Archive for the ‘death’ Tag

The Comfort of Cruciform Love

image of syrian boy who drownedThe heart-wrenching picture of the drowned Syrian toddler and the follow-up stories with his father, the only survivor from the family: these are typical images of suffering that we see on the news. However, we also cannot pick up our local paper without seeing deaths from illness or accidents, and when we look on Facebook, we see friends and family dealing with grief and loss. Many of these friends are believers, and we wonder to ourselves (if not aloud), “Where was God?”

Some well-meaning folks may respond with “Well, God is in control,” or “God is teaching you something in this.” These responses are rarely helpful, and they keep us from realizing that we cannot make sense of evil, pain, and death by using reason. Instead, we must recognize that while evil and suffering exist, God is good and all-powerful in his love.

What we must consider is the way we define God as all-powerful. Humanly speaking, we think of power as control, and we can see throughout scriptures that God not only permits but desires free will from human beings. God allows vulnerability by rejecting control (when defined as coercion), though God also shows great power and authority through creation and great love through the cross.

On the cross God as Christ bore evil and suffering even as we do now, and in a sense, he shows us that enduring such pain can be healing and transformative though we may not see this perspective for a very long time. Galatians 3:13 says that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole’” (NIV). Author Bradley Jersak comments about this, saying, “This means that in his death, Jesus himself absorbs the curse of sin and death for all of us, sucking the darkness of the world into himself, where his own blood is the all-powerful, spiritual anti-venom that cleanses sin and overcomes death. Assuming the likeness of fallen humanity, he is able to heal it” (A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel). Jersak points out that Jesus doesn’t passively witness our suffering and ‘do nothing,’ but instead, he “enters the suffering, experiences the anguish, lives the sorrow for all, with all, for all the time…In love, he consent[s] to co-suffer with us in solidarity.” We are never alone in our grief; we are never alone in our suffering.

Though we may wish that our loving Father would wave a magic wand and prevent the grief and suffering we experience, we know that God’s heart has given humanity free will with the hope (the calm assurance?) that human beings will choose relationship with the Divine and each other. This free moral agency does not come without a price, but it is a price that God as Christ has demonstrated a willingness to share with us. The suffering we endure is not ours alone, and this is the comfort of cruciform love.

“God Is His Amazing Grace!” (SPECIAL CONFERENCE AUDIO)

Grace John 1.14

 Understand the meaning of God’s Grace better in this two-part audio of a conference message of God’s Good New given by Timothy Brassell at the Myrtle Beach Fall Harvest Festival 2014!

In this message Pastor Tim explores Hebrews 10 as we are met by the God Revealed in Jesus, and poses the significant question:

“Will you continue to understand yourself, and life, in terms of [your] idolatry, rebellion and sin? OR will you begin, as the scriptures do, by looking at the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ [to understand yourself]?”

Life After Life

I have a very close friend. His name is Albert DeStephanis but most of us just call him Al or, a lot of the time, Big Al. At church he had his own special greeting. It usually didn’t matter what was going on when he walked through the door someone would call out, “Big Al!”.  In 2011 Al had some heart trouble and doctors gave Al a new lease on life with a new technology called an LVAD or Left Ventricular Assist Device. It’s a heart pump.

In 2011 Al went into the hospital for a bypass and, after the surgery, had two massive heart events. Al slipped away  twice that night and the doctors and nurses at St. Mary’s in Richmond fought hard all night long and brought Al back. A few days later, after Al had his new heart pump installed, he said to me, “You know I died twice during all this right?” Then, very contemplatively, Al said, “Someday, when I die for real I don’t think I’ll be that worried about it because I’ll just say been there, done that.”


Big Al Sept. 30, 1939 -eternity!

I recall being very impressed with Al’s attitude about the episode. And so as time went on Al recovered and went back to a fairly normal life. He attended his grandchildren’s swim meets and came to church on a regular basis. Al is the rare type of person who, when you meet them, you wish you’d known them your whole life. He is as kind and gentle a man as you could ever meet. I simply adore him!

