Words – Daisies or Bruises?

Encourage    As an instructor at a small community college, I am privileged to teach a wide range of ages, starting from around fifteen years old to those who are in their fifties. I may have even had one in her sixties, but being a woman, I know better than to ask.

Recently, a few younger students (old enough to know better, too young to quit) were having difficulty keeping quiet during my lecture about pronoun-antecedent agreement. Who would have guessed? In fact, this was not the first time that they had had this trouble, and one in particular seemed to be the instigator. After a couple of other students complained about the distraction, I needed to take action.

I ended up separating the group, scattering them throughout the empty seats in the class, and while the momentary embarrassment of being singled out did deter them that day, as soon as I had another boring lecture, their inability to sit still would come to the fore.

The main instigator was a gifted writer, and it happened that as I was grading the latest assignment, I told him so through a sincere, written comment praising his efforts. That comment changed his behavior, and from that time on, he focused and stayed quiet when he needed to. Because he maintained control, so did the others.

The game-changer here was my positive words of encouragement, sincerely given at the appropriate time. Those words did more to change the attention-dynamic in my classroom than anything else, more than my semi-punitive actions of moving the disruptive students to different seats.

This idea of encouragement vs. punishment is nothing new, but my experience in the classroom emphasizes that love and encouragement do far more to change behavior than punishment ever could.

This is a lesson that is worth repeating, not just for teachers and parents, but for churches, Christians, non-Christians, everyone, everywhere. Words can be our bouquet of flowers to the world, or words can be more bruises inflicted upon it. I love the poem called “Words” by Anne Sexton, and its first stanza speaks to our ability to create good in the world through our choice of words:

Be careful of words,

even the miraculous ones.

For the miraculous we do our best,

sometimes they swarm like insects

and leave not a sting but a kiss.

They can be as good as fingers.

They can be as trusty as the rock

you stick your bottom on.

But they can be both daisies and bruises.

You have a choice today: you can give life, encouragement, even daisies, by what you say; or you can hurt, bruise, and damage others with your words. As I learned in my classroom, encouragement and acknowledgement of another’s inherent worth and gifts promotes a person to a greater realization of the best self, the one God intended him or her to be. My prayer for you today, dear reader, is that your words may be beautiful, sincere, and trustworthy, reflecting the kindness and goodness of our loving Father and encouraging others to recognize their inherent value and worthiness bestowed on them by God.  Amen.

~by Nan Kuhlman

photo courtesy of Can Stock

Easter 2014: Who Jesus Is, and Who You Are, In His Resurrection!

Resurrection with Jesus

 http://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/14-04-20-who-jesus-is-and-who-you-are-in-his-resurrectio-john-20-acts-1-3-hosea-6-2-tah.mp3

In this Easter Message, Pastor Tim, of New Life Fellowship Baltimore, Maryland, proclaims not only the Good News of the God Revealed in Jesus, but what it MEANS RIGHT NOW AND FOREVER  FOR YOU in your Co-resurrection with Jesus! You are sure to be met and challenged by the Spirit of God in and through this adventure of hearing His Good News!

You’ll Be In My Heart

empty tombThis weekend we celebrate the life and resurrection of our risen Lord, traditionally called Easter Sunday.

Too often this is depicted as a time of sadness and regret, and for Jesus’ disciples that ran with him there certainly was sadness, but Jesus addressed it to remind them that He had to go so that He could send His comforter, the Holy Spirit, who would be with us always, forevermore.

Last night I caught the last half of Adam Sandler’s movie, Click. I have to admit, it still brought tears to my eyes. The movie depicts the life of an individual on fast forward, missing out on many special moments of his children growing up and not being there for them and his wife. Many tears were shed by his family in the last moments of his life. But then the screen returned to him waking up in a bed and realizing it had all been a dreamlike vision of what his life might be if he kept on that path. He was joyful that he had another chance to live life right as a much younger man. The sadness immediately left his character, and no doubt the movie viewer when he “came back to life.” A resurrection, if you will.

In the same way, Jesus’s disciples’ sadness turned to joy when they took Jesus’s words for them to heart, in the last chapter of Matthew. He had this to say to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I was recently reminded of this when I heard Phil Collins track “You’ll Be In My Heart” to the Disney movie, Tarzan. Imagine Jesus singing these words to his disciples and by inference, to us today. Not a time of sadness, but joy, knowing he will be with us forevermore.

