Archive for the ‘Missions’ Tag

The Triune God Whose Plan Involves Suffering

Genesis 37-39 The Suffering God”

Theological Theme: God is sovereign over our lives, and He uses suffering and injustice to accomplish His plans in and through us.

Christ Connection: Joseph suffered unjustly and was later exalted to a place of prominence. In a similar manner, Jesus suffered unjustly and was later raised from the dead and exalted as Lord of the world.

Missional Application: God calls us to trust Him to fulfill His promises because when obstacles appear to thwart His mission, God is faithful to use even the obstacles as part of His plan to bring glory to His Son.

Let’s Get TWO-gether With Jesus And Go!, pt.3

Two by Two Going Out With Jesus”

In this last and year-end message in a series about discerning God’s vision for His congregation at New Life Fellowship of Baltimore. MD., we continue asking “How is Jesus speaking to us RIGHT NOW through these scriptures and directing us in His mission locally?”

This message of God’s Good News continues to get very specific about what participation with Christ looks like for us in this world! It asks and discerns: Where and with whom do we begin? How do we address healing in our day as we proclaim Jesus? How should we steward Jesus’ money, and how will we live in Jesus’ peace – on mission with him – as sinners in THIS broken world?

The message can be summarized in this quote:

“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture, and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security… To look for guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying down the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1934 [Renate Bethge’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Brief Life]

Come check it out and walk with us!

Are You More Idealistic Than God?



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?”

Luther: “Yes.”

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

Where is Jesus Working?


Jesus is the union of the Trinity and Humanity. Therefore the Holy Spirit that comes from the Father, through the Son, is at work in our humanity because the Son shares in our humanity as the man Jesus. The Psalmist says:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in hell, you are there. ~ Psalm 139:7-8

I believe that if we want to discern where Jesus is working, and join him in his work, then we have to see how every aspect of human existence has been embraced, enveloped, and permeated by the life of the Father, Son, and Spirit through the humanity of Jesus. We have to stop trying to divide the sacred and the secular and stop trying to divide the miraculous and the natural.

As most of you know, we at The Adopted Life are big fans of the work the Holy Spirit is doing with the theologian Baxter Kruger. One of the key insights the Spirit has given Baxter is the realization that the modern American church has not been taking Jesus seriously enough in the way we talk about the “ordinary” aspects of our lives, e.g. cooking breakfast for our kids, going to work, and spending time with friends.

If you have not read Baxter’s latest blog post entitled The Spirit’s Presence, I highly recommend that you go read it right now.

Here’s a quote to whet your appetite:

We either see ourselves and others as merely human, with an occasional dash of ‘supernatural’ inspiration, or we see ourselves and others as those included in Jesus Christ and in His anointing in the Holy Spirit. The former will produce pride and incessant striving, followed by more pride, then boredom and burnout, and the divisive minimization of our human existence as we chase the spirituality of the non-human god. The latter will produce dignity and hope, and a regard for one another beyond race, religion, and all prejudice. For we will see ourselves and others as brothers and sisters (blind as we may be) equally included in the Trinitarian life of God. We will look for the Trinitarian life emerging in and through the ‘humanity’ of others, and we will cherish, celebrate and do what we can to encourage its emergence.

We 21st century American Christians are yearning to know where Jesus is working and to join him in his work. But I believe we need to be educated first. We need to be educated to understand how Jesus is universally present, and we need to let his Spirit undo the false divide we have created between the sacred  and the secular, before we will really be able to participate intelligently in Jesus’ ministry.

Reading Baxter’s post on the Spirit’s presence will help you in that education.

~ Jonathan Stepp

What’s Right with the Church

What’s wrong with the Church?

It seems like everywhere I go in Christianity that’s the question I hear pastors, denominational leaders, and church consultants asking.

Why won’t people do personal evangelism? Why aren’t pastors working harder to make disciples and grow their churches? Why aren’t people excited about planting new churches? Why is the Church in North America in decline by almost every measurement: membership, brand loyalty, finances, new churches planted, etc.?

The question itself exposes the answer.

