Monthly Archives: September 2016

09.30.16 – 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.

Not only is Moses known as one of the best leaders in human history, he also models what it means to be a mentor. As Moses faces the end of his life, he recognizes that he will not make it to see the Promised Land. He passes the proverbial baton to Joshua to lead the people onward and finish the journey.

I imagine many conversations occurred leading up to the time that Moses publicly announces and blesses this leadership transition. Based on Moses’ words in the announcement, I’m guessing the topic of fear had often surfaced in their discussions. Likely, Joshua is scared to accept this daunting calling.

Usually when we receive a Divine Assignment, or calling, we experience a fear that shows up as resistance in words such as:

  • I’m not prepared.
  • I’m not the right one.
  • There has to be someone more qualified than me.

The best leaders and mentors will respond with:

  • What are you afraid of?
  • How can I help you?

We are told that Moses says to Joshua (with all of Israel watching), “Be strong and fearless because you are the one who will lead this people… you are the one…the Lord is the one who is marching before you! He is the one who will be with you! He won’t let you down. He won’t abandon you. So don’t be afraid or scared!”

God may be calling you, like Moses, to mentor others with these same words. Is there someone that needs to hear this from you? Your encouragement might be exactly what he or she needs to accept their Divine Assignment.

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

09.29.16 – Insights from Chris Abel

Chris Abel is the Young Adult Pastor at The Church of the Resurrection’s Leawood location. Find out more about Chris and 20/30 Young Adults at http://cor.org/leawood/youngadults.

A few summers ago I took three weeks and backpacked the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. There’s something about the challenge, the wilderness, and the beautiful sights that put a huge grin on my face and deep breaths in my lungs. This particular trail is a 200+ mile stretch of wilderness that’s unparalleled in its beauty.

But about a week into my trip, I suddenly lost the trail. It just ended.

Confused, I backtracked, took a different path, and again my path led nowhere. Somehow, in the middle of the wilderness, I had gotten off track.

So after 20 minutes of confusion, I finally pulled out a GPS. I wasn’t too far off the trail, but it took another 5 minutes of wandering before I found my way back. Where had I gone wrong?

It turned out I went left instead of right. I simply wasn’t paying attention.

Faith is a lot like backpacking. As followers of Christ, we walk the trail God has given us—and even with the best of intentions we sometimes drift from the path. Sure, you and I occasionally come to forks in our life where we make deliberate and bad decisions—but most of the time it’s more innocent. Sometimes we’re just not paying attention. And even if we are paying attention, we may not realize the importance of the decision in front of us! So we slip off the trail…drifting further and further as time passes.

In our passage today, Moses urges the Israelites to be alert with the way they live their lives. He’s about to die and so he urges them to continue on a path toward God. Moses realized that the road in front of them has many twists and turns and forks and that there is a very real possibility that they will drift from God. And so Moses speaks to them in no uncertain terms:

“I have set life and death, blessing and curse before you. Now choose life—so that you and your descendants will live.”

No grey areas here. He is all business. This matters.

Sometimes when it comes to faith, we can find comfort in the idea of grace—that God will love us no matter what mistakes we make. But what Moses is talking about here is the reality of consequences. If you don’t do your dishes, no amount of prayer will get them done. If you don’t do your laundry, the AXE deodorant will only last so long (trust me, I know).

Moses is so crystal clear here because most of the time these life and death decisions do not seem vital in the moment. These moments can be subtle. And in these moments we can rationalize decisions that break relationships and hurt people. Moses needs these people to know that the stakes are high. That decisions matter.

As a living, breathing human being, you are in the midst of making decisions. And in the moment, the consequences may seem negligible. Our motives are countless: You want to be happy, they’re making it hard on you, you want more money, what if something better comes along, it’s too hard… but when does God enter the equation?

This isn’t a game. There are stakes to this life. And while we have a LOT of leeway in this life, and we can often find our way back to the path, it will ALWAYS take you more work to get back to the path than the energy you spent leaving it.

Wisdom is keeping your eyes open and attentive to the places God is leading you.

So are you paying attention? Where is God leading you today?

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

09.28.16 – Insights from Jennifer Creagar

Jennifer Creagar is the Program Director for Financial Care. She is married, has three great kids and three perfect grandchildren whom she loves spending time with, and she enjoys writing and photography.

