Monthly Archives: June 2016

06.18.16 – Insights from Dave Pullin

Dave Pullin serves as the Director of Technical Arts at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. The Technical Arts ministry handles all audio/visual/technical support for the church including worship services and events.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Honestly, I really struggle with this verse. Although we know that Jesus is not presenting himself as a genie poised to grant us our wishes, I feel that even when I try to align my desires with what I believe to be God’s desires, there is still a disconnect between what I ask for and the response given. There have been many times where I felt that I have pleaded with God for something greater than myself, yet what I asked for was not given, at least in the way I wanted. Be it healing for a loved one suffering from brain cancer; praying for work for a friend who was in his 18th month being unemployed, struggling to support his family with two young daughters; or a single mom coworker who continues to have to fight for the child support her ex refuses to pay–all of these are prayers of mine that I feel weren’t answered, or in any clear way even acknowledged, by God. This left me really doubting the power of prayer.

I don’t claim to be a theologian, and I definitely do not fully understand the intricacies of prayer. I sometimes still wonder if my prayers do any good for those I am praying for. But what I am discovering is that I believe this verse, this story of Jesus teaching us to pray, is more about an invitation to a conversation with God than a description of a transactional process. For example, the more time I spend time talking and listening to my wife, the closer we become, the stronger our relationship grows, the more we both know what the other desires, and the more I strive to meet my wife’s needs.

I think the same is true with God; the more time I spend in prayer (talking to God), giving my concerns and fears over to God, the more my heart is changed to fully depend on God for all of my needs, just like the child referenced in this scripture. A child is completely dependent upon its parents, and a holistic sense of trust is present. I am beginning to think that an unwavering trust and reliance in God is the ultimate goal of prayer, rather than the specific requests we make day in and day out. Perhaps it is more about the condition of my heart, not the tally of my answered versus unanswered prayers. I am still called to pray for others, but I am less attached to a specific outcome, and more concerned about developing a compassionate heart and seeking ways I can be God’s hands and live out my faith. It is about allowing my faith to become like a child again.

Faith can be a difficult thing. Pastor Scott even defined faith as being more than believing in something–faith is trusting in someone without reservation.

There it is again: Trust. Without reservation.

Perhaps what Jesus is talking about is if we ask, we will come to rely solely on God. If we seek, our faith will continue to guide us back to the Creator. If we knock, we will grow to trust that God will always welcome us home.

Trusting someone without reservation is vulnerable, and opens us up to being hurt. Trusting an entity that we cannot see or hear seems even more so. But in my limited experience, when I am able to be vulnerable to God, when I stop trying to do it all by myself, that is typically when God tends to show up, and usually in the most profound ways.

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

06.17.16 – 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.

It seems like today we are inundated with a quick-fix mentality to problems &/or learning skills:

  • Just 14 days to a slimmer you
  • Earn $10,000 in one month with one simple phone call
  • Learn to speak Esperanto in 5 easy lessons

Aside: Like the story of the piano teacher, hired by a music store to give piano lessons, who is approached by two women.  “Do you wish to learn to play piano, Madam?” he asked one.  “Oh no,” she said, “it’s my friend who wants to learn.  I learned yesterday.”

Today’s passage is evidence of another amazing quick fix.  Our friend Peter, who seemed slow to fully grasp Jesus’ admonitions & teachings during Christ’s 3-year ministry, is now passionately preaching the Good News to crowds in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost.  The Feast of Weeks was one of 3 major Israelite festivals when males were required to make an offering before the Lord.  It was known as Pentecost (Pente = 5 x Konta = 10) since it occurred 50 days after Passover marking the conclusion of the wheat harvest.

Peter, not particularly known for a scholarly background, is preaching an amazing sermon, including a treasure trove of theological insights & Old Testament allusions.  In his sermon Peter references the prophet Joel, the 16th Psalm, the 132nd Psalm, 2 Samuel, & the 110th Psalm to offer his listeners a case to believe that Jesus Christ was indeed the long-awaited Messiah.  This is the same Peter who 50 days earlier was admonished by Jesus at the Last Supper for failing to understand Christ’s teaching of agape love, who was scolded for pulling out his sword in a violent act of defiance in the garden, & who even denied being a friend of Jesus.  We have to conclude that during this 50-day period the Holy Spirit &/or Jesus helped Peter to finally comprehend Christ’s earthly mission.

