Do you love me?

It was a bit cooler than normal on the sea of Tiberius. It was calm enough, but a light breeze blew out of the North, and there was a chill in the air. And that wasn’t the only chill. The boys and I were out fishing because we needed some food and we were also hoping to catch enough fish to sell. I have a family and so do some of the others but what really had us chilled was all that had taken place over the last couple of weeks. You see following Jesus has been the most astounding journey any of us have ever taken. We’ve seen things you would not believe! We have seen Jesus put the religious rulers in their place, we’ve seen him heal the blind, and raise the dead. But something has changed .A few days ago Jesus was crucified. He told it would happen, I tried to stop the soldiers from arresting him but Jesus called me Satan and went with them willingly. I suppose what has shamed me the most is that I betrayed him three times, just like he predicted I would.

None of us are sure how it happened or what it means really, but Jesus is alive! He is alive! You might think I’m crazy, but I saw him beaten, I saw him crucified, and I was there when they laid him in the tomb. But he is alive; somehow, the grave could not keep him! Somehow he is here. Oh, yes! We have seen him… and you know what? He is still human. You see the morning after we’d fished all night (and caught nothing) we came near the shore and there he was cooking his breakfast. He told us where to cast the net and we caught a mess of fish like you’ve never seen. The haul was too heavy to pull into the boat. We ate breakfast and laughed together and then Jesus suggested we go for a walk.

Walks usually meant one thing… important conversations. We knew Jesus was going to tell us something that we really needed to hear but I had no idea how important this walk, with Jesus, would be for me.

Jesus looked at me and asked, “Peter, do you love me?” I replied “yes”, and Jesus said, “Feed my lambs” Then Jesus asked me again, “Peter, do you love me?” Again, I answered, “Yes” and Jesus said, “Tend my sheep.” So again, a third time, Jesus asked, “Peter do you love me?” I was a bit hurt but managed, “Yes Lord, you know everything. You know I love you.” So Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

Well what you might not know is that in our language Jesus asked, “Peter do you agape me?” I responded, “I philo you.” A second time Jesus asked, “Do you agape me?” A second time I replied, “I philo you.” Then, the third time Jesus asked me, “Peter do you philo me?” That’s when I said, “Yes Lord you know everything, you know I philo you.”

Tim's Smallie

Tim Brassell’s Smallmouth Bass

You see agape love is love that is pure and complete that comes from the Father and I did not have the capacity to love like the Father so I just said I philo you, which means “I love you with a brotherly love”. We did this same back and forth twice until Jesus, knowing all along that I was not capable of agape love asked, “Peter do you philo me?” and I said, “Yes Lord you know everything, you know I philo you.”

Despite my limited love for him do you know what Jesus said to me each time I confessed my incapacity for agape love? Each time he said, “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep.”

What I learned that day is that no matter what we bring to the table Jesus can use it, multiply it, and that Jesus does not want to do his ministry without us no matter our limitations or hang-ups.

That morning I couldn’t help remembering the little boy, who gave up his lunch, so that Jesus could take two small fish and five pieces of bread and use it feed 5000 people.

I’ll venture a guess that what you have to offer the Lord is a bit more than a few fish and loaves but even if that’s all you have jump in, participate, and be amazed at the wonderful miracles Jesus will do through you!

~Pete

Why Jesus’ Church Fellowships More And More! pt.3

fellowship

https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/15-04-19-why-jesus-church-fellowships-more-and-more-pt-3-hebrews-10-tah.mp3

 In pt. 3 of this Gospel Series, Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Proclaims the GOOD NEWS of The God Revealed in Jesus Christ with a new message entitled, “Why Jesus’ Church Fellowships MORE And MORE!” pt.3.

In this message you’ll:

  • Hear the Truly Good News in two awesome quotes that will fill your soul with God’s Goodness – one VERY OLD and one more recent!
  • Learn more of what the Church actually is and reconsider thinking of it the way the Apostle Paul does!
  • Have THREE MODERN MYTHS about the Church exposed in the Light of what the Church actually is!
  • Start to learn the place and importance of marriage, singleness and friendship as they relate to the Church and be challenged by missionary Gracia Burnham’s statement that “The point isn’t to grow old with your mate. That’s not the point. The point is …”

Tune in to hear the rest of that statement and MUCH MORE!

