Powerful People

Posted: March 4, 2018 in Theology, Tim's Sermons



A Warring Mindset

Posted: January 14, 2018 in Theology, Tim's Sermons



Hope in the Shadowlands

Posted: December 3, 2017 in Theology, Tim's Sermons


 14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!

22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate,27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:14-30 NLT)

And now Zechariah’s words to John the Baptist, his son…

Luke 1:76-79 “And you, my little son,

   will be called the prophet of the Most High,

   because you will prepare the way for the Lord.

77 You will tell his people how to find salvation

   through forgiveness of their sins.

78 Because of God’s tender mercy,

   the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,[i]

79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

   and to guide us to the path of peace.”

Advent – The Shadowlands

  • Today is the 1st Sunday of Advent, which is the preparation season for Christmas just like Lent is the preparation season for Easter. Easter coincides with the coming of spring after the long dormant season of death and loss. Christmas comes as the first rays of that hope – but into the cold dark weariness of a world that simultaneously longs for true life, and fears it.
  • I find it interesting that so many of us associate the Christmas holiday season with contrasts, the joy of family and the God who draws near and makes himself vulnerable, knowable, close, AND it’s also the season of lost dreams, loved ones, winter doldrums, financial pressures, family obligations, and identity crisis. To many walking through grief, Christmas is one of the hardest seasons.  Advent, I think perfectly positions itself to help us walk through both. The waiting. The longing. The darkness. The cold. And the promise. The hope. The light. The warmth of God on his way to make his home with us, never to leave.
  • John the Baptist had a ministry of preparation for Jesus. His job was to show up before Jesus and clear the trees from the site, dig the foundation, put everything in order so that Jesus can be received correctly as the foundation. John’s ministry was clearing things away, which is different from actually building the home or moving in.
  • I really like Advent is because I relate so strongly to the emotional and seasonal aspects of it. We’re yearning for Messiah to come and Zechariah says Jesus comes, “As the dawn breaking from heaven, giving light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide us to the path of peace.” So vivid. And for me with my extreme emotional sensitivity to light, so true. The season of shadows and gray. The season of trying to remember, “Wait, what’s my hope?” The season of fighting to stay awake while I’m alive and not retreat to hibernation or distraction. Some of us are very skilled at fooling ourselves with activities that seem productive but what we’re really doing is retreating from full orbed faith because living that whole hearted got us hurt before, so now we are more careful. Now we diversify our heart’s investments. We no longer seek first the kingdom. We just seek the kingdom a little too, at the end of the rest of our seeking, because who needs the drama?
  • We rehearse both the waiting and the arriving. Waiting for Jesus to come, and him arriving. And we rehearse these events, not merely to remember them. No, we rehearse them because we are in them. We rehearse them to remind ourselves of the actual story we find ourselves in. We are living as the chosen people who are loved, but who are waiting for Messiah. We are waiting with hope, but also much of the time fighting to keep hope in view, keep the faith, to steward our lives while the Master is, in some sense, away.
  • And that is what I really want us to think about today. Stewarding our little hearts in the middle of the waiting, steward our hope in the light in the middle of the darkness. Stewarding our little hope while we wait for it to become big.

Awake Stewards

  • The guy no one wants to be. The one who was unfaithful was actually reacting to the newfound responsibilities of the gift. The gift triggered cortisol, which triggered a stress response, which then caused him to react and retreat.
  • The others carefully stewarded a vision of what was possible. Threats to the vision can powerfully disrupt the attitudes which found the actions that lead to the victory. But these other two servants kept their faith in the midst of the challenges, which enabled positive action and resilience. The outcome was sharing even more fully in the master’s work and the master’s joy.
  • So does faith comes first or action comes first? I don’t know.

The earliest disciples didn’t think themselves into a new way of living, they lived themselves into a new way of thinking. (Brian McLaren)

