Monday, November 12, 2018

Tim's Toolbox: PRAY - The Lord's Prayer as a Guide Rather than a Script.


Tool #6 invites us to learn a wonderful way to pray, which is not the same as learning a wonderful prayer. Learning a way to pray helps our prayer life to stay fresh and conversational.


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Jesus’ disciples recognized that the way he related to God was radically different from what they were familiar with. So they asked him; “Teach us to pray.” We know his response as “The Lord’s Prayer” and it is recorded in two different versions.  One is in the Gospel of Luke and a longer version is in Matthew.

While it is beneficial to memorize and recite The Lord’s Prayer, it can also be an amazing tool for our spiritual life when used as a pattern for prayer rather than as a script. The Hexagon icon above represents six themes for prayer found in The Lord’s Prayer:

The Father’s Character. Jesus encourages us to address God as “abba,” a term of intimacy similar to “daddy” or “papa” in English. Our prayers begin as we turn to our loving God as children turning to a loving parent.

The Father’s Kingdom. God’s intention for the world is life, love, joy, meaning, purpose and beauty for everyone and everything. This is what is meant by “Kingdom come.”

Provision. Loving parents provide for all their children’s needs, so we look to God for our “daily bread.”

Forgiveness. We damage our relationships with each other and with God, so we seek their repair with the forgiveness that flows to us from God and through us to others.

Guidance. God is active in our lives, giving direction and leading us towards the things that give life – to us and to others - and away from the things that don’t.

Protection. Evil is a reality and there are forces and powers in the world stronger than us. We look to God for protection.

With these themes in mind, The Lord’s Prayer becomes a way of praying that we can learn and teach. For example, suppose a friend is having a personal crisis. Here is how our concern might be shaped in prayer through each theme. Character: remembering that our friend is also a child of God and that their life matters to the Father.  Kingdom: envisioning the kind of life we know the Father wants for our friend. Provision: knowing that God is already at work to provide for our friend in their need and that we may be a part of how God’s provision will be delivered. Forgiveness: for ourselves if we have been neglecting our friend’s needs; for others who may have hurt our friend; and for ways our friend may have created or complicated their own crisis. Guidance: listening for specific instructions from God on what to do for our friend. Protection: remembering that we and our friend may encounter things we can’t manage on our own in this situation, but trusting God to watch over us.

The Hexagon themes can also be used to guide us in reviewing our life to see where God may be asking us to direct our attention. Like a medical checkup where we routinely look at blood pressure, heart rate and temperature, each theme is an area or aspect of life we can look at. Where we’re healthy we can give thanks to the Father. Where something’s amiss, we can explore what needs to be done.


Monday, November 5, 2018

Tim's Toolbox: BALANCE - Tending Life in Three Dimensions

Tool #5 in the toolbox invites us to look at life in three "dimensions" - Up, In and Out. "UP" is our relationship with God; "IN" is our relationship with our spiritual family, and "OUT" is our relationship with everyone else and the creation itself. We pursue a balanced life, tending all three relationships, just like we try to eat a balanced diet to be healthy physically.

To find the full set of tools, go to Toolbox Central. 

