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

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.

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The Death of Us All

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Happy Easter! ~Bill Winn (click the image for a larger view)

Graciously drawn for me by Miss Alex Minor, art student at VCU

Graciously drawn for me by Miss Alex Minor, art student at VCU

The Tyranny of Sexual Ethics

Jesus in the Wilderness 2Our ethical behavior is very important, but it is not the most important aspect of our being. What is most important is that we trust that we have been embraced into the life of the God who is Father, Son, and Spirit. Our decisions about what is moral and immoral then flow from this central truth as a secondary result.

Christians who have put their trust in the God who embraces us through Jesus may sometimes disagree about ethical issues. There is no reason that such disagreements should necessarily lead to a break in communion between Christians since, after all, morality is secondary to the good news that God has included us in his life through Jesus.

Unfortunately, this has often not been the case in Christian history. In fact, schism has often resulted from disagreements over what to eat or not eat, what to drink or not drink, and the general rules of how to live a moral life. On such occasions Christians have allowed ethics to establish a tyrannical reign over Jesus and the gospel.

This tyranny is especially visible when it comes to sexual ethics. The results can be quite startling when viewed from a distance. Consider this example:  some 19th century Christians in America disapproved of an unmarried woman having sex but turned a blind eye to masters raping their slaves. Which is the more damaging act of immorality?

In our own age there are many Christians who confidently affirm that Jesus is the central truth of our faith while at the same time allowing the tyranny of sexual ethics to determine whom they regard as a fellow Christian and what message they choose to present to the world about God. What is the gospel? Is it a message about sexual morality or is it a message about the Father who has embraced humanity through Jesus, in the Holy Spirit? Christians who can’t answer that question with clarity and confidence risk worshiping the tyrant of ethics and not the God of love.

I don’t think that homosexuality is a sin, which works out well for my life and ministry in the Episcopal Church, but I understand the perspective of Christians who disagree with me on this issue. I think they’re wrong and they think I’m wrong, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t share communion with them or that I think they aren’t Christians because they disagree with me. Why? Because my spiritual life is ruled by Jesus, not by the tyranny of sexual ethics.

And maybe, at the end of the day, this is the question that non-Christian are asking of the Church: what is really of first importance, Jesus or sex?

~ Jonathan Stepp

Who Are You, Lord?

who are you lord- photo


(Part 1)

(Part 2)

(Part 3)

(Part 4 Q and A)

On this Gospel Learning Day, Dr. Gary Deddo, of Grace Communion International, Proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ at New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, MD. in this 4 part message entitled “Who are You, Lord?”

PLUS, hear Dr. Deddo, in Part 4, respond to questions and answers from the audience, giving clarification on Gospel related issues that you will find extremely thoughtful and helpful!

“Accurately describing a person well is not easy. It’s hard to find the right words and put them together in such a way that they reflect and convey, in a fairly deep way, who they are. This challenge is no less the case when we speak of Jesus Christ. How do we grasp and also express to others who Jesus is? When this task is taken up in a serious and disciplined way by believing people, the church, it’s called Christology. In this class we want to spend some time considering how we can speak, pray, worship, witness and love Jesus Christ as faithfully as we can. With a foundation in Scripture and the help of a number of church teachers down through the ages we’ll see if we can grow deeper in our understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  – Dr. Gary Deddo

Check it out!

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Rebuilding the foundations of human thought

foundationThe gospel subverts the foundations of every idea humanity has ever had.  What follows is an attempt to start rebuilding those foundations.

Because Jesus has died and been raised:

  • Theology – Creaturely life operates by the Spirit within the Son’s relationship with the Father.
  • History – The true story of any society is the story of those it has crucified.
  • Economics – Human needs are ultimately met by gifts, not transactions.
  • Anthropology – The supposed rightness of human sacrifice has been exposed as false, and therefore can no longer function as the glue that holds societies together.
  • Biology – Death is a temporary condition.
  • Space Exploration – Every point of time and space is occupied by a human being. Human colonization of the cosmos has begun, and has in some ways already been completed.

What needs to be added to this list?

Going To Work With God

Working With God

 In this Gospel Message entitled “Going To Work With God”, Dr. Gary Deddo, of Grace Communion International, Proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ at New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, MD. Going through Mark 6:30-44, he helps us receive God’s perspective about our participation with Him!

In This Message you’ll get GREAT clarity on the questions we ask, like:

  • How am I  to understand working with God?
  • Does God do His part and then I do my part?”
  • How do I know when I’m doing my part and doing it right and sufficiently? 

Because the Gospel is Good News, expect answers to these questions that show that Good News in the Light of the God Revealed in Jesus!

PLUS, hear Dr. Deddo respond to questions and answers from the audience, giving clarification on Gospel related issues that you will find extremely thoughtful and helpful!

Check it out!

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Five Things to Remember Before You Judge Me


Photo credit: The RadioNews Blog.

In both the secular and religious media, it seems that a new group is targeted for public outrage nearly every week. Policemen. Rioters and looters. Gays and lesbians. Muslims. Conservative Christians. Pastors. Liberals. Conservatives. Anti-vaxxers. Immigrants. Abortionists. Politicians.

The list is pretty endless, but the result is always the same: people pouring out indignation, derision and judgement upon a group of individuals they rarely know or understand.

In several cases, I have stood just on the outside of more than one of these groups and, because a loved one resided inside, had a window into their experience. And recently, I found myself wholly part of such a targeted group myself.

