Thank God He Is His Amazing Grace!

 amazing grace2

 https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/14-11-23-thank-god-he-is-his-amazing-grace-hebrews-10-tah.mp3

 In this 24th  Sunday after Pentecost, Pastor Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore proclaims the GOOD NEWS that God is His Grace in this riveting Gospel Message entitled “Thank God He Is His Amazing Grace!”

Pastor Tim explores Hebrews 10 and poses the question:

Will you continue to understand yourself and life in terms of man’s idolatry, rebellion and sin or will you begin, as the scriptures do, by looking at the revelation of God in Jesus Christ? After All, it can only be idolatry to trust in anything other than God, anything other than the One Who made and sustains you!

In this gospel Message we learn that:

~Jesus is the Light of the world, and our idolatry, rebellion and sin are NOT, therefore understanding “Who Jesus is?” is the ONLY Way to begin understanding all of scripture. The Context of Jesus, Himself, must fundamentally guide all of our interpretations of the biblical text!

~Jesus is God as Man,  and therefore, in Him God the Father and Spirit have also taken up the cause of humanity forever, determined that we will not perish!

~Some of our sufferings, though not caused by God, He works in and allows so we can come to the end of ourselves and trust only in Him!

~Grace isn’t something that stands apart from or beside God. GOD IS HIMSELF HIS BENEVOLENCE AND KINDNESS! Grace isn’t something we manipulate, or a magic symbol that we make – God is himself HIS GRACE and He is the one Who ultimately acts and delivers us. He, personally, is your REST!

~We are often looking for God to give us something primarily other than himself when God says in Christ “I AM YOUR RESPONSE TO ME! The one who stands in for YOU! Work to believe and trust that! I Am your reward!”

~We need to THANK GOD HE IS HIS AMAZING GRACE and not divide Him too strictly from the great Works HE does. IT IS HIM at work when His works are being done, NOT a substance or a commodity called “grace”!

~If we don’t understand and proclaim God as his own Grace then we will subtly allow a “works based” and legal orientation into our lives. We will think that it is our prayer or religious things that are getting the job done when it is actually GOD IN AND AS HIS AMAZING GRACE getting the job done, many times in and through those things!

~God’s judgment and destruction doesn’t mean the end of us as men and women, but the end of what seeks to destroy us as men and women! Threats in scripture don’t always mean that the bad consequences are actually going to happen because, as the writer of Hebrews wrote,  “we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”

Listen, Enjoy, be Encouraged, and find rest in the GOOD NEWS of God as His Amazing Grace!

Are You a Fixer?

 

photo courtesy of Krista Ryan/thepinkscrewdriver.com.au

photo courtesy of Krista Ryan/thepinkscrewdriver.com.au

My poor husband.  For over 28 years, he has put up with my “fix-it” tendencies, though to be fair, they have come in handy whenever a doorknob has broken or a faucet has started to drip. It is hard for me to rest when something is broken, or when I think something is broken, or when I think I can make something better. The problem comes when I try to fix or make my husband better.

He accepts this tendency in me, letting my attempts to shape him into the best version of himself roll off his back like water off a duck, and then continues to live the best way he knows how, which is what most of us do anyway. Since my fix-it tendencies were ineffective when directly applied, I began to use the indirect approach – I prayed.

Here’s how my fixing looked in prayer: “Father, Son, and Spirit, please help my dear husband eat his broccoli so that he continues to enjoy good health. Oh, and please inspire him to exercise while you’re at it, as he probably needs to do that, too.  Taking vitamins might also be a good idea.  In Jesus’s name, amen.”

I doubt anyone (at least, any wife) would dispute the wisdom of these requests.  However, as I thought about what I was asking God to do, I realized that I trying to direct God, in addition to fixing my husband – two very questionable goals, both stemming from fear and an overwhelming responsibility to take care of everyone.  When I identified the root issues of fear and a skewed sense of responsibility in my helpful tendencies taken too far, I could see my very specific requests to God were, in fact, my attempts to control that which is outside my domain, and they revealed that I didn’t trust that God’s way of working out our mutual desire for my husband’s well-being.

As believers, I think we have all heard that our prayers to God should be very specific, like incense ground finely, as if not asking for a precise healing might preclude any healing at all, since God might say, “Well, if you would have asked for the artery running to right ventricle to be free of blockages, I probably could have prevented that heart attack.” It’s attitudes like this that turn our prayers into incantations and take us farther from the true intent, that of relationship where we acknowledge that we are held, deeply loved, and cared for.