The Opening of the Triune Life

Trinity FlameWhat is it, exactly, that God has done in the cross and resurrection of Christ? One very beautiful way to understand salvation is to see that God has opened his own self to include humanity in his life. The cross and the resurrection are what the opening of the Triune Life looks like when expressed in time and space.

Reaching back to some of the most ancient theology of the Church (from the Second Century), Miroslav Volf paints an image of what has happened in the passion and resurrection which we are celebrating during this Easter season:

When the Trinity turns toward the world, the Son and the Spirit become, in Irenaeus’s beautiful image, the two arms of God by which humanity was made and taken into God’s embrace (see Against Heresies 5.6.1.). That same love that sustains nonself-enclosed identities in the Trinity seeks to make space “in God” for humanity. Humanity is, however, not just the other of God, but the beloved other who has become an enemy. When God sets out to embrace the enemy, the result is the cross. On the cross the dancing circle of self-giving and mutually indwelling divine persons opens up for the enemy; in the agony of the passion the movement stops for a brief moment and a fissure appears so that sinful humanity can join in. We, the others – we, the enemies – are embraced by the divine persons who love us with the same love with which they love each other and therefore make space for us within their own eternal embrace. ~ Exclusion and Embrace, Abingdon Press: 1996. pp. 128-129

In light of this amazing opening of God’s life to her enemies, we are stunned to realize that the one who says “love your enemies” has, herself, gone ahead of us in this task. God does not call us to love our enemies while she carries on hating hers. God invites us to believe in the possibility of a new world where we and those whom we hate can be reconciled. That’s why we call it the good news (gospel) of God.

~ Jonathan Stepp

Why Jesus’ Church Fellowships More And More! pt.2

fellowship

https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/15-04-12-why-jesus-church-fellowships-more-and-more-pt-2-hebrews-10-tah.mp3

In this Gospel Message Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Proclaims the GOOD NEWS of The God Revealed in Jesus Christ through his Part 2 series entitled, “Why Jesus’s Church Fellowships MORE And MORE!” pt.2. He explores the Church in the Light of Jesus  by reading through Hebrews 10: 19-39, including comments and discussion with the congregation!

In this message you’ll learn some Church “basics” and things you can consider if you’re interested in being Jesus’ disciple or encouraging others to be His disciples, including:

  • The main positive of the Church in this world AND some of the challenges the Church faces as it stands for and against this world!
  • Who and what your main enemy is and why you absolutely CAN BE COURAGEOUS AND NOT AFRAID!
  • The fatal error in the old phrase which says “I think, therefore I am!”
  • The fact that as you take part in and with Jesus there is definitely Some One to say YES to, and some one to say NO to!
  • What Heaven REALLY is!
  • That the “The Church may have a building but that is not its place. The building may be the Church’s location, but it’s space is in ….”

Listen in as the rest of that last sentence is given and clarity is shed about the Church’s Life, including one major myth we have about Church!

The Beauty of Sangha

NY Sangha, photo courtesy of insidenewyork.com       In Sanskrit, there is a lovely word:  sangha.  This word is used in Buddhism to refer to a spiritual community, a community that encourages, uplifts, and is kind to one another, recognizing a common journey toward what is called Enlightenment in Buddhism. A sangha can be a face-to-face meeting with others, or it can be online, where members post their concerns, questions, and encouragement for others.

In Christian circles, we might call our spiritual community a congregation, but our goal of comforting and encouraging one another as we more fully understand the Father, Son, and Spirit is the same. However, in Christian circles today, we find that the congregation is often more concerned with policing its members than it is with being kind to them. In fact, in the media or online, Christians are sometimes seen verbally attacking other Christians who disagree with their views. Other than extremist groups, one rarely sees criticism of Christianity from outside religions, but there is plenty of in-fighting. Where have we gone wrong?

