In this Gospel Message entitled ” Fresh Hot Soup,” visiting Pastor to New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Pastor Joe Heilman, introduces us to his book “FRIAR TUCK’S TALES For The Common Outlaw,” a collection of stories meant to help people understand the Gospel better as they transition from one part of life to another.
By reading one of his stories, “Fresh Hot Soup” Pastor Heilman shows:
1) That people think the gospel is a spiritual equation where God will LOVE ME, FORGIVE ME, CLEANSE ME, HEAL ME…ETC…..IF I HAVE ENOUGH…….FAITH, REPENTANCE, BAPTISM,…ETC.
2) That the Gospel is NOT a Self Maledictory Oath signed sealed and delivered (Genesis 15:18).
3) By exploring Romans 5-8 he shows that God’s covenant is not a transaction between us and God but rather a RELATIONSHIP we are INCLUDED in with FATHER, SON and SPIRIT.
A new puppy has entered my world, thanks to my husband who cannot be trusted alone in a pet store. Luna Consuela Kuhlman, a fawn and white chihuahua, was his Father’s Day gift, he says, but in reality, my service of housebreaking and tending to the new pup are his real present.
Besides bringing extra work into my household, Luna has opened my eyes to the wonder and mystery of the world around me, much the same way a toddler would. When I take her out to potty, she stops to sniff a dandelion and to chase a moth. Observing her as she experiences this world helps me to see the beauty that I take for granted because I have labeled and categorized it, perhaps even read about it in a book. I know, for example, that moths have different antennae than butterflies, but having this knowledge doesn’t fill my heart with wonder and joy, perhaps even a lightness, as does watching a moth flit through my yard and garden.
When I feel I have learned everything there is to learn (or that I want to learn) about a topic, I’ve found that I start to take it for granted and stop noticing the subtle nuances. I think this premise can also pertain to our perception of God. When we begin to label and categorize God, we most likely feel that we are understanding the Father, Son, and Spirit better. But I believe we need to be watchful we don’t get to the place where we feel comfortable with our knowledge of God, believing we have everything figured out.
Poet Mary Oliver captures this in her poem “Mysteries, Yes,” where she begins, “Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.” While it is important to know fully and deeply that we are loved and held by Someone greater than ourselves, the danger comes from resting our belief in what we have figured out or in what someone else has figured out for us. We forget how limited our human minds are, how incapable of comprehending spiritual truths that are outside our senses. We become comfortable with our limited view of God, and when that view is shaken, we feel uncertain and afraid. Even worse, we become immune to the miracles and beauty that surround us every day, constantly revealing the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit for all creation.
Our job is to become comfortable with mystery, living with the uncertainty joyfully by noticing the “I love yous” sprinkled throughout our everyday existence. As Oliver concludes her poem:
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment
and bow their heads.
Our puppy Luna says to me, “Look!” in her own puppy way, showing me something old that I’m seeing as if for the first time, making me laugh and then bow my head, recognizing that God is greater and more wonderful than anything I could ever fathom.
~by Nan Kuhlman
Has anyone ever built you up in their minds to be someone you are not?
I had this happen to me recently — not just to me, but to someone I love as well. This certainly isn’t the first time this has happened to me, but it was the first time I was alongside someone else and could see clearly that the person this individual was seeing when he looked at my loved one was not the person I saw and knew at all. It didn’t matter what I said in our defense and I knew better than to try, honestly — he was so lost in his mythology of who we were that my words bounced off unheard. As it so happens, I truly love that person as well. He is unable to see it; in his eyes, I am a monster who despises him, judges him, looks down on him and would take away the things he loves if I could.
This is not who I am at all. I love him. I genuinely worry about him. I am afraid for him in this life while trusting God implicitly with him in the next. But there is no convincing him of that at this time at least.
I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences with a loved one — a child, a sibling, a parent, a friend.
And I wonder, how often do all of us do this when we look at, or consider, God? How often do we see a monster instead of the unconditionally loving person cradling us? How often are we so lost in our own mythologies when it comes to God that all his attempts to reach us by standing always not just before us, but lovingly sharing the very space we occupy, fail because we don’t see it? How often do his loving words to and thoughts toward us bounce off us unheard as we continue through life, feeling alone and vulnerable, in an unseeing haze?
This is some of what trinitarian theologian Baxter Kruger refers to as “making agreements with darkness.”
Over the last several years the Holy Spirit has been revealing himself to me in profoundly personal ways, awakening me, loving me, revealing to me who I am in Jesus, and encouraging my heart. Thank you, Holy Spirit, I will have more please. Brothers and sisters we are in a war. We have an enemy, cowardly as he is. He knows he has been defeated in Jesus, and he knows that we don’t know much of Jesus’ victory. The enemy deceives us, and then hides his deception, so that we don’t know that we have made agreements with him and his darkness. As we get hints of his schemes we are attacked with accusations and assaults. The picture that the Holy Spirit has given to me is of a beaver dam, with hundreds of limbs and twigs interwoven on top of large logs at the bottom. This beaver dam is formed by the agreements we have made with darkness throughout our lives. (Simply ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the agreements that you have made, and then break them in the name of Jesus). This beaver dam holds back the river of living water, the great, overflowing fountain of the trinitarian life of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that is already at the core of our beings because of Jesus’ union with us. ~ C. Baxter Kruger, Baxter’s Ongoing Thoughts (blog), Oct 7, 2013.