When we look at people and say “what’s wrong with you?” it’s only normal for them to answer “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I guess I’ll just give up.” After decades of being told that they’re not working hard enough for Jesus, that they haven’t tried the right program – or having tried the right program they haven’t executed it correctly – after decades of being lectured to about what they need to do to follow Jesus’ example and build the Kingdom, the people of the Church are voting with their feet and their wallets. The vote says this: “You tell us we’re worthless and not doing enough and we agree. Since we’re failing anyway we’re just going to go ahead and quit.”

It’s time for the leadership of North American Christianity to believe the gospel and trust Jesus.

The fact is that, in Christ, there is nothing wrong with the Church. That’s why I’ve titled this post “What’s Right with the Church.” The blessed Trinity has swept up the whole human race into its life in Jesus Christ. We are everyone one of us the children the Father always wanted and when his Son became human like us, as the man Jesus, the Father adopted his beloved children into the life of joy he shares with Jesus and the Spirit.

Jesus has made us good. Jesus has made us loved, liked, and acceptable. Our Daddy isn’t wondering when we’re going to get busy doing his work anymore than I’m wondering when my 5 year-old is going to get busy pulling his weight around my house. Our Daddy is wondering when we older kids – pastors, ministry leaders, etc. – are going to stop beating up on our brothers and sisters and start telling them how much they are loved and accepted.

Unfortunately the vast majority of North American Christian leaders have not believed this gospel. We have believed and preached a gospel that says “you can be liked and loved, if you will get yourself saved by your belief and then work real hard for the rest of your life to do the Lord’s work.”

We’ve preached this false gospel because we’re afraid. We’re afraid to tell people “your Daddy likes you in Jesus and always will, even if you never work hard for his Kingdom.” We’re afraid that if we tell people this good news that they won’t come to church, won’t give money, and won’t do evangelism. And if that happens then the Church will decline and we’ll look like failures.

Well I’ve got news for all my fellow Church leaders:

The Church is in decline and we look like failures! We haven’t told people how they are the children their Daddy always wanted and our worst fears have come true!

So, what’s the harm in stopping our programs, stopping our grandiose planning, stopping our incessant guilt trips, and simply trusting Jesus? What if all we did – all we ever did – is keep telling people the good news of who they are in Jesus? Maybe Christ himself will inspire and lead them to do all the stuff we’ve been trying to get them to do through guilt. Trying such a radical experiment as trusting Jesus and proclaiming him alone certainly couldn’t produce any worse results than what we’ve produced by our programs and guilt trips.

The Holy Spirit is all about helping us learn to live loved in the Father’s embrace.

That’s where the fruit of evangelism, discipleship, and church planting comes from. It comes from us being baptized in the good news of how much our Daddy loves us and how much he likes us. It comes from being baptized in the truth of how – in Christ – we are right and good. Keeping in step with the Spirit means that it’s time for us to get on board with his program of baptizing people in the assurance of who they are in Christ.

~ Jonathan Stepp

Tools of God

We will all end up sleeping away about 1/3 of our lives. (About 8 hrs out of every 24 we live).

Besides that, most of us need three meals a day – plus a snack or two in between. And if you isolate us from other people for more than a day or two we start getting a little wacky – make it a few months and we go insane.

Imagine you owned an MP3 player that had to have 8 hrs. of downtime out of every 24 hours and had to recharge its batteries at least three times during every 16 hrs. that it’s operational.

Would you call that an efficient machine? I sure wouldn’t! Frankly, I’d throw the thing away and get a better one.

What if that same MP3 player needed constant interaction with other MP3 players in order to function at its best? What if it needed daily interface with other machines – not just to download new songs but just to transmit trivial information back and forth like “how efficiently are your songs playing back today?” and “what’s your sound quality like?” I can’t even imagine how frustrating that would be!

Such an MP3 player would serve no useful purpose for me.It would be a useless tool and a worthless instrument.

Perhaps that’s why the Father of our brother Jesus does not call us “tools” or “instruments” but “beloved children” –  adopted forever into the life that he and his Son share with us in their Spirit.

~ Jonathan Stepp

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