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As followers of Jesus, we watch what he does so we can pattern our lives after his. One of the things we see him doing is intentionally tending three relationships: his “UP” relationship with the Father, his “IN” relationship with his followers, and his “OUT” relationship with the crowds and the world. A  triangle is an easy way to have a visual reminder of this three-fold pattern in his life.
In Mark 1 you can see Jesus vividly engaged in all three of these dimensions. For example, in verse 29 we see that he’s been in the synagogue worshipping together with his faith community (Up, In). Next he’s spending time with his disciples at Simon Peter’s home where he heals Simon’s mother-in-law (In). That evening he receives visitors from all over town and heals many (Out). The next morning he sneaks off early to be alone and pray (Up). Once his disciples have tracked him down, he sets out on a trip with them to continue their training (In), visiting neighboring towns to preach and heal there (Out.)
From Jesus’ example we can see what it looks like to tend life in all three dimensions. And as with the Pipe metaphor, there’s a flow taking place. We receive life in the Up dimension; share, enjoy and grow in that life In the faith community; and deliver that life in service Out into the world.
We can also learn from Jesus that “Balance” isn’t something you have, so much as it’s something you do. Balance is not a goal, as if one could arrive at a place where all three areas are equally healthy and just stay there. Rather, balance is a practice of keeping all three in view and adjusting along the way. Balancing as a practice honors the reality of seasons in life (as the Rhythm tool reminds us) and invites us into discernment to follow where Jesus is leading us next.
Here are some of the ways we might engage Up, In and Out in our lives.
Up – Daily prayers, devotions, Bible study and worship; “abiding” and Sabbath practices; talking to God throughout the day; mindfulness practices that make any activity an Up experience as we attend to God’s presence with us.
In - Spending time with other believers to enjoy life, build relationships and care for each other; discipling each other by sharing insights and struggles; getting together, whether it’s in twos and threes or hundreds and thousands, at work or at play.
Out - Caring for people in need; inviting and welcoming people into your life and community; introducing people to Jesus; making life delightful for others; taking care of creation; being a good neighbor and citizen.
The Triangle is a tool to help us see. We can use it when reading scripture, looking for the Up, In and Out themes to help us understand what we’re reading. We can use it as a lens to “read” our own lives, recognizing areas being neglected as well as places where strength and vitality are creating an opportunity for us. We can apply it to ourselves, and also to our groups and faith communities. But the Triangle is a tool for seeing, for helping us hear what the Lord is saying to us. It is not a rule we have to obey or force our lives to fit into.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Tim's Toolbox: Tools 1-4 = A Life in Motion

Just a quick pause in between introducing tools 4 and 5 to make an observation: the first four tools work together as a kind of "minimum viable product" for having a life in motion. Here's how that works:

The FLOW tool gives you a simple way to think about life as a "receive and release" arrangement. If you embrace that way of thinking about life then the first thing you want to do is to receive, to let the love flow in, which is what the ABIDE tool is about. Recognizing that the inflow has such a high priority, it's only wise then that you order your life in such a way that being filled up isn't something that just happens by accident or on occasion. So you put in place regular practices and scheduled times that add a RHYTHM to your abiding. Being filled up now becomes a routine in your life, and all that accumulating inflow will want to go somewhere, so the FOLLOW tool becomes the way you seek out ongoing direction on where your flow is intended to go. A sustainable life in motion is the result.

The remaining tools then can be seen as navigation aids for the journey you are on. Using the FOLLOW tool involves a lot of observation and discernment: what's going on around me right now? What's the opportunity for Kingdom Come that this particular Kairos moment is opening up? Tools 5-10 can help to focus those kinds of questions in helpful ways, as well as give guidance for some of the challenges and questions that are likely to arise along the way.

Next week I'll introduce one of the most helpful "navigation aids" in the toolbox - the BALANCE tool which points us to the three core relationships we want to tend in life.

Be sure to bookmark the Toolbox Page for a helpful index to these resources.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tim's Toolbox: FOLLOW - Orient, Act, Repeat

Tool #4 lets you see the central message of Jesus in visual form. It's a rich symbol with a lot of depth to it. God is up to something wonderful and you can be a part of it. That's good news.

To find the full set of tools, go to Toolbox Central.  Sermons 5-9 in the Road Trip series unpack the Follow symbol and the message of Jesus.
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The message that Jesus preached is summarized in this verse: “The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” Mark 1:15 Understanding that message is key to following Jesus. There are four words to unpack, each one represented in the Follow icon as well.

Time – Jesus uses a special word for “time” in his message which is “kairos” in the Greek language. It refers to the moment when something is ripe or ready to happen. It’s not the “scheduled” time, but rather the “right” time, like the way we say “It’s time!” when a baby is about to be born. The message of Jesus is not just general information. It’s always an announcement of something that is happening now, because this is the moment when life is changing.

Kingdom – God wants all of life to be right: good, whole, beautiful and joyful for everyone and everything. Whenever life moves from the way it is into the way it should be that’s a little bit of “Kingdom come.” So to say; “the Kingdom has come near” means that we are standing on the edge, ready to step into a better world.

