Sunday, February 19, 2023

Investing Early--Compound [s

There's a tension that exists between truths about early spiritual investing.

Today I was appreciating an infographic about the benefits of early-in-life financial investments.

This is also true of spiritual investment.  When you have learned Scripture early, when you have practiced faith and served others over decades, there is such benefit!  You have participated in so many Bible studies and taken notes on so many excellent teachings that it seems normal to already know the Scriptures that are related to a topic and find that while you may not know the chapter and verse, you have the rhythm of the words resonating in your soul.  

So while you are investing early, financially, it's also wisdom to be sowing into spiritual "growth-stocks."  Jesus talks about reaping what you've sown, and you want to be able to reap in your maturity some of the good things from decades ago.  

But I said there was a tension.

The tension is that if two 58-year-olds are together on a park bench and one has been devoted to Christ for 54 years while the other is a relative newbie, having submitted herself to Him just four years ago, they are spiritual equals.  Holy Spirit is speaking equally to each, and both have the same chance of being able to tune in to what He's saying at any moment.  The years are irrelevant in so many ways.

I often think of it in terms of sunlight from the star Sol and two hikers on a hypothetical mountain trail.  One hiker has been hard at it, for hours or even days climbing.  He faces into the sunshine and appreciates how it fills him.  Another hiker has been actually going the wrong way and any which way and has just now, far below the first, turned her face upwards into the sunshine and is filled with glorious warmth.  The invitation to both is the Narnian call to come "further up and further in."  And although one hiker is literally closer to the sun than the other, there is no substantive advantage to himself vs. the newly awakened hiker.

So.  Invest early in spiritual growth?  Yes!!  But like the early worker in the parable of the day's wages, there is no advantage to yourself in doing so.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Building the Church for the Glory of God

 A traveler went to Chartres in France to see the great church that was being built there. He arrived at the site just as the workmen were leaving for home. He asked a man, covered with dust, what he did there. The man replied that he was a stonemason. Another man, when asked, said he was a glassblower, who made beautiful colored glass. Another said he was a blacksmith who pounded iron.

Wandering inside the unfinished edifice, the traveler came upon an older woman, armed with a broom, sweeping up the stone chips, wood shavings and glass shards from the day’s work. “What are you doing?” he asked. The woman leaned on her broom, looked toward the high arches and replied with face radiant, “Me? I’m building a cathedral for the glory of God.”

This week I helped build the playground at my local church, Desert Streams.  So far I've poured concrete, set fence posts, cut beams, and dug holes for about 9 hours--I'm like one of the craftsmen at Chartres but also like the older woman in the story.  I am building the Church of God.

Yesterday, Uncle Neal from Desert Streams didn't carry any concrete or set any playground fence posts, but he was also building the Church.  You see, he invited people from church and his neighbors to a Hawaiian luau at his house for lunch.  The Desert Streams people came to create relationships and help with the event, and Neal has in mind that some of the neighbors and the brothers and sisters from church who came may together form an "Exploring Faith" group to meet at his place.

Can Neal lean on his broom, look to heaven, and see with satisfaction that he is building the church for the worship of God?  Absolutely.  Can I?  Yes, 100%.  But confession time: maintaining the house of worship can be an EXCUSE for me to avoid the messy people part, which is the eternal church we are called to build.  It is far easier for me to carry concrete in a wheelbarrow than it is for me to minister Christ to the people I encounter, sharing the Gospel and getting into faith conversations.

Katie drove from Redmond to lead worship on Thursday night.  The sacrifice of time that she and Kerry and the other leaders of corporate worship is not unlike the devotion of the glassmaker or ironsmith working on the cathedral.  They are investing into the church, weekly building the very Church of God.  When asked what they are doing, it's no exaggeration to have them gesture to the tools of their work and say  “Me? I’m building the church for the glory of God.”

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Physical & Spiritual Trim

So many things I'd like to say "right at the start," but I don't know which ones to actually start with.

  • Nothing I can do makes me more (or less) a child of my heavenly father.
  • It is possible for me to be more spiritually healthy than I currently am, and the converse is true.

Today is a Sunday morning, Happy Sunday!  I woke up this morning wanting to know how my friends and family are doing in regards to keeping their spiritual fitness.  It's not that I'm worried, but I know that it's easier to keep physically fit when there are classes to go to and a gym routine that people can ... go to.  In this time of COVID-19 stay-at-home, people aren't going to gyms or yoga classes, and they're not herding their families out the door to go to church, either.

I remember a comedian from my youth saying "You are what you eat.  You know, if you eat fat, greasy food, you'll grow to be a fat, greasy dude."  And obviously that's partly true--what you become is in some ways dictated by what you INTAKE.

This is Chris Hemsworth, the Marvel superhero Thor.  Photo on right is from Endgame, where Thor has let himeself "go to seed."

So, what are you doing to stay spiritually fit?  And part of that answer is going to be what you are taking in.

My answers to the question include:

  • I'm reading a book that I recommended to a teenager who is prepping to go to the middle east in ministry.  He contacted me recently and asked if there were any ONE book to recommend that he read, what would it be.  I was glad to buy a copy of Ignite for him, and now we're keeping pace with each other as we read through it.
  • I'm listening to Tim Mackie's My Strange Bible podcast and really enjoying it.  I had to listen twice to his Hell/Heaven 4-part series from 2017 because it presents a Biblical view so different from the imagery used in the evangelical mainstream.  If it's heresy, it's good heresy.
  • When we sit down to watch a superhero movie or British baking TV show (junkfood for the brain), we try to give ourselves something useful to watch, too.  Like the Bible Project videos, for example, but there are lots of options for something quick to watch that lifts our minds and spirits.
Hey, it's not just about what you're taking in that makes you trim or not.  The muscle-bound Thor doesn't get that physique by eating right alone.  What also matters is what you're DOING with faith.  But that's going to have to be another blog post.  For now, what are you taking in that helps you keep spiritually fit?