First, we have the mistaken notion that perfection is possible.  We want God to tell us what is expected of us so we can do it.  The problem with that is that God doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all list for us to follow, much to the chagrin of those who very much like picking and choosing certain Old Testament laws to keep.  Instead, God wants us to grow in our relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit and listen for our individualized “list,” the one that comes to us as we live our very ordinary lives.  The prompting we receive shows us how to better love and be kind to those around us each day, and what it lacks in concreteness, it makes up for in the satisfaction of knowing that we have worked with the Divine in making someone feel loved.

Another reason our Christian congregations can lack community is the overwhelming desire to be right rather than loving.  As we all grow at a different pace and in differing areas, we at times feel friction with those who want to hold on to the familiar, comfortable, often legalistic Christianity that is the foundation of many longstanding churches and denominations.  I, too, have felt the impatience with those who long for the solid ground of legalism to stand on, and many times I just wanted to shout, “Let go! It’s OK to let go!” My impatience, as I later realized, was strongly tied to my need to be right, and not my calling to be loving.  As with a typical human family, each member is at a different life stage (i.e., baby, child, teen, young adult, middle-aged adult, senior citizen), and each has a contribution to make.  By realizing that God isn’t looking for perfection, just participation, we can better lovingly support and encourage each other, no matter where we are on the journey, by realizing that God isn’t concerned with rightness but our ability to love despite differences.

We Christians can learn a lot from the Buddhist word sangha, along with other principles we share in common, such as kindness, compassion, and contemplation. We must begin by first seeing our calling as a community of loving encouragement instead of moral perfection, especially as God is more concerned with relationship than moralistic works.

~by Nan Kuhlman

Behold and Be-Held! Jesus Makes Everything New!

 jesus

https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/15-04-05-behold-and-be-held-jesus-makes-everything-new-1-cor-15-tah.mp3

 In This Easter Resurrection Message Pastor Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Proclaims the GOOD NEWS of The God Revealed in Jesus Christ through his message entitled, “Behold and Be-Held! Jesus Makes Everything New!” . In this message he shows through 1 Cor 15 that at the root of and core of our being is the risen Lord Jesus and He seizes and summons us to participate with him as He leads and guides in our day and in our humanity!

Hear in this message that:

  • Our celebrations during the Easter Season are not the Resurrection, but neither is our sadness and anxiety! JESUS is the Resurrection and our current celebrations and sadness point to Him!
  • You don’t have to feel pressured to prove Jesus rose but, as THE RESURRECTION and THE LIFE, Jesus creatively makes Himself known! Your role is to trust and obey Him as you witness to Him in the power of the Spirit at His direction!
  • The Resurrection is NOT primarily about life after death or our personal, me-centered salvation! Rather, it is about something ENTIRELY NEW and far more extensive = Life AFTER “life after death” and the entire cosmos!
  • Because of the way Jesus Revealed Himself in His Resurrection, He is not only alive as Lord but alive as God of Everyone and Everything! This means:
    • You must face the realization of being met by Him and challenged to be who you are in him in His grace!
    • Jesus not only has the right to be your Savior and the Center of your world but has the right to take you into the Center of His world!
    • You can experience freedom as His Father’s child ONLY under His Lordship and Mastery!
    • You get to take the Holy Spirit more seriously than your own frail humanity, though we all still live in the “already but not yet”.
    • You do not have to be afraid of the dark in any form or shape because when Jesus rose, YOU rose with Him THEN as an overcomer!
  • There is a challenge, promise, warning and question Easter brings to you, and the most important question in life is not your question but Jesus’ question to you, which is…….

….you’ll have to listen in to hear the answer and MUCH more of God’s Good News!

 

 

 

You don’t have to try so hard

sadI was driving recently when this song came on the radio. It was uncharacteristically quiet in the car, so I was able to tune in to the lyrics for the first time. As I was thinking about how to explain them to my 7-yr old daughter, who I could also tell was listening, she beat me to the punch, saying, Mom, this song is about being yourself.