Repent – We usually associate “repent” with the emotions of shame and regret, even fear. But it simply means to turn, to change your mind, to change your direction. There is always a turning from and a turning towards. Jesus invites us to turn towards something wonderful (Kingdom come) which is why his message is called “The Gospel” (good news) rather than “The Warning.”

Believe – To “believe in the good news” means more than just accepting it as true. It means acting on it as well because “believe in” is a statement of trust. When you believe in a person you put your life in their hands. When you believe in the good news you put your life on its pathway.

With those understandings we can rephrase Jesus’ message into more familiar language in this way; “You have arrived, right now, at a moment when something wonderful is happening. Your life and the world is being set right, repaired, restored and released into joy! So drop what you’re doing, pay attention to this, and become a part of it.” To act on that message is to follow Jesus.

The Follow icon represents this message of movement and moment in this way. A timeline enters from the left and arrives at the “kairos moment” marked by the X. From there, we can keep going just as we were on our current path (dotted line arrow.) Or, we can notice that a new pathway is possible (arrow bending upwards) leading to a better future (Kingdom come.)

Changing directions is a process. First we “turn around” (repent, shown as the curved arrow going down) which involves turning from the direction we were going. Then we continue by turning towards the new path, not only in our intentions but also in our actions. The result is that we emerge from the kairos moment going in a new, Kingdom-ward direction.

Luke 19:1-10 (Zacchaeus arrives at a “kairos moment” and follows Jesus into a new life); Mark 10:17-22 (Another man chooses to stay on his current path.)

Monday, October 8, 2018

Tim's Toolbox: RHYTHM - Structure Your Life for Spiritual Health

Here's tool #3 in the toolbox, which invites you to think about the rhythms and patterns in your life. As my friend Ernie likes to say; "There are ways of living that give life, and there are ways of living that... don't." Are your life rhythms life-giving? Read on!

To find the full set of tools, go to Toolbox Central.

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If you think of the way a pendulum swings, back and forth along a smooth curve, you have a good mental image for the idea of rhythm. That curved path is represented in the semi-circle shape used in the icon for rhythm.

Physical life is filled with rhythms, like breathing in and out, the beating of our hearts, and the daily switch from being asleep to being awake and then back again. If we ignore these rhythms or try to override them life does not go well for us!

Spiritual life is deeply shaped by rhythm as well. Jesus shows us this in his image of the Vine and Branches in John 15. “Those who abide in me bear much fruit.” he says, which is like the first swing of the pendulum from a time of rest into a time of being productive or “fruitful.” He continues, saying; “Every branch that bears fruit the Father prunes to make it bear more fruit.” That’s the pendulum swinging back again as we “cut back” on our work to return to the time of resting and renewal. From that rest and abiding of course will come even more fruit when the time is right again.

This is the fundamental rhythm in our spiritual life: the movement from abiding and resting in God, out into fruitful work, and then back again.

It’s important to note that while our spiritual life rhythm has two parts, abiding comes first. After all, it’s not as if the branch has to bear fruit first before the vine will let it have any sap! Rest and abiding are not the reward for being productive. Rather, it’s our being filled by God first that naturally results in our ability to do good in the world. “We love because he first loved us” from 1 John 4:19 makes that as clear as can be.

Since abiding is so important to our spiritual life, it’s only wise then that we begin to structure our lives in order to protect our time for abiding. It’s spiritually wise to make our time for abiding into more than just an occasional activity. We want it to become a lifestyle. The way we do that is through establishing and tending rhythms.

A daily rhythm of abiding allows us to integrate our spiritual life into some of the most regular and powerful rhythms we have. As we learn to go into our work day with the deep assurance that we are already loved, valued and affirmed by God, we avoid the temptation to work our way to feeling good about ourselves.

A weekly rhythm of “Sabbath” rest has deep roots in scripture. It appears in the Creation stories (Genesis 2:1-4) and the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11), and Jesus made it a habit to take time for Sabbath (Luke 4:16). He also helped us to recover the idea that Sabbath is a gift intended to serve us, not a burdensome set of rules to be kept (Mark 2:23-28).

