Tim Tseng

I'm Pastor of English Ministry at Canaan Taiwanese Christian Church (San Jose, CA), independent scholar and theological educator.
Tim Tseng has written 270 posts for Canaan English Ministry

Sermon Summary: Friendships with Non-Christians (August 21, 2016)

Sermon Summary
Friendships with Non-Christians • Pastor Tim Tseng • August 21, 2016

Jesus, initially welcomed as a hometown hero in Nazareth, was abruptly and angrily rejected (Luke 4:22-30). Why? Because he taught that God’s grace and love extends to Israel’s enemies.

At first, Jesus’ hometown people thought that Jesus believed, as they did, that God’s promise to restore his people was only for Israel (see Luke 4:18-19).

But then Jesus shared two stories of how Israel’s most well-regarded prophets, Elijah and Elisha, ministered and helped Israel’s enemies. See Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-24) and Elisha and Naaman at Aram [Syria] (2 Kings 5:1-19). By the way, Jesus later reinforces this teaching by commanding his disciples to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-36; Matthew 5:43-48)

The hometown people were enraged and tried to cast Jesus off a cliff (which he was able to avoid).

BoundedVCenteredSet.jpgSo the lesson here is that Jesus challenged the “bounded set” thinking of his own people. Christians are tempted to create boundaries between ourselves and others. Usually, the boundaries are misplaced. Instead of centering on a commitment follow Jesus, we make it easy for people to call themselves Christians (e.g., I accept Christ into my heart) and then set boundaries around behavior, language, race, culture, lifestyle, political ideology, class, etc.

As we develop friendships with non-Christians, we, too must give up our “bounded set” thinking. Instead of helping outsiders become insiders, we should be inviting our non-Christian (and even our church members) to turn their orientation towards Christ (see the “centered set” illustration). This means that we should re-prioritize what we do in church. Small groups, fellowships, Sunday school classes, indeed, any activity, should put more energy into engaging people into orienting their lives towards Christ than in trying to make them feel comfortable at Canaan.

Furthermore, when we share the gospel with non-Christian friends, we must be willing to invest time and energy to engage them on important life issues, too. Use the “four circles” approach to evangelism, not the “bridge” illustration.

Finally, our non-Christian friends ought to see how invested we are in our Christian faith. Let them see that we are committing a minimum of five hours a week outside of Sunday worship to Christian activities (e.g., studying, preparing studies, volunteering, disciple-making).

Sermon Summary: Family Friendships (August 14, 2016)

Sermon Summary:
Family Friendships (Ephesians 1:3-10) • Pastor Chris Liu • August 14, 2016

For most of our relationships, we can choose who we want to be our friends. However, we don’t have a choice about who our parents, children, or siblings are. To an extent, we don’t have a choice about who our relatives and extended families are either. Some of us may have great relationships with our family and some not so great, but God’s desire is for us to build strong friendships with our family members. Here’s how we can do it.

For children, we can build strong friendships with our parents by honoring them (Exodus 20:12). How do we do that? We can start by listening to their instruction and remembering what they have taught us (Proverbs 1:8-9). When our parents teach us, we need to really listen to and obey them. Another way of honoring our parents is to spend quality time with them and opening share with them your joys and hurts. Talk to them and get to know them. Finally, we can honor them by caring for them and providing for them.

Of course, parents need to be worthy of that honor. They need to live Christ-like lives and be teaching truth to their children. This leads me to my second point of how parents can build strong friendships with their children.

Parents can start by teaching their children God’s Word. Spend time together in the Word. Have spiritual conversations about faith and what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Instruct them in the way they should go. Another thing parents can do is to not provoke (or exasperate) their children (Ephesians 6:4). Parents can provoke/exasperate their children by overprotecting them, neglecting them, setting unrealistic goals/expectations of them, and poor discipline (too much or too little). I believe the biggest thing parents can do is to model for their children what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Kids will pick up what we think is important by how we spend our money, where we spend our time, what we emphasize as important.

There are other relationships (siblings, extended family, in-laws) that all need to be build up as well. A quick note on these relationships is that these all take time to build. Focus on the good parts. Extend grace. Forgive one another.

