hope was that the divine scent could cover all her stains. As she walked down the dusty road towards the house where Jesus was, she could feel the stares of the town’s people boring into her . But for once, they didn’t matter. Her pace quickened as her resolve grew greater and greater to be in the presence of something she had never known–holiness.

When she crossed the threshold of the Pharisee’s house, she could see his shaken expression. Through his ferocious glare she could “hear” his thoughts: “How could this harlot dare to come to my clean house?!” The condemning look of disgust was something she had come to know very well. The emotions that she had pushed down over the years were now bursting through the numbness of her heart. She ignored the cautionary scowl and found respite when she made her way to the man she had come to see–her only hope.

All the disguised pain unraveled as she knelt to Jesus. Tears rolled down her cheeks into the tangled locks of her hair, onto the feet of a man she believed could save her. Without a second thought, she broke open the alabaster jar and anointed the feet of the Messiah with the expensive perfume. The Pharisee continued stewing in his judgment at the unrelenting tears and persistence of the woman he only knew as the town prostitute. It was no secret to Jesus what the Pharisee was thinking.

In the midst of the woman’s humble assertion, Jesus speaks up; making it clear that the woman with the alabaster jar was more than what met the eye:

“Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love. Then Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’” {Luke 7:44-48, NLT}

The Pharisee and other men in the house were stunned. Who was this man who would forgive such ugliness? But Jesus saw past what the rest chose to see and saw to the core of this woman searching for love.

“And Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” {Luke 7:50, NLT}

At the feet of Jesus, the woman with the alabaster jar was covered with a blanket of pure, white snow. She was reconciled to the Lord–new and complete. Others looked at her with awe, wondering how such a wretch deserved a second thought. As I closed my Bible that had been collecting dust for so long, my life was changed. This woman who lived ages ago revealed to me who God is and how much he loves us, loves me. It wasn’t the beautiful fragrance that covered a sinner’s stain–it was a bold act of faith and a merciful God who saved. It wasn’t perfect character that was reconciled to the goodness of God–it was a desperate plea, a humble submission.

Jesus is waiting for his children to come, just as we are. When we walk in faith we will be set free.

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

9.21.15 – Insights from Melanie Hill

Melanie Hill is the Guest Connections Program Director at Resurrection.

When I knew I was going to be writing the Insights for today, I started looking online to see what was out there on the topic of forgiveness. It was overwhelming, ranging from fifteen steps to forgiveness to simply “forgive and forget.” From the prolific amount written on this topic it would seem that many of us struggle with forgiveness–and I’m no different. For me, the struggle lies not so much in offering forgiveness as it does in accepting it. Now don’t get me wrong. There have been times in my life that granting forgiveness has been hard. For some wrongs I have had to do it again daily, even minute by minute, but I find I can move forward from it eventually.

Accepting forgiveness, on the other hand, is harder for me. At the core of who I am I know that my heavenly Father loves and accepts me and forgives me when I miss the mark. I can gratefully accept forgiveness from others when I have wronged them. It’s forgiving myself that comes so hard. I can be so self-critical that I stop seeing myself in any kind of authenticity, instead creating an image of myself that is unworthy of forgiveness. And all of a sudden I am not just failing, I am a failure.

This week I was given a gift from a true friend and a wonderful boss. As we sat down to check in about ministry and personal matters, she offered a true reflection of me as a person. She allowed me to see myself the way she sees me: Imperfect and flawed, but capable and thoughtful. She reminded me that although I may fail from time to time, I’m not a failure. This allowed me to forgive myself for any missteps I had taken, for any times I had dropped the ball.

The beauty of her gift is that it didn’t stop with seeing myself more accurately just in my professional life. Later that day I had to ask myself if I was seeing myself correctly as a wife, a mother, and a friend. In all these areas I had withheld forgiveness for myself, and as I allowed myself to truly accept forgiveness it was as if a huge, heavy burden had been released from my shoulders. I will always be imperfect and flawed. At times I will fail–probably more often than I want to think about. But now I know that when I refuse to accept forgiveness for myself, I not only hurt myself, I cheapen the forgiveness that has been granted to me.

Where are you not forgiving yourself? Where are you believing the lie that you are unworthy of forgiveness? God’s grace is sufficient for you and you ARE worthy of forgiveness.

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

9.19.15 – Insights from Brent Messick

brent-messickGPSBrent Messick is Resurrection’s Managing Executive Director of Operations.

There is a line in the movie “Gladiator,” when Maximus has died and his friend, Juba, says “I will see you again…but not yet.” That’s how I feel about dying. I look forward to what awaits me in heaven, but not yet. There is still much to experience in this lifetime.

I have been blessed to witness the weddings of my son and daughter. Our son and daughter-in-law have blessed us with three grandchildren. We hope that our daughter and son-in-law will also bless us with grandchildren. I love my family and want to be a part of their lives as they grow up.

I love working at the church until the time when I retire. Then, I want to volunteer in some capacity to help the church and the community. I also want to play more golf and do more traveling.

I have a lot to look forward to in this next stage of my life. Selfishly, I think about how I would miss out on all these things and more in life.

But when I read these Scripture verses, I am reminded of the joy, of the love, and of the community that waits for us in heaven. Verse 12:1 tells us that we are surrounded by a huge crowd of witnesses. 12:22 says that we will come to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. 12:23 states that we will come to God himself. And 12:24 says that we will come to Jesus.

Wow, talk about a homecoming!! It gives me great peace and comfort knowing that there will be no more pain and sorrow in heaven, and that I will be welcomed by Jesus and all of my family, friends, and people who have gone before me.

Yes, I think about how much I would miss my family and friends. But the good news is that I will see them again in heaven…but not yet.

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