So last week Big Al transitioned from this life into the next. He passed into what C.S. Lewis called the full Weight of Glory and now knows Jesus more intimately than any of us here. In fact it was just yesterday that a large number of people attended his memorial service.

Paul the apostle says death is swallowed up in victory and defeated. Athanasius says, “Jesus it is Who has destroyed death and freely graced us all with incorruption…”

Death is not a reality. How can anything that has been defeated and destroyed by Jesus be a reality? Indeed death is not real- life is real. Jesus is life and Jesus is real. Jesus has given us new life and new birth through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  We are seated with Him- in Him- at the right hand of the Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit.

There is no life after death. Did I shock you? Keep reading. There is no life after death because; how can there be anything after something that is not real? We may as well ask whether there is life after magic Pegasus unicorns. Death is not real so there can’t possibly be life after death.

There is only Life after Life. The life that was given to Al was the very life that originates in, flows from, and is the life of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The life that Al was given in 1939 was the very life of the eternal Triune God. That life has no end!

We may not see Al the way we used to, we may not actually see him walk into the room, but Al is very much alive… in fact I would posit that Al is more alive than he has ever been!

A prayer: Father, we grieve the loved ones who have gone to Glory. We sense separation but know it is not real. Comfort us Holy Spirit. Teach us to honor our grieving, to know that grief is evidence of love and that deep grief is evidence of even deeper love. Show us the beauty of our tears and the joys that await us when we, someday, catch up with our loved ones who have passed into the full weight of glory. Jesus, thank you for including humanity in the life you share with your Father from eternity. Amen

~Bill Winn

Everything In and Through Jesus The Christ!


On this 2nd Sunday Of Advent 2014, Pastor Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore delivers this GOSPEL FILLED GOOD NEWS entitled, “EVERYTHING IN AND THROUGH JESUS THE CHRIST” as we come to understand just what “Everything In and Through Jesus Christ” means. Learn more what it means that God is not only here but comes to us IN JESUS CHRIST; what it meant that the Son came as a man, and assumed our REAL HUMAN NATURE!

Pastor Tim explores the Gospel through Hebrews 10 :10 – 23 and reading from James Torrance’s article “Christ In Our Place” showing that:

~Jesus has a personal relationship with God on OUR behalf and we have a relationship with God THROUGH JESUS CHRIST! Because of God’s goodness, he makes our responses for us, so that when we respond we are only responding to Jesus’ response to his Father. In Him, and through Jesus, we are renewed by the Spirit in the image of God and in the worship of God and His life of SHARED COMMUNION!

~We burden ourselves with questions like: Do I have to ask for forgiveness before God will give it to me? Do right words, regulations, rules, and repentance take my sins away? But the scriptures tell us that JESUS is MEDIATOR between God and Man and that God draws near to humanity IN AND THROUGH CHRIST to fulfill His purposes of our human worship and communion with God! This means that FORGIVENESS IS LOCATED IN THE PERSON OF CHRIST and that IN AND THROUGH CHRIST, God HAS ALREADY FORGIVEN US! So, WHEN YOU ASK FOR FORGIVENESS YOU CAN BE SURE OF GETTING IT! Why? Because it has already been given to you in Jesus! For God: Father, Son and Spirit, there is no going back on forgiveness of your sins because the Son of God will live as Jesus the God/Man forever!! In Jesus Christ, sin has been COMPLETELY ELIMINATED!

~There is NO such thing as a transaction Gospel, or “If you do this THEN God will save and adopt you!” We can unburden ourselves with that mentality by hearing the Fathers’ response to us: I have forgiven you, therefore ENJOY AND receive it! I LOVE YOU therefore FOLLOW ME IN TRUST AND LOVE because YOU ARE ALWAYS GOING TO BE CARED FOR! THE GOSPEL IS REALLY GOOD NEWS!