The last thing I want to note is that whether we have great relationships with our family members or poor relationships with them, the joy and hope we can have is that we can be a part of God’s family. in Ephesians 1:3-10, we see that God has chosen us and adopted us into His family. When we become a part of His family, we have an intimacy with Him, we have a new identity in Him, and we have an inheritance in Him. How great that is!

So let’s build up our friendships within our family and thank God for our family of origin and our spiritual family in Christ.

Sermon Summary: Marriage Friends (July 31, 2016)

Sermon Summary:
Marriage Friends (Genesis 2:19-24 ) • Pastor Tim Tseng • July 31, 2016

1. The Ideal Christian Marriage: The real problem today is not the rise of same sex marriage, but the decline of commitment to marriage. Not really divorce, but the lack of friendships in marriage. The ideal Christian marriage is a partnership of friends who practice mutual submission.

2. Surprising biblical perspectives about marriage:

  • Marriage is not eternal (Matthew 24:37-29; Luke 20:34-35). People are not given to marriage in the kingdom of God. Marriage belongs to this life. Therefore, Christians ought not turn marriage into an idol (i.e., it has relative value).
  • Marriage is not primarily about procreation. In the first creation, God commands humans to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28). However, Paul does not view marriage (or procreation) that highly in light of the return of Christ and a preference for undivided devotion to God (1 Corinthians 7). ADDENDUM: Jesus and Paul never married. And it seems that Jesus redefined procreation as becoming “fishers of men” and “making disciples.”
  •   — But marriage is important. Scripture does offer rationale and guidelines.

3. Christian marriage is about bearing witness to Jesus’ way. It is about putting Jesus on display for the world to see. But the big question is how Christian marriages bear witness to Christ?

  • Traditional answer: Wives should submit to their husbands and remain silent in the church (Eph 5:21-28, Col 3:18-19, 1 Peter 3:1-7, 1 Cor 14:34-35, 1 Tim 2:8-3:15). The husband is the head of the wive and Adam was created first. Maintaining a household hierarchy (men/women; father/children; master/slave) is the best way to bear witness to Jesus’ way.
  • Objections to this interpretation:
    (a) these specific passages seem to contradict much of Jesus and Paul’s teachings and practices regarding women. Scattered throughout the New Testament, women were ministry partners and witnesses. Paul taught about mutuality (1 Cor 7:4-5; Gal 3:26-28);
    (b) Focusing so much on wifely submission has created a potentially misogynist and abusive climate among Christian churches. It is also leading a the promotion the “eternal submission of the Son to the Father,” a heretical view of the doctrine of the Trinity; (c) closer attention to the household codes suggests that Paul appeared to shift from mutuality in order to shield Christians from misunderstanding and persecution.
    ADDENDUM (d) closer attention to the household codes also question whether Paul understood “submission,” “headship,” and “authority” the same way that his Jewish-Greco-Roman peers and that we think about these words. Many argue that he is trying to quietly transform secular unilinear and hierarchical views of marriage towards Jesus’ views, which leads to greater mutuality.

4. Conclusion: The ideal Christian marriage is mutual submission and partnership. This aligns more with Jesus and Paul’s practices and teaching. It is also the more practical way to sustain healthy and prevent abusive marriages. RECOMMENDED MARRIAGE MINISTRY: Real Life –

Sermon Summary: Friends in the Church (July 24, 2016)

Last Sunday’s Sermon Summary
Pastor Tim Tseng • July 24, 2016

Friends in the Church (1 John 1:1-7)

1. A variety of responses to having friends in the church:
— Many unchurched Chinese/Taiwanese families want to avoid church people. They are too fanatical and will distract people from studies and success. Or Christian children will abandon parents and family.
— Many of our classmates or colleagues have stereotypes of church people, who are seen as intolerant, judgmental, hypocritical – and always supporting the most conservative politics.
— Most people are neutral – let people be people.
— Others are more favorable. It is healthy to make friends, find a partner or spouse in a church. Church is good for family life – there’s some child care.

2. But having friends in the church (fellowship or koinonia) is the way to authentic, abundant life and soul satisfaction. Koinonia makes church friendships distinct from other kinds of friendships.

