In this Concluding Message of the series entitled ” Understanding God’s ‘If, And’s, or Buts’ Relationally!”, Part 4, Pastor Timothy Brassell of New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Proclaims The GOOD NEWS of our Real Participation in the Real Love and Life of the Loyally Loving God Revealed in Jesus Christ – God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
In this Final Message:
* Hear again how God Himself is the Greatest Love Story in Existence and HAS GRACIOUSLY INCLUDED YOU AND ALL HUMANITY IN IT!
*Learn more pointedly what it means that YOU are made in the Image of God and why it is crucial to understand this properly!
* Understand the specific factors in your life that hinder you from embracing God’s Covenant Love and how God has overcome that!
* Grasp 5 specific reasons God uses “Ifs, ands or buts” language in His unconditional loving of you and how God’s uses consequences in your life to shower His unfailing love on you!
Recently, in pastoral ministry with Jesus, I was placed in the unenviable position of having to choose between the lesser of two evils in addressing a real life and troubling situation! Yikes! Talk about struggling with what to do! I began to pray and write out my options, desperately trying to find a potentially better 3rd option, but it was not to be.
After thinking carefully and much, and talking with another close friend in ministry about my dilemma, it seemed clear that, the case being the case, I would have to choose the lesser evil and “sin boldly”, as Martin Luther, the Reformer, might have said. I must admit that after talking with God, Father, Son and Spirit in prayer, and carefully thinking about the entire situation, I actually had peace and confidence about acting on the lesser evil even though, of course, it was not “ideal”. Long story short, everything worked out better than I could have hoped. I mean!!!
Of course I was delighted last week when a fellow pastor of mine told the story in his sermon about a priest who chose between the lesser of two evils and the result was a miraculous and positively transformed life at the other end of his action. Then, to top it off, I was watching the television series “Luther” last week and heard this dialogue before my very ears:
Friend to Luther: “You know that what you did wasn’t right, don’t you?”
Friend to Luther: “Then why did you do what was wrong?”
Luther: “Because it was the right thing to do!”
Hahahaha…Wow! Powerful! The writers of that show seem to know something about living in situations that aren’t always ideal. The thing is, I believe that anyone who watched that episode in its context would most naturally believe that the “wrong” thing was the “right” thing to do in that situation and resulted in real lesser evil.
“Wow! Jesus, you sure are funny and comforting! Thanks!” I thought to myself after wrestling with my difficulty and then having these quick follow ups come to my attention over the next couple weeks.
It all has me thinking a little differently about what may be going on with you and me in our present mission, sufferings and trials with Jesus. You see, I have been tempted to think, in most cases (and because of my legalistic, rule-based, “bible-primarily-as-an-instruction-book” religious background!) that “Gawd!” is all about the exact right and ideal choices, every time. And when you and I don’t always make the exact right choices at the exact right time about these all important rules, “Gawd!” makes us pay for those lesser and greater evils by rubbing our noses in the bad consequences, or simply ignores and/or punishes us until we learn to do EXACTLY what Jesus would do!
Can you relate with that kind of “idealistic” thinking? “Idealistic” meaning that it supposedly has the best chance of resulting in and motivating us to do what looks exactly right according to the rules?
But what if the God Revealed in Jesus Christ to be the fullness of God, Father, Son and Spirit, in flesh, is God? And what if that Relational God, in the fallen flesh of Jesus, has experienced every thing we experience, including things like temptation, loud crying and tears, broken family relationships, the betrayal of friends, loneliness, the rejection of His Good News, great suffering and even death, like the scriptures say He has?!
Not the most idealistic action on God’s part, huh?
And yet, that realistic act of God, Father, Son and Spirit in Jesus, wrestling with and through our sin and blindness in our broken humanity (versus idealism), was just the right thing to do, in God’s opinion, even though it was oh so WRONG! The result was humanity’s adoption as sons and daughters into the love, life and relationship of God the Holy Trinity! The result was our being saved from sin, death, hell and the grave and becoming partakers of the divine nature! Shewowsa!
Are you more idealistic than God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit? hmmmmmm….Even God Himself did not (could not?!) redeem us without sitting where we sat (even though He did not sin, of course!)