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Gritty Reality

People tell us to face reality.  Admit that all is lost, meaningless, and despairing.

Is the Miley Cyrus of age 23 more real than the Hannah Montana of age 13?  If innocence is restored to her in her 30s, will her gritty stage have been the "most real" version of her?

I don't know the first thing about the condition of her soul, but just work with me as to exterior appearances for a minute.  There are those who will tell you that departure from innocence is prerequisite to facing reality.  

I'd go square opposite to that, though, and without blushing.  I believe that we were intended for innocence and when we become more innocent we are returning to appropriate reality.  That the grit and despair is actually not the deeper magic, but a lie that is fed to us by an enemy of our souls.

Staring at a polluted puddle doesn't tell you more about the water cycle than cupping your hands at a glacial snowbank.  Grit and despair doesn't indicate that you're looking at a life more REAL.  

Life is good. God is real (not made more so by my affirming it).  Grit is a pollutant.  Despair is less true than hope, not the other way 'round.

Thursday, December 19, 2019


Where is our citizenship?

When I was a young man, I wanted to be a cosmopolitan "citizen of the world."  I'd travel everywhere and live local, eschew nationalism, etc.  Then I lived abroad for a bit, and I realized just how much I appreciate the homeland of my birth.  I returned just when the "And I'm proud to be an American" anthem was popular, and I was able to sing along!

Also, I love my US passport.  My US passport isn't a free ticket to allow me to commit crimes abroad, but it does give me a comfortable feeling when I'm in a country whose people are oppressed by their government.  I have a sense of immunity.  I can also share in the brotherhood of the expat communities wherever I go, because of my American citizenship.

Now, the Bible tells us that our REAL citizenship is in heaven. ( What does that mean, as I apply it to life?

For me, it means that the customs of the place where I'm living don't have to be mine; it's okay for me to be an outsider. 

I visualize carrying an invisible passport that offers me protection from the oppression of the lands I'm "temporarily" living in.  My heavenly passport allows me to mentally break free from the trap of viewing this life as permanent ... I recognize that I'm a sojourner here on earth.  A tourist/traveler.

My sense of the brotherhood of the saints increases when I travel outside of the US.  I actually sense that each church building I see is an embassy or consulate office of sorts.  I don't mean the cathedrals, necessarily, though I've learned not to judge a church by its building.  And I know that when I enter a city I can find out where the expats congregate, and then by asking some questions I can find Brothers and Sisters among them, introduce myself, and find a loving welcome.

The trick is to keep heavenly citizenship in my mind when I'm in the land of my political citizenship.  It's more difficult, here at home.  I am a sojourner, this world is not my home.

New Living Translation
For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Giving it to God

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
1 Peter 5:7

When the home church met at our house for waffles yesterday, I asked everyone to answer this question:

"How do you give it to God?"

I made the question open-ended, saying that the "it" in the sentence could refer to anxiety, a hard situation, unhealthy relationship, repentance, grief, etc.  The responses from this group were amazing, and I am listing them in no specific order.

"Here God, catch!"

One friend of a friend, when confronted by something bigger than himself, would write the situation down on a paper, crumple, and toss upwards.  "This is too big for me--catch!" he would say.  The paper always came back down, but often the burden would lift.  It turns out that turning our hearts toward Him and intending to give is often the most important piece.  But sometimes the paper would fall back down and with it the burden, and in that case the friend would pick it up and toss again, saying "Oops. Missed!  Here, let's try again!"

Visualize the Altar

I shared about a sermon I heard in college that has stuck with me.  The pastor mimed having a heavy burden in both hands and said "This is what we do.  We go to the altar and submit ourselves, burdens and all, to the Lord.  And then we thank God for taking our burdens and go.  ...  Ah, some of you were looking away and missed it.  I'll show you again."  What he had mimed was that he had lifted the burden to the altar and rested it there, but not removed his hands from the burden.  Thus, when he turned to go, he was still carrying the load.
This doesn't elucidate the process of letting go, and in fact we couldn't come up with any formula for how to trigger a release of our cares to God, but it provides for me a mental image for the importance of actually letting it go.  The metaphor helps me.

Get Help

God: it's to Him that we cast our cares (1 Peter 5:7), but sometimes we need someone human to help with this "casting."  Several members of the group confirmed that seeking help from a counselor or friend had been key for releasing their burdens.  Also, in James 5:16 the Bible directs us to include others in the process as we release the burdens of our sins.

Open Hands

Mentally go through the things that are most valuable (did you know that you can't be anxious about losing/missing something if it's not valuable to you?) in your life and put them into your open hands.  Affirm that they are not more important than your relationship with the Creator.  This list includes material things, opportunities & future hopes, your abilities, and your people.  When you've completed the list and prioritized him above all, ask him "Jesus, is there anything else that my heart is holding onto in preference to you?"  One time when I asked God the "anything else" question he answered with a very specific _____ and I realized I had more releasing to do.  The rest of that day's story, as it played out, is a good God story--ask Tim or Janet about it sometime!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Welcome to a Hard Life

When we went to China in 1997, we were welcomed to our apartment twice.

The Foreign Affairs Department gave us our first welcome.  They expressed sincere gratitude that we had come to China to teach and took us out to a lavish dinner.  Then they gave us the keys to both doors (remind me to tell you sometime about the outer/inner door system) and walked us through the apartment.  A small refrigerator stood in the entry hall.  The dining room was equipped with table and chairs and 150 chopsticks, the living room had couches, a working phone, and a coffee table, and both bedrooms had beds, desks, and bureaus.  And 10-15 thick comforters.  The electricity and water were both already on.

Welcome to China!  Call us if you need anything.

Wow.  Where to begin, with this new life of ours?

Later, the other American family that was also housed in our apartment building came home and found that we had arrived.  They came knocking.