Now, we’d be remiss to expect such an “information dump” for us today.  While we may be justifiably frustrated that we can’t have immediate answers to all our questions & clarification for all of our wonderings, I would submit that perhaps we are the better for it.

When we recognize that our faith walk is a life-long learning process, we begin to fully appreciate the Scriptures & what they can tell us about God & ourselves at each stage of our journey.

For example, I may highlight a particular Biblical passage with a comment, date, & note of its significance to me that day.  Let’s consider Psalm 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully & wonderfully made…”.  During a Disciple 1 class back in 2000, when we were welcoming our oldest son, Matthew, into the world, I bracketed “wonderfully made” with an accompanying, “Amen!!!!”  In 2003, when our youngest son, Jacob, at the age of 18 months had a Febral Seizure where the temperature rises in the body so quickly it forces the body to shut down, I underlined “fearfully made” noting with awe at how our own body can work & can protect itself.  In 2008, with the passing of my Grandmother Rosalie, I noted that the phrase “wonderfully made” meant we could be confident that God must have incredible plans in mind for us even after our earthly bodies have given out.

So, perhaps we should approach each study time with the Bible with the expectation of what might the Scriptures be uniquely telling us this day?  The meaning won’t change, but the significance of that passage might just take on a dramatically different light in the midst of our everyday travails & triumphs.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to make one simple phone call, or as they say in Esperanto, “telefonvoko.”

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

06.16.16 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

A few months ago I was buying a coffee at a convenience store. It was a little over a dollar so I figured I’d pay cash. I reached into my wallet, pulled out a bill, and handed it to the clerk. He then looked at me with a puzzled face and said, “I’m sorry. We don’t take this. Do you have American money?”

I was so embarrassed. I must have looked like an idiot. I had just come back from Brazil, and the only cash I had on me was Brazilian, which obviously did me no good. Apparently there are many conveniences to a convenience store, but taking the wrong currency is not one of them.

Christians use the wrong currency, too. Not literally (unless you’re trying to pay for your coffee with Brazilian currency), but certainly when it comes to issues of forgiveness. The currency of forgiveness we tend to use is only accepted in particular situations. It has rules set up by society, how we’re raised, media, and other influences. We use it to forgive most minor sins. Generally it will cover the skeletons in our own closets, but where it often stops working is when it comes to the sins that aren’t in our repertoire.

As followers of Christ, we have to recognize that this is the wrong currency. It may work for our culture, but it is not accepted in the kingdom of God.  The Christ-like currency is far more reaching. It has no limits on people, motives, or wrong-doings. It covers everything from white lies to horrific acts.

In no way is it a sloppy grace, accepting wrong-doings and just looking the other way. It’s a passionate care and concern, extending hope, love, restoration, and light in the darkest of places. This is the forgiveness currency accepted in the kingdom of God. Thankfully our own limited currency of forgiveness isn’t accepted here.

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

06.15.16 – Insights from Kinzie Oas

Kinzie Oas is the Adult Discipleship intern at The Church of the Resurrection. He attends North Park University in Chicago, IL, and aspires to be a Pastor. He would love to see church BBQ places instead of church cafes (think about it, Resurrection!). He also really loves badminton.

First reading this story, the answer seems so obvious. “Do you want to get well?” “Obviously, yes, I want to get well. Jesus, I want to be renewed by you, I want to be the best I can for you!” All that is true, but I am living 2000 years after this happened. I know the outcome, I know the renewal. The man at the pool did not. I wonder what was going through his head. What was his reaction when a Rabbi came up to him and asked, “Do you want to get well?” I probably would have responded sarcastically, “Oh, no, I’m good. I just LOVE sitting next to this place every day!” This man responded with excuses. Maybe others in his past had come to him, asked if he wanted to get better and told him to pray harder, or possibly even tried to sell him something. If so, you can see why this guy would be on his guard. He may have been blamed and told he will never be healed because he isn’t trying hard enough.

I have severe ADHD. I have been told time and time again I don’t try hard enough, and let me tell you, it’s devastating. Every time I’m told I’m not trying hard enough, or told about “ONE THING THAT WILL FIX ALL YOUR PROBLEMS—JUST CLICK HERE! 15 EASY STEPS,” I’m also going to be a little weary. I’m apt to think of a reason why I “Just can’t try your way” because I’m tired of them not working, then being blamed for failure. So I get why this guy made an excuse, why he was probably a little standoffish to someone asking such a difficult and probably painful question. Of course he wants to get well, but its been so long, he is so tired, and has tried so many times.