3. God sought us out to bring fellowship (koinonia) to us.(1 John 1:1-4)
— Christians come together and become friends because the Word of life (verse 1), also called eternal life (verse 2), came to the apostles in human form (Jesus).
— The apostles, invited to koinonia with God through Jesus, invite all of us to also have konoinia with them and with God through Jesus.

4. Friendships in the church are grounded in koinonia, which has a variety of uses in the New Testament. But the primary meaning is to partake of and share in God’s trinitarian life and purpose together, not just in socializing. Non-Christians usually choose friends based on practical and self-centered reasons. But in the church, our friendships begin with fellowship with God and overflows into everyone else who has responded to the proclamation of the gospel. A Christian brother or sister might have opposing political views, but she or he is still my sister/brother in Christ because we share koinonia that comes from God.

5. We know we have koinonia by the way we walk (1 John 1:5-7)
— John talks about how we know if we are walking in the light and living out the truth: Obeying Jesus’ commands. Loving our brothers and sisters. Not loving what is evil in the world. Friendship in the church insists on accountability to God. Let us not use our Community hour to socialize alone. Rather let us be sure that we are doing koinonia with God and one another, too.
— Walking in the light not only helps us verify our fellowship, but also is our mission in this world. How we walk reveals God’s light (see also Ephesians 5).
— But we must avoid becoming judgmental or legalistic. Truth and justice should rule, but so must love and grace. Therefore friendship in the church is like improvisation between accountability and patience.

6. In sum, koinonia’s divine origin fulfills and completes the limits of ordinary friendships. This is called joy (1 John 1:4).

Sermon Summary: Overcoming Hindrances to Friendship (July 17, 2016)

Overcoming Hindrances to Friendship • Acts 15:36-41
Pastor Tim Tseng • July 17, 2016

1. Our core Christian mission is making disciples who make disciples (Matthew 4:19; 28:19-20). Everything we do should lead to this priority. Small groups are not merely support groups or social hangouts. Bible studies and Sunday schools are not just about acquiring knowledge and debating ideas. The goal is ALWAYS to become better disciples who make disciples.

  • In the faith and science class, the central questions are “how do we encourage scientifically minded people to follow Jesus?” and “how our children can become disciples who thrive in a scientifically minded culture?”
  • As people prepare for marriage, the central questions are “how to encourage singles to seek relationships that are centered on following Christ? how to prepare couples for marriages and family life that are centered on following Christ?”
  • Happiness, personal fulfillment, satisfaction are not the goals of children’s ministry, new marriages, parenting, and family ministries. Following Jesus as we live life is. “seek first his Kingdom – and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33). Secondary goals are important, but Jesus and his kingdom come first. And the wonderful, ironic truth is this: The healthy, abundant, and joyful life God wants us to have comes after we prioritize him.

2. Disciple-making only happens where there is trust and accountability. Trust and accountability only happens where there is authentic, biblically-based friendship (which is built on loving relationships – come to the EM retreat!) But making and keeping friends is so hard and often discouraging. Three hindrances to this type of friendship often happen today:

  • Hindrance #1: Superficial Relationships. Like untossed feta chickpea orange salad, when we stay apart from others emotionally and spiritually, there is no real flavor or depth in our relationships. When we surround ourselves only with people like us or who think like us, our relationships will be superficial. Paul teaches us that the mystery of the gospel is when Jewish and Gentile Christians break down their religious and cultural barriers to become a new people (Eph. 2-3, Acts 1-2).
  • Hindrance #2: Not recognizing that some circumstances are beyond our control. The friendship of Jonathan and David (1 Samuel 20) could not truly survive the fear of King Saul. We, too, need to recognize that we cannot control all our circumstances and learn let go sometimes.
  • Hindrance #3: Not being self-reflective. Had Paul and Barnabas been more self-reflective they may not have split up in Acts 15:26-41. Our challenge is to know ourselves well enough so that we do not hinder friendships by our personalities and behavior.

3. Key to overcoming hindrances to authentic friendship: Reflecting God’s image into our relationships (imago dei). The key quality is hesed, steadfast love. Ruth’s willingness to risk her future to support tragedy-stricken Naomi and follow Yahweh is a supreme model of steadfast love and commitment.