Introductions, questions answered, we brought you this box of survival goods.  Clean drinking water, crackers, bananas, peanut butter, toilet paper.  The essentials of life.

The family across the hall walked with us in those early days of being in China.  They taught us how to "do" shopping, eating out, etc.  They invited us to come from our cold apartment and visit their warm, friendly apartment--how we valued those invitations!  And the value wasn't because they were infrequent, either ... it was just amazing to get to walk life with them, enjoy their kids, play plenty of card games.  They apologized that they didn't have a sparkling-clean house to invite us into, and sometimes they closed the locking door to indicate that it was a day for family-only and we shouldn't knock, but the point is that they invited us to do life together.

Welcome to a hard life.  Let's walk together.

And that's discipleship.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Who do you say that I am?

Jesus said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

We'll come back to Jesus' words at the end, because they mean more when you have some context of labeling of "identity" to another person.  Who do other people say that we are?

Have you seen what happens when one person sticks a label on another?  It's usually bad, as in "you'll always be this way" or "you can't do anything right" or "you're a greedy slouch."  For me, the identity-label that I walked around wearing for several decades wasn't one that was ever said out loud, I think, but a devil suggested it and I repeated it in my head on a looping track for years: "I'm difficult to love."  (this may not sound bad to you, but it was a huge life-impediment to me)

One of my acquaintances told me that the repeating loop in his head was originally voiced by his mother in a negative reference, and it got him stuck for 40 years: "You're going to turn out just like your father."  Another friend told me that his lifelong repeating loop was "I'm a pervert"--and the original label had come to him when he was age 10.  Neither of these men consciously embraced the label, but an authority in their lives had given it to them and they found themselves in a repeating loop with it.

[Obviously sometimes a person can try to give you a label but it doesn't stick.  Is that because labels require the Identified to apply his own adhesive?  The Identifyer issues the label, but the Identified is the one who either takes it or dismisses it, based on who the Identifyer is?  Why do some labels stick?]

If you haven't seen The Snoodle's Tale recently, please take a couple of minutes to go remind yourself or see it afresh: it ought to be available HERE or HERE.  In this short cartoon video, the young Snoodle is the Identified and the older Snoodles are the Identifyers.  Finally, our hero meets the man in the cave, who releases him from the labels that have weighed him down and then gives him a new identity.  It's an important story.  My favorite line is when the man in the cave says: "Here's how I see you," and hands the Snoodle a new identifying painting.  Amazing.  Chills.


Okay.  By now we have it that in each of these interactions there is an Identifyer and an Identified, right?  And always which person is moved? ... it's the Identified who changes, right?  

So Jesus asks us his classic Identifying question.  "Who do you say that I am?"

Humans have to be careful with this question.  Don't go asking just anybody!  Who moves when a human asks the question, after all?  The one asking the question!  The Identified.

And then Jesus asks it.  And it's different.

For the first time in history, it's about to be the Identifyer who is changed by the issuing of an identity label, instead of the Identified.  God doesn't move, and the identity-label-mechanics react explosively when applied to his immutable Diety.  I say to Jesus "You are Lord" and it's like an explosion, but I'm the one who changes.  I say to Him "You're a good, good Father" and I change again.  The saints in heaven sing "The Lamb is Holy" and their identifying of Him is worship.

Jesus asks us to identify him.  Who do you say that He is?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Carbide Heart

When you listen to a teaching or read a book ... and the teaching is hard. What do you do with the lesson?


But first, this is the song of my heart lately:


Okay, back to the idea of what happens when the teaching du-jour GRATES on your heart. You do NOT like it, agree with it, etc. What do you do?

Some of my tools have carbide tips. This bit of carbide is incredibly hard and makes the tool or blade much longer-lasting. An example: if you have a regular nailer or stapler and you use it to put on a composite-shingle roof, you will probably need to replace the tip after just one roof because the hard, rough surface of the shingles will wear it out. But if it's a hard-weld or carbide tip, then you're all good, because the carbide tip won't have been scratched all to pieces by the sharp, rough roofing surface. The carbide tip is untouched.

I have other tools that are made of softer metals, like aluminum. If I want to scratch my initials into an aluminum speed-square, it's no problem--the metal will yield to my manipulations.

So in the context of hard teaching, the question is this: when is it right to be carbide, and when is it right to be aluminum?

It's not an easy question! If I have a carbide heart, pride is crouching at my door. The Bible says "Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them."  It's easy to see this, right?  If I am reading a book or listening to a teaching and all the while saying to myself "No, it's wrong; this message has nothing for me; I will not listen; I will not change..." then it's very probable that I'm acting in pride or at least oriented that direction.  It's not good.

On the other hand, if I don't guard myself from false teaching, then I'm also violating Scripture: "continually be on your guard so as not to be led astray by the false teaching..."  That's clear, too.  I need to read and listen with a filter in place, constantly testing ideas to see how they mesh with Scripture and my own experience with things of God.

Here's my own solution.  (I'm curious what you have done about this problem, too.)  I swap out different mental filters depending on whom I'm receiving from.  

Small Filter
When I'm visiting a church and sitting under a message from a teacher I don't already know, the filter I use is a small-diameter screen.  If the things that are coming from the pulpit are matching my understanding, then I accept them (of course!--there's no conflict!).  If what is being said seems a little sideways, I put it aside.  Sometimes I'll quarantine an idea to examine later, sometimes I'll quarantine an idea with no intention to ever come back to it, and sometimes (very rarely) I'll quarantine an idea with the intention of providing push-back in some way.  I'm not going to let my carbide-tipped heart get dented/scratched by just anybody!

Large Filter 
But.  When the person speaking to me is one that I've given authority to in my life, such as my pastor or my friends, then the stuff that I allow "in" can be much larger in diameter.  I allow these thoughts in and they have the right to displace my own opinions.  I'm "dented" by thoughts I didn't agree with, but which are presented by an author or speaker who has the authority to dent or scratch my beliefs.  I don't show the carbide heart to these people--that wouldn't be wise.