That’s when Jesus says something crazy. He looks at this guy and says, “Get up and walk.” Honestly, if a dude said something that audacious to me, as a man who was crippled for 38 years, I would have gotten up and grabbed my mat because I’d be thinking, “This dude’s crazy! Doesn’t he see me on this mat and FURTHERMORE…oh, wait. I’m walking. Hey, that guy was right, look at me. I’m walking!”

Sometimes following Jesus is the easy way. Sometimes, for a lot of us, it seems like it’s the craziest way. It seems crazy to think that this guy would just have to tell me to walk and I could. With my ADHD, I haven’t had my “Get up and walk moment,” and I know plenty of others that haven’t. But I believe Jesus can, because Jesus knows my excuses, he knows why I don’t like taking advice from others on why I am failing. He also knows the fix, and I know one day I’ll be asked “Do you want to get well?” I will have to answer, probably full of excuses at first, but he’ll sort through them. So what about you? “Do you want to get well?”

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

06.14.16 – Insights from Allie Love

Allie Love is currently serving as a summer intern for The Church of the Resurrection’s Local Impact ministry. She recently graduated from Kansas State University and will start a 5th grade teaching job in the Fall. She loves assisting the Missions department and all they do to serve students, teachers, and their families.

“What can I do for you?” is a question I frequently ask as an intern. I ask this question often because I am seeking to serve my department, but also because I am still learning the ropes of my new position. I need clarification as I am learning how best to fulfill my new role.

I think it is interesting that Jesus asked this same question of the blind men on the road from Jericho in Matthew 20:29-34. As they cried out for mercy, he asks, “What can I do for you?” as if he doesn’t already know what they need. Clearly, the question was not for Jesus’ benefit, but for the benefit of the blind men. (That’s the thing about Jesus–everything he does is for our benefit.) If Jesus were to ask this question of me, what would I ask that he do? It takes me all of two seconds to think of all the things I’d ask for! I’d love for my family to be closer, I’d love for God to bless my relationships with others, I’d love for him to make my first year of teaching smooth. But when Jesus asks this question of the blind men, they don’t ask for a million little things to be better in their lives. They respond with “We want our sight, Lord.” They ask to see Jesus!

Is it possible that my response should be the same as theirs–to receive sight? No, I am not blind, but I want Jesus to do the same thing for me metaphorically. I want him to give me sight to see what really matters. I want to ask him for things that have eternal significance that enable me to see and follow Jesus more clearly, just as the blind men were able to do.

In my opinion, that’s what following Jesus is about. When I ask the Son of David to be the King of my life, I lose concern for myself, and desire to see Jesus more clearly. Thank Jesus for the mercy he gives me daily when I lose sight of him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. Guide my life in your paths today and every day. Amen.

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

06.13.16 – Insights from Roberta Lyle

Roberta_LyleRoberta Lyle has been on the Resurrection staff since 2006. She serves as the Program Director for Local Impact Ministries, concentrating on Education, Life Skills and Youth Focused Ministries.

I have read or heard Matthew’s scripture about the magi’s visit to Jesus during many holiday seasons. Reading it out of the context of the entire Christmas story makes me pause and consider some aspects I’ve never noticed before.

As today’s reading points out, while the magi set out on their journey with a final goal in mind, they did not receive a detailed map or GPS coordinates pinpointing their destination. Yet they gathered their gifts and set out on a journey that many might have thought foolish and ill advised. They felt so strongly that the only proper response to the signs they witnessed would be to find and worship the new king that it overcame any hesitation they may have had. I wonder if they sensed the encounter would be dramatic and life changing.

Actively seeking and honoring God can cause us to be pulled out of our comfort zones and may take precious time away from our busy and full lives. Still, sometimes we find ourselves responding to an undeniable nudge and saying “yes” to a new serving opportunity. I witnessed this last weekend during a respite event provided by A Child’s Hope Ministry for foster and adoptive families. 27 volunteers and a gentle dog named Rob spent a good part of their Saturday caring for 54 kids at our church so that parents could do routine things like go grocery shopping without little helpers or enjoy a meal while it was still hot. Many of us take things like that for granted, but they can become challenges when caring for children with significant emotional or health issues. While the parents were very appreciative for the time away, I know that those of us who hung out with these new little friends came away thanking God for the dedication of their parents and for the grace poured into our lives by our interactions that day.