What are the words you grew up with? Here are some of the phrases I heard on a daily basis from the hardworking, no-nonsense, Great Depression-survivors who raised me:

• Put on your big-girl pants and get on with it.

• “Fair” is where they give blue ribbons to pigs.

And, that famous “It’s in the Bible” phrase that is actually not to be found anywhere in Scripture:

• God helps those who help themselves.

Those first two may be Oklahoma-speak, but I’m pretty sure almost everyone has heard that third one, and many of us have even repeated it ourselves. It’s practically an American mantra. A quick check of social media today provided me instructions for helping myself be organized in order to make more money (just purchase this great organizer and the magic will happen), more suggestions for improving health than I could read in a day, and of course, lots of opinions about how I could improve my life and everyone else’s by voting for _______. There is nothing your average 21st century American loves more than a list of things to do to make life better, so you can pat yourself on the back and revel in your accomplishments – and share them on Facebook. In today’s Scripture reading, Moses addresses that very same attitude in the lives and words of the Israelites, and sets them straight.

Don’t think to yourself, My own strength and abilities have produced all this prosperity for me. Remember the LORD your God! He’s the one who gives you the strength to be prosperous in order to establish the covenant he made with your ancestors—and that’s how things stand right now. Deuteronomy 8:17-18.

But watch yourself! Don’t forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commands or his case laws or his regulations that I am commanding you right now. When you eat, get full, build nice houses, and settle down, and when your herds and your flocks are growing large, your silver and gold are multiplying, and everything you have is thriving, don’t become arrogant, forgetting the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 8:11-14

That’s what’s wrong with going through life assuming that “helping ourselves” is how to earn God’s favor. Earlier, Moses came down from the mountain with the real list of what pleases (and displeases) God. In today’s reading, he’s reminding us to enjoy and be thankful for the good things in our lives, but not to forget what God asks of us, or who is really in charge. Moses reminded his people, and us, that God is the only power that can lead us out of our deserts, protect us, and make water flow out of hard rock. Jesus explained it further when he promised “living water” that would satisfy all our thirsts.

So, I may still tell myself to “put on my big girl pants and get on with it” when I don’t want to get up and go to work on a rainy morning, and my children and grandchildren will tell you that I love the line about the blue ribbons and the pigs waaaayyyy more than they wish I did, but I will skip the “God helps those who help themselves” mantra in favor of remembering that God brings me life, living water, and that whatever I have or do is his.

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

09.27.16 – 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.

My son has a real penchant for asking why. I know this is pretty common in kids, but my kid does it to a fault. Many times, a tautological answer is the only appropriate response to his questions. Why is it 4:00? Because it’s 4:00. Why is our appointment at 2:00? Well, I could go into my daily schedule, the doctor’s schedule, the travel times, daylight savings time, and the rotation of the earth–no, just kidding, it’s because our appointment is at 2:00.

These sorts of questions can make it a lot easier to dismiss some of his other questions, though, like why we go to church, or why we follow the rules in the Bible. This isn’t that different from the question in today’s passage from early Israelite children: “What is the meaning of the laws, the regulations, and the case laws that the LORD our God commanded you?” This is essentially the children who didn’t live through slavery in Egypt asking why: Why does it all matter? Why do we believe? Why do we follow?

And notice how the question is answered: not with a simple explanation or a restatement of the premise, but with a story. The answer to the question of why is the story of what God has done for the Israelite people. It’s a remembrance of changed lives.

When our children ask why, it can be very difficult to answer if we don’t have a good answer for the question of what God has done for us, how he has changed us. If we can’t explain in simple terms how our lives are different–without regurgitating spiritual lingo and cliches–then we cannot adequately answer the question of why.

Your story is not something anyone else can teach you. It probably won’t be the same story as anyone else’s. It is uniquely yours, and it’s up to you to understand it and articulate it. Likewise, the story of what God does for your children, or anyone you’re mentoring, will be uniquely theirs and not defined by yours–but it may take your story to convince them to explore theirs.

This week, focus on what God has done for you, how he has changed your life. What is the story you will leave behind for the people who look up to you? What is the story that will inspire others to discover their stories? You may want to spend the time to write it out. But if we can’t articulate it, we can never share it, and that could make a world of difference for the people in our lives.