Come stop your crying
It will be all right
Just take my hand
Hold it tight

I will protect you
From all around you
I will be here
Don’t you cry

For one so small,
You seem so strong
My arms will hold you
Keep you safe and warm
This bond between us
Can’t be broken
I will be here
Don’t you cry

Jesus promises us that because of His death, and resurrection, the bond that he forged with humanity can’t be broken. Not a time of sadness, but of great joy.

[Chorus]

‘Cause you’ll be in my heart
Yes, you’ll be in my heart
From this day on
Now and forever more

Easter Sunday depicts the time when Jesus bound humanity to Himself, forever. Unfortunately not all at this time believe who they are in Him.

You’ll be in my heart
No matter what they say
You’ll be here in my heart, always
Why can’t they understand
The way we feel?
They just don’t trust
What they can’t explain
I know we’re different but,
Deep inside us
We’re not that different at all

Although Jesus was God, He chose to become man and will forever retain His dual nature of God and man. We’re different, but because Jesus rose and took humanity with Him, we’re not that different at all.

Don’t listen to them
‘Cause what do they know?
We need each other
To have, to hold
They’ll see in time I know

Although many don’t know today who they are in Christ, they will see in time, He knows. He knows because that was the Triune God’s plan from the foundation of the world, and today He is reconciling all things to Himself.

When destiny calls you
You must be strong
I may not be with you
But you’ve got to hold on
They’ll see in time I know
We’ll show them together

Although Jesus is not with us today, physically, through faith we hold on, and as firstfruits we will show the way together to All, in time.

I’ll be with you
I’ll be there for you always
Always and always
Just look over your shoulder
Just look over your shoulder
Just look over your shoulder
I’ll be there always

This Sunday reminds us through the words of our Savior, and through Collins’s lyrics, “I’ll be there for you always.”  This Sunday is not a day of sadness. Make it a day of hope and great rejoicing for who we are in Him.

~by Craig Kuhlman

Photo courtesy of Apologetics UK

God Loves Us More Than He Loves Himself?!?!

Jesus in Tomb

Yes, I believe (along with many others!) that God the Father, Son and Spirit does love us more than He loves Himself! I am asked this question with shock and doubt a bit,  and probably because I try to end each Gospel Message proclamation with the words “I offer up to you this Good News in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit Who not only Loves you more than He loves Himself as the One true God, but Who also likes you, and I really do mean you [insert any name], very, very much!”

Surprise, shock and doubt are understandable in trying to receive such a Truth because, ultimately God the Trinity IS Love Himself, and cannot be completely understood or grasped! That is one of the first things to know as we “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of Christ” – Ephesians 3:18b-19 (NIV).

I believe that God the Father, Son and Spirit loves us more than He loves Himself because Jesus Reveals (through the Holy  Spirit and the Holy scriptures in His Church) , that God is a relational being of Father, Son and Spirit – One God in Three Persons – and that this God is completely and supremely joyful and at peace in His Being-In-Relationship. Indeed, He has need of nothing and cannot be added to or subtracted from in His Love and Life as the Relational God! This means that if nothing in creation, including humanity, existed, God the Father, Son and Spirit would be as happy and complete as they have always been!

Therefore, WHATEVER GOD THE FATHER, SON AND SPIRIT DOES FOR CREATION IS STRICTLY AND STUNNINGLY ONLY FOR THE SAKE OF CREATION, NOT FOR HIS SAKE AT ALL! IN LOVE GOD  THOUGHT, SPOKE AND BROUGHT CREATION (you, me and all other creaturely things invisible and visible!) INTO EXISTENCE THAT WE MAY SHARE FULLY IN GOD’S ACTUAL LOVE AND LIFE AND ITS BLESSEDNESS!

So, God the Father, Son and Spirit, in Jesus, AS COMPLETELY OTHER-CENTERED LOVE:  LIVED. SUFFERED, DIED, RESURRECTED, ASCENDED, AND IS COMING AGAIN, IN REAL HUMAN FLESH, for OUR sake alone, concretely:

“HE LIVED”: God, as Love in the Person of Jesus Christ, has done something NEW, and added REAL human FLESH to Himself, limiting Himself to an incredible degree! He has creatively added creatureliness and our humanity to Himself forever! Check out this link to the word “flesh” about Jesus, and take it seriously. He became dependent upon sinful people to feed, clothe and bathe Him as a baby! God labored and sweated out smells in his work clothing in hot Jerusalem for years. Did they have toothbrushes and deodorant back then?? HaHaHa Come on, you can crack a smile for the potentially  musty, yellow-toothed human Jesus! :)

“HE SUFFERED”: God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, purposefully sweated drops of blood out of his human body in anxiety over undeserved punishment. He suffered human vulnerability by openly exposing himself to hard-headed people, who hated him, in his wish to still embrace them as a hen embraces her chicks! He was misunderstood and forsaken by his family, friends and disciples – everyone! Instead of  talking back and defending himself he kept quiet!