If you will, allow me briefly to give voice to those whose voices are too often unheard. Here are five things I believe they would say to us.

1) I am human.

Whatever you think of me and what I do, and however much I pretend not to care, I have feelings, just as you do. It always hurts to hear harsh words spoken about me or about people like me.

2) I have a story.

There are reasons why I am who I am and do what I do. If you haven’t gotten to know me, you don’t know my story. If you sat down with me and heard my story, everything could begin to change. You might not change your mind about me completely, and that’s ok. On the other hand, you might. Regardless, we would begin to see each other as the human beings we both are.

3) I am generally misrepresented and misunderstood.

Most of what I read and hear said about me doesn’t properly represent me at all. I deserve the opportunity to tell my story before my motives, my integrity, my very nature are discussed, criticised, ridiculed. When you don’t give me that opportunity, it’s not really me you are deriding, but a caricature of me. Not a real person or group of individuals at all.

4) Even when you think they are justified, your harsh words carry a destructive energy that will end up hurting you the most.

In the end, it doesn’t feel good to anyone to gorge on the blood of another. And it’s only a matter of time until the person lying in the street, symbolically speaking, is you. When that happens, it’s most likely to be those of us who know what it’s like to be in similar shoes who will stoop to raise you up again, and stand between you and those bearing stones.

5) I care about living my life in a way that is right.

 We might disagree as to what is, exactly, right and wrong, but I am trying to live right, just as you are. Doing the right thing does matter to me, though I’ll never get it right all the time. (Nor will you or anyone else.) Because our stories are different, right and wrong is not always drawn in black and white. But if we know each other’s stories, we will become transformed in each other’s eyes as we begin to view each other through eyes of love instead of fear.

Brothers and sisters, I submit to you that what we need most in this world is love. It is what we are made of and made for. Because we are caught up eternally in the exquisite dance and open arms of the Trinity, the love that surrounds us and permeates us is limitless: we have only to tap into it.

It’s not wrong to be concerned with what you believe is right. Some things absolutely need to change if our children have a hope of a bright future in this life. But if we put love first — if we learn each other’s stories and truly connect as human beings — hearts will open and bloom. More genuine rightness in our world is bound eventually to follow as people travel the pathway of love and inclusion instead of the pathway of fear and exclusion.

~ by Jeannine Buntrock

What’s Two Times Five?

sunset-birds1[1]We’ve all experienced that moment when a sunset, a mountain vista, or the crashing waves of the ocean evoke the sense of God’s presence. The natural world seems to speak to us of God’s care for us in unique ways. But how much can we learn about God from nature?

Early Christians, among them the theologians of the fourth century, were skeptical about how useful the natural world could be in revealing God. Their doubt arose from the fact that nature seems to primarily provide us with statements about the Divine that are negative and vague. From observing the creation we could conclude that God is immortal (that is, “not mortal”) and we could conclude that God is unchanging, or that God has no beginning – but all these statements are negatives, not positives. They tell us what God is not (e.g. “not changing”) but they don’t tell us what God is.

Observations from nature are also necessarily vague. We might conclude from observing the universe that God is powerful, perhaps even going so far as to say “all-powerful,” but what does that mean in the end? If we don’t know whether God is good, bad, or neutral, then we don’t know whether that power will be deployed against us or for us. We might be able to create various negative statements about God from observing the natural order but we cannot make positive statements: we cannot, with any degree of confidence, positively state that God is love or God is good or God is on our side. In fact, nature – with its disease and capricious cruelty – could lead to the ultimately negative conclusion: there is no God at all.

Gregory of Nazianzus pointed out that “he who is eagerly pursuing the nature of the Self-existent will not stop at saying what God is not, but must go on beyond what God is not, and say what God is.” Gregory offers the following analogy: to speak of God merely in terms of what he is not is like being asked “what is two times five?” and replying “it’s not one, or two, or three, or four, and so on” but never actually saying that the answer is “ten.” (The Second Theological Oration, Oration 28, paragraph 9.)

Athanasius of Alexandria concluded that “it is more pious and more accurate to signify God from the Son and call Him Father, than to name Him from His works only and call Him Unoriginate.” Athanasius stated quite simply that “we must take our knowledge of the Spirit from the Son.” (Against the Arians, Discourse I, chapter 9, paragraph 34 and Letters to Serapion on the Holy Spirit, Letter 3, paragraph 3.)

For these early Christians nature was not enough to tell them of the Father, Son, and Spirit, or enough to tell them of God’s abiding, faithful love for humanity. To truly know God as God is, they encourage us to look at the Son of the Father, Jesus Christ, through whom we receive the Holy Spirit. He is the image of the invisible God and in him we have a true and trustworthy revelation of the God who loves us without reservation.

~ Jonathan Stepp


It’s All Good News In Jesus!

 In this Gospel Message entitled “It’s All Good News In Jesus”, Pastor Richard Andrews of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Proclaims the Good News and shows through John 6: 1-14, that Jesus wants to share with you HIS perspective,which is ALL GOOD NEWS!

Hear in this message that:

  • When Jesus encounters you, your life will be flipped inside out because HE IS THE WAY THE TRUTH AND THE LIGHT!
  • When we use our perspective, all we are used to seeing is what is right in front of us, which is all bad news!
  • When we understand WHO JESUS IS and who WE ARE IN HIM then we can understand HIS SOVEREIGNTY!
  • It is all about God’s GOODNESS. God who is Father, Son and Spirit CARE TO INCLUDE US IN THEIR LIFE!


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