Because God is the Social God of Grace, including Humanity in His Dance, Dream and Mission, He is NOT the solitary god of toxic waste (as my friend Baxter Kruger might say!). He is more interested in people than He is in a set of abstract rules, therefore:
- Maybe you are suffering perplexity about everything, including God, so that Father can get rid of your idealism and prepare you for more participation in His REAL down and dirty ministry in this present evil age?
- Maybe you need to face and carry the dilemmas and dark secrets that people who don’t know of the God revealed in Jesus have to face and carry, so that you will not be arrogant but REALLY understand where they’re coming from and love them with REAL compassion, not just something that looks like compassion?
- Maybe you are experiencing a mess in your close relationships after many years of “peace” because you have been so sheltered in a religious and “ideal” culture you weren’t appreciative or aware of what people “on the street” are really going through in theirs, and you’re being made ready to serve and be FOR them?
- Maybe God the Holy Spirit is distressing your view of the scriptures because you are beating others up with “the rule book of standards and weights” in your efforts to get them on the ideal track, and not loving and understanding them where they are, so you can join Him in mission right in the middle of their doubting faith too?
- Maybe you are unaware that you are still so solitary and self-centered, you even unconsciously think you stand apart and above the others “out there”, and God is allowing you to be blindsided just like your brothers and sisters in this troubling world are, so you can IDENTIFY AND RELATE WITH THEM AS YOU POINT THEM TO GOD IN YOUR MESS, TOO, IN HIS GRACE?
Hmmmmmmm….just another Christ-centered perspective to chew on about your life and considering the fact that GOD, FATHER, SON AND SPIRIT REFUSES TO BE ON MISSION AND LOVE OTHERS WITHOUT YOU (again, NOT the choice of an idealist huh?…heehee…), in this present age!
- Timothy J. Brassell
In this Gospel Message entitled ” To Love Another Person Is To See The Face Of God”, visiting Pastor to New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Pastor Paul Kurts Proclaims through this quote by Victor Hugo and 1 John 4:7-14, “To Love Another Person is to see the face of God” – to KNOW him more intimately.
Hear in this message that:
~ Jesus lives in you through and by the power of the Holy Spirit! There is no other source of JOY, LIFE and LAUGHTER other than JESUS! He is the Author of EVERYTHING GOOD!
~Sometimes the Spirit takes us out of our comfort Zone so that we can not only KNOW GOD’S LOVE but also, so that we can SHOW GOD’S LOVE! We are called to Love one another with the kind of love the Father, Son and Spirit showers upon us, even when that love HURTS…even when that love is HARD….even when that love is CHALLENGING! 1 John 4:7
~The Story-Line of the Musical “Les Miserables” is a story filled with The Gospel, LOVE -REDEMPTION- FORGIVENESS – MERCY- GRACE – PASSION – SACRIFICE! Like the Bible it is riddled with brokenness but it ends with LIFE! Salvation has a positive ending. It includes our participation in the Father’s GRACE and LOVE AND US SHARING IN IT WITH OTHERS! It is GOD in HIS GRACE that teaches us how to live!
Collette Bliss is an amazing young lady who comes from a family full of very talented people. From theology to singing to musical instruments and drama the members of her family is one of the most widely gifted I have ever met. This year at The Rock Summer Camp ( http://www.therockcampnc.com ) Collette performed a poetry slam she had written about make up and the way it is sometimes misused to mask and cover pain. The pain she addresses is pain she has seen in the lives of those around her who are not blessed to come from such a wonderful family as she.
Fathers especially pay attention… and moms… go get your husbands and ask them to watch this with you.
The Lord’s Cosmos is a better place because Collette Bliss exists! Let her bless you today with this insightful poetry slam. Just click the blue link “Layers of Lies“
In this Gospel Message entitled ” Understanding God’s ‘If, And’s, or Buts’ Relationally!” Part 3, Pastor Timothy Brassell of New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Proclaims though Psalm 89 and Hebrews 8-9 The GOOD NEWS of the COVENANT-KEEPING GOD Revealed in Jesus Christ – God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
In this Interactive Discipleship Message:
* Hear the call and challenge, as Jesus’ disciple, to a lifetime of continual repentance and transformation as we live in a state of “becoming” till Jesus returns and are asked “What will you be doing when He returns?”