Wait a second,
Why should you care, what they think of you,
When you’re all alone, by yourself, do you like you?
Do you like you?

As usual, she was right. On the heels of my pleasure that she recognised this truth, that she should be herself, came the worry that she might not always do so. I know I haven’t always recognised it, even when, looking back, I see that I should have — and all too often I still don’t. There are many ways I have felt pressured over the years to make myself into the image of someone who is not me.

Society, though an extremely strong causative factor, has not been the only one. Christianity, or my former understanding of it, was once another. I once believed that the admonitions to “die to self” meant that I was to strive to cut everything out of myself that was me, until all that remained was Jesus.

But oh, how heartbroken I would be were my daughter to try to cut anything out of herself to be what she thought I, or anyone else, wanted her to be.

When you think about it, if life were an exercise in removing as much of ourselves as possible in order for Jesus to shine through, what would have been the point of any of it? Why make a plan to include humanity in the love and dance of the Trinity only to exclude us from the dance because we, in our humanity, were insufficient.

Indeed, we in our humanity alone are insufficient. But the GOOD NEWS is that we have not been alone in our humanity since Jesus entered our world as an infant, becoming permanently united with his humanity and with the humanity of every person who had ever lived and who ever would.

We are not just hosts for him to inhabit, or soldiers for his will. Triune God desires a love relationship with each one of us. With so many people in the world, it’s hard to imagine that we are each that important to God. He is that limitless though.

You don’t have to try so hard,
You don’t have to give it all away,
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up,
You don’t have to change a single thing.

By opening our eyes to who we are in Jesus, we will change — but we’ll change in the same way a flower changes when it opens and blooms. Dying to self doesn’t mean the death of our desires, dreams and talents, but the death of our false-selves. Our false-selves are the parts of us that have grown from fear: fear that we are not enough, fear that we are evil or dirty, fear that we will never measure up, fear that we are all alone in this world, fear that drives us to separate ourselves from others so we might be noticed. Who we are in Jesus does not include those false selves because in his eyes, and joined with us permanently as he is, we are enough — we are not evil or dirty — it has never been about measuring up — he will never leave us alone in this world or any other — and he really does have the capacity to love every individual who has ever lived as if he or she were the only individual who has ever lived.

I believe that we are designed to be people of the utmost kindness and gentleness — to both others and ourselves. Change in that direction is always a good thing, and rather than stripping away from us that which we are, it reveals who we are at heart: a beloved, beautiful union of divine and human.

Take your make-up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don’t you like you?
‘Cause I like you.

Song lyrics:  Try by Colbie Caillat.

~ by Jeannine Buntrock

Why Jesus’ Church Fellowships More And More! pt.1

fellowship

(We had a few audio problems while recording this message and apologize, but it is still in good enough shape to hear!)

https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/15-03-08-why-jesus-church-fellowships-more-and-more-pt-1-heb-10-tah.mp3

In this season of Lent, Pastor Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Proclaims the GOOD NEWS of The God Revealed in Jesus Christ through his message entitled “Why Jesus’s Church Fellowships MORE And MORE!” pt.1. He explores Hebrews 10: 19-39 , posing the question to the congregation: “How can this Lenten Season perspective be VERY helpful to us as we hear about the subject of Fellowship?” He shows that God has shared HIS fellowship with US, through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit. So God is a Union and Communion of persons TOGETHER, and that must be who and what His Church is like!

Hear in this message:

  • YOU are who YOU are in JESUS CHRIST and NOT what others say about you OR what you have!
  • What the fundamental cause of our transgressions against each other is!
  • Why Prayer and Scripture reading is vitally important!
  • Why we MUST begin with JESUS CHRIST and not any other or anything else!

Listen to this interactive message, as Pastor Tim poses these questions to the congregation:

  • What are the reasons you been told as to why you need to attend Church?
  • Why is meeting together important and encouraged MORE AND MORE?