  • Guard the gates. Attitude is everything. Belief is everything. So taking a proactive approach to selectively weeding out and seeding in the things you want to our minds is critical.
  • Daily Routines. They say to not check your phone for the first hour of the day, lest you get into a cycle of brain chemicals responding to what others are saying, what’s in the news, what’s in the inbox, what’s in the feed, instead of moving from your values toward your goals.
  • Habits are one of the most powerful tools we have to hack our lives out of passivity and reaction into proactivity and creation.
  • Consumers vs Creators. The line is blurred, of course, because genius is found not in creation out of nothing, but in assembling or connecting things that already exist into something that is uniquely yours.
  • Lose yourself in the music. The creative flow is not self aware, it is work aware. And that’s liberating. Challenging enough to require focus, but achievable enough to reward the incremental efforts along the way.
  • Architecture that’s productivity-centered. No guitar cases. Bibles open and out.
  • Whack-a-mole. Taking every thought captive is not a game of whack-a-mole. That’s actually living defensively, hunting for what’s wrong.
  • The fight you’re really in. Whatever is causing stress and fear is usually the important battle we are actually in, which we wish we weren’t in. If we resent that we’re in it, we automatically are on our heels and turn toward self-defeating patterns of thought. If we realize that God is allowing it for our upgrade. If we realize that we can learn to do things we cannot yet do. If we realize that God gives grace to adapt and improve and that here and now, this present moment, is when Christ-in-me is actually relevant, then I can begin to receive positive patterns of thought and belief that are in life with the Spirit.
  • Gratitude is the Spirit’s dominant mindset. The shift toward gratitude is almost always the turning point of the battle. With gratitude comes the relaxation and peace that enables the brain to problem solve, troubleshoot, and own responsibility for taking wise action.

 For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, 5 which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. (Colossians 1:4-5)

  • Hope stored up in heaven. This doesn’t mean when you’re dead you get it. This means nothing on earth can take it. It’s like money in the bank that you can draw from whenever you need it until the day when you totally cash out.

but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

  • Maybe right now you can’t even run. But you can get up. Maybe you can’t run right now, but you can start walking. Maybe you can’t fly right now, but you can run. And maybe somebody in here can start flying, they just need permission. But no matter where you are, in the Lord, there’s hope, and if you have hope, even the smallest hope, it plants in you like a seed and gives birth to the eyes of your heart having something worth living for, walking toward. Get. Back. Up. Hope in God!
  • Ineffective and half alive

The ministry is one of the most perilous of professions. The devil hates the Spirit-filled minister with an intensity second only to that which he feels for Christ himself. The source of this hatred is not difficult to discover. An effective, Christlike minister is a constant embarrassment to the devil, a threat to his dominion, a rebuttal of his best arguments and a dogged reminder of his coming overthrow. No wonder he hates him.

Satan knows that the downfall of a prophet of God is a strategic victory for him, so he rests not day or night devising hidden snares and deadfalls for the ministry. Perhaps a better figure would be the poison dart that only paralyzes the victim, for I think satan has little interest in killing the preacher outright. An ineffective, half-alive minister is a better advertisement for hell than a good man dead…(A.W. Tozer)

  • An ineffective, half alive follower of Jesus.” Paul said, “we’re not ignorant of satan’s schemes.” This is one. You know that’s the target on your back too. “Half alive. Ineffective.” Which targets God’s highest intention for us – abundant life, overflowing with hope, rooted and grounded in love.

Planted by the gates of hope

I have a friend who traffics in words. She is not a minister, but a psychiatrist in the health clinic at a prestigious women’s college. We were sitting once not long after a student she had known, and counseled, committed suicide in the dormitory there. My friend, the doctor, the healer, held the loss very closely in those first few days, not unprofessionally, but deeply, fully — as you or I would have, had this been someone in our care.

At one point (with tears streaming down her face), she looked up in defiance (this is the only word for it) and spoke explicitly of her vocation, as if out of the ashes of that day she were renewing a vow or making a new covenant (and I think she was). She spoke explicitly of her vocation, and of yours and mine. She said, “You know I cannot save them. I am not here to save anybody or to save the world. All I can do — what I am called to do — is to plant myself at the gates of Hope. Sometimes they come in; sometimes they walk by. But I stand there every day and I call out till my lungs are sore with calling, and beckon and urge them in toward beautiful life and love…

(Victoria Stafford)

What we are all called to do is plant ourselves by the gates of Hope.


Posted: November 27, 2017 in Theology, Tim's Sermons



The Quiz

Number a paper 1-15 and choose either C for “cut and paste exactly as written” or P for “apply redemptive principle.”

    1. Genesis 1:28 “Be fruitful and increase in number.”
    2. 1 Corinthians 7:27 “Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife.”
    3. Deut 6:5 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.”
    4. Deut 26:12 “When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce … you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.”
    5. 1 Cor 16:20 “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
    6. 1 Cor 14:34 “Women should remain silent in the churches.”
    7. 1 Tim 5:23 “Stop drinking only water and use a little wine.”
    8. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.”
    9. Lev 19:19 “Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.”
    10. John 13:14 “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash each other’s feet.”
    11. Luke 12:33 “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”
    12. Prov 31:6-7 “Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish, let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.”
    13. 1 Peter 2:18 “Slaves submit to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.”
    14. 1 Tim 2:9 “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire”
    15. Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”

Two Ways People Interpret the Bible

Biblicism — simply cut and paste the bible into our lives. “I just do what the Bible says.” You might think Biblicism is the most faithful way to approach the Bible, but it actually isn’t! Here’s why: Sometimes biblicism works beautifully, fulfilling the reason for the text, but other times biblicism fails miserably, especially when a passage is applied in a situation entirely different from the one for which it was given.