When we are asked to give of ourselves it isn’t always easy. We don’t know what the outcome might be. But I believe I honor God when I serve, and I always walk away knowing my faith has been made stronger and my life is richer for the experience.

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

06.11.16 – Insight from Sam Johnson

Sam Johnson is currently serving as the High School Program Director for Rezlife Student Ministries. She’s been a congregant at Church of the Resurrection for 9 years and loves serving students and families. She also really loves waffles.

During last week’s sermon, Pastor Wendy Chrostek talked about the three ways we should be asking questions to others, to God, and about ourselves. When it comes to asking questions about ourselves, questioning our own motives and beliefs is crucial to understanding how we’re doing and where we’re going.

As a follower of Christ, I’ve learned one of the most important questions I need to ask myself daily is, “To what extent am I willing to trust and submit my life to Jesus?”

I’ve learned it’s really easy to submit my life to Jesus when His requests are small and comfortable, but when His requests are heavy and uncomfortable, I’m not as willing to trust in His will for my life.

I was recently hired as the High School Program Director for The Church of the Resurrection. If someone looked at my life right now, they might think I’m crazy for agreeing to take on a full time job. Not only am I a youth minister, but I’m also 22 years old and a college senior. Most college students don’t attempt to take on a full time job while trying to finish school. In other words, I chose to live a life that’s uncomfortable. The reason I chose to be a youth minister and a college student is because I asked myself, “To what extent am I willing to trust and submit my life to Jesus?” Some days, my schedule is too big of a cross for me to bear alone. Juggling classes, homework, youth group programming, meeting with students and parents, taking care of my family, and attempting to have a social life makes me feel like I’m standing in a tornado of crazy. I start to question whether or not I made the right decision. Then suddenly, while standing in the craziness, I remember that I’m crazy about Jesus.

Trusting your life to Jesus can look small and comfortable, but more often than not, it’s heavy and uncomfortable. When submitting your life to Christ, you’re submitting your own control and your own plans. When you submit your own control, it’s easy for life to feel a bit unsteady or crazy. My hope for you is that when life feels crazy, it’s because you’re crazy about Jesus.

As you go through this week, I encourage you to ask yourself, “To what extent am I willing to trust and submit my life to Jesus?”

Prayer: Lord, I submit my life to you. Though it’s difficult to surrender my own control and my own plans, I trust in Your plans for me. Help me to trust in Your will every day.  Amen.

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

06.10.16 – Insights from Ginger Rothhaas

Gingeer RGinger Rothhaas is a seminary student at Saint Paul School of Theology and is serving in Congregational Care at The Church of the Resurrection.

Jesus uses the parable of the two sons to invite the chief priests and elders into introspection about their faith and behaviors. He tells the story of a father asking his two sons to work in the vineyard. One son says he won’t work, but then later decides to do the work. The other son says he will do the work, but then never does. Jesus asks the priests and elders, “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

When we read this parable, these clichés and quotes may come to mind:

Walk the talk.
Actions speak louder than words.
Well done is better than well said. –Benjamin Franklin
When people show you who they really are, believe them. –Maya Angelou
What you do speaks so loud I cannot hear what you say. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am at my parent’s ranch in the Flint Hills of Kansas as I write this blog. In cowboy country, the phrase “big hat, no cattle” is used to describe someone who talks a big game but does not have a true depth of experience with ranching. I have heard my dad use another cowboy-ism to describe a not-so-pretty horse. He says, “Pretty is as pretty does.” This means that the horse gets better looking if it takes good care of its rider. These phrases echo what Jesus is teaching us in this parable of the two sons.

Jesus goes on to say that the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of these priests and elders. He sees the tax collectors and prostitutes who have listened to John the Baptist’s teaching and repented. He sees their heart, their new awareness of their higher purpose. It appears that God also believes “pretty is as pretty does,” that where their hearts are matters more than how society judges them.

Over-promising and under-delivering is part of our human experience. We may have good intentions and hope to make good on a promise, but for some reason we tend to fall short of delivering on the promise. Sometimes we find ourselves saying “yes” to something we have no intention of following through on. Other times we get caught in the moment, trying to impress someone, but forget to be authentic and truthful. These things are all part of being human, but we are called to do better than give in to these tendencies.