But here's the challenge.  Do you have people in your life to whom you do show your malleable heart?  If you find that you resist instruction (teaching that changes your beliefs) and that uncomfortable teaching is always met with a small filter, a quarantine, and carbide heart, then my challenge to you is to find someone from whom you can trust to receive instruction from, and then actively turn your heart to be receptive.

Do I have teachers who are allowed to displace my ideas?  Yes.  If I'm reading one of them and they espouse an idea that I don't agree with, I take it very seriously.  I do not lightly set it aside into quarantine, but place my own idea into quarantine instead!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Grateful for the Setup Crew

Today I'm visiting my old stomping grounds at Desert Streams Church.  We signed up to pray at the 8am slot on a Sunday morning during the round-the-clock prayer time this winter, and not long after we got here this morning the musicians began coming in, opening their guitar cases, and quietly going about the business of getting ready to lead the morning worship service.

I used to be among those who parked in this church's parking lot when it was mostly empty.  I referred to ourselves as the "cast and crew" of the Sunday services.  It was a responsibility, and I embraced it for the sake of service to God, but I remember I didn't like the feeling that it was a performance that required a cast and crew.

Anyhow, this morning I was impressed that these musicians and two guys on the sound board were ready for mic tests promptly 90 minutes before the 10am service time.  And thankful for them.  Grateful.  I do feel that such a sacrifice of time is "pleasing and acceptable" to the Lord.

Nowadays I don't go to Sunday morning services.  I meet with my church on weeknights or for brunch on a weekend.  The cast-and-crew aspect of such meetings is little more than making sure the house is clean and food is planned for.  (And I organize children's ministries, so that, too, is time that I offer to the Lord in the service of the church.  And sometimes I blog.)

I enjoy the overall reduction in work, but I'm clear about this: I didn't go to home-church structure to spend LESS overall energy on the Kingdom.  If I don't meet at the church twice a week anymore, but that means that I do more emailing and meeting for coffee.  I don't sit in Sunday morning sermons anymore, but that means that I pursue Godly teaching in other means (podcasts, books, youtube vids, etc).  Home church is more flexible, but it's not less.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Laughing at Lies

At Shepherd's Gate Fellowship, we love the whole Church, we fellowship with some other local churches, and we choose which sources of ministry we draw strength from.  One source of teaching and impartation is Bethel Church in Redding, CA--we love those guys!

Steve and Wendy Backlund came up Saturday, and I was invited by the Global Legacy Central Oregon folks to go to a one-day seminar.  Am I busy with preparations moving-to-Vietnam next week?  Yep.  But the Lord made it clear to me that I should go.  Go early, stay late.  Get the full benefit.

I got the full benefit.  Here are my notes, and I'd love to video chat with you, or discuss in the comments if you want to follow up on any of these points.


(Before I start with the notes, let me just say that in addition to the Chase family "grateful game," we have already instituted a "declarations circle."  If we're in the car or in the kitchen, any one of us can say "declarations circle" and we will go around the family voicing declarations, declaring the truth of God over our lives.  My 12 year old son has been hearing a negative tape cycling through his head for months: "you're a bully."  It's not true, but it's been hard to convince his heart of that.  So it's my joy that he has been offering to the family declarations circle: "I'm not a bully--I'm compassionate."  Very true of him.  Then if someone of us makes a declaration that another needs to also voice, they repeat it.  It's AWESOME.)

Okay, notes:

You are not called to fail--I called you to succeed.

Declarations like "I am not called to fail, I was called to succeed" take it on the offensive.  Not just resisting the devil's lies when he suggests failure, but taking the battle to him.

The battle is not in the circumstances, but the circumstances reveal how you think.

People fight tooth and nail to hang onto hopelessness.  They fear disappointment.

I didn't call them to be realistic--I called them to be supernatural.

Our thoughts are the fruits of our beliefs.

Declaration: After today, I'm going to believe differently, think differently, and act differently.  In that order.

I am more spirit than I am flesh.

We have got to stop relating to people (in the context of ministry leadership) out of fear/frustration/anger.  They feel the difference when we relate from hope.

The Christian life is not about learning to die.  It's about learning to live the resurrected life.

Give yourself permission to be great, because the church and the world need your greatness.  God created you for GLORY; don't resist mere greatness.

Change the way you talk--the power of your TONGUE is underestimated.

The more inner unity you have with the truth, the more weight and penetration your words carry.  (the difference of when I say it and Bill Johnson says the same thing)

"We used to be laughter-impaired leaders."

"I'll be joyful once I get through this circumstance."

Joy is attached to a belief system.

Toddlers don't get depressed.  They fail more than they succeed, but they don't get their potential from their past ... they get their potential from their PARENTS.

Joy is an optional fruit of the spirit.  ---Let's laugh at that lie.

People sometimes resist laughing at lies because they (rightly) desire to be authentic.  But it's not authenticity that clamps their laugher shut, it's rust.  (accusation: laughter is "fake")

Families celebrate Progress, not Perfection.

LUNCH  (at lunch, 15-20 pastors went aside to eat with Steve and Wendy)
Steve: What stood out to you from this morning? What's your name and where are you from?
Tim: I'm Tim, and I'm from Bend for one more week, then I'm moving to Vietnam.  The standout for me was the idea of wholeness and word-penetration.  Being a "unified body of Christ" in myself as well as helping the diverse other Christians be unified.
Steve: That's good.  Tim, I see thankfulness all over you.  You notice what people do for you.  This gratitude is a key to unlock a nation, igniting miracles.  On the keychain of Kingdom keys you wear at your belt, the gratitude key is lit up--almost glowing.  You're going to enter into new revelations of thanksgiving; new dimensions of God's nature.
Wendy: I see God opening big doors to the educational system in Vietnam.