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

09.26.16 – Insights from Donna Karlen

dkarlengpsDonna Karlen serves in Communications at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, creating and managing social media content.

Now that I’m doing the empty nest thing, I’ve been reflecting on my children’s faith journey. I think back with gratitude to the firm foundation of faith that was set when they were little – both through prayer in our home and the children’s ministry programs at the church we attended where I was blessed to be the director of that ministry. Since I chose or wrote the Sunday school curriculum and planned out the Vacation Bible School lessons and activities, I felt pretty much in control of their journey and quite confident they weren’t traveling down any wrong paths.

Funny what happens to that control and confidence when the teenage years hit.

Gone were VBS and Sunday school craft projects with yarn and popsicle sticks. Instead they entered the most peer-pressure filled time of anyone’s life, and – as it has been well documented – a time they least want to hear from mom and dad… about rules for living… about what God wants for them and from them… about A-N-Y-THING!

Last week while cleaning out a drawer in my son’s room (don’t worry – he gave me permission, so I wasn’t snooping!), I came across a letter I had written to him and his sister during those awful, awesome, worry-filled, laughter-filled, eye-rolling, smile-tugging teenage years. In it I described some of the dangerous traps they could fall into. My written words reflected both my fearful desperation and faithful determination to share my hopes for their journey. And oh how I prayed that they would just get it!

I think Moses was at this same point with his people. They had complained a lot and frequently stopped listening to him – probably more than a few eye rolls in the crowd. Yet he loves them, yearns to save them from the pain of bad choices and wants so much good for them! So once more he goes through the Ten Commandments – fearfully desperate and faithfully determined that his children would travel on the right path as they continued on their journey – praying that they would just get it.

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

09.24.16 – Insights from Cathy Bien

cathy-bien-gpsCathy Bien serves as the Director of Communications at Resurrection. She and her husband Rick have been members of the church for 22 years and have four adult children.

Today’s GPS reflection asks the question “How can you keep fear from making you turn your back on God’s exceptionally good life?”

“God’s exceptionally good life” – I want that!

But I’m not there yet, so I have to ask myself, “How is fear holding me back?” I’ve committed my life to following and serving God, but I’ll admit, there are those moments when I, like the Israelites give in to my fears. So, what am I afraid of?

I’m afraid it’s going to be too hard. Following Jesus isn’t always easy. Sometimes we’re called to do things that we don’t want to do, to step out of our comfort zones. Our fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. It’s kind of like standing at the edge of the high dive. This is when we have to hold on to Jesus’ promise that he will always be with us and take that first step. (And like going off that diving board, it can be exhilarating!)

(Jesus said) I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20

I’m afraid it’s going to hurt. The Israelites were afraid of physical pain and death. I’m grateful that I don’t face a physical threat because I follow Jesus. My fear of being hurt is more emotional. Relationships are challenging. When we open our hearts to another person, we risk being disappointed. When we let ourselves become vulnerable, we risk rejection. This loving your neighbor thing is hard. What if I put myself out there and the other person doesn’t reciprocate? What if I create something and people hate it? That very well might happen, but it’s okay, because we can count on the promise that nothing can separate us from God’s love.

I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. Romans 8:38-39

I’m afraid I’ll have to give up control. Here’s the big one that gets me every time. I like to be in control. In my human arrogance and stubbornness, it’s easy to think that I know best. Truly opening myself up to God’s will feels a lot like falling without a net. But, I am learning that when I step out in faith and trust in God, I have nothing to fear. It’s humbling to look back and wonder how I could possibly have thought that I could do life on my own.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

We all have fears. Yours may be different from mine, but whatever we fear, God can release us from it. The lesson from the Exodus is that God doesn’t give up on us. Instead he promises to walk through our fears with us and bless us with an “exceptionally good life.” All we have to do is accept this great gift of love.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4:18a

Lord, help me to be fearless, to trust and follow you. Amen

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

09.23.16 – 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.

Considering today’s passage, I thought we could “visit” with Mr. Fide, Chairman of The Society To Assess Menaces & Perils in the Every Day Environment.  (S.T.A.M.P.E.D.E. for short.)

DL: So, Mr. Fide, what does your group do?