“HE DIED”: God,  in the Person of Jesus Christ, purposefully subjected Himself to our broken religious and political systems and let us plot his torture and death and kill him by hanging him on a tree with large nails, all while being mocked. Killing God is the worst thing created beings can attempt and as far in the dark as we can go. At this great cost to Himself in flesh Jesus subjected Himself to it!

“HE RESURRECTED”: God,  in the Person of Jesus Christ, purposefully raised flesh back up in a more powerful and glorified forever way shortly after having it buried in a tomb! Flesh that could still eat and enjoy human food! Yummy! This is also the Best Most Loving Human Being in the world giving Himself to everyone, being rejected by everyone, and then saying “WALLA! Here I am…still intent to be the Best Most Loving Human Being in the world to you, and you can’t stop me from being that for you and with you, as one of you! You  creatures ARE going to share in my life and love despite and in spite of yourselves! Na-NaNa-BooBoo!” HaHaHa….shewowsa!

“HE ASCENDED”: God,  in the Person of Jesus Christ, purposefully took glorified human flesh to a hidden place at God’s “right hand”, where He is  STILL SO HUMAN in His human nature that He does not know when His Father is going to send Him back AND from where He yet prays for us as one of us!

“HE IS COMING AGAIN”: God,  in the Person of Jesus Christ, will return in glorified human flesh, where He will live with us operating out of a human/godly headquarters in the New Jerusalem coming down here out of the heavens! The Truly and Fully Human leader we are all looking for (and voting for even when we don’t vote!) IS coming!

Finally, as you read the above, did you remember that God the Father, Son and Spirit did and is doing  all of this ON PURPOSE AND FOR OUR SAKE ALONE, and that Who Jesus is  as the God/Man adds nothing to, nor subtracts from, His complete Being of Happiness  in Love as God?

If you did then I would think that you would be compelled to think of God more as One Who Loves us More than He Loves Himself! The Incarnation was/is the complete God in REAL LOVE and REAL RISK in our humanity in the Son, trusting and obeying His Father! In Jesus God resisted the full depth of evil from within our fallen human nature and the opposition of His entire creation, submitting to horrifying, torturous death! In Jesus God was/is fully responsive to the Holy Spirit  that we might share, however unparticipative, in His Love, Life and Relationship, even if we self-condemn ourselves from it in unbelief forever! He did not love Himself too much, but LOVED US SO MUCH MORE THAN HIMSELF that at great cost to Himself He took on this limitation and self-denial in Other-centered, Self-giving, Trinitarian Love, FOREVER, SOLELY FOR OUR SAKE!

P.S. Because of who God is and who you are in Him, you might be compelled to worship Him RIGHT NOW in some demonstrative way, but be careful if you are driving or at work cuz you’re only human and you don’t want to hurt yourself and others in His shared self-giving! Heehee…

*photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Being Jesus’ Body (A Church For Others!), Part 4

Loving God Loving Others

http://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/14-03-09-being-jesus-body-a-church-for-others-part-4-matt-28-16-20-tah.mp3

 

In this 4th message of the Good News series entitled: “Being Jesus’ Body (A Church For Others!), Pastor Tim of New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Maryland, Proclaims the Good News of the Other-centered God Revealed in Jesus.

In this message hear about how your life is so hidden and revealed in Christ with God that you are liberated to participate obediently in His commands to go and make disciples, even in your brokenness, without the burden of legalism or religiosity! All of grace means Jesus sharing Himself with all of you, in every part of your humanity, in a concrete, flesh and blood way that becomes  your REAL participation in what He is doing presently on earth, even though your part may be partial, provisional or temporary! Be encouraged as you trust and obey God as best you can in His Grace!

*Picture by Ridgedale Baptist Church (Chattanooga, TN.)