*Learn how crucial it is to see Life through the lens of God the Father , Son and Spirit in Covenant Love, lest we find ourselves adding problems on top of our already challenging problems, and maybe even adding to those problems with a “great attitude and hard work ethic”. Yikes!
* Rehearse that you have been saved into a Relationship which is active and realistic so that your participation with Jesus now is one that is not apathetic or triumphant, but one where you are occupied till the Lord comes.
* Learn why to resist this world with Jesus means pain and suffering but also a profound and unspeakable joy!
Listen in and see what you think!
Lynn Stevens was a stripper for almost twenty years. But because of the organization We Are Cherished (founded in 2010 by another ex-stripper in Texas), Stevens came to realize she was loved and valued by the group’s volunteers, and ultimately, by God.
As a way to give back, Stevens started the We Are Cherished Ohio group to reach out to women employed at strip clubs in the Columbus, Ohio, area. Each month, Stevens and other volunteers take gift bags containing lip gloss, hand sanitizer, earrings, and handwritten notes to the women. The notes are particularly meaningful: “You are valued,” “Praying for you,” and “You are loved.”
The group provides the gift bags to the women (and home-baked brownies and Starbucks gift cards to the bouncers) without asking them to leave their jobs. Stevens says, “If we take away their choice, we take away love.” Even if the women remain strippers, Stevens and the group insist that “we’re going to love you right where you are.”
I find this story compelling, and I’m especially drawn to the practice that the group loves the strippers right where they are, without requiring or expecting change. For many of us, accepting and loving others without seeking to change them (even when it would be for their own good) is a difficult task. It seems plain that if a person is engaged in a behavior that is hurting them (or demeaning them), he or she would want to change – at least, that is what we might think. This creates a paradox for most believers, who are happy to share the good news of God’s love but at the same time find it nearly impossible to share this love without expecting changed behavior from the recipient.
We first need to recognize this tension at work as we take part in sharing God’s love with those who happen to cross our paths or with those we interact with intentionally. By communicating any expectation of a reciprocal change for our efforts, we “take away love,” as Stevens says.
Being able to hold the sometimes opposing values of loving people and accepting them where they’re at is clearly a work of the Holy Spirit and not something we are naturally inclined to do. Ecumenical teacher Richard Rohr says that
It is not something you can merely attain by practice, although that is necessary, too. All you can do is abide in God, and then God holds the tensions in you and through you and with you – and largely in spite of you! Such a way of living is a participation in the very life of God, who holds all things in unity and compassion. (Holding the Tension: The Power of Paradox)
The example set by Lynn Stevens and the volunteers at We Are Cherished Ohio should inspire us as we participate with God in ministry wherever we are and wherever we go. Letting go of our need to judge and our desire to be “successful” in ministry will allow the Holy Spirit to create the spaciousness we must have in our hearts to love people right where they are. Stevens says, “Jesus loves strippers, too.” So should we.
~by Nan Kuhlman
For more information, see We Are Cherished .
Special thanks to the Associated Press for their article featuring Lynn Stevens and We Are Cherished Ohio
In this Gospel Message entitled ” Understanding God’s ‘If, And’s, or Buts’ Relationally!” Part 2, Pastor Timothy Brassell of New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Proclaims though Psalm 89 The GOOD NEWS of the COVENANT GOD Revealed in Jesus Christ – God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
In this Message:
- Hear how “God’s steadfast love is not a contract but a covenant that depends on God to fulfill both sides of in unconditional grace in His unrelenting purpose or reconciliation which he pledged to work out through Israel for all people!”
- Learn that because God is Himself OUR salvation, then Salvation is not just a static some”thing” we are saved FROM but a DYNAMIC RELATIONSHIP of the RELATIONAL GOD we are saved INTO; emphasizing that the God Who IS, DOES Who He is!