Not Either-Or but Both-And

Angel and Demon tug of war tattoo courtesy of Pinterest       There is a logical fallacy called the False Dilemma, more commonly known as the “Either-Or” fallacy.  This fallacy presents that for any given problem, there are only two solutions, and usually one (or sometimes both) of them is pretty distasteful. One example of this fallacy can be found in political ads, where voters are told something like, “Either you vote for Candidate X, or America will continue to decline.” Even simple shampoo ads convey to viewers that either you wash with Brand Y or your hair will not be soft and shiny. This fallacy has also made it into the realm of Christianity. When we think about the crucifixion of Jesus as the result of the wrath of God for our sinfulness, we are presented with an either-or dilemma:  either Jesus dies for our sins or we die for our sins.  Neither prospect seems like it would come from a God of love.

We human beings are a compilation of contradictions: we want the security of a savings account but we also want possessions; we want to work but we also want leisure time; we want to be thin and fit but we want to eat anything we want and never exercise; we gravitate toward sin but we are children of God.  When we get caught in dualistic thinking (believing there are only two ways for us to be, either good or bad), we start identifying ourselves as being only one of those two ways.  We either see ourselves as good (righteous, moral) or we see ourselves as bad (sinful, licentious), rather than seeing ourselves as the complex composite that is held together by the master transformer Jesus.

“For in him we live and move and have our being,” it says in Acts 17:25 (NIV). We are living and moving and having our being in a variety of ways, most of which contradict each other as our true selves wrestle with our false selves (our egos).  “For in him” is the key part of this verse, as the god-man Jesus has brought our two selves, both true and false, together in him. It is no longer “either-or:” either you follow a legalistic set of rules or church doctrine or you don’t belong to God.  Rather, in Jesus, it is “both-and:” Jesus is big enough to contain our dualities, and even more importantly, it is in him that they are reconciled and put to bed, like the tired, petulant children they are. In fact, Jesus himself offers us the reconciliation of two contradictions:  fully human and fully divine.  By demonstrating his ability to hold together these opposites, it proves Jesus’s ability to hold together ours.

As we more fully grasp that Jesus is the glue to hold together those “either-or” parts of ourselves, we can better understand the crucifixion.  We now see that it wasn’t an angry God taking out his wrath on his Son so that we could live.  Instead, we see the god-man Jesus taking our contradictions, our good, our bad, our love, our hate, into himself and then rising again that Easter Sunday, transformed.  “For when we died with Christ, we were set free from the power of sin,” Romans 6:7 (NLT) informs us.  This setting free means taking the entirety of human existence, both the beautiful and the ugly, and reconciling it all in himself. No more “either-or,” but instead, BOTH-AND. We are both good AND bad, often at the same time, and until we can accept that about ourselves, our dualistic nature puts up barriers to the transformation Jesus desires to work in us.

We can celebrate this resurrection day coming soon, knowing that all our parts are held by Jesus, both good and bad.  What’s more, in him they are reconciled, made sense of and transformed, turned into the good, loving kindness that is the Father, Son, and Spirit. No more being either good or bad, but lovingly held together in the Triune embrace.

~by Nan Kuhlman

Identity Christus!

identity in christ

https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/01-15-22-08-identity-christus-eph-2-1-10-john-3-14-21-tony-marra.mp3

On this 5th Sunday of Lent, Pastor Tony Marra of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Proclaims the Good News of the God revealed in Jesus and shows through  Ephesians 2: 1-10 and John 3: 14-21, that our TRUE identity is in JESUS CHRIST! God’s will is that ALL would come to know him through Jesus Christ and that our identity Crisis is something that needed to be overcome and accomplished ONLY through Jesus Christ!

Hear in this message that:

  • God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. We are FREE in CHRIST!
  • We no longer find our identity in the dead life of sin and darkness. God the Father sent His one and only Son to rescue us from our false identity inherited from Satan the father of lies.
  • We were blind to our identity until our Triune God of love broke through our darkness and revealed our true identity in Christ. Through Jesus and the Spirit we now know who our real Father is and are raised up to our eternal home where we were always meant to be.
  • The whole world needs an “Identity Christus“. In Christ we find our true identity as beloved children of God seated at the right hand of the Father and in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

photo compliments christcenteredstudentministry.com

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