There are also rhythms of life that are not so regular as a daily or weekly practice. These are more like “seasons” we go through, extended times of work and fruitfulness followed by the “pruning” that lets us find renewal and new directions in life. Developing the ability to recognize spiritual rhythms, to nurture them and respond to them, is an important tool for us to have in hand.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Tim's Toolbox: ABIDE - Start Here

Here's tool #2 in the toolbox, which is the first tool that has something for you to do. In keeping with the traditions of my Lutheran tribe, the first thing to do is to stop doing and receive. Read on!

To find the full set of tools, go to Toolbox Central.  Here is a sermon on Abiding as well.

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Jesus teaches us that love is the center of life and faith. His summary of what’s truly important is that we should “Love the Lord your God with all your heart… and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) We are also taught that being loved comes before being loving. As it says in 1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.” So the starting point in life is learning to be loved, which is surprisingly difficult for many of us!

Jesus uses a particular word and a powerful image to talk about remaining open and connected to God to receive that love. The word is Abide, and the image is the Vine and Branches in John 15:1-11. “I am the vine, you are the branches... Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me… Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” It’s hard to overstate the importance of abiding for the branches. Not only is abiding in the vine what allows the branch to bear fruit, it’s what keeps the branch alive in the first place! The Pipe metaphor points this out as well, reminding us that there’s no outflow without an inflow first. That’s why the icon for Abide has a circle at the top of the pipe shape, to focus our attention on the inflow first.

To abide then is to remain intimately connected to God and receiving the flow of love as a way of life. And as we live moment by moment, it’s a sense of resting in that security. Abiding is what’s envisioned for us when Jesus invites; “Come to me… and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

We believe that God loves us, loves us all the time, and loves us just as we are. But for many people, ”being loved” doesn’t go much further. It’s something they believe, but not something they experience. It’s like a radio station that is broadcasting all the time but we’re not listening to it. How then do we “tune in” to the station? How do we learn to Abide?

The answer to that may be different for different people, and it may be different for the same person at different times! But a good starting point is to look at the beautiful moment of abiding between Jesus and the Father at his baptism. What we see there is Jesus simply listening, “soaking it in” as the Father declares three things to him: You are my son, I love you, and I’m pleased with you. (Mark 1:9-11) Jesus abides constantly in the relationship declared in those three statements. That relationship is his source of strength and direction for all he does and endures.

Learning to be loved can begin by spending time in prayer simply listening to the Father just as Jesus did. Listen to the Father speak those same words to you. Let it wash over you and soak into your heart. Physical experiences can also help us re-center on the spiritual reality of God’s love for us. For example, pausing in the moment when the warm water of your shower runs down over your head can be a powerful reminder of the peace and well-being you have with God’s love showering down on you. Wrapping a comforter around your shoulders can be a physical representation of God’s tender embrace.

John 15:16 (I chose you)

1 John 3:1a (Children of God)
Zephaniah 3:17 (God sings over you)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Catalyzing Discipleship

Found this image on makethebrainhappy.com.
Crowdsourcing:
#NerdAlert
#TheChemistryOfDiscipleship

We do make mature disciples in our churches, but the process is slow and inefficient. It does happen, just not very often or very quickly. 

(That's a premise we can challenge in another blog post. For this post, let's just accept it for the sake of discussion. If you'd like to be invited to weigh in on the premise at a later date, just put #Premise in your comment below and I'll get back to you!)

In chemistry, reactions are facilitated using a catalyst. There are several distinct ways that catalysts work. For example, a catalyst may hold the reactants near each other which makes it more likely that they will interact.

Question: how many distinct modes of catalysis are there, and for each mode, what might it correspond to in an analogy for how people become mature disciples?

Monday, September 24, 2018

Tim's Toolbox: FLOW - The Shape of Life

Here's the brief introduction to the first tool in my Toolbox, which I often refer to as "The L-Shaped Pipe." This is the core metaphor I draw upon to talk about what it means to be human, what meaning, purpose and joy look like, and the host of things that can (and do!) go wrong with our "spiritual plumbing." For additional blog posts on The Pipe, click here

You can find the whole Toolbox here.