>>My family plays the "Grateful Game" more than anyone else we know.  Every time we leave town for any kind of road trip (at the culmination of all that preparatory stress), we run through gratitude for each other and for circumstances in our lives.  We are good at grateful.
>>Wendy didn't know that I'm going to Vietnam to teach, and she didn't know that last week I asked for and was granted permission to help choose my own successor in the position at the university.  Now that I've heard the Lord speaking a word with a bigger vision than I originally had, I'm going to be looking for other ways to impact the whole system.  I'll let my college students know that if they arrange it with their high schools, I'll go and give a free presentation.  The preso will be similar to a commencement address, calling out the strengths of students.  Wouldn't it be cool to exercise the prophetic in a roomful of Viet high school students?  I might frame the talk in terms of "this is what teens in the USA are facing today," but really it's what "teens are facing today."  Peer anxiety, looking forward, taking on identity (from what sources), mending vs. medicating your past brokenness.

As a leader, you grow in influence as your vision becomes infused with hope.

Nevada gold-sifting town: People didn't mind us moving their dirt as long as they knew we were looking for gold.  Be gold diggers, in the best way.

People's negative qualities are usually positive qualities out of whack.

"I am an influencer of people."

The Kingdom is not moved forward by good conduct, but by good beliefs.

To do something great, don't change what you're doing--attach faith to it.

We don't deny the past, but we don't get our beliefs from the past.

Romans 4:17  God gives life to the dead and calls those things that do not exist as though they did.

In the morning, don't ask "how do I feel about today?"  That's the wrong question.  Instead ask "what do I believe?"

Wendy uses 3x5 cards for her beliefs, because after all, who knows what they believe at dark 30 in the morning?

"I believe revival breaks out where ever I go."
"I am a round barley loaf."

Nevada moved up from AA to Div A sports, and it was a hard season.  But don't be afraid to move up to Div A church, Div A joy, etc.
Don't go back down to Div AA so you can win more.  Normal church: you win because nothing went wrong.  Real church: you win because you break out in revival and it spreads.

Winston Churchill: Success is moving from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.

Lord, can I give up on this circumstance?
"I'll make you a deal.  you have permission to be hopeless about anything I'm hopeless about.

The Three Battlegrounds: “Every area of your life that does not have glistening hope is under the influence of a lie.”.

You're not going to have anything just from saying it, but you don't have anything if nothing's been said.

It isn't stopping doing something (sin avoidance) that releases the kingdom.  You release the Kingdom by proactively speaking it.

You're more powerful than you think. Speak Life, not death.

>>We're going to add another game to the Grateful Game: the Declarations Circle.  The Declarations Circle can happen in the car or in the kitchen, and if someone says "let's do a round of declarations," then off we go.  We each make a declaration for our soul's benefit (bringing our souls into greater unity with our redeemed spirits), and then if the other's declaration is something our soul also needs, we repeat it after them.  Go around once with any declarations we need to hear, then a second time with God/spiritual declarations if our first one wasn't in that category.  The first declaration might be "I'm a good friend and people respond to my friendship" but the second might take it to a realm of spiritual truth like "The Lord has anointed me with gladness, and my friendships flourish in that climate."

There are giants in the land.  Depressionites, Recessionites, Immoralites.  Are you still willing to be unreasonably optimistic?

Leaders need the oil of gladness.  What happens when a car runs out of oil?

Deception 101: Once you know you're deceived, you're no longer deceived.

It's harder to surrender our beliefs than it is to change our actions.  And the beliefs need to change first, or we're disunified people.

We get saved because we believe IN Jesus.  We get transformed because we believe LIKE Jesus.

Every area of your life that doesn't glisten with hope is evidence of a lie-believed.  Each of those are strongholds of the devil.

"I have a high-level anointing."

"I write books" vs. "I'm an author."  One is about what you do, the other is about who you are.  

Don't get your identity from your past, but from your parents.  Toddlers never wonder if they are going to get the "gift of walking"--they assume that they're going to be just like their parents one day.

I don't know why you're trying to lose weight when you don't believe you can.  You can't consistently do something you don't believe you are.
  • You really can’t do what you don’t believe you are. If you try, it’s called work. If I’m trying to be something that I don’t believe I am, that just won’t happen.

If you act righteous but believe you're a sinner, you'll sin by faith.  You are dis-unified.

Positive thinking (wishful thinking) vs Biblical Optimism

If the sinner can't become righteous by doing a righteous act, 
what makes us believe that the righteous can become a sinner by doing a sinful act?

"It's easy for me to live in and rest in Jesus' righteousness."

Hope is an overall, optimistic attitude about the future based on the goodness and promises of God.

"I have unreasonable optimism."

Change your identity before you try to change your behavior.

There is more power in light than in darkness.  If strongholds can influence you, then so can blessings influence the demonic.  Let's make life uncomfortable for the demons.  Let's set up angelic strongholds in our lives and in our cities.

"Who told you that?"  (Genesis)

--Past Experience told me that I'm disorganized, fat.

Gideon was a mighty man of valor living in a non mighty man of valor experience. 

"I have a nation-delivering anointing on my life."

Monday, April 13, 2015

Deception, thy name is "Modern Bible Translations"!

Hi ______,

I've looked through both of the sheets you handed me on KJV vs. other versions (including the NIV). I'd be glad to meet with you sometime and talk about translations--it's a topic I enjoy!

I think I'll be able to supply some of the history of *why* folks have gotten so riled up about the "Authorized" KJV and subsequent translations.

There are valid reasons to prefer one translation over another, but the papers that I have here (one is called "Titles of Jesus Omitted in the NIV" & the other is a table showing omitted portions of scripture in modern translations)  are not ones that I'd recommend for making that choice, unless you are already wanting KJV to be the only right translation and are looking for reasons to support the viewpoint.