Redemptive Spirit Hermeneutic — “Understand and apply the why.” This method views scripture as having a husk and a kernel. The husk is the exact words, the kernel is the underlying redemptive spirit. The spirit of the text (the WHY) is the single most important aspect of scripture with which we can wrestle. This is where we drill down and find the gold. This is where we discover and encounter God’s heart, his character, his wisdom, and his holiness as we read and apply the Bible. THIS is the most faithful and reverent way to read the Bible.

Two Old Testament Examples

FIRST EXAMPLE – Deuteronomy 22:28-29 “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.”

The “rape law” of marriage you just read during the quiz – in context was meant as a protection for women, but to apply this Scripture AS WRITTEN here and now would not only feel way wrong, but it would actually BE way wrong. It would be going BACKWARDS ethically, not forward. Our instinctive offense at this command reveals how far removed we are from its original audience in terms of culture and context. For the original target audience, this scripture was a considerable step FORWARD for protecting the welfare of raped women.

SECOND EXAMPLE – Deuteronomy 23:15-16 15 “You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. 16 He shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place that he shall choose within one of your towns, wherever it suits him. You shall not wrong him.

Against the backdrop of its context and culture where slaves were property who could be beaten and sexually abused at the discretion of masters, this passage originally landed as a thing of beauty, moving ethical boundaries toward an increase of humanization and protection for slaves. It landed as “good news” then, but would land as “terrible news” now, because the church over the many centuries has made hard won, and deeply gospel-informed improvements compared to ancient near eastern culture.

At the time…it was redemptive. To cut and paste it into our lives would be regressive.

Progressive Revelation

God, as a master teacher, starts with humanity where He finds us, and moves us along by stages. Basic building blocks come first, later, higher principles. What God said at one time is not necessarily what God ultimately wants to say….keep on reading! In basic math the teacher says, “Johnny, you can’t subtract larger numbers from smaller numbers.” Then a few years later, the teacher announces that, “Today, class, we are going to talk about negative numbers.”


Anyone who crosses cultures for the sake of Jesus comes face to face with the reality of cultural accommodation. Joe and Gloria Bontrager have served among cultures that practice polygamy. It is simply part of their culture! Are they supposed to tell the husband to divorce several of the wives? Would that be redemptive? Similar accommodations are happening for the Lord over the centuries, including with us right now. A biblicist approach takes scriptures that contain missionary accommodations and then wrongly views the letter of those laws as permanent absolute standards for all time.

How Jesus interpreted the Bible

Jesus interpreted the Bible very differently than the religious establishment of his day. They were focused on establishing the exact words and doing the exact words, but he was digging deep. Two examples.

#1 Marriage. Jesus understood Moses permitting divorce as God making concessions to human hard-heartedness rather than reflecting God’s desires and intentions, which lay elsewhere, namely in the permanence of marriage (Matthew 19:3-12). They could say, “We’re following the Bible so we’re pleasing God.” He argued, “No. Pleasing God requires more than doing the words of the Bible. It means embodying what’s in God’s heart.” God was accommodating them, but that concession wasn’t actually his heart. In other words, we need to go deeper than the letter of the law. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were SURE he was disobeying the Bible.
A second example…

#2. Sabbath. Remember how Jesus was constantly dogged by churchy folk who accused him of breaking the Sabbath by healing on Saturday? They were literalists and he was a spirit of the law interpreter. He healed on the Sabbath because the Sabbath is about God’s children entering into God’s rest, so by his way of thinking, Jesus was restoring them to a state of rest! The so-called conservatives all around the room gnashed their teeth at him for violating God’s commands, when in fact, he fulfilled its deepest meaning. Do you hear that? Sometimes by doing the words of a command exactly as written, we can be violating God’s very heart in saying it in the first place!

One time his disciples picked grain and ate it as they were walking through a field (Matthew 12). Again, the churchy people condemned his disciples as unbiblical (!), but Jesus pushed back, and pointed out the time that David and his men ate the sacred bread of the presence, which was not lawful for them to do.

Once the revelation drops in on you, you’ll see that all over the 4 gospels Jesus is fulfilling the spirit of the OT commands, often by violating a cut and paste approach to the Bible. Jesus dug down deep and found God’s heart and intention behind the scripture, and lived that out. He lived deeply in the “Why?” questions. As the Word made flesh (John 1:14) Jesus is what it looks like to LIVE the spirit of the text.