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Relationships are central to what it means to be human. We are designed to be connected to other humans, and we can’t enjoy our full humanity if we’re alone. We are also designed to be connected to God, and that relationship is just as necessary for us to experience our humanity if not more so. These two relationships are not independent. Our relationship with God affects how we relate to each other, and our relationships with others affect our relationship with God. A simple and powerful way to envision this is the metaphor of an L-shaped pipe. We receive love from God and release love to others. The inflow and the outflow are connected, two parts of one thing. We are conduits for God, and “flow” is what we experience as joy, meaning and purpose in our lives.

In the Pipe metaphor, flow is driven by pressure not suction. As it says in 1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.” When Jesus says in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches” it’s clear that branches don’t get fed because they first bear fruit; they are fed by the vine and fruit grows as a result. Life in God has a “because/therefore” movement rather than an “if/then” requirement. This is at the heart of what the word “grace” means.

Unrestricted flow is God’s design and intention for our life together. But life as we live it now is full of “plumbing problems” that disrupt the flow of love, both to us and through us to others. Problems at either end effect the flow both in and out.

People can be wounded by others spiritually, emotionally and physically. Things that happen to you can put “dents” in your pipe that make it harder for you to receive and to give love. We can also impede our own flow. “Clogs” of bitterness, anger jealousy and such can form inside us, often in response to the dents inflicted by others. The results may look the same (reduced flow) but the causes are very different and they need very different kinds of repair work. People with dents need healing, while those of us with spiritual clogs need… Drano or Roto-Rooter!

Other spiritual plumbing problems can also be recognized with the Pipe. A person who is caring for others but neglecting their own family might be said to have “leaks” in their pipe. Someone who is deeply alienated from God could have a “break” that disconnects them from the source. People who are profoundly self-centered are like Pipes bent from the L-shape into a closed circle: they want to depend only on themselves, and direct all their outflow back to their own desires and hungers.

In the Pipe metaphor, Jesus is an example for us of what unhindered flow and full connection to God looks like. But more importantly, we believe that Jesus is not merely an example from the past but also a resurrected, living, active and healing presence in our lives now. He is the Master Plumber who is at work to repair us in every way, restore our flow and make our “joy complete.” (John 15:11)

John 7:37-39 (Rivers of Living Water);
John 15:1-11 (Vine and Branches);
Matthew 6:12 (forgive us AS);
Luke 10:38-42 (Martha and Mary);
Luke 15:11-32 (Prodigal)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Tim's Toolbox - Introduction

Hello friends!

It's been a long time coming but I have finally written up a brief introduction to what I call my discipleship "Toolbox" - a collection of ten themes and practices for followers of Jesus. These are the things that have been the most helpful to me and that I have gone back to over and over again in conversation with others.

In the coming weeks I'll be featuring the Tools one at a time in blog posts here. As I go, the links will all be collected onto one page that I'm calling "Toolbox Central." You can always find that on the main page of this blog at the tab labeled "Toolbox" under the main banner. There is also a link there to the entire set of tools as a pdf in case you're eager to have a look right away. I do encourage you to subscribe to this blog so you'll get updates by email as they come out.

Here is a copy of the Introduction that I wrote for the Toolbox booklet, just to get things rolling.

As always, I'm eager to be in conversation and hear your questions, comments and suggestions from improving my material!

Tim


Introduction
Imagine that I wrote a book for you, telling you all about the ideas and practices that have been the most meaningful to me in my life as a follower of Jesus. It would be my own personal toolkit so to speak. Now imagine that each chapter in the book had a brief summary at the end, recapping the most important points for you. Well, that book doesn’t exist, but the chapter summaries do and that’s what you’re holding now!

Truthfully, I’m sure that an actual book would be more helpful for you to be reading first! These summaries can be pretty dense as they try to say a lot in just a few words. But better a summary you can have now than a book that may – or may not! – get written later on! 

