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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 267 posts for Canaan English Ministry

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 CanaanEM.org. 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.”

Sermon Summary: Stir Up One Another (June 12, 2016)

Sermon Summary
Pastor Chris Liu • June 12, 2016

Stir Up One Another (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The Christian lives we live are a marathon. We are in the long race and along the way, we can get complacent and our faith can go dry. That is why it is important for us to stir or spur one another along. Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us of three things we can do.

First, we are to consider one another. This means that we should be actively thinking about the needs of others and how we can help our brothers and sisters in Christ. Considering means that we don’t only focus on our own lives but on the lives of others. In order to do this, we must spend time with one another and get to know each other better.

Secondly, we are to spur one another in love and good works. The purpose of this spurring one another is to challenge one another to keep loving God and others. We must push one another to keep growing in their relationship with God. We must push one another to go and love those who are hard to love. We must push one another to serve God and His Church.

Finally, we are to keep meeting together. Our spiritual lives are not a solo mission. We are not to go on this journey alone. We need others around us to keep us accountable and for us to help others continue in their walks with God. Even though our lives are busy, we need to commit to one another and commit to our church. We must meet regularly, not just a couple times a week. Do life together.

That’s how we can spur one another on.

A last reminder, is that spurring and stirring one another up is difficult because we don’t always want to get too involved in other people’s lives. We live our lives and others live their lives. But, it is important to bring that energy, excitement, and passion for God into our church community. Find others and encourage one another and push each other outside of our comfort zones so that we can continue to run this race together with joy and perseverance.

Sermon Summary: Bear One Another’s Burdens (June 5, 2016)

Sermon Summary
Pastor Tim Tseng • June 5, 2016

Bear One Another’s Burdens
2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

  1. The Paralyzed Man and his Friends (Mark 2:1-12)

     This classic episode in Jesus’ ministry shows us how faith overcomes the burden of sin. It also shows us how we, too, can carry one another’s burden. When all looked hopeless, the paralyzed man’s friends found a way to bring him to Jesus by climbing up the roof, breaking a hole in it, and dropping the man in front of Jesus.   They demonstrated what it means to bear or carry one another’s burden.

2. The Burden of Sin

     When Jesus forgave the paralyzed man’s sin, he addressed the root cause of life’s burdens – sin. The teachers of the law and other contemporaries may have blamed the man’s paralysis on the sin that he might have committed. And there was nothing they could do about that since only God forgives sin.

     But the burden of sin is not only what is committed by an individual. It is also the weight of life’s imperfections and pain that is a result of all of humanity’s sin. The paralyzed man might have been as much a victim of sin as one who committed sin. For example, we are like soldiers in a battlefield called sin. Some of us will commit sin, others will be victims. We have no choice but to fight. That is what the burden of sin feels like. And the more we realize this, the more we see life as a burden.

     The older we get, we are required to carry more responsibilities. This leads to feeling even more weighed down by life. Many of us emotionally divest from life’s responsibilities. This often leads to an unhealthy outlook and burn out. This is the consequence of carrying the world’s sin on our shoulders (not just our own).

     So when Jesus healed the paralyzed man, he first declared that that man’s sin is forgiven. The man’s emotional and spiritual life, weighted down by the burden of sin had to be lifted first. Jesus lifts that burden by forgiving and then healing. By his teachings, death, and resurrection, he lifts the burden of sin for all of us.

3. The Burden of Faith

     Therefore, if we feel weighted down by life, we are invited to come and follow Jesus. He will carry our burdens and give us a light yoke (Matthew 11:28). He frees us from this burdened outlook towards life so that we can live by faith and in the Spirit. Instead of emotionally divesting ourselves, we can see all of life’s challenges as a chance to discover and joyfully invest in the life God has given us. This is the burden of faith because we still have to carry something like a new outlook and a desire to help lift the burdens of others.

     When we carry the burden of faith, like the paralyzed man’s friends, we desire to bear the burdens of others (Galatians 6:1). We come to church looking out for opportunities to bear one another’s burdens. We live our lives looking for opportunities to help lift others up. For example, Jerry Sittser took care of a little boy neighbor whose mother died tragically young. For two years he helped the burdened widower. Another example is helping a sick classmate who has been out with her class notes and preparation for exams.

     In the church, another important way to carry each other’s burdens is to carry our own load (Galatians 6:3-5). A church has many activities and functions. There is always more than active members are able to bear. So, by carrying our fair share, we are bearing one another’s burden.

     Let us challenge each other to lift our burden of sin and carry the burden of faith!

Sermon Summary: Comfort One Another (May 22, 2016)

Last Sunday’s Sermon Summary
Pastor Chris Liu • May 22, 2016

Comfort One Another
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. — 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Jesus said this in John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulations. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” We will all go through ups and downs in life. We will all experience loss, great and small; but the good news is that in those difficult times, we can have hope. Not only that, but we can be comforters to one another.

So what can we do when we see or know someone who is hurting? First, it is important to spend time with them and really understand their situation. Each person’s loss is unique to them. Don’t assume you know what they are going through. Listen to them and try to understand their hurts. This takes a lot of effort and energy, but that is what real comfort is about. It’s not just checking in one time to see how they are doing, but to constantly follow up and take time to listen and understand their feelings and emotions.

Secondly, we have to allow them to go through the grieving process. When someone loses something important to them, it shakes their identity. It takes time for them to come to grips with their new identity and grieving helps with that healing process. The key to be a good comforter is to allow the person to go through that grief. Grieving is a good thing, however long and bitter the process, because it will lead to healing.

Next, we can offer practical help. This means cooking a meal for them. Going to buy groceries on their behalf. Helping to household chores. Help driving their kids to school. Helping them with their finances. Again, it is nice for us to go and spend time with those hurting and to listen to them, but actually doing something practical for them is equally as important.

Finally, we need to caution and challenge the hurting to not get stuck in the past. It is easy for those who have lost someone or something important to them to become bitter, resentful, and angry. We need help them to move forward. Not to forget or diminish the past, but to show them that there can be a new and different beginning that they can head towards.

For those who are in the middle of a loss, Sittser encourages you to do three things. First, to keep moving forward. To not get stuck in the past. Second, to find a community who can support you. People who you can open up with and share your hurts with and be comforted by them. Remember that you don’t have to go through this alone. Finally, cling on to the hope that we have in Christ. We can look forward to a future where all things are made whole. Remember that Christ has overcome sin and death and tragedy and that we have a new life that is in Him!

English Service 10 AM (Worship Hall 3)

July 31: Tim Tseng “Marriage Friends”

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