Paul Must Have Learned from Jesus!

According to Paul, disciples of Jesus aren’t ruled by “bible laws,” but rather, we are led by the Spirit, who is love, and thus we fulfill the deeper intention of every Bible verse without being “under” it (Rom 7:1-6). Paul meditated deeply on the things Jesus did and said and let them sink deep down into his bones until they became a gospel worth sharing with everybody.

Muzzled Ox. Paul told Timothy that elders who preach and teach ought to be financially compensated. “Where’s that in the Bible, Paul?” “Easy,” he says. “‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain.’ It’s right there!” (1 Tim 5:18). He says, “Who here actually thinks that God said this because he cares about the ox?!?” To which we all said, “Uh, me?” And then he says, “Isn’t this actually written to teach y’all to pay the preacher?” And we said, “Wow, Paul. I mean. I guess that might be a really loose tangential application of that passage, but for sure I wouldn’t say that’s what it’s actually about.” And Paul would scoff and say, “Amateur.” And then we’d say, “Dude, we legit could’ve read that verse for 500 years and never applied it that way.”

The reason is NOT because he’s an apostle and can “take liberties with the text.” Nope. It’s that he’s reading the Bible the right way.

The mission is ultimate

We become all things to all people to reach them for Jesus. The perennial question, then, is, “How do we best reach this culture with the gospel?” Our message doesn’t change, but our methods do. We’re never willing to compromise in a way that displeases or misrepresents the Lord. But the apostles, in their time and place, were trying to present a vision of what it looks like to follow Jesus that would be winsome and attractive to their culture. Sometimes the New Testament authors accommodated to their culture just like God did in the Old Testament. For example:

Slaves must always obey their masters and do their best to please them. They must not talk back or steal, but must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good. Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way. (Titus 2:9-10)

The household codes of how masters are to treat slaves and how slaves were to serve masters involve an element of accommodation to sinful culture, not a perfect expression of God’s will. Within that accommodation is the redemptive spirit of the text, namely, the imperative to serve and love with Christ’s sacrificial other-centered love. The LOVE is what makes it Christian, NOT the institution of slavery.

Here’s another example from the exact same passage in Titus 2. Again, sacrificial love + cultural accommodation for the sake of the mission:

[Young women are to] “to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2:5 ESV)

Stumbling block

The culture of the day was patriarchal. Anything that undermined assumptions of men in charge would have been a major stumbling block to culture in the 1st century. The male/female roles expressed in the New Testament are, in many ways, an accommodation to make the gospel as attractive as possible to the culture of the day, while infusing them with a beautiful redemptive spirit that images Christ. There ARE beautiful and timeless truths about headship and gender differences in some of these passages, I’m not suggesting otherwise! But I am saying that cultural assumptions about husbands having power and wives NOT having power are NOT THE POINT of Ephesians 5:21-33 and Colossians 3:18-19, serving each other in love are! Or, to put it another way, “Men in charge,” is not what makes a marriage Christian. Sacrificial, Christ-exalting, other-centered love is what makes a marriage Christian.

First Down

Throughout history, Jesus is always moving the ball up the field in the trajectory of the end-zone. In each generation he moves things as far as the culture of the day can bear without unduly harming the spread of the Gospel.
If you remember how I started with the examples of the rape law and the runaway slave laws, you may connect the dots! Relative to the original situation, those commands were redemptive! But applied in a “cut and paste” way today, they would pull the wrong direction, away from the increase of love and justice.

Same scripture, different culture

Sense How Different These Texts Feel In Different Cultures! For example: We stumble over, “wives submit to husbands” and they stumbled over, “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.” We stumble over “a woman should learn in quietness and submission,” they stumbled over, “a woman should LEARN.” The very same texts of scripture that land on us as sexist, landed on the original target audiences as nearly feminist.
A Pastoral Concern: READ ME!

The Bible is a little like music. The depth and complexity of what’s musically possible should never discourage you from learning to sing or pick up a guitar and strum simple chords. The presence of Mozart doesn’t negate the value of “Brown-Eyed Girl,” or “Hey Jude.” Any believer with the Holy Spirit can pick up their Bible and understand something true and from God for their life. And that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Knowing God, today?

It is your Bible. It doesn’t belong to pastors or scholars or dead denominational founders. It’s your Bible. You and God have a relationship and the Bible is meant take a central place in that relationship.

The point of everything I’ve said today is this: If we’re reading scripture correctly, it’s good news and it leads to a life of love. If it isn’t, and doesn’t, we’re missing something. Amen.

Tim’s Notes