I am hugely indebted to Mike Breen for much of the good stuff you will find in here. Four of my Tools (Rhythm, Follow, Balance and Prayer) are taken directly from his own collection of Life Shapes. Two others – Diversity and Multiplication – are based on his shapes. So if you do want a book to read, please get Mike’s Building a Discipling Culture and you’ll have an excellent introduction to the Life Shapes and much more! It’s a tribute to Mike and his colleagues at 3dMovements.com that they encourage people like me to share and build on their work without concerns over copyrights and such.

Finally, although I love to teach the tools, the Toolbox is not a curriculum. A curriculum is about content one is trying to learn, rather than skills and practices one is being trained in. With a curriculum, once you have achieved understanding there’s a sense that the work is done. But in the Toolbox, once you have learned how to use the tools, that is when the work begins.

I pray that these tools will be as helpful for you as they have been for me! Blessings as you build a Kingdom life.

Tim

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Is Your God Silly Enough?

Is your God silly enough?
In Chapter 1 of Ephesians in The Message version, I was caught by the line "What pleasure he took in planning this!" This is one of the things I love about The Message - it helps me get a sense of God's emotions.
One of the most awesome things about being human is our capacity to experience joy, delight, playfulness and just FUN! Well, we're made in God's image... so wouldn't we expect God to be like that too, only even more so? How odd... it seems to me that we have no problem thinking of God as being more powerful than humans, more loving than us, more holy and so on. Yet it comes as a revelation to even begin to imagine that God could be more playful, more joyful, more enthusiastic than us. Maybe even more SILLY than us!
I think we're seriously missing the boat here.
This connects to my "Abiding" tool too. As we grow in an understanding of the joy-filled heart of God, this can be a profound blessing to us in our abiding times as we begin to get a sense of how utterly delighted God is with us as His children.
To sit and soak for even a few minutes each morning as objects of Daddy's delight... that will transform us in the best way possible.
And... it gives us something good to share with others.
(PS - I nabbed that awesome photo off of a website called Rediscovered Families. Looks like a good one you may want to check it out!)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Parable of the Two Farmers

Once there were two farmers who each had a vision of a wonderful crop, free of weeds and producing a great harvest.
The first farmer gathered all the seeds and spread them out, then began picking out the weed seeds from among the wheat seeds.
The second farmer sowed all the seeds right away.
Some time later the second farmer was busy at work pulling the weeds each day as the crop grew, while the first farmer was busy at work searching for and removing weed seeds in preparation for planting.
Eventually, the second farmer had a wonderful harvest. The first farmer had a lot of very clean seed.


(Just a little window into my world on a Wednesday morning.)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Putting Your Life in Forward Motion (Excursion 4/Road Trip #14 June 24, 2018)

This is the fourth and final message in the Excursion for June 2018. It's also message # 14 in my "Road Trip" series at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church. 

Title: "Putting Your Life in Forward Motion"


Message Summary:  If we've made it a regular practice in our lives to let the Lord fill us up with life, then that "inflow" will want to go somewhere! So the final theme has to do with letting the Lord direct our lives, direct the flow of love from us to our neighbors. This message introduces the image and metaphor of The Asteroid Field to talk about navigating in our ever-changing lives, which is to say, following where Jesus leads. The process of "orient, act, repeat" turns out to match beautifully with the way Jesus describes his core message in Mark 1:19 saying "The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom is near - repent and believe the good news." 

Conversation Questions from the Travel Guide

  • Where in your life do you see something exciting or something with “energy around it” right now?
  • If the Lord was inviting you to “go for it!” or otherwise engage in that area, what would it look like if you did?
  • Where in your life do you see something that’s really concerning for you – a person, issue or problem that’s just “on your heart” a lot at this time?
  • If the Lord was inviting you to “go for it!” or otherwise engage in that area, what would it look like if you did?