Go gentle on it.  No mainstream Bible translation was made by bad people with ill intent.  They've each added to our understanding of the original scriptures and the Kingdom benefits from each contribution of translation work.

I'm glad the work of understanding scripture is fluid, because if we were only allowed to read from the earliest English translations (based on the idiom and scholarship they had available to them in the 1500s), our scriptures would be less intelligible and accurate than they are today.  We, the Church, benefit from continued translation work, and the story of English translations is not even done yet. :)

When looking into the specific cases mentioned in these papers, I found this page helpful (regarding scripture omissions):

And any time I need to read Anglicized Greek to tease out the original texts, I love this tool:

My goal, if we do meet, isn't to change your mind about which scripture translation you want to most-often read, but to help you relax your position as it relates to the "liberal" translations.  I write this knowing that even the word "liberal" has strongly negative connotations for many folks, but I'm using the word here because that's how such translations are characterized by some fear-based, conservative authors and it's best to face such criticism head on.  I'll take the position that  modern/liberal translations add to the accuracy and intelligibility of scripture and should not be dismissed as flawed just because they render the Greek/Hebrew differently from the translations of the past.

Grins!  I'll only do this if I can still be your friend at the end of the day.

~Pastor Tim

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Fishing Without Hooks?

We're going to be talking about people as if they're fish to be caught.  It would be easy to be sort of offended at the thought if you are one of the catchees instead of the catchers.  This people=fish metaphor is common language in the Christian church, and it comes from something Jesus said to some fishermen:

Matthew 4:19
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Witnesses say they left their nets and boats and followed Jesus, and in so doing became the first people to enroll in a school of church-planting. Not many months later, these former-fishermen were being sent out into the surrounding villages to ruin the plans of the devil.  They were healing people and casting out demons in Jesus' name, telling people the good news of God's love and presence of God's Kingdom come-to-earth.

They had gone from fishermen to fishers-of-men.

Now, that's all that the Bible tells about their fishing strategy.  Says that they were to let their blessing rest on a home, that they weren't to amass money or even be dependent on material comforts.  Says they prayed for people and God answered their prayers.  Does NOT say that they had a particular strategy for convincing people to follow the Jesus they had begun following.  There's a lot left to the imagination in that department.

So now the questions.  Each of these is related to the overarching question: "What does it mean to be a fisher of men?"

  1. If it feels bad to find a hook in the bait (if you're the fish), is it okay to use that technique?
  2. Is it fishing to throw in bait but use no hooks?
  3. When "fishing" for people, is it better to use a baited line, dynamite, a harpoon, or nets?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sampling ... or Soaking?

I just read (and enjoyed!) a book that I want other people I know to read: The Fault in our Stars. I came home from a youth conference (yesterday) rife with topics about living holy, sexual purity, and keeping a God-focus, and the first thing I did was to read a book in which the characters wrestle with existential questions and do NOT find that Jesus is the answer. It's a book where the teenagers [spoiler alert] have sex outside of marriage. It's a book with lots of values, and it's only a mixed bag of them that are the sort of values that I want imparted to my own three kids.

So what's with the recommendation?  Why would I put such a book on my family reading list?

My daughter read it before I did.  (And maybe one of my boys, too--I'm not sure.)  Her friends read it before she did, friends that follow Christ and friends that don't.  It has been made into a PG-13 movie that is receiving really high marks on the movie-ranking sites.  This is a book that reflects culture and shapes culture.  It's important to read.

It's not a "good" book.  There is profanity.  The kids are presented with opportunity to think about their relationship with Creator and the afterlife, and the reader is not left with a strong connection to the reality of either.

I do recommend reading this and other books that similarly capture/reflect/shape the Zeitgeist (spirit of the age).  On the other hand I also am reminded of the importance of choosing carefully what we meditate on.  The Bible has wisdom about that.  If I read one book where the teens ask existential questions and come up empty, angry, and godless, should I then read one book that reinforces a worldview based on Biblical understanding of existence? Two? Should it be a 3:1 ratio of books that reinforce Biblical truth compared to books that explore the prevalent truths of popular culture?  What about the ratio of movies?  Music?

I guess the question is: do I taste-sample of my culture's Zeitgeist worldview ... or soak in it? What books and media do I choose to soak in?

Rub your hands with vinegar and you'll be smelling wafts of vinegar afterwards.  Soak in vinegar and you'll eventually become a pickle.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Crucibles Generate Leaders

Be cautious about trusting a leader who hasn't been through a crucible; broken people are better than whole people when it comes to leadership. Try looking through the Bible to find a leader who hasn't first gone through the trials that break him down so God can better flow through him.

[These are notes from an excellent talk at Generation Unleashed youth conference; I am here with the youth of SGF and DSC. Here's a photojournal of the event. Sitting in a session with other pastors hearing from Pastor Frank Damazio.]

Do we trust leaders who only talk about going from glory to glory without the valleys of testing, the valleys of being led by the Shepherd?

The crucible exposes your values. In that time of pain, do you protect yourself and your reputation?  Do you value equally the people who can't give back to you and the people who can?

The detours becomes the testimony, not the (linear) progress of your life.

When people come to accuse and criticize, Pastor Damazio's standard response is "Oh, if you only knew me better, you'd have more to accuse me with!"

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Taking up our Cross

DOVE International Larry Kreider
Taking Up Our Cross

A young lady in Philadelphia was enslaved in prostitution and drug abuse for years. When she surrendered her life to Jesus, she started wearing a cross-shaped earring to remind herself she was now a bondslave to Jesus, no longer in slavery to sin.

Publicly carrying a cross in biblical days was the brand of a criminal doomed for execution. Everyone knew he was going to die. Bearing a cross is symbolic of dying to self. Luke 9:23, 24 says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

There is an old story about a chicken and a pig walking down the road and passing some hungry-looking men. The chicken said to the pig, “Why don’t we give them a breakfast of eggs and ham?”
“That’s easy for you to say,” replied the pig. “For you, that’s only a sacrifice but for me it’s total commitment.”

The same is true of Christians—we must literally die to our own desires when we commit our lives to Jesus because He gave His life for us. Jesus said we must bear a cross or we cannot be His disciples. “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27,33).

Taking up our cross daily may not be popular, but it is still the absolute requirement.

The post Taking Up Our Cross appeared first on DOVE International.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Divorces and Funerals

Yesterday I heard of yet another marriage in crisis (separated, heading toward divorce). Seems like that's too many in a row--marriages dying off like there's a "marriage plague" going on! 

Marriages are organisms & divorces are funerals; To be clear, I do not believe that divorce kills marriage. To me, that would be the same as saying that funerals kill humans. Divorce is . . . how to put this . . . divorce is the "death certificate." It's what happens when the carcass of the once-living marriage has begun to decay in your kitchen, and it's better to divorce than to keep up the painful pretense.

So I'm not anti-divorce, even though I am pro-marriage. A medical student is not anti-funeral, just anti-sickness.

Let’s offer care to marriages. The ones that are ailing, the ones that are dying. Let's offer "well-marriage" checkups. Let's bring healing to sick marriages. Let's start a Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa reference) for marriages, where marriages can be brought to die, being cared for and in dignity--for not every sick marriage revives.

Here's the offer, World:
I will provide "moderated conversations" for your marriage's sake. I will provide these free of charge. For the rest of my life.

Moderating your conversation means that we sit at a dining room table (your table or mine) with both of you on either end. I guide and protect your conversation, creating a safe-zone. I take nobody's side. I offer no counsel. Sometimes my wife will be there, sometimes another friend from church, sometimes just me. We use active-listening tactics. I have good tools in my toolbox for helping stalled conversations restart and resolve. This is something we're good at, and we train you to be good at it, too, so you can pay-it-forward afterwards.

Why Free? When I see the news, I wish I were helping as a relief-worker in a refugee camp. I don't offer much to the homeless in my community. I am constantly wondering if I should become a "big brother" at the local boys-and-girls-club, but I never have. I don't go to the hospital to pray for people. There are so many ways that I don't serve humanity, but the moderating-conversations to help ailing marriage get better . . . that's something I can do. It's no more than "doing my part" when others are doing theirs--I'm grateful for the ones that have stepped into the breach in all those other areas, and this is where I take action and live out the true meaning of my creed.

For more info, email me (Tim) at Find out more about me at

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sechristular Switchfoot

Lead singer Jon Foreman was asked if Switchfoot is a “Christian” band.  I appreciate his response!
Switchfoot is going secular. Sort of.
Switchfoot is going secular. Sort of.
“To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple SF tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds.
The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty.
Many songs are worthy of being written. Switchfoot will write some, Keith Green, Bach, and perhaps yourself have written others. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music.
None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer. Many of these songs talk about this belief. An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me.
I do have an obligation, however, a debt that cannot be settled by my lyrical decisions. My life will be judged by my obedience, not my ability to confine my lyrics to this box or that.
We all have a different calling; Switchfoot is trying to be obedient to who we are called to be. We’re not trying to be Audio A or U2 or POD or Bach: we’re trying to be Switchfoot. You see, a song that has the words: ‘Jesus Christ’ is no more or less ‘Christian’ than an instrumental piece. (I’ve heard lots of people say Jesus Christ and they weren’t talking about their redeemer.) You see, Jesus didn’t die for any of my tunes. So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others. Please be slow to judge ‘brothers’ who have a different calling.”

Monday, December 2, 2013

And God Said "No!"

I asked God to take away my pride.
And God said "No."
He said it was not for him to take away,
but for me to give it up

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
And God said "No."
He said her spirit was whole,
her body was only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience.
And God said "No."
He said patience is a by-product of tribulations.
It isn't granted, it is earned.

I asked God to give me happiness.
And God said "No."
He said he gives me blessings,
happiness is up to me.

I asked God to spare me pain.
And God said "No."
He said suffering draws you apart from worldly
cares and brings you closer to me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow.
And God said "No."
He said I must grow on my own.
But he will prune me to make me fruitful.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.

And God said "No."
He said I will give you life,
that you may enjoy all things.

I ask God to help me LOVE others,
as much as he loves me.
And God said, "Ah, finally you have the idea."

~Author Unknown~

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

When to be Cautious

4 Reasons NOT to Promote into Leadership (a talk by Steve Prokopchak, DCFI)

Be extremely cautious in promoting the one who ...

1) has major chronic issues in their life,
(long-term, habitual) drug use, financial issues, porn, lateness, undisciplined, anger, insecurity, self-focus

2) has major family issues, or
Broken relationships with parents, siblings, marriages.  Ever-counseling and never healing.

3) is not teachable. Also,
They say the right words, but at the end of the day, nothing changes.

4) be slow and purposeful in promoting someone who hasn't worked through Father issues.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hyperclarity = Control

Faith/Understanding: You should not reduce the Kingdom to just the part you can understand. Insistence on hyperclarity = control.

Monday, September 30, 2013

10,000 Reasons

The Matt Redman song 10,000 Reasons has resonated with me before, but there is a verse in it that never shook me to the core like it did Saturday at the memorial service for my friend, Wes Carmack.

Go take a listen.  Then come back.

Like Wes, I do want my circles of influence to ripple outward in positive, identifiable ways.  I want my children to know that they were a priority for me, even as I pastored a church and generated income in a variety of ways. I want to have been a faithful, honorable man.

And on that day when my strength is failing . . . still my soul will sing!

Sunday, September 29, 2013


In those days I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. People from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah. (NIV)

In those days I saw Christians of Bend, Oregon, doing their chores and work on the Sabbath and generally keeping it busy with lots to do; full of tasks and to-do lists and sometimes their recreations also became distractions.  They were doing all this even in the holy places on the Sabbath.  Therefore I warned them about their to-do lists and productivity on that day.  People who believed in no God at all lived in Bend and engaged with all sorts of to-do's and distractions, on the Sabbath and with the Christians of Bend.