The Happiness Recipe

Jesus once sat down on a mountain side in Galilee and taught a multitude of his students about being blessed. The event is recorded in Matthew 5 and we have come to call it The Sermon on the Mount. Imagine how incredible it must have been to sit and listen to Jesus talk about being happy. You see so often religion makes us wary of being happy. Religion almost creates an atmosphere of guilt over pleasure and happiness. Jesus wants us to be happy in fact I can prove it…The heading over the first dozen verses in Matthew 5 in my Bible reads, “The Beatitudes”. Well, I have a confession to make. For many years as a teen and young adult I never knew what the word beatitude meant. It comes from the Latin beatitudinem and just means happiness. It is not in the original text but is simply a heading to help the reader better understand the context and meaning of what follows. I’d give the translators a C- for this one. Why didn’t they just put “Happiness” so we’d understand?

Two sources of my happiness!

Two sources of my happiness!

In Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus gives a list of behaviors wherein he says, “Blessed are …” The word for blessed that we have, from the most reliable manuscripts, is a Greek word that just means the same- happy!

So think about these verses in the light of happiness. Happy are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God. Being poor in spirit simply means fully relying on God and this is how we see and experience the Kingdom of God.

Happy are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Well of course when we mourn the Holy Spirit comforts and works in and around us to restore our joy.

So you see The Beatitudes are not a formula to get in with God or make you right with him. The Beatitudes are simply a recipe for being happy.

How cool is that and why in the wide world of sports don’t the translators come up with something better than “The Beatitudes”? Why not put a new more easily understood heading over this part of the Sermon on the Mount like… The Happiness Recipe.

Being Jesus’ Body (A Church For Others!), Part 3

Loving God Loving Others

http://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/14-03-09-being-jesus-body-a-church-for-others-part-3-matt-28-16-20-tah.mp3

 In this 3rd message of the Good News series entitled: “Being Jesus’ Body (A Church For Others!), Pastor Tim of New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Maryland, Proclaims the Good News of the Other-centered God Revealed in Jesus.

In this message hear about the Relational God – Father, Son and Spirit – who loves you so utterly and completely that He sent His Son Jesus to stand in your place and make all of your decisions for you in astounding Grace! He is also a God Who has pledged His very own life as God for your salvation and Who loves you more than He loves Himself! This means that every act of God on your behalf in Jesus has meaning for you and your complete humanity right now, so that you don’t have to be caught between “making something God happen” or “doing nothing” but can find yourself as a believing participant in the partial, provisional and temporary signs of the Kingdom which is breaking in on everything!

*Picture by Ridgedale Baptist Church (Chattanooga, TN.)

Lent: Giving Up What Doesn’t Serve

Letting Go of what doesn't serve We are in the special liturgical season of Lent now, and for many people, it is a time of giving something up. That may mean giving up a habit one wishes to break, ranging from swearing to promiscuity to eating sweets, or it can mean sacrificing for forty days something one likes very much, like listening to an iPod or eating meat on Fridays. Some believers even go to extremes, inflicting pain on themselves to prove their devotion to Christ.

I’ve heard a number of explanations about how the attitude of sacrifice can benefit us. Some say each time we want to eat meat on a Friday or listen to our iPod, it is a reminder of the pain of Christ’s sacrifice. Others look at the period of Lent as extra fuel to help us break the hold that sin has on us, particularly in the form of bad habits. But what if Lent was more?

I’ve been thinking about the Lenten season differently this year after I saw a Facebook friend comment that his family was giving up “smallness of vision.” This could be interpreted a number of ways, but to me, this means giving up what doesn’t serve or what no longer fits my life. Some aspects of life that no longer serve me include:

  • giving up a narrow definition of God and instead, embracing the Mystery that seems to seek me out in the most unusual and unexpected places.
  • letting go of fear and uncertainty and instead, acknowledging that One greater than me has my back.
  • sacrificing cynicism and distrust and instead, seeing the living Christ in everyone.
  • surrendering the need to judge and instead, accepting that diversity with unity is possible, even preferable.
  • forfeiting views of ministry that seem to be focused on results more than people and instead, ministering with God to those who are part of my daily life and work.

By looking at the ways I’ve made myself, my life, or my God too small, I can let go and broaden my vision. This Lenten sacrifice will do more than help me lose weight or break a bad habit. Giving up that which no longer serves me enlarges my worldview and transforms my response to the Father, Son, and Spirit. By letting go of “smallness of vision,” I can see more clearly the work of the Triune God in my life and in the world, and I’m inspired and energized to be a part of it.