Bible verses for Learning to be Loved:

  • John 10:1-6
  • John 8:12
  • John 6:60-69
  • John 15:10-12
  • Luke 10:27
  • Matthew 16:24-25
  • Luke 5:27-29

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Rhythms of Life that Help You LIVE (Excursion 3/Road Trip 13 - June 17, 2018)

This is the third message in the Excursion for June 2018. It's also message # 13 in my "Road Trip" series at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church. 

Title: "Rhythms of Life that Help You LIVE"


Message Summary:  Life has lots of rhythms that we need to pay attention to if we want to live well. There are natural, biological rhythms like breathing in and out, and the rhythm between being asleep and awake. You won’t get far at all if you don’t respect those rhythms!
Spiritual life has natural rhythms too. These may be easier to ignore, but they are no less important. The “abiding” that we looked at last week often calls for a daily rhythm of time spent getting filled up spiritually, which turns into “fruitfulness” in our lives. Another spiritual rhythm is the weekly swing from a day of rest to the days of work and back again.

Our culture however, with its obsession and addiction to busyness and “being productive,” tends to work against these spiritual rhythms.  So this is an area where we often need to take control of our lives and schedules and exercise some personal discipline if we want to be spiritually healthy. This is often one of the first places that disciples really encounter the challenge of whether to follow Jesus or to follow the norms and expectations of our culture.

As my friend Ernie likes to say; “There are ways of living that give life, and there are ways of living that…  don’t.”
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Conversation Questions from the Travel Guide
  • How long has it been since you woke up feeling really rested physically, full of energy and ready for the new day?
  • What would your life be like if that was normal for you? 
  • How long has it been since you felt really rested spiritually, full of joy and ready to engage the world with love? 
  • Imagine that you spent time most every day simply “soaking up the love” from God. What would your life be like if that was normal for you? 
  • Are you the kind of person who can just make up their mind about something (like a diet or exercise) and then stick with it? Or do you typically need others to encourage you and offer supportive accountability for achieving your goals?
  • What would it take to improve the spiritual rhythms of your life?

Bible verses for Spiritual Rhythms:
  • Genesis 1:26-2:3
  • Deuteronomy 5:12-15
  • Luke 4:16
  • Acts 17:2
  • Luke 2:41-52
  • Mark 1:35

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Learning to be Loved (Excursion 2/Road Trip 12 - June 10, 2018)

This is the second message in the Excursion for June 2018. It's also message # 12 in my "Road Trip" series at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church. 

Title: "Learning to be Loved"


Message Summary:  One thing the Pipe metaphor does really well is point to the importance of having an “inflow” first. This is why the “Abide” icon has a circle at the top of the pipe, to focus our attention there. As it says in 1 John 4 “We love because he first loved us.” And Jesus teaches us this same thing in John 15 using the image of a vine and branches: fruit is the result of the sap flowing into the branches. Over and over again Jesus emphasizes that the most important thing for us to do is to “abide” in him. Stay connected. Stay open. Receive the flow. Let yourself be loved.

We do believe that God loves us, loves us all the time, and loves us just as we are. But how do we “tune in” to that realty?

The answer to that may be different for different people, and it may be different for the same person at different times! But a good starting point is to look at the beautiful moment of abiding between Jesus and his Father at his baptism. What we see there is Jesus simply listening, “soaking it in” as the Father declares three things to him: You are my son, I love you, and I’m pleased with you. (Mark 1:9-11)

Jesus abides constantly in the relationship declared in those three statements. That relationship is his source of strength and direction for all he does and endures. As followers of Jesus, we want to learn from his example and “find rest for our souls” (Matthew 11:29) So learning to be loved can begin by spending time listening to the Father just as Jesus did. Listen to the Father speak those same words to you. “Abide” in that love, and you’ll surely feel the flow pouring in from above.

Conversation Questions from the Travel Guide
  • Does it feel important to you to spend time “soaking” and simply experiencing the reality of God’s love for you?  Or does that seem like wasting time when you should be “getting something done?”
  • Sometimes people light a candle as a sign of God’s presence, or wrap a blanket around their shoulders to represent God’s loving “hug.” For many, tilting their head back – like we do to feel the sun on our face – brings a powerful sense of God’s delight in them. Are there abiding practices that you have tried or found helpful?
  • Following Jesus’ example, we too can quiet our hearts and simply listen to the Father speaking to us. Which of the three things the Father says speaks most deeply to you? “You are my child”? “I love you”? “I am pleased with you”?
  • For some people, trying to sit quietly might make it harder for them to feel loved! Is that true for you?  If so, what kind of activity does help you get filled up with God’s love?