No wonder it is so hard for us to break free of the agreements we have all unwittingly made with darkness — these agreements are far more than a shackle, but, as Baxter describes so well, an intricate, twisted, strong, nearly watertight mass!
The great news is that just as it takes only the tiniest ray of light to begin to dispel any darkness, so does our just cracking our eyelids open to the light begin to break up the dam of darkness and trigger the lifelong process of releasing the stranglehold it has had on us within.
The Holy Spirit whispers to my heart that Triune God doesn’t despise us or anyone. That while he certainly knows right from wrong and holds us accountable to it for our own good and for the good of those around us, he doesn’t judge us in a harsh, punitive way when we fail — he wants us to learn and to grow — to be better people because he has given us all that potential and capacity for good. That he celebrates the tiniest baby step. That he doesn’t look down on us as worthless or insufficient — but sees inestimable worth in every human being, and with him in us as he is in all, we are all sufficient for the moment. That life is a journey of growth. That he doesn’t seek to take away the things we love or withhold from us the things we desire. Like you, I don’t know why life has to be the way it is sometimes — but I trust the process since it is his process. All will work together for good in the end even if it sure doesn’t feel like it in the moment.
I can’t force my loved one to see me for who I am. God chooses not to force us to see him as who he is either. But what joy we miss out on when we refuse to open our eyes.
An interesting note about beaver dams is that they are often referred to as the “earth’s kidneys” since, once broken even a little so that water issues forth, they cleanse that water of debris and impurities. The dams that we create act in the same way once broken even a little — they tend to collect the earthly debris and baggage that come downstream. So even they serve a purpose.
Let’s all take Baxter’s advice and ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we have made agreements with darkness, and to break them in Jesus’ name. Let’s take Jesus’ lead and disagree wholeheartedly, with every breath, with the dark.
~ by Jeannine Buntrock
Can you imagine how successful a fast-food chain would be if they marketed these words as their slogan? Almost appears “Un-American” doesn’t it?
Scripture refers to this phrase in a single word, “submission.” Submission is also known as an outward spiritual discipline, or an act or habit that draws us closer in relationship to God, and specifically, in this case, others.
Our oldest son recently announced that he and his fiancée were going to move their wedding date up by eight months before graduating college, with plans to transfer credits to another university. That’s not what we had talked about. It isn’t the commitment that he made to us to obtain his degree before marriage. Internally I came unglued.
Why do we so easily bury our heels into the ground in a way that can polarize relationships?
The next day, Nan kept telling me I needed to get over it, and that it wasn’t our choice. We needed to respect and support his decision even though the timing may not appear to us to be the best choice. I couldn’t accept it. Then a small miracle happened. Through the back and forth discussion with Nan and a close friend, I gained clarity. I literally felt my heart change in a moment’s notice.
What happened? It became clear to me that the issue was tied to long-held values and commitments. The primary value was the fact that I wanted him to finish college without the risk of anything getting in the way. I wanted that for him and his own family’s security and success. Secondly, he had made a commitment when he became engaged that he wouldn’t speed up the timetable on marriage until he had graduated.
Values and commitments are generally a good thing. They are good until we place them before and above relationships. Values and commitments are something that if held long enough can literally be felt as if they are woven into our very own being. How many times had I shared with him that his mom and I didn’t get married until four days after my graduation. How many doors had I witnessed being opened due to education over the years?
Keep in mind, the value can be anything that is held and cherished long enough. How many wars have been fought over religion, or politics? How many churches have split over theology?
In my mind, college and preparation before marriage had become part of my being until the small miracle and clarity occurred. Through that discussion, I was reminded that I had no intentions of going to college when I was in high school. Further, I had talked my girlfriend out of going to college so that we could get married right after graduating high school. Her parents had always envisioned her going to college, and I thought that was unnecessary. How the tables had turned over these past thirty-five years! The passing years seemed as if they were my whole life, but upon reflection at that moment I saw how temporal my values were. They weren’t part of my natural DNA. They simply became engrained over time.
As I reflected, the thought occurred that if I could have held those same prior values (although my son clarified that he never once considered dropping out of college), what was the big deal? Should I really let something temporary get in the way of my relationship with my son? How many times had I told him “there is nothing you could ever do that would keep me from loving you forever?” Isn’t that the kind of relationship I have with my heavenly Father? How could I go back on that value? One that is eternal, not temporal.
Submission is a spiritual discipline, because humanly speaking we can’t do it and the Holy Spirit reminds us that not having it our way is usually the best when it comes to healing relationships and changing our hearts.
~by Craig Kuhlman
photo courtesy of 123RF Royalty free stock photos
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