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!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

"Road Trip" Sermon #10 - "Pentecost"

Message # 10 in my "Road Trip" series at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church. 
Title: "Pentecost"


Summary: Pentecost is a game-changer, not because the Spirit was given, but because the Spirit was given to all. That is what gave birth to the Church were there is a radical mutuality described in the many "one-another" passages. For many, many centuries however, the Church has neglected one-anothering and focused on the old mode where the one speaks to the others. It's incredibly important for us as disciples of Jesus to begin relearning the mutuality of spiritual life that is at the heart of what Pentecost put in motion. The June "Excursion" is one small step we all can take in that direction.
Slides with Audio: Click here to view the slides with audio from the sermon in a new window.

Audio OnlyClick here to listen to the sermon audio from Sunday, May 20th, 2018.

Find the whole series here.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

"Road Trip" Sermon #9 - "The Learning Circle"

Message # 9 in my "Road Trip" series at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church
Title: "The Learning Circle"

Summary: A final look at the condensed version of the message of Jesus in Mark 1:15 "The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news!" Previous sermons looked at four key words: Time (kairos); Kingdom; Repent and Believe. This time I show how Jesus' message fits with the "big picture" of salvation history, as well as the "personal picture" of our own day-to-day lives. Uses a visual symbol to show the four themes working together as a representation of how we listen for God's leading and respond.
SlidesClick here to view the slides from the sermon in a new window.

AudioClick here to listen to the sermon audio from Sunday, April 8th, 2018.

Find the whole series here.

Monday, March 19, 2018

"Road Trip" Sermon #8 - "Believe"

Message # 8 in my "Road Trip" series at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church
Title: "Believe"
Summary
: Continues to unpack the condensed version of the message of Jesus in Mark 1:15 "The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news!" The focus this time is the word "Believe." Jesus' call to "believe" goes beyond just holding certain things to be true. It also calls for relationship, as in when we say "I believe in you." And it  calls for the belief to be realized in action. Put together, it's clear that belief in Jesus is a way of living based on trust.

SlidesClick here to view the slides from the sermon in a new window.

AudioClick here to listen to the sermon audio from Saturday, March 3rd, 2018.

Video: (May be added later.)

Find the whole series here.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

"Road Trip" Sermon #7 - Repent (Come and See!)

Message #7 in my "Road Trip" series at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church.

Title: "Repent (Come and See!)"
Summary: Continues to unpack the condensed version of the message of Jesus in Mark 1:15 "The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news!" The focus this time is the word "Repent." Although the word is strongly connected to risk and threat in our culture, it doesn't just refer to the need to turn from something bad. It can also be a call to turn towards something wonderful. In fact, every turning involved both a turn-from and a turn-towards. In the message of Jesus however, the emphasis is on the arrival of the Kingdom, which is not to be seen as a threat, but as "good news!" The message of Jesus is a turn-towards invitation, and adopting that perspective can change the way we experience our lives.

SlidesClick here to view the slides from the sermon in a new window.

AudioClick here to listen to the sermon audio from Sunday February 11th, 2018.

VideoSee the message here on Facebook Live.

Find the whole series here.

Monday, February 12, 2018

"Road Trip" Sermon #6 - Kingdom Come, Then and Now

Message #6 in my "Road Trip" series at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church.

Title: "Kingdom Come - Then and Now"

Summary: Continues to unpack the condensed version of the message of Jesus in Mark 1:15
"The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news!" The focus this time is the word "Kingdom" and the phrase "Kingdom come." Looks at two meanings: the final arrival of the Kingdom when Jesus returns (reappears, really) and the idea that the Kingdom can come it various ways even now, in us and through us. For example, whenever something broken is fixed that's "a little bit of Kingdom come." So the message of Jesus is not only about the Kingdom to come in the future, but also an invitation to join in God's work to bring the Kingdom here and now.

Slides: Click here to view the slides from the sermon in a new window.

Audio: Click here to listen to the sermon audio from Sunday February 11th, 2018.

Find the complete series here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"Road Trip" Sermon #5 - It's Time!

Message #5 in my "Road Trip" series at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church.

Title: "It's Time!"

Summary: Introduces Mark 1:15 which is a one-verse summary of Jesus' message. Four key words in that verse need to be "unpacked." In this message we look at the word "time." Other words will be the focus of future messages.

"Time" in Greek can be either chronos (chronological time - minutes, seconds, appointments etc.) or kairos (unscheduled time that arrives "when the moment is right" as when an expectant mother suddenly announces "The baby is coming NOW!")

Jesus points us to kairos time, to be attentive to the moments when God is up to something wonderful that we can take part in.



SlidesClick here to view slides in a new window.

Audio: Hear the audio from Saturday January 13th 2018 here.

Monday, November 27, 2017

"Road Trip" Sermon #4 - Balance

Message #4 in my "Road Trip" series at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church.

Title: "Balance"

Summary: Begins with s quick tip for abiding in prayer using a prayer posture that emphasizes receptivity and joy rather than humility. Main topic is observing how Jesus attends to three dimensions of life - "Up" with the Father; "In" with the disciples and his faith family; "Out" with the crowds. He works to keep a balanced attention on all three of these relationships. Introduces the Triangle as a simple graphic to help us remember this. As disciples, we seek to pursue the same kind of three-point balancing in our own lives.

SlidesClick here to view slides in a new window.

Video: View the video from Sunday November 26th here.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Announcement: Kevin McClure to Speak at Unfinished Business Conference

I'm so pleased to round out the speakers for the Unfinished Business with Kevin McClure who will be both a panelist and opening sessions speaker.

Kevin has been a Christ follower for nearly 45 years and a pastor for 39. Kevin and his wife, Laura, have been married for 42 years and they have four grown children and six grandchildren. His ministry has included church planting, pastoring, consulting, writing and more. Kevin's heart is to see God's Kingdom more fully materialize in each Christian's circle of influence. He loves to equip people to pray more effectively, believing that a church can't be stronger than its prayer ministry. He currently leads Family Room Church in Shoreview, MN.

Click here for more information about the Unfinished Business Conference, taking place on Saturday, November 18th in West Saint Paul, MN. If you are interested in the conference but unable to attend, sign up here for links to documents and video available after the conference.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Speaker Announcement for Unfinished Business Conference

I'm delighted to announce that my good friend Carol Coomer will be one of our speakers at the Unfinished Business Conference! Carol is one of the founding members of Liberating Spirit, a small independent congregation, organized in 2014, that very much resembles the kind of "Evangelical Order" community that Luther described. Carol will be one of our panelists and bring her experience of helping to lead a kind of "house church" that happens to meet in a funeral home! She is also a proud mother and grandmother, and is retired from her work as the office coordinator for a medical practice.