~by Nan Kuhlman

 

A 1 Corinthians 13 God

jesus imageI blew it with my little girl a couple of days ago. Our day was busy and stressed in general — so it wasn’t until the next morning that, having reflected on what had transpired the day before, I dropped to my knees in front of her to apologise and reconnect. I told her I was so sorry for losing my temper and patience the day before — that that was not the kind of mother I wanted to be. And my tall little girl smiled and exhaled, beaming pure grace down on me.

I know what kind of mother I am supposed to be. By supposed, I mean the mother I long to be in order to express the bottomless love I feel for my children. The mother I was born and am intended to be.

Patient, kind, not proud, not dishonouring others, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeping no record of their wrongs, always protecting them, always trusting them, always hoping, always persevering, and never failing them (I Cor 13 4-8 in short).

That’s a tall order for a human and I know that try as I may — and I do — I’ll still fail a lot. But that’s ok — it’s not about striving for perfection. It’s good for my children to see me fail, but to apologise and to make things right again when I do because it sets an example for what they themselves must also do to remain in relationship with those around them when they also make mistakes. It also shows them that they are priceless and that they deserve to be valued. But they need me to be a I Cor 13 kind of parent, as much as humanly possible, in order to fully bloom, and in order to grow as 1 Cor 13 people themselves. They need me to be big enough to withstand and absorb their littleness and all that that means.

The incredible news for humanity is that, since God is no hypocrite, telling us how to love but then living above that law himself, he himself is a I Cor 13 parent — as much mother as he is father. And he is more than big enough to withstand and absorb our littleness.

What this means is that there is nothing you have to do, say or think in order to win his love and acceptance. There is nothing that you can do, say or think in order to lose his love and acceptance. He really is that big.

The reason my daughter beamed at me when I expressed to her what I did was because, at 6, she knows that this is the kind of mother I am supposed to be too. She knew much younger than that and has likely always known. We don’t have to teach children what a loving parent looks like — they recognise them immediately, I believe, because perfect love resides within them, in the Person of Jesus, just as in all people. And so though they may not have the words to say so, they recognise the opposite of loving actions as well.

I am sure that this is the reason the children are said to have flocked to Jesus. They would have recognised him as a I Cor 13 person because those are the people that children are drawn to. Sadly, as adults, we can forget, believing the lies too long that God’s love is conditional or that God is somehow half love and half stern, irrevocable justice and control.

All I know is that when I am harsh with my children even when provoked, I always regret it swiftly and dearly. When I am able to choose kindness, patience, trust and forgiveness, my soul swells and vibrates with the rightness of it. But when I react with impatience, control, anger and punishment, or shame my child, my soul shrinks and shudders at what I have done and demands that, for the sake of relationship, I make things right again.

This happens, I believe, because perfect love resides within me, as in all people, in the Person of Jesus. And so we know it when we see it.

I am so grateful that, like his Father, he is tirelessly patient and kind with us, that he sees the best in all of us, that he will never fail or disappoint us, and that he keeps no record of our wrongs. The love that I feel from him, I want my children to feel from me (and him). That kind of unconditional love transforms and illuminates everything.

~ by Jeannine Buntrock

See!

single blossomFrom the Epistle reading for Ash Wednesday: See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

This is our biggest problem. We just don’t see. Of course God is invisible – but that’s not the kind of seeing that St. Paul is talking about. He is talking about the kind of seeing that means perception, understanding, and insight into the world as it really is. With this spiritual sight we are able to perceive that God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. With this spiritual sight we are able to know that Christ became sin and therefore we have become the righteousness of God.

Seeing that today is the day of salvation means that we are able to perceive our spouses, our children, our friends – and even our enemies – as they really are: beloved of the Father, reconciled in Christ, and expressing the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And we are able to perceive ourselves as we really are: beloved, reconciled, and bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

St. Paul seems to cry out in the Spirit to us: See! Open your eyes! Look around you and know that God is at work in every nook and cranny of life. His cry is the cry of Lent: the call to awaken out of our winter slumber, to open our eyes to the spring of Easter Day, and to see – to really see, and know, and understand – that God has not abandoned us. In Christ he has saved us from fear and blindness and death.

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