Here’s a Message I gave at a Church in Kansas City Last Week: The Joy of Living a Good Story

I’ve been on the senior team/staff of 3 church plants over the past 15 years, and it has been one of the most challenging things I can imagine. That all three churches have survived and thrived to this day is one of the stories I cherish most about my life. One important element they all had in common was a common “mother-ship,” Heartland Community Church in Olathe, KS. I have many good friends at Heartland, and feel as though I owe much of what I get to do in ministry to their support of this driven, creative, enthusiastic, and sometimes spastic 26 year old who showed up to try to help plant a church (and to try and become a rock star – see Satellite Soul).

Since then Dan Deeble & their staff have always been really kind to me & supported me even as I’m trying to think critically and write about all that I’ve learned from planting and leading churches over the past few decades. That HCC leaders stay in friendship with me and allow me the latitude to write those things down without worrying about endangering our friendship is a sure sign of the kingdom.

I was back there this weekend speaking, and it occurred to me that many Paperback Theology readers haven’t ever heard me speak. So here’s a video of the message from last Sunday. It’s based on Nehemiah 8, when Ezra comes to read the law to the people & the story of God turns their weeping into feasting, rejoicing, and even caring for the poor (sending portions if you read it). The Joy of the story of God’s coming for us becomes the strength of their lives.

Anyway, I hope you’ll take a little bit of time and watch this. I had a blast preparing and sharing this message with my Heartland family. Just a quick warning – to those of you who haven’t seen me in awhile, I shaved my head & grew a gotee… fair warning.

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  • Excellent message, Tim–very effectively presented! While I’m not much on “stories” these days, I think there is, indeed, a difference between an “authentic life” and a “counterfeit story” and your message helped me to underestand that a little bit better. As I see it, our stories are both helpful and hopeless…. Helpful, on a practical level, because– for better or for worse –they provide, for a time, a necessary interface between us and the world. But they are nevertheless hopeless because the person we imagine ourselves to be is not real and must ultimately be exposed. But even in their hopelessness, our stories are still helpful. For when the emptiness of our mind-made sense of self is exposed, we have opportunity to recognize who we truly are and, thus– by the grace of God –to complete our reenactment of the greatest story ever told.

    “We are celebrating the feast of the Eternal Birth which God the Father has borne and never ceases to bear in all eternity… But if it takes not place in me, what avails it? Everything lies in this, that it should take place in me.” ~ Meister Eckhart

    “God expects but one thing of you, and that is that you should come out of yourself in so far as you are a created being made and let God be God in you.” ~ Meister Eckhart

    Oddly enough, when we do that– when we are “crucified with Christ”; when we “die before we die”, as the Sufi’s say — we are born again, and pass from death into life [into that abundant life which even the servants in our Father’s house enjoy –that eternal life which, at one level, has been there all along, but which we have, on another level (in the words of Plotinus, slightly paraphrased), “bartered . . . for a nature foreign to ourself”]. Indeed, when we finally recognize the mind of Christ (who is the Way, the Truth and the Life in us), our story– no longer dominated by the carnal/egoic mind –ceases to be (merely) “pulp fiction” (as Eckhart Tolle put it) and begins to become a true work of art, touched by the masters hand. This, I believe, is the difference between the counterfeit stories that must collapse and the authentic lives that are lived to the glory of God in the power of the Spirit (cf. the difference between “wood, hay and stubble” and “gold, silver and precious stones” in I Corinthians 3:12). The former is self-absorbed and calculating. The latter is God-intoxicated and inspired. Let us not take our eyes off the Lord (and let’s not forget “that the one we are looking for is the one who is looking” ~ St. Francis)

    See also: “Thandie Newton: Embracing otherness, embