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God's Promises from the Beginning Point to Our Future

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:15 PM

This message started the series “Bound,” a four week journey through the promises God gives us in his Word. This series served as the 2015 pre-Advent series for Chapel at Lunch.

Waiting for Opening Day

God's Cultivation of Patience in Our Lives

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:15 PM

This is a message from the series “Freshly Picked” on James 5:7-9. Throughout “Freshly Picked,” we looked at the different Fruit of the Spirit and in this message we look at God's desire to bring out the fruit of patience in our lives.

Tilling the Field

Understanding How God Works Good Through Us

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:15 PM

I opened the series on the Fruit of the Spirit entitled “Freshly Picked” with this message from Galatians 5:19-23. This series began on August 26 as part of Chapel at Lunch at Lindenwood and September 9 as part of Grace4all.

A Firm Foundation

Like Abraham, We Must Look to the Heavenly City

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 2:00 PM

I shared this message on Hebrews 11:8-12 as part of our 2015 Opening Chapel Service at Lindenwood University. As we begin a new academic year — or face any sort of new calling — we find an important question arises: what foundation are we building our efforts upon?

Pioneers of Grace

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 10:35 PM

An apt observation from Philip Yancy in a recent Christianity Today interview:

Sociologist and researcher Amy Sherman has said that Christians tend to have three models for interacting with society: fortification, accommodation, and domination. To put that in layman's terms: We hunker down amongst ourselves, water down our witness, or beat down our opponents. For many reasons, those aren't New Testament models.

So what should we be? We need to create pioneer settlements that show the world a different, grace-based way of living.

New Isn't Always Better

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 4:34 PM

I've been thinking a lot lately about our cultural impulse to view new as better. You can see this pretty much everywhere we go — from the doomsayers who say Apple is doomed when a new iPhone isn't entirely different to the wailing of the St. Louis Rams about their “old” dome built in the mid-90's. I see it a lot in the Church. People constantly resort to “solving” the problems of any given ministry by suggesting the Old must give way to some magical thing known as the New.

Kai Nilsen critiques this notion in an article a friend sent me. He points to examples of liturgical renewal as a result for people yearning for something more than the constant drive for the New:

I would suggest that many parts of the modern church movement, having sold out to the heresy of “new is always better,” are awakening to the beauty of ritual and the recurring rhythms of the church that embed the life of God deeply within our souls. The season of Lent is one of those recurring rhythms that ritualizes the beauty of God's life-giving, redemptive work in Jesus' death and resurrection.

While I think the liturgical year can be overused, I also believe we are foolish when we fail to appreciate the ways traditional practices of the Church may very well be more meaningful than anything new we can cook up.

How Do We Pray?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:15 AM

It is so easy for us to become wrapped up in how we pray — an emphasis on our own “prayer skills” — that we can come to believe that our act of praying, our choice of words and our “faith” is what really matters. Karl Barth addresses this misunderstanding nicely:

Grace itself is the answer to this question. When we are comforted by the grace of God, we being to pray with or without words.

How wonderful it is when we see that prayer is not ultimately bounded by our foundation but God's grace!

Too Small

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:20 AM

There is not an inch in the entire domain of our human life of which Christ, who is sovereign of all, does not proclaim 'Mine!'”

We often think of redeeming society in too small of terms. That is the beauty of Kuyper's famous statement: he points us towards how big the scope of God's plan was.

The Sentry Post

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:08 AM

Here is a pithy tidbit from John Calvin that I was mulling over tonight as I thought about the new Sunday school classes that are starting tomorrow:

“Therefore each individual has his own kind of living assigned to him by the Lord as a sort of sentry post so that he may not heedlessly wander about throughout life.”

Relational Wisdom

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:24 AM

Peacemaker Ministries's founder and president, Ken Sande, has stepped down from his post at the organization. Most of you know that I am a vocal opponent of Peacemaker's program for a variety of reasons that need not be rehashed here, but I find something telling to the larger situation of the American church that I think is worth interacting with:

The transition from Peacemaker Ministries does not mean that Ken is leaving peacemaking behind. He has already begun work on a new teaching paradigm, which he is calling “Relational Wisdom,” or, simply, “RW.” […] As the transition is completed and our new CEO identified, Ken hopes to turn his attention fully to RW, writing a new book, and starting a sister ministry that focuses on relational wisdom.

This idea of moving from “paradigm” to “paradigm” hints at a problem endemic not only within the sphere of Peacemaker Ministries, but also within many of the other “ministries” that appear in American Evangelicalism today. Too many of them end up being built upon the shifting sands of marketing, buzzwords and “paradigms” (complete with a dash of “shifts”). What is “relational wisdom”? What distinguishes it from normal Biblical teachings on relationships that requires giving it a new name?

Our consumer-driven culture likes these sorts of packages, because they are easy to implement and have clear goals. When everything can be solved with a book and an organization-for-hire, we need not do the hard work of thinking through how the Gospel is to be uniquely applied to the individual situations and people we interact with each day. Programs can be good, don't misunderstand me, but in the Christian life our goal should be to study, teach and preach the whole counsel of God faithfully, not simply to pass through a smattering of programs that cover all the issues we happen to deem important.

Too often, programs that can be dropped into any church with the promise of somehow helping people live better lives end up focusing on one aspect of Scripture, boiling it into a few catchy phrases people memorize, overemphasizing it to the point that it becomes distorted and then calling it a day. Worse, given that we accept that buying “solutions” is a valid means of fixing our problems, once we have completed the program, we are inclined as a culture to assume we know all we need to know. But, as the messiness of real life plays out, these programs end up being forced upon situations they do not really fit. Much as if one memorizes some phrases of a foreign language instead of learning the language's grammar, whether we realize it or not, at some point we hit a dead end.

This is why it is so important that we study the entirety of God's Word and constantly seek to understand how the issues the Biblical figures faced parallel our own issues. When we wrestle with Scripture and see the coherent arc of the story, we can discern the Biblical approach to all sorts of matters — including dealing with conflict — in a way that is much fuller and more applicable than any program ever could hope to be. If we want to be wise in how we relate to and care for our neighbors, all we need to do is immerse ourselves in the Bible and pray for the Spirit's aid in living out the Gospel. That is real relational wisdom that will never become replaced by a paradigm shift.

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