What Jesus is asking of us is to pause and question ourselves. Which son are we in the story? Are we pretending to be something we are not? Are we telling the truth of whom we are and what we intend to do? Are we authentic in our families, careers, and churches?

Maybe this parable is inviting us to walk the talk in loving God and loving others. Being humble, authentic, and serving in love are what this parable calls us to. Let’s put that into action today!

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

06.09.16 – 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.

Questions are the answer. Jesus asks great questions as invitations into abundant life. Each question invites us to live more deeply with him, not because we know the answer, but because He is our Teacher.

Jesus’ question is like a magnifying glass that he holds up to our lives and invites us to look through. When we examine our lives through the magnifying lens of his question, we discover things we didn’t know about our own lives. Like when a science teacher in a lab invites students to look more closely through a microscope or a telescope, to take the time to really see. Looking through such magnifiers, students can discover something true about the world that their everyday eyes can’t see.

When Jesus gives you this magnifying glass in the form of a question — “All these things you’ve stored up, what’s that all about?” — to look through, what do you see? Anything you didn’t see before? Or maybe some things you sort of knew were there but now can see in greater detail or clarity?

Jesus asks us questions every day. Questions are the answer. What do you discover through Jesus’ question-magnifying glass?

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

06.08.16 – Insights from Kari Burgess

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

Have you ever been in a situation where you have asked the wrong questions? Putting motive aside for now, think about a situation where you didn’t get the answers or information you wanted or needed because you were asking the wrong questions.

I can remember those anxious, exciting days when my youngest daughter started preschool. As a mom, I wanted to be a fly on the wall to watch her in her classroom. Will she make friends? Will she follow directions? Will she learn? Will she hit her milestones? Will the other kids be nice to her? Will her teacher be kind, engaging, creative? Will she take a nap? Will she eat a healthy snack?

In true “helicopter mom” style, I would pepper her with questions when I picked her up from school. How was your day? Did you have fun? What did you do? What did you learn? You can imagine the kind of answers my three-year-old gave: Good. Yes. I don’t know. Nothing.

One important thing you need to understand about the differences in my two children is that my oldest daughter started talking, in clear, complete sentences, at about age one–and she’s never stopped talking. From the first words out of her mouth before her first birthday, I could understand every syllable she said. I was used to being able to carry on a very adult-like conversation with an 18 month old.

When my second daughter came along and was very normal with her speech development, I couldn’t understand ANYTHING she said. By nature, she is much more reserved, quiet and content to be still. She could be so quiet in the backseat of the car there were times I would forget she was there or would assume she was asleep. When I would glance in the rearview mirror she would just be gazing out the window, taking in the world.

So there was no question I could ask which would draw out any of the information I was hoping for about her time at school. When she did give me an answer, I’d have to ask her to repeat it 3 or 4 times before I could understand. That was so frustrating to her, she would eventually shut down. I’d read articles suggesting open ended question: “Tell me about the favorite part of your day.” She would respond, “EVERYTHING!” Or suggestions to be specific: “Can you tell me which center (play area) you played at during play time?” to which she’d respond, “I don’t remember” (or “re-nen-der,” as she would say it). Nothing I asked got me any useful information to show me how well she was doing developmentally, socially, emotionally at school.

It was frustrating to ask a question and not get the answer I was expecting. Asking the right questions is important.

In today’s passage, the Pharisees were also asking the wrong question. Their question may have been accusatory. They may have had a negative agenda compared to what I believe were questions borne out of love for my daughter, but they drew a similar unexpected or undesired response. Jesus asks a question back to the Pharisees trying to get them to change their perspective, to shake them up or really to transform their thinking.

Our GPS challenges us today to ask the right questions and seek to grasp what God is doing in our lives or what God’s will is for us. It challenges us to ask questions with a motive of deeper understanding of ourselves and our creator. Questions which will challenge us to grow in our faith, rather than questions which simply back up our position or stance on a given issue.

I love the Prayer of Examen Pastor Wendy gave us in her sermon this weekend. I plan to incorporate this into my regular prayer life in an effort to ask the “right” questions for a deeper, growing relationship with God:

WHOSE am I?
WHAT did I do today?
WHEN did I feel most alive?
WHERE am I going?
WHY?

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