Bible verses for Learning to be Loved:
  • Romans 5:8
  • John 15:16
  • 1 John 3:1a
  • Mark 1:9-11
  • Matthew 4:1-4
  • Matthew 11:29
  • Zephaniah 3:17

Sunday, June 3, 2018

A Helpful Way to Think About Life (Excursion 1/Road Trip 11 - June 3, 2018)

This is the first message in the Excursion for June 2018. It's also message # 11 in my "Road Trip" series at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church. 

Title: "A Helpful Way to Think About Life"


Message SummaryThe way we think about life shapes how we experience it, and how we live. You’ll live very differently if you believe “Life is a test” as opposed to “Life is an adventure!”

One helpful way for followers of Jesus to think about life uses the image of an L-shaped pipe. In this metaphor, humans are built for relationship: for connection to God and to each other. Life is about “flow” as we receive love from God and release love to others. The inflow and the outflow are connected, and are actually just two parts of one thing. As it says in 1 John 4 “We love because he first loved us.” Blockage at either end shuts down the flow, both in and out.

Now, life is full of “plumbing problems” that disrupt the flow of love to us and through us. People can be wounded by others spiritually, emotionally and physically, and end up with “dents” in their pipe. “Clogs” of bitterness, anger jealousy and such can also form inside us. 

But healing can repair what has gone wrong. And human life finds meaning, joy and fulfillment again as we experience the flow of love moving through us.

Video: Click here to view video of message on Facebook.
Slides: Click here to view the slides from the sermon in a new window.

AudioClick here for the sermon audio from Sunday, June 2, 2018.


Conversation Questions from the Travel Guide
  • What other ways do people think about life?   “Life is a ___.”  “Life is like___.”  
  • Do any of those ways of thinking shape how you experience life?
  •  How well does the Pipe image fit with how you experience life?
  •  Are there things about your life that don’t fit easily within the Pipe metaphor?
  •  If you saw yourself as a pipe, then how would you see Jesus?
  •  Are you aware of any clogs in your life right now? Any dents?

Bible verses you can explore using the Pipe:
  • Matthew 6:12
  • Luke 10:40
  • Luke 15:11-32
  • John 15:1-11
  • John 7:37-39

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Join the Conversation in June

For the month of June I'm inviting people into conversation - with each other and with me - around four weekly themes that I have found to be foundational in the way I understand and practice my faith. Would you like to join in?

The themes are part of a "Visual Catechism" I'm developing. The first theme is "Flow," which explores the idea that humans are designed to be like L-shaped pipes that receive and release goodness so that it flows through us from God to each other. The second theme, "Abide" emphasizes the importance of learning how to be loved since the inflow from God is what drives the outflow. "Rhythm" considers how we can order our lives so that this way of living is built into our schedules and not dependent on when we happen to be having a good day. Finally, the "Follow" theme looks at how we can hear and act on what God is up to in our lives which gives our outflow direction in the world.

To support conversation on those themes I've created a downloadable Travel Guide with scripture references and discussion questions, and a Facebook page that will follow along with the weekly message I will be preaching at St. Stephen's in West Saint Paul. The messages will be posted online here for easy access. All these resources are being collected on the Excursion tab on this blog, so that's the hub for pretty much everything you might want.

To participate, all you need to do is find someone else that you'd like to explore these themes with, grab the resource and run with it! If you'd like to be in conversation with me and others along the way, the Facebook page is the place for that.

I hope you'll come along on the Excursion! It's be a joy to have you in conversation and a real help to me as I continue to work on creating a resource that I hope can be valuable to many.

Tim

P.S. - Some of my icons are drawn from or influenced by the resources of the 3dm Movement. I HIGHLY recommend you check them out!