~Specifically, because everything is IN AND THROUGH CHRIST, we can give a real word of REST and JOY to people, so that in the JOY of Jesus they can RUN as WE DO, as The ADOPTED SONS AND DAUGHTERS THAT GOD ALWAYS WANTED!!!

~There is not so much work we have to do in getting the words right, or in getting the concepts down. We receive that Jesus got down here for and with us in our place and that there is NOTHING we can ever do to make God more Gracious and we are NEVER going to be able to condition God to like us. What we need to understand is WHO JESUS IS and WHAT HE has done for us, participating in His Response of gratitude and thankfulness to His Father, and in His Trust and Obedience!

What Jesus’ Coming Means For Us Today!

Advent Season

On this 1st Sunday Of Advent 2014, Pastor Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore delivers a message of Good News entitled, “What Jesus’ Coming Means For Us Today!” Through Hebrews 10:1-10, he proclaims the GOOD NEWS that GOD THE SON’S COMING IN JESUS IS OUR REALITY, LIFE, and RESURRECTION  and that WE WILL BE FULFILLED BY NOTHING LESS THAN HIM!

In this message we reinforce that:

~ Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of ALL and will appear a second time not to bear sin but to bring salvation to those waiting for him.

~ We, IN OUR BROKENNESS, don’t GET to start everything; don’t get to control or guide the outcome of life with our questions and answers. It is our pleasure, our role, to RESPOND IN GRATITUDE to what has been done to us, and INITIATED by GOD FOR US, IN HIS GRACE. GOD, in Christ, and by the Spirit, SHARES THANKSGIVING with us as a human response to HIS GREAT INITIATIVES in our lives!

~ God’s will for the world was for the Son to be born into it as Jesus. The purpose of Jesus Christ was to BE AND DO THE WILL OF GOD AS MAN! It was NEVER put upon anyone other than Jesus to meet the will of God or to meet God’s expectations for Man. We were never meant to carry the burden and impossibility of working out our own adoption and salvation. It was always up to Jesus Christ to meet the expectations of God. We were meant to be dependent on Christ.  It was the will of God to make humanity HOLY – to rule over everything and everywhere under Christ, God himself!  Further, it was the will of the Father to bring us to Glory as his adopted sons and daughters through Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit.

~ The Reality of God in Jesus not only stands FOR US, but also against us  and against all other people, things,  and attempts for us to fulfill our own lives and create our own purpose!

~ The Lord wants us to run in the JOY of being sons and daughters and not with the weight of trying to prove that He exists or in our trying to transform the world. He empowers believers to be witnesses and proclaimers of who HE IS, and to be a people of Promise and Hope!

– There are better ways we can take part in Jesus’ Ministry as His Church that will make us more free and less bogged down as we join Jesus in His Mission to His World.

~ Whatever Jesus’ coming means for us TODAY doesn’t mean He isn’t coming in the future, and whatever His coming means for us in the future doesn’t mean He isn’t already here!





Photo Compliments Rio Vista Community Church

Thank God He Is His Amazing Grace!

 amazing grace2

 In this 24th  Sunday after Pentecost, Pastor Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore proclaims the GOOD NEWS that God is His Grace in this riveting Gospel Message entitled “Thank God He Is His Amazing Grace!”

Pastor Tim explores Hebrews 10 and poses the question:

Will you continue to understand yourself and life in terms of man’s idolatry, rebellion and sin or will you begin, as the scriptures do, by looking at the revelation of God in Jesus Christ? After All, it can only be idolatry to trust in anything other than God, anything other than the One Who made and sustains you!

In this gospel Message we learn that:

~Jesus is the Light of the world, and our idolatry, rebellion and sin are NOT, therefore understanding “Who Jesus is?” is the ONLY Way to begin understanding all of scripture. The Context of Jesus, Himself, must fundamentally guide all of our interpretations of the biblical text!

~Jesus is God as Man,  and therefore, in Him God the Father and Spirit have also taken up the cause of humanity forever, determined that we will not perish!