Sermon Summary
: Keeping Friends (July 10, 2016)

Sermon Summary
 • Pastor Chris Liu • July 10, 2016

Keeping Friends
1 John 1:1-4

The foundation of our Christian relationships and friendships starts with fellowship with Christ. What we have in common with one another is that we believe Jesus Christ came to die and save us from our sins. We have eternal life in and through Christ and that is why we meet and gather each week. It is why we do life together. So that we may continue to love God with all our hearts, souls, mind, and strength and that we may love others in that same way.
Here are seven ways we can build and deepen those friendships with one another. These are taken from Jerry and Mary White’s book Friends & Friendships.
1. Help each other grow spiritually. While it is great to catch up with one another and talk about current topics (news, sports, movies, etc…), we should also talk about our faith and share about how God is working in our lives.
2. with one another. One of the unique things we have in our Christian friendships is the opportunity to pray for one another. When both friends believe in God and believe that He is a personal and present God, they have something that is really special. Praying for one another is really cool because it allows us to really be a part of someone else’s life.
3. Keep each other accountable. This goes hand-in-hand with prayer. But something that we don’t always think about is that we have a special responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ… and that is to keep one another accountable. Again, because we are in this community together and all about doing life together, it means that we are to help one another stay committed to Christ and call each other out when we start to stray.
4. Encourage and affirm each other. We should not only be there to keep each other accountable, but to really be a support for one another. Our lives won’t always be smooth. We will go through stressful situations in our lives. We will face tragedies and hurts. And the friends that are there when we go through those times are the ones that we will build deeper relationships with.
5. Help and serve each other. Another way to maintain our friendships is to help and serve one another. This shows that we really care for one another. Instead of only being focused on our own personal lives, we look to the lives of others and see how we can help others.
6. Have fun together. Christian friendships should be fun. It isn’t just about serious bible studies and praying (although that can be very fun too). But fellowship is important. Hanging out and having a good time together is important. We should be able to laugh with one another and enjoy spending time with one another. It’s great to be able to go on trips together and celebrate big life events together. Birthdays. Graduations. Weddings. Baby Showers.
7. Do spiritual battle together. The Bible makes it clear that we are in a spiritual battle against Satan. And when we fight those spiritual battles together it really build and deepens our relationships with each other. This means we need to be in positions to do spiritual warfare together and that means serving the Church and being a part of what God is doing around the world.

Sermon Summary: Making Friends (July 3, 2016)

Last Sunday’s Sermon Summary
Pastor Chris Liu • July 4, 2016

Making Friends
John 1:14; John 15:16

We will have to make friends over and over again in our lifetime. Every new life-stage; every new school we attend; every new city we move to; every new church we are a part of; we have to make friends at those places and times. And making friends can be hard and difficult. As we get older, our relationships become more complicated and it is easy for us to not make the effort to make new friends.

Two main reasons why I believe people don’t make the effort to make friends is (1) making and maintaining new friendships is hard and (2) we have too many friends already. While it is great to have friends and relationships outside of our Canaan, I really hope that we would build this community that we are in and that we would make our Canaan friendships a priority. I hope that we would commit to one another and really do life together.

So how do we go about making friends? The first thing we need to do is to take the first step. We need to initiate and create opportunities for our friendships to form. Just as Jesus took the first step in coming down to earth and relating to us in human form, we too should take the first step in reaching out to others here at Canaan and get to know them.

The second thing we are to do is to be full of grace and truth. This means that we don’t judge others for their differences. We don’t just make friends with those that are similar to us, but to build friendships with everyone. We are to accept other for who they are. At the same time, it means that we are to be genuine in who we are. The ultimate goal is that these friendships would be authentic and deep.

The final thing we can do to make friends, is to serve together. Jesus chose us so that we can be a blessing to others. And I believe that our friendships grow the deepest when we are serving God together. It is great to have fun and hang out, but deeper friendships form when we purposefully get together to serve the Church and serve others.

Let’s continue to make friends here at Canaan and live our lives in such a way that others may see Christ in us!

Sermon Summary: Foundations for Authentic Friendship (June 26, 2016)

Last Sunday’s Sermon Summary
Pastor Tim Tseng

Foundations for Authentic Friendship (John 15:12-16, NIV)
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

I have better friends outside my church than inside.

This is a double-edged indictment on both our church and the person who said it.