It’s hard to let go of responsibility when you’re a fixer, but it also can be a relief.  I can still pray (and I do) for health, for safety, for happiness, for freedom from suffering for my loved ones, as well as those I really don’t like, and I know that our God is competently at work in the details. I can pray for healing and for health and not feel as if the outcome depends on me getting the words just right. By letting go and letting God be God, I am getting better at accepting the flaws and brokenness in myself, in others, and in this beautiful world. My name is Nan, and I am a recovering fixer who aspires to one day recognize that imperfections and brokenness are not always in need of fixing; they may even be the best way to see God in each other.

~by Nan Kuhlman

 

 

Jesus’ Compassion On The Harassed And Helpless!

jesus' compassion

https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/14-11-16-jesus-compassion-on-the-harassed-and-helpless-matt-9-35-10-8-tah.mp3

Have YOU ever felt harassed and helpless, like a sheep without a shepherd? Not without clothing, food or water but, in the midst of plenty, still feeling LOST, despite knowing there is a Shepherd????

Of course you have, and do!!!

In this 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, Pastor Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore proclaims a Gospel Message entitled ” Jesus’ Compassion On The Harassed And Helpless!”. In this Gospel he explores Matthew 9: 35 through Matthew 10: 1-8 proclaiming The GOOD NEWS of God’s compassion revealed and active in Jesus! Observing the literal Body of Jesus Christ in Mission reveals God: Father, Son and Spirit does all kinds of interesting and redemptive things with “foolish” participation, people, preaching and pausing!

In this message we hear that:

1~ God in Jesus begins a radical form of calling people to Himself in a gathered and scattered way that transforms their lives and the lives of others as he reaches out in compassion to His world and humanity. God in Christ DOES have an agenda and He DOES care to make himself known to people even as He does good works. He is even willing to become broken to reach out in His compassion and see humanity healed!

2~ Even with money in the bank, food to eat, shelter, we can still find ourselves harassed and helpless, but WHY??? Pastor Tim gives one compelling reason this may be so in our times, considering the present mission of God revealed in Jesus and His determination not to be Himself without us!

3~ We have not understood the “foolishness” of God in Jesus Christ and why we need to be willing to RECEIVE His foolishness as He works in this world to compassionately SAVE people!

4~ Jesus Christ is not only GOD’S GOOD NEWS, He is GOD’S GOOD NEWS in LOVING MOTION: in Gospel Mission and Ministry action, in and through His special believers! In and by the Spirit, believers become THE BODY OF CHRIST – JOINING in what GOD is DOING as He calls and gathers even more disciples and sends them with HIMSELF in MISSION. From the Father, in Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit, believers are the compassion of God, helping to heal His harassed and helpless humanity.

Listen and ask yourself: DO I SEE THE COMPASSION OF GOD REVEALED EVEN IN THE BROKEN HUMANITY OF JESUS CHRIST? AND AM I, THROUGH JESUS AND BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, WILLING TO RESPOND TO GOD’S CALLING TO BE HIS BODY AND COMPASSION RIGHT NOW, AS HE WORKS OUT HOPE AND HEALING IN AND THROUGH MY BROKEN HUMANITY FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS?!

Why?

peter and john running to the tomb by burnand“Why?” seems to be the question that God is least likely to answer. Consider, for example, the story of Peter and John on the beach with the risen Jesus in John 21. Jesus predicts Peter’s death, prompting Peter to look back at John and ask “what about him?” Jesus replies “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

In a sense Peter is asking “why?” Why must I suffer? Why do others receive blessings that I don’t receive? Why do I have this particular life and not the life that I want? Job also asked these sorts of questions and he, like Peter, received the answer that seems like it isn’t an answer: “what is that to you? you must follow me.”

Some might argue that God doesn’t answer any questions, but I have found that some questions do have answers. Does God love us? Yes. Will God be faithful to us? Yes. How should we live? Love God and love our neighbors. Some questions God has answered, but faced with the “why” of life – especially the “why” of suffering – we seem to mostly hear God simply saying “trust me.” She usually doesn’t tell us why and we don’t even know why she won’t tell us why.

In the face of such mystery we are prone, like Peter, to start comparing ourselves with others. That path quickly leads to jealousy. From there it is just a short hop to doubting God’s goodness. After all, if I am focused on what God is doing in someone else’s life then I am most likely missing what God is doing in my own life. And when I stop paying attention to God’s work in my life then I start doubting that God is good and even begin to wonder if God is doing anything at all.