The first paragraph is from the Scriptures.  The second paragraph is pretending to be parallel, but the analogy only goes a short distance.  If it's useful to you, that's great; if you noticed that it's not 100% theologically sound, you're right.  Just dismiss it--you don't have to set me straight unless that's really how you want to spend your time.  I'd rather have a conversation about Sabbath-taking than about my attempt to apply Scripture to modern-day.

Here's what got me thinking about Sabbath rest:

In Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell writes "Sabbath is taking a day a week to remind myself that I did not make the world and that it will continue to exist without my efforts.

Sabbath is a day when my work is done, even if it isn't.
Sabbath is a day when my job is to enjoy.  Period.
Sabbath is a day when I am fully available to myself and those I love most.
Sabbath is a day when I remember that when God made the world, he saw that it was good.
Sabbath is a day when I produce nothing.
Sabbath is a day when I remind myself that I am not a machine.
Sabbath is a day when at the end of the day I say 'I didn't do anything today,' and I don't add 'and I feel so guilty.'
Sabbath is a day when my phone is turned off, I don't check my email, and you can't [reach] me."

Some of those are meaningful for me.  Some of those not so much.  I find that I am deeply impacted by the thought of being prohibited from accomplishments, productivity, and to-do lists on one day a week.

How do you Sabbath?  If you don't Sabbath at all, are you aware that Scripture talks about God really caring--that it's really important to him--that his people Sabbath?

Friday, September 6, 2013

2nd Tomato Disdain

Being honest:

My wife and I have just come off a period of fasting and we're into raw foods for a longer period.  Today I breakfasted on a puree of apples, pears, and celery, and it was DELICIOUS!  So delightful.

Then, just now, I went through the kitchen and snagged a cherry-tomato off the counter.  WOW!  What awesomeness to actually get to chew something.  Gratitude overwhelms.

Five minutes later, as I passed the kitchen from the other way, I snagged another tomato.  (here's where it gets gut-level honest)

munch-munch-munch.  scrunched-face.  "Two weeks of Raw Foods?  Why did I agree to this?"

The difference between the two tomatoes was zero.  The difference in my level of gratitude and attitude was incredible; a 180 shift into grumbling. I am the Israelites coming out of Egypt, and they are me.

Lord, help me to be first-tomato grateful in every circumstance.  Lord, help me resist second-tomato disdain.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Miss Nelson is Missing!

My Sundays are normally spent creating relationships with people.  Often we will put on a faith-building video such as the Matthew or John videos or a teaching of some sort while breakfast is happening, then we'll go meet someone who, like us, isn't in church on Sunday morning.

This morning we are visiting my parents in Spangle, and it's a Sunday morning. So we're "in church."  The pastor is gone today, and it is a pleasure to see the church taking on the responsibilities of doing church without his guidance.  "Um, I guess it's time for announcements. Did someone get asked to do the announcements?  No?  Well, are there any announcements?"

Same story with prayer requests.  The worship leader with the mic seemed entirely uncomfortable taking prayer requests, but she did a fine job.  The church organized itself into the morning's sequence with marvelously little intervention, and the missing pastor was hardly missed.  He had asked a friend to come and give the sermon, which fit just fine into the sequence of the morning.

I'm impressed. I want to create a culture that carries on when I'm missing.  Not in any very similar way to this Sunday-morning culture, but it is absolutely my goal to create a self-sustaining culture of being church SGF-style!

Thursday, June 6, 2013


In the church that we came from, everybody had some idea what it meant to be in the church; it ran like a typical church and had easily identifiable roles.

SGF needs form, too; right now we're too amorphous, too go-with-the-flow.  Maybe because we're so small, maybe because we're so new, maybe because we're all friends so "leading" as if from a platform doesn't work.

When we were praying about what is needed in the way of form and roles, I felt a nudge in my spirit that I was immediately suspicious of.  It seemed pretty convenient for me: instead of being nudged to pray more, feed the hungry, concentrate on the youth, encourage more missions, the word that popped into my mind was "FRIENDSHIP."  How suspicious, how very like a false prophetic word to affirm the status quo and not call out new passion or vigor or zeal.

I said it out loud, though, and had the group test it.  Immediately the Lord provided two Scriptures:

1) "They will know you are Christians because you're friends."

The actual text says:
John 13:3 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”


2) " If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but am not a friend, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but I'm not friends with people, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have the friendship thing going, it profits me nothing."

(The actual text of 1 Corinthians 13 says "have not love" where I've inserted the idea of "friendship.")

What if, when this life closes and the next life begins, what if this happens: the Lord holds up next to me a checklist of Christian virtue and discipline (You know the checklist, right?  We had it in mind because we were recently rebutting together a list of Things Jesus Didn't Say, and two of them that gave us the giggles were: “"For God was so disgusted with the world that he gave his one and only Son." and "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you a checklist of things to do and not do in order to remain in God’s favor.") and finds the checklist item FRIEND--with a checkmark next to it--puts the list down, looks up, and says "Well done, good and faithful servant."

What if prayer that grows out of friendship is what counts?  And generosity.  And patience.  And hope and trust?  What if it's actually all about being friends?

Incidentally, it's not just friendship with believing, nice-looking brothers who are in the same socioeconomic status that I'm in.  It's also about befriending Samaritan untouchables--the ones who are hard to be friends with.  Loving the unlovely.

Not saying it's the final word in my understanding of faith and the proper role of church.  But it's an interesting twist.  We thought we were feeling the discomfort of formlessness, and the Lord seems to have told us that what's really important is ... being friends.

PS.  And yes, we did belt out a round of Friends are Friends Forever, as one must when talking about the subject in any length. Grin.