Terry Fide: Please call me Terry.  Our Fear Engineers help our clientele evaluate the dangers & risks that they might encounter during a given day.  Only with this complete appraisal, can our patrons make wise decisions on whether to get out of bed or not.

DL: I would guess your enterprise is quite successful in this day & age.  I know I’ve even had fears writing these Insights – like the fear of grammatical mistakes.  But I realized it was nothing to be afraid of. of which to be afraid.  (Don’t end with a preposition. – Editor.)  Anyway…

Terry Fide: We do have a busy market.  We have to constantly update our clients & assess the uncertainties related to terrorism, the environment, crime, the economy, natural disasters, technological advances, &, well, I’m even afraid I may have left something out!

For example, we’ve had a fun case in Florida last week where we were even able to double dip.  On one hand we had clients fearful of mosquitoes transmitting the Zika virus.  On the other hand, when mass spraying was proposed to kill these same mosquitoes, we had clients fearful of the use of pesticides.  Ca-Ching!

DL: Surely, this is just a blip in time.

Terry Fide: I hope not.  We got our start with Y2K and have been rolling ever since.  We now even have college students fearful of hearing opposing viewpoints in a lecture, so they enlist us to assess the danger of attending a speech. We’ve just developed an app for easier access.  We call it the App-Rehensive.

DL: Clever.  You know, today’s passage outlines a similar fear.  12 spies go to the Promised Land &, even though 2 positive reports come back, the Israelites are so persuaded by the 10 negative reports they opt to wait 38 years before attempting to enter the Promised Land.

Terry Fide: Ah, yes.  I love this story!  By the way I don’t call them spies, but rather consultants.  They were just doing their job & helping to gauge the perils presented in the Promised Land.  And the Israelites eventually got the land, so it all worked out in the end.

DL: But, an entire generation missed out on living their lives to the fullest & experiencing life as God intended.

Terry Fide: Well, yes.  And to be honest, I would submit there was probably a lot of “Group-Think” going on.  You know how committees work.  Once one spy presented his “concerns” another spy probably chimed in with what he found “troubling” & another lists those things that he found “disquieting” & it snowballs from there.  You see the same thing today when the same phrases start re-appearing in multiple news sources.  But I don’t complain.  As we say, “Every fear means another great year!”

DL: But what if we learned from the Israelite’s negative example & didn’t cave into that “group-think?”  What if we recognized that, yes there are legitimate fears in every day life, but that we aren’t alone – that we can rely on God to be ever-present & to help us ultimately reach our own personal version of God’s Promised Land?

Terry Fide: Actually, I’m afraid that could work.  Whoa, I need to run.  We have family movie night tonight before our trip to Myrtle Beach on Saturday.

DL: Thanks for your time.  What movie are you watching?

Terry Fide: Jaws.

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

09.22.16 – Insights from Janelle Gregory

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

In reading the story of the golden calf, it’s easy to focus our attention on the wayward Israelites, looking for a new god. Shame on them. Shame on all of us when we search for idols, whether it be food, television, sports teams, alcohol, work, family, the list goes on forever. Just enter your vice of choice.

But I think there also needs to be a focus on Aaron. There wouldn’t have been a golden calf if he hadn’t built it. You have to wonder how long it took for him to be worn down by the people’s begging. I imagine that it started with one Israelite coming to him in a side conversation, “Aaron, I’ve heard rumblings from the crowd. I really think an idol would take care of this and we could nip it in the bud.” Certainly at that point, Aaron was able to quickly dismiss the person by pointing back to what the Lord had done for them.

But then I bet that same Israelite came back the next day with a few friends. “Aaron, he’s right. You have to be the leader. Moses is nowhere to be seen. People are getting restless, and who knows what they’ll do? There could be mass chaos and violent rebellion if we don’t get a god soon.” “Just wait!” Aaron would reply. “You’ll see. Moses will be back. God has not forgotten us.”

Yet maybe in the back of his mind, Aaron considered their pleas. What if the crowd got out of control? What if they turned on each other? Would that blood be on his hands?

He probably quieted the internal voices of justification for a while, but then day after day more and more people came and the voices grew louder until one day an entire crowd erupted with, “Make us a god who can lead us!”