~Some of our sufferings, though not caused by God, He works in and allows so we can come to the end of ourselves and trust only in Him!

~Grace isn’t something that stands apart from or beside God. GOD IS HIMSELF HIS BENEVOLENCE AND KINDNESS! Grace isn’t something we manipulate, or a magic symbol that we make – God is himself HIS GRACE and He is the one Who ultimately acts and delivers us. He, personally, is your REST!

~We are often looking for God to give us something primarily other than himself when God says in Christ “I AM YOUR RESPONSE TO ME! The one who stands in for YOU! Work to believe and trust that! I Am your reward!”

~We need to THANK GOD HE IS HIS AMAZING GRACE and not divide Him too strictly from the great Works HE does. IT IS HIM at work when His works are being done, NOT a substance or a commodity called “grace”!

~If we don’t understand and proclaim God as his own Grace then we will subtly allow a “works based” and legal orientation into our lives. We will think that it is our prayer or religious things that are getting the job done when it is actually GOD IN AND AS HIS AMAZING GRACE getting the job done, many times in and through those things!

~God’s judgment and destruction doesn’t mean the end of us as men and women, but the end of what seeks to destroy us as men and women! Threats in scripture don’t always mean that the bad consequences are actually going to happen because, as the writer of Hebrews wrote,  “we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”

Listen, Enjoy, be Encouraged, and find rest in the GOOD NEWS of God as His Amazing Grace!

Jesus’ Compassion On The Harassed And Helpless!

jesus' compassion

Have YOU ever felt harassed and helpless, like a sheep without a shepherd? Not without clothing, food or water but, in the midst of plenty, still feeling LOST, despite knowing there is a Shepherd????

Of course you have, and do!!!

In this 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, Pastor Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore proclaims a Gospel Message entitled ” Jesus’ Compassion On The Harassed And Helpless!”. In this Gospel he explores Matthew 9: 35 through Matthew 10: 1-8 proclaiming The GOOD NEWS of God’s compassion revealed and active in Jesus! Observing the literal Body of Jesus Christ in Mission reveals God: Father, Son and Spirit does all kinds of interesting and redemptive things with “foolish” participation, people, preaching and pausing!

In this message we hear that:

1~ God in Jesus begins a radical form of calling people to Himself in a gathered and scattered way that transforms their lives and the lives of others as he reaches out in compassion to His world and humanity. God in Christ DOES have an agenda and He DOES care to make himself known to people even as He does good works. He is even willing to become broken to reach out in His compassion and see humanity healed!

2~ Even with money in the bank, food to eat, shelter, we can still find ourselves harassed and helpless, but WHY??? Pastor Tim gives one compelling reason this may be so in our times, considering the present mission of God revealed in Jesus and His determination not to be Himself without us!

3~ We have not understood the “foolishness” of God in Jesus Christ and why we need to be willing to RECEIVE His foolishness as He works in this world to compassionately SAVE people!

4~ Jesus Christ is not only GOD’S GOOD NEWS, He is GOD’S GOOD NEWS in LOVING MOTION: in Gospel Mission and Ministry action, in and through His special believers! In and by the Spirit, believers become THE BODY OF CHRIST – JOINING in what GOD is DOING as He calls and gathers even more disciples and sends them with HIMSELF in MISSION. From the Father, in Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit, believers are the compassion of God, helping to heal His harassed and helpless humanity.


Death and Butterflies

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes
it has gone through to achieve that beauty.  ~Maya Angelou

My mother-in-law, Joan Kuhlman, passed away a few weeks ago from Alzheimer’s disease.  A beautiful butterfly wreath adorned her door at the nursing home during her last day of life, most likely to make the staff aware that a resident was dying.  The motif of butterflies reappeared in the lovely floral casket spray, without our special request.  Because this symbol of rebirth kept coming up, the beauty of butterflies and their vision of hope made me reflect on death as a change of life rather than an end of life.