There is a wonderful line in the collect for Proper 12 in The Book of Common Prayer. It says “may we so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal.” Suffering is temporary – and so are wealth, power, and good looks. All the things that make us ask “why me?” or make us ask “why him and not me?” – all those things are temporary. When Jesus says “what is that to you? you must follow me,” he is telling us to look to what is eternal so that we do not lose it. What is eternal? The Father, Son, and Spirit, the love of God, and the love of our friends and family. May we learn to pass through the things that make us say “why?” in such a way that we do not lose the things that make us say “thank you.”

 ~ Jonathan Stepp

The Christian Art of Detachment

 

cartoon courtesy of dissenttheblog.blogspot.com

cartoon courtesy of dissenttheblog.blogspot.com

If you’ve ever attended a Christian church, you’ve probably heard an opening prayer or a worship song that goes something like this:  “Father, please be here with us.”  It seems like a simple, honest request, one that God would want to honor.  Guess what?  He already has, even before we ask.

If God dwells in each one of us through the Holy Spirit (“Christ in you, the hope of glory” – Col. 1:27 NIV), then asking for the Father, Son, and Spirit to be with us doesn’t really make sense.  God is ALWAYS with us, each one of us.  The problem is that we don’t recognize it.  Why not?

The explanation is our “old man,” our ego that keeps us wrapped up in our own stories, retelling events, conversations, and hurt feelings over and over in our minds. If you ever stop to think about what you’re thinking about, you will realize that much of the time, you are either worrying about something in the future or agonizing over something in the past. Me, too. This preoccupation with our feelings and our perceived stories makes it difficult (maybe even impossible) to recognize the gentle presence of the Holy Spirit as we move throughout our day.

Ecumenical teacher Richard Rohr offers this solution:

We need forms of prayer that free us from fixating on our own egos and from identifying with our own thoughts and feelings… If we are filled with ourselves, there is no room for another, and certainly not God. We need contemplative prayer, in which we simply let go of our passing ego needs, which change from moment to moment, so Something Eternal can take over.

What Rohr is talking about is contemplative prayer where we talk less and ask less.  Instead, we listen more. We soak up the calm assurance that we are loved, that certainty communicated without words and without need of words. By detaching ourselves from our ego/old man stories, we are able to sense, and even better, to know with confidence, that the Father, Son, and Spirit have our backs.

We are not alone, whether we remembered to ask for God’s presence or not.  We have never been alone, and we will never be alone.  By recognizing our feelings for what they are and by seeing our proclivity to construct stories and be consumed by them, we can make space to see and feel the presence of God with us always.

~by Nan Kuhlman

 

The Sacred Ministry of Cleaning Out the Porta-Potties

Well you have heard it I am sure. I have personally heard it dozens of times usually in testimonials and from Christians who are in some type of vocational ministry.  The comments usually go something like this, “I spent 25 years in a secular job but now I’m working for the Lord.” Or maybe it is a question to pastors and ministry types, “What was your secular job before you went into full time ministry?” Sometimes we divide entertainment into categories like sacred/ secular. We call some music sacred and some secular.  (Okay full disclosure: as I write this I am listening to my Pink Floyd channel on Pandora®) There is only one source of creativity in the Cosmos- The Triune God. We might spoil our music with rotten lyrics but as adults we should be able to eat the meat and spit out the bones without relying on divisions and religiosity.

Well here’s the straight dope on these sorts of statements and questions- they come from the lie of separation. The lie that we are separated from God began in the Garden with Adam and Eve but the Greeks intellectualized it and then the Christians incorporated it into their teachings through people like St. Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. The idea of being separated from God is fallen. You cannot possibly be separated from God… you have no power to be here… without a connection to a Sustainer you would simply cease to exist. Paul told a whole crowd on non-Christians that they live and move and have their being in Jesus and that Jesus gives life and breath and all things to all mortals. If you plan to die someday then Paul is referring to you!

Additionally in the first words of his gospel John, the beloved disciple, said that Jesus made everything and that nothing exists apart from what Jesus created.portapotty1

One particular year at Higher Ground Summer Camp the Porta-Potty company forgot about us and we had a rather smelly camp by the end of the week because these 12 portable bathrooms on site were not cleaned and with 135 campers and 75 staff well… you get the idea. It was unpleasant to say the least. Well the following year I served as Chaplain and during the final message of the week I kept referring to the sacred ministry of sucking out the porta-potties and each time the teens would giggle. Of course that was the partly the point of it all to keep their interest and make it fun.

Well in conclusion I asked the campers in the Chapel a series of questions: “How many think Jesus created you?” Every hand went up. Then I asked, “How many believe Jesus created you with a need to go to the restroom?” Every hand went up. Then the final query: “How many of you believe that Jesus provides for all of your needs?” Every hand went up and many many lights went on. I could see on their young faces that they’d made the connection.