That was it. He couldn’t take it any longer. What if they were right? What if that is what the people needed? They were looking to him for an answer, so he gave them what they wanted – a god they could see, a golden calf.

In my own life, I recognize how I can be the Israelite looking for an idol, but how many times in my life have I been Aaron, going along with the crowd rather than standing up for God? How many voices does it take before I turn away from my beliefs? Maybe not from my entire faith, but I know that there have been times when I have been the one building the golden calf for others, telling them what they want to hear rather than pointing them to truth.  Each reluctant “I don’t blame you” or “Go ahead if it will make you happy” is a piece of golden jewelry that I’m using to build that person an idol.

We have to watch ourselves when we’re acting like the Israelites, searching for answers from the idols in our lives. But beyond that, we have to watch ourselves when we’re acting like Aaron. Don’t be the one melting down the jewelry just to appease those around you. God has not forgotten you, and God has not forgotten the people in your life. Be the kind of leader who lovingly encourages them and guides them to this truth.

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

09.21.16 – Insights from Glen Shoup

glen-shoupWe had a communication mixup–Chris Abel was going to fill in for another busy writer, but is very busy himself. So this reflection is adapted from one that Rev. Glen Shoup, the Executive Pastor of Worship at The Church of the Resurrection, originally wrote for Thanksgiving Day in 2013.

You are never alone….Many of God’s servants in Scripture faced a time when they  had come to believe the lie that they were all on their own.  Nobody understands.  Nobody cares.  Nobody to turn to.  All alone.

This is such an easy lie to believe, especially when you’re going through the wilderness.  Just ask Moses. Just ask Elijah, the great prophet who served Israel centuries later. Just ask Jesus! When you’re walking through the desert, the temptation through which the devil always seeks to do his most convincing work is the temptation to believe that we’re all alone—now, and forever.  Alone in our pain; alone in our burden; alone in our hopes and alone in our striving. There’s just nothing that can erode and erase hope like believing that you’re alone.

Moses’ father-in-law had to remind him: there were other people who could help him carry his burdens. He was NOT alone…..

You may be reading this today in some quiet moments before spending the rest of your day surrounded by friends or family. Or you may be reading this before spending the remainder of this day absent of family or friends. No matter your circumstances, God is saying to you exactly the same thing he said to Moses (through his father-in-law), to Elijah, even to Jesus several thousand years ago: I understand that there may be times when you feel lonely, but you are never alone—I am with you; I’ll never leave you and I’ll never forsake you. I continue to call you and have work for you to do and others to help you on your journey…you are never alone!

I can’t think of anything for which I’m more thankful.

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

09.20.16 – Insights from Randy Greene

Randy Greene is a part of the Communications team at the Church of the Resurrection. He helps develop and maintain the church’s family of websites. When he’s not at the church, he loves to write on his blog and reads a wide variety of books.

My wife and I are both avid readers. Our library is extensive and contains all sorts of books, from deep theological tomes to nostalgic teen fiction. When we bought our house almost a year ago, we had a vision of building floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in our front living room to greet visitors as they entered our home.

About three weeks ago, she and I decided to begin building this project. Since that time, we have been rudely reminded that we are avid readers… not builders. In three weeks, we have:

  • Made at least two dozen trips to hardware stores all over Kansas City
  • Changed our design twice
  • Returned nearly a dozen items (some of which weren’t our fault, I promise!)
  • Re-purchased one or two of those items we’d returned
  • Broken two drill bits
  • Ended up with far too many errant holes in our wall
  • Far surpassed our initial budget for the project
  • Suffered countless cuts, scrapes, and bruises
  • Cried in anger, frustration, and sadness (not always at the same time)

I wish I could tell you that, as a result of all this pain and stress, we now have a beautiful bookshelf filled with the works of our favorite writers, but the truth is that we are still in the midst of this disaster.

Even though this project will probably have no significant impact on the course of our lives, we feel like we’re wandering in a tiny, emotional version of Moses’ wilderness. We are exhausted. We are frustrated. We simply want the whole thing to go away.

When we struggle through the dark places of our lives, it is easy to forget the God who provides for us. Just as he did with Moses and the Israelites in today’s reading, God nourishes us, prepares us, and defends us. God loves us and fights for us, even in the midst of our wandering.

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