- Be challenged not only to hear the GOOD NEWS, but challenged to EMBRACE and BE TRANSFORMED AGAIN and AGAIN, as Jesus’ disciples, BELIEVING that, as men and women made in His Image, BELIEVING is an ACTIVE, MOVING, RESPONSIVE, PARTICIPATING, RELATIONAL RISK-TAKING ACTIVITY to the glory of the Father, through the Son and by the Spirit!
This message also touches on the often difficult but realistic situations we can find ourselves in as we live out and dimly show God’s Covenant Love in our present marriages and personal lives!
Check it out….
Perhaps it is always the way, but it seems that so much is happening in the world at the moment that is dark and horrifying: planes dropping from the sky, a horrible Mid East conflict leaving civilians and innocent children dead on both sides, the possibility of a pandemic.
This being the era of Facebook, the opinions of hundreds of “friends” are available around the clock. As people take sides and debate each other, it can feel that humanity is drowning in its opinionatedness and dogmatism on these and countless other topics.
But what do we, any of us, really know?
In the article Why human vision is a mathematical impossibility, I read recently that even colour does not truly exist. Plants are not green; the sky is not blue.
Colour doesn’t exist in the world. Nothing is coloured. It’s impossible to see the world as it really is. A mathematical impossibility. This problem isn’t just the problem of colour vision, it’s the problem of vision, it’s the problem of the brain. The problem of uncertainty. ~ Dr Beau Lotto, University College London neuroscientist.
The problem of uncertainty.
…we only see a tiny, tiny fragment of the universe. The electromagnetic spectrum is huge. Radio waves can have wavelengths measured in kilometres; gamma rays, at the other end, have wavelengths measured in picometres, trillionths of a metre, smaller than the diameter of an atom. The light we see, the entire familiar rainbow, is only that between 390 and 700 nanometers – billionths of a meter. It is a sliver of a sliver, a fraction of a dot. ~Tom Chivers, Telegraph science writer.
We only see a sliver of a sliver, a fraction of a dot, of even our own world, let alone the universe.
Other researchers have shown that the conscious mind is merely the tip of the iceberg of our experience. The unconscious mind is far larger and though it seems to us to sleep, it is far from dormant.
The “problem of uncertainty” is a universal, overwhelming aspect of the human condition, though you might not know it to look at people’s Facebook rants! But the truth is, to be human is to be uncertain. It’s uncomfortable, and I don’t think anyone can be blamed for trying to anchor to something that feels solid as a way of making it through this life. The trouble happens when we demand that what feels solid to us be solid to others — and tear at what they are standing on when it doesn’t.
Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to religion.
Religion demands certainty, but if we are honest with ourselves, we will see that there is none to be had. Just as perceiving colour is our brain’s way of resolving that which is uncertain and making it useful, so is religion.
Is God just humanity’s way of making sense out of the senseless, but nothing more?
I don’t honestly think so. The more I see that I don’t know and I don’t see, the more I dream about what could be based on the little I see with my eyes.
For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream. ~ Vincent Van Gogh.
When we stop pretending to know and understand things that we don’t and can’t, it frees us to marvel at the perfection of what is and to dream about its implications. Today’s technology allows us to see both more deeply and further away — both much faster and more slowly — than possible with the human eye alone and this creates only more awe and a clear sense that these things are far from random or coincidental.
I believe we can never dream too big or hope for too much in relation to the God making himself known to all through the natural world and through each other. Nature and humanity are bursting with messages of hope if we’ll just open our eyes to them. All that we see that is miraculous and boggles our minds is just the beginning of what is there that we can’t see: a universe not dark and empty, but teeming with life and love and energy and goodness that someday I dream we all will see.
It’s alright to be uncertain. It’s good to embrace uncertainty, because admitting what we don’t know opens us up. It makes us more able to catch glimpses of what lies beyond our human vision. It makes us humble, and so kinder and gentler with those around us.
Isn’t this what life is all about?
~ by Jeannine Buntrock
The painting above is of Vincent Van Gogh’s famous Starry Night.
Some lines from the Gospels just jump out at you. I picked these eight sentences because they are reflective of what we are all experiencing in our relationship with God. These lines are the cry of humanity to the Trinity:
1. Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man! (Luke 5:8) God’s self-revelation is not, to begin with, a pleasant or hopeful experience. There is a burden, a heaviness, about God’s presence which C.S. Lewis sometimes called “the weight of glory.”
2. Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (John 11:32) We are really quite dysfunctional in our relationship with God – we are constantly yo-yoing between “go away!” and “why aren’t you here?”
3. I believe; help my unbelief! (Mark 9:24) Is there any more profound statement of what it means to try to live a life of faith? We cannot do it, we can only open ourselves to let the Holy Spirit share with us the faith of Jesus – the faith he has in his Father’s goodness
4. Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68) Even when we don’t understand what is happening or what God is trying to tell us, we can, at least, know that we are trusting the right one when we are trusting Jesus.
5. My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46) This is the great cry of humanity – both believers and non-believers alike. For every one of us the day will come when these words are squeezed out of us by the crush of suffering. It is no accident that Jesus himself offers these words up to God on our behalf.
6. My Lord and My God! (John 20:28) What else can we say when we see life conquer death, destruction turned into resurrection, and despair rising again as joy?
7. Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you. (John 21:17) Eventually doubt and faith, life and death, suffering and resurrection, all become the Father’s hidden and surprising ways of bringing us fully into the life she shares with the Son and the Holy Spirit.
8. We recognized him in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:35) And so, whenever we break the bread and drink the cup we proclaim the struggle of our faith and the faithfulness of the one who has given himself fully to us.
~ Jonathan Stepp
When you study theology and get down into its bowels, you discover a debate between “Theology from Above” versus “Theology from Below.” Theology From Below means exploring our spiritual intuitions/feelings about God, and using those insights to construct our theology. Theology From Above means listening for revelation from God, a voice outside ourselves telling us things we wouldn’t know otherwise.
The Trinity and Humanity community is mostly a Theology-from-Above kind of group. We draw a lot of inspiration from Karl Barth, who, when approached with Theology-from-Below, replied with his famous: “NEIN!!!!“
And I am really a Theology-from-Above kind of guy. If God is real, then revelation is absolutely necessary for us to have any knowledge of God. If I want to know about something other than myself, I have to look outside myself to learn about it. If I want to know my dog, I have to go hang out with my dog; it would be silly to try and get to know my dog by contemplating my inner feelings about dogness.
In one part of his fantastic “Big Picture” series of lectures, Baxter Kruger recounts Friedrich Schleiermacher’s attempts at Theology-from-Below, and Baxter says something like “Schleiermacher was looking into his heart, which was good in that it got him out of his head. But he was looking into the wrong heart!” Real theology looks into the heart of CHRIST, the one and only point of union and togetherness between God and humanity.
This makes oodles of sense to me. This is why Theology-from-Above is my true home. But here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately:
Where does the heart of the incarnate Christ reside?
It resides in my heart.
And in yours.
And in the heart of every human who has ever lived.
Where does our Theology-From-Above come from? How does it arrive? Do we see it by looking up? I would argue that we see it by looking down. Isn’t that the scandal of Christmas — that our From-Above God comes to us from below? From oh-so-human places like mangers? And from oh-so-human cities like Nazareth?
So here’s what I’m thinking…
Every human being has a [limited] ability to recognize Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. When we recognize these things, what’s really going on is that we are seeing creation move in harmony with the Great Dance of the Trinity. But the only reason we recognize the Dance is that we already know the Dance, or rather, Christ-in-Us knows the Dance. We know Goodness, Truth, and Beauty not because the human heart innately knows these things without revelation from God, but precisely because God has already made himself known in the One who now lives in us.
It is because of Christ that Beauty haunts every one of us.
It is because of Christ that my Theology-from-Above comes to me From-Below.
What this means is that my non-Christian neighbors have a lot more contact with God than they realize.
- Every time my Atheist friend feels strong devotion to the Truth…
- Every time my Buddhist friend enjoys the Goodness of compassion…
- Every time my Druid friend exults in the Beauty of nature…
… they are touching Theology that has come to us all from Above.
My efforts at engaging my non-Christian friends with the Gospel involves a lot of talking with them about Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. So it can look like Theology-from-Below. But it’s only because down there is where my Theology-from-Above lives.