Now the man who drove the sewage truck and cleaned out the port-potties would likely not tell you that when he was 16 he had a vision from the Lord that his calling would be to clean out portable bathrooms. You see it does not matter why he is doing the job but while he is doing it he is participating in Jesus’ provision for his beloved humanity.

There is no secular only sacred. All is sacred. Yes admittedly we sometimes spoil the things Jesus made. Child abuse is certainly wrong but it is merely a spoiling of something God made that is very good- the relationship between a parent and child. C.S.Lewis wrote, “Goodness is, so to speak itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled.” Do you see it? What you do every day is important in fact as important as what preachers do on Sunday mornings. (maybe more)

Could we travel safely to visit family or help a widow in need without reliable transportation? Thank you mechanics. Could we set bones and administer treatments without doctors and nusrses? Thank you medical professionals. Could we cross vast expanses without bridges? Thank you welders, masons, and construction engineers. Could we enjoy relationships over nice meals out without  restaurants? Thank you chefs, wait-staff, and managers. Thank you farmers, receptionists, firefighters, police, and military. Thank you janitors, teachers, and factory workers. You get the idea. Let us put an end to the snobbery of sacred/ secular and recognize that Jesus is Emmanuel and he is with us no matter what our occupation.

~Bill Winn

Facing Fear

 

photo courtesy of centertechnews.com

photo courtesy of centertechnews.com

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” ~ Pema Chodron

When I first heard the above quote by author and Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, it didn’t make sense to me.  As I thought more about her words, I realized I was putting them in the context of, “There’s a grizzly bear in front of me!” or some other situation where fear is a useful, maybe even a life-saving, emotion to have.  But that’s not what Chodron was speaking about.  Let me put it in the context of my recent venture back into the academic world, not as an instructor, but as a 52-year-old student.

I started my master’s degree in English and creative writing through an online program this past August.  It has always been something I wanted to do, but up to this point, I had managed to make enough excuses to keep it on the back burner.  Each time I thought about it, my heart would rise up in excitement, like an eternal “YES,” until my mind would fill with thoughts about time and money, or how I would juggle other competing responsibilities, and most of all, whether I could handle the work and do it well.  Essentially, FEAR.

I wish I could say I had a formula worked out for overcoming this fear, but I think that what spurred me to act when I hadn’t in the past was that I told people (specifically, I told my boss) that I was going to do it.  So when fear began to creep in, filling my mind with doubts, I had to follow through.

I can’t say that once I was accepted into the online program I wasn’t afraid.  I was; in fact, I still am every time I sit down at my computer to type another assignment.  At times, I don’t have a clue what I’m going to write, or any outline I have seems stupid and sketchy.  Once again, FEAR.

Each time I feel this fear, this unworthiness, this feeling of “not good enough,” I press on, not because the fear goes away, but because I know I’m moving toward my truth, the person God created me to be. Fear is just an emotion, an ego-reaction that is seeking to undermine the Holy Spirit’s prompting to move toward joy.

What is your truth?  What has the Father, Son, and Spirit given you to do that brings you joy and makes your heart leap? This fear we feel is not from God, but from ourselves.  It is easier to play small and low-key than to rise up and be completely authentic from the inside out. By facing our fears and living in the truth of who we are created to be by God, we open ourselves to fully participating in whatever God is doing in the lives of those around us, and we become an encouragement to others to live authentically, too. The joy I have experienced as I’ve moved closer to my truth, the truth of who God created me to be, has far outweighed the uncomfortable feelings of fear that try to hold me back.

 ~by Nan Kuhlman

We were made for this.

Silhouette-Sunrise-Nature-300x225

The sunrise signals a new day and a new beginning.

As I skimmed my Facebook newsfeed today, a quote from a homeschooling blog post caught my eye.

If our homeschool has any hope for success, I must maintain my heart for my children. ~ Jena Borah, At the Heart of Homeschooling.

This is wildly true of my relationship with each of my three children. While there are many things they need to learn during our years of schooling together, what they will take with them academically won’t impact their lives nearly so much as what they will take with them emotionally.

Like most parents, I find it fairly easy with intention to maintain my heart toward my children. I do not always find it as easy to do in my other relationships, with my spouse at times, certain family members, friends and acquaintances. Relationships can so easily become weighted down by disappointment, misunderstanding, and hurt.

Yet the quote could easily be rewritten to say that if my relationships are to have any hope of success, I must maintain my heart for the people in my life — even the difficult ones.

The Internet is full of advice about what to do when you discover someone in your life to be toxic or narcissistic — and the advice basically amounts to: RUN!

There may indeed be times when it is wise to run. But it’s difficult to maintain your heart for someone when you do.