One the one hand, it is easy to blame a church because it is full of imperfect people. And we, as a church, ought to strive to create a better environment for authentic friendships, right? On the other hand, a person who makes this statement may misunderstand what authentic Christian friendship means. She or he may expect Christians to behave in a way that is unrealistic. In either case, our goal this summer is to understand what friendship means. I hope we can all say “my Christian friends are the most real and authentic friends one can wish for.”

  1. Four aspects of authentic friendship according to Jesus (John 15).
    a. Personal sacrifice, b. obedience to Christ, c. transparency, d. bearing fruit
  2. Your Friendship Potential
    Take the survey/inventory at Because the best way to get authentic friends is to be one.
  3. How to have a relationship?
    Our relationship with Jesus is a model for our friendships: Immerse ourselves in God’s Word (and our friends’ lives), Spirit driven prayer and communication, Fellowship through the Church.
  4. Bearing fruit is the goal, so become disciple makers!
  5. Group exercise: In our different life stages, how can we turn our upcoming EM retreat into a great place for authentic friendship?Friendhip Insert 16-06-26

Evaluating Your Friendship Potential: an Inventory

Attached is a Self-Evaluation Inventory. It comes from Friends and Friendship: The Secret of Drawing Close (NavPress, 1982) by Jerry and Mary White. Please feel free to download and use – especially during our summer sermon series on Christian Friendship. – P Tim

When you want to drive to a certain city, you first must establish where you are before you can determine how you’re going to get to your destination. As you seek to improve your friendship-making ability and depth, you need to know something of what you are like now as a friend and what you should work on to improve your ability to make and keep friends. This self-evaluation inventory will help you discover where your personal strengths and weaknesses lie.

As you answer the questions [on the attached inventory] be as honest and realistic with yourself as you can. Don’t search for the “right” answers, but for those that most accurately fit you and your personal experience.

Click to download: Evaluating Your Friendship Potential

Christian Friendship.001.jpeg

Sermon Summary: Admonish One Another (June 19, 2016)

Sermon Summary
Pastor Tim Tseng • June 19, 2016

Admonish One Another (Colossians 3:16, NIV)
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

When Christians stray off-course from their faith walk, what should we do?

  1. We are called to watch out for one another (see Ezekiel 33:7-9).
    – If we see someone struggling or straying, we are responsible for admonishing that person. This is an expression of love!
    – But it is also very very difficult. Admonition is the mutuality command we obey least often, and when we attempt to obey it, we usually do the worst job. But it is a command and we are responsible for one another.
  2. Who provides Admonition?
    – Intimacy and authority gives us the right to admonish. Close friends and church leaders have greater right to admonish than others.
    – Complexity and ambiguity should make us cautious. All who admonish should be cautious since each situation is usually complex.
  3. Principle of Admonition: Forbear always, admonish seldom.
    – First we listen, sympathize, and affirm. Then we ask “Is anything hindering my friends from growing in Christ? Are they wandering off course?”
    – Distinguish willful defiance and normal struggle.
    – Distinguish personality idiosyncrasies and deviation.
    – Admonish early – nip it in the bud.
  4. What needs admonition?
    Inappropriate Theology. Not primarily beliefs, but how our choices and life reflects our theology. E.g. God’s covenant with us has implications for marriage and commitment to a church. What does breaking fellowship mean?
    Moral problems. Defiance against God (not struggles). Usually starts with habits of covetousness, materialism, appetite, and lust.
    Disputes in the church. When we are self-righteous and cannot see that others are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
  5. The act of admonition (Matthew 18:15-20)
    Privately (see addendum), Positively (goal is restoration), Prayerfully (it is risky and therefore we need to leave the results to the Holy Spirit).
  6. Addendum – Admonition script (from Bob Lin):
    “Hey _____, I noticed that recently you’ve been _______. That’s not very like you. Is everything ok?” “Is that the way you want to _________?”
    – (If wanting change) “How can I help you?” Pray together
    – (If resistant) “As your friend I’m really troubled by _______ because I can see how it is damaging you, your loved ones and your relationship with God. I’d like to help you and I’ll pray for you. Let me know if I can help you in any way.”

English Service 10 AM (Worship Hall 3)

Sept 4: Tim Tseng "What are you seeking?"

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