Death is a journey into the unknown, and although reports of those who have died and were brought back to life seem encouraging, it truly is the “final frontier.”  There is one, however, who took our mortality with him into death and then came through it, holding tightly to our hands:

                        Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?  It was sin that made death so frightening

and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power.  But now in a

single victorious stroke of Life, all three– sin, guilt, death– are gone, the gift of

our Master Jesus Christ.  Thank God! (I Cor. 15:55, The Message)

When Christ entered death as the Son of God in the flesh, he took our humanity with him.  Through death, he purged our collective human nature of its sin and gave us all eternal life.  Many enjoy the knowledge and experience of this gift now; others will hopefully enjoy it in the future.

The life cycle of the butterfly is a useful illustration for us to consider.  Although no analogy is perfect, the idea is probably pretty accurate that our human life now is like that of a caterpillar, growing yet limited.  The idea of death as a cocoon reminds me of Christ’s three days in the tomb, and the emergence of a butterfly reveals the promise of resurrection to a life of glory.  Maya Angelou’s quote sums up what we often think about death, that we don’t want to admit or acknowledge until it lands in our laps that it is indeed a natural part of our life cycle process.  This part of our life cycle has its mysteries and its gruesomeness, much like the process of birth into life.  Without this change, this time spent in a cocoon, there would be no butterflies.

Throughout her extended illness, the only thing our family wished was for Joan to be healed of this disease and for her to be restored to her normal personality.  It was something we hoped and prayed for, yet in some respects, we were wishing for her to stay a “caterpillar.”  We are certain, beyond any doubt, that Jesus Christ was with Joan in her cocoon, and just as certain that he will be in ours, too. For her, Alzheimer’s disease was an extended cocoon through which Joan, in her full glory, would emerge, more whole, well, and beautiful than we ever knew.

~by Nan Kuhlman

He Couldn’t Save Himself

There’s a famous story in which Jesus calms a storm while he and the disciples are in a boat, on the lake, being battered by the wind and waves (Matt. 8:23-27.) If you’re like me you have the idea that it would be nice if Jesus calmed every storm in your life. Since he doesn’t, we believers have come up with a famous saying about the calming of storms. We sometimes say “Jesus may not calm the storm but he will calm the sailors in the midst of the storm.” That’s true and often very encouraging.

But what if Jesus neither calms the storm nor calms the sailors? What happens when the boat is swamped by the waves, sinks to the bottom, and all the sailors die screaming in terror? That happens too, you know.

In fact, it happened to Jesus. The authorities arrested him, beat him, and nailed him to the cross. They even commented on it as they did it. “He saved others,” they said “but he cannot save himself.” (Matt. 27:42) In fact, the Bible confirms that those religious leaders were right – Jesus didn’t save himself. He died. The “boat” of his body was swamped by the wave, overwhelmed by the storm, and sank into the deep darkness of the abyss. He who calmed the storm, and calmed the sailors, was drowned in a tide of violence.

Ah, but then something happened on the third day, didn’t it? We are now in the season of Easter and we know the rest of the story. Jesus was raised from the dead!

Did you notice how I phrased that, though? I didn’t say “Jesus raised himself from the dead” I said “he was raised.” Even in death Jesus did not save himself. The Bible tells us that God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 3:15, Rom. 4:24.) It was the Father, through the Holy Spirit, who raised his Son up and saved him from death (Psalm 40:2, Rom. 8:11.) So, in a sense, the teachers of the law were right – he couldn’t save himself, but his Father loves him and saved him through the Holy Spirit. He saved him through death, but not from death.

There is a profound lesson in that for all of us. There will be times when Jesus will calm storms for us. There will be times when he will calm us in the midst of the storm. But there will also be times when we will not be saved from the storm but we will be saved, in the power of Jesus’ resurrection, through death because of the storm.

None of us are getting out of this world alive. For every one of us there will eventually come a storm that will, like Jesus’ cross, overwhelm our bodies and send us sinking into the depths of death. Even though we will all eventually sink and all eventually drown we will also all eventually be made alive in Christ (1 Cor. 15:22.) Notice how I phrased that. I didn’t say we will all eventually make ourselves alive by our faith or belief. I said that, just like our brother Jesus, we will be made alive. We can’t save ourselves but our Father who loves us will save us – even from death itself – in the resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ through the power of his Holy Spirit.

~ Jonathan Stepp

Dealing With The Sting of Death

I can’t help writing about the subject of death. Over the last 5 weeks I have had to officiate at three funerals, including the death of my last grandfather. And now the death and devastation of our brothers and sisters in Haiti. There is no doubt about it, when death strikes, it stings!

Death MUST sting because of Who Jesus is and who we are in him. As the Adopted humanity and children of the Triune God in the humanity of Jesus, the Love and Life of the Father, Son and Spirit is being so shared with us that we share in Their grief over death. We share in Their pain, and in Their sorrow.

As sinners, how could we possibly know how stinging death REALLY is apart from that sting being shared with us by the Trinity? Since Life originates in God and God is Life, only God could know the true sorrow of something that is not life as God is and has intended for his creation. Yes, there is sorrow in the Being of God!

We see this sorrow in Jesus as he approached the physical death of his body (Matt 26:36-39), in the death of our human flesh and minds (Luke 23:21), and as he literally died in our sinful flesh without being sinful (Mark 15:34). What we are called to take seriously is that in his flesh Jesus was the fullness of God (Col 2:9) and the exact representation of the Triune God’s being (Heb 1:3)! Embracing this truth about Jesus  helps us see that God was not play acting in Jesus for our sake, but truly experiences and knows sorrow like we can’t even begin to imagine in our sin-filled minds and sin-filled sorrow!

Don’t get me wrong! It’s not that our sorrow over death isn’t genuine or real, that’s not what I’m saying! I’m saying that there is way more realness in our sorrow than we realize because of our gracious union with God in Jesus, but that we have no power on our own to know sorrow in its truest depths because only Jesus has really gone there having not sinned or being a sinner (which taints things negatively, including sorrow!)

BUT, be encouraged, there is no hopelessness  in the sorrow of the Triune God over death! How could there be when there is no such thing as death in the Essence and Being of God, Who is our Life? (Col 3:4!) And the even more exciting thing for all of humanity within this truth is that we are now in union with this God in such a way in Jesus Christ such that we can say in one real sense that we will never really die. Yes, our bodies will die and perish naturally or through immediate transformation (1 Cor 15:51!), but that doesn’t mean WE, ourselves, will be dead!

We must take some idea of an intermediate state between our dead, corruptible bodies and our Resurrected body, seriously, because of who we are in union with Jesus (not because we have an immortal soul or some power source of our own!!) Speaking on this subject of all of humanity’s union with Christ, author Darrell Johnson writes on p.68 of Experiencing the Trinity,

This, by the way, is why death does not end our relationship. We are now within the circle of God’s Self-knowing. Death does not take us out of the circle. Death changes the way we share but not the fact that we are still there in him and with him. That is what we mean by “the communion of the saints” – communion within the Trinitarian communion, a communion that death cannot destroy.

Think about what this means for those who have died in my family, in your family, in horrible ways, in less horrible ways, and in Haiti!

And, of course, this Life after death in Jesus is scriptural as well:

35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:35-39, NRSV – emphasis mine)

And so, we must and will cry, and scream, and pout, and shout as we face death till our transformed bodies come! But the only REAL note we can end the subject of death on is the note of truth that Jesus, The Father’s Son made human, and anointed in the Holy Spirit, entered death’s domain from within our darkness and has now robbed death even of its sting!

54 Then the saying will come true: Death swallowed by triumphant Life! 55 Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now? 56 It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. 57 But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three – sin, guilt, death – are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God! 58 With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort. (1 Cor. 15:54, The Message)

Let’s be as encouraged as we can be in the grace of the Father, Son and Spirit!

~ Timothy Brassell

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