Perhaps this is why the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son didn’t hide from the son who had brought such misery, worry and disappointment into his life — but ran toward him so the people of the community they shared might not shun him since they now saw not the son’s, but the father’s, shame.

Why the Shepherd in the Parable of the Lost Sheep didn’t stop searching for his renegade sheep.

Why Triune God birthed humanity permanently into its very heart and soul with full knowledge of all that it would entail.

Like the characters in the parables that paint pictures of them, they have never stopped maintaining their hearts for us. They never will. In so doing, they have not held our wrongs against us. They have never once turned their backs or waited for us to act correctly so they can act lovingly.

It’s a daunting example to follow because many of us have been seriously hurt by people in our lives and have learned to build barriers of self-protection. I don’t blame anyone for doing so.

But I have also seen cases where people who had every right to insulate themselves from individuals in their lives who caused them distress refused to do so because they truly loved them. The effects of their decisions may never be realised in this life, but I believe the ripples carry into eternity and will be realised there. May we all be so blessed as to be able to look back and see people in our lives who never gave up on us though we gave them every reason to.

Those are the people I aspire to be and while I would never downplay the pain endured by those who feel forced to keep a distance from those who have brought it into their lives, I also know how good it feels to let go of the garden variety grievances that most often plague my relationships and do the most harm.

The cross words. The criticisms. The failures to apologise. The over-stepping. The judgments. The not always being there.

These things sting, yes. But generally, if we’re honest, they don’t amount to much in the end. So often my interpretation of a series of events lacks critical information and my inability to read anyone’s mind.

It’s so much better to let them go and to grant a loved one a clean slate as often as necessary. Deserved by the individual in our human terms or not, it feels so good to do so because we were made for this. It’s in our DNA just as it is in the “DNA” of Triune God. When we refuse to forgive, we are fighting our God-given natures and this is why it burns us from the inside out.

Triune God has shown us through their actions that every human deserves a clean slate and a new beginning with no strings attached. They grant one to each of us with every sunrise, every heartbeat. By maintaining our hearts toward the people in our lives, we follow them in one of the best ways possible.

~ by Jeannine Buntrock

Psalm 23

Autumn Foliage Along a Calm LakeLord, you are my Shepherd,

every little thing gonna be alright.

You’ve given me enough to eat,

and a place to sleep,

and people who love me.

And you’ve shown me how to follow you

and find the meaning of my life.

I’ve also had bad times,

and bad times

will come again,

but I won’t be afraid, just as long as you stand by me.

In the midst of all the anxiety and pain,

you give me bread and wine and oil,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

your life creating my life.

Surely, in light of all this,

I can believe that you are my everlasting home.

 ~ Jonathan Stepp

Profit And Loss

 

 isaiah 55

http://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/01-14-10-05-_profit-and-loss_-phil-3-4-14.mp3

Are you wondering WHEN are you going to experience the treasures that come with knowing God?

In this Gospel Message entitled “Profit And Loss”, Pastor Richard Andrews of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Proclaims the Good News and  gives encouragement through The Apostle Paul and by exploring Philippians 3:4-14 and also by reading the Lectionary, 17th Sunday after Pentecost: That our Profit and Losses are not Fiscal Profit and Losses but Profit in the context of our trials – Treasures in heaven. The kind that are measured in our Blood and Jesus’s Blood. The kind that are measured in sweat and tears.

In this message hear how to see our trials and ourselves differently by learning:

~We need to start seeing Jesus and what HE wants differently.

~We need to start seeing the acts and works of our hands differently.

~We need to start seeing the things that come out of our mouths differently as we grow in Christ.

~Our Prize is to move forward, to press on through trials, to see the heavenly calls. (Isaiah 55-1)

~To count it all as a period of cleansing – Our “Pressure Cooker Period”

~To ask ourselves: AM I READY TO LET GO OF ME? AM I TIRED OF WORKING THINGS MY WAY?

~To see trials as a way of melting/weakening of the flesh/ humbling us.

~To see trials as pointing us to THE ONE IN WHOM ALL ANSWERS ARE FOUND!

~To see trials not just as losing self but GAINING JESUS CHRIST, growing in his righteousness!

In this message we understand that:

~There is NO WAY to share in Jesus’s suffering without US SUFFERING! To know Christ is to know him in his suffering!

~Our Father is saying, STAND UP as a Community in the LOVE of God and WALK as a Community to help other Communities. We are never in a vacuum but rather, US TOGETHER with FATHER SON and SPIRIT embracing us all. We stand in the name and power of Jesus Christ who lives in and through us!

 *photo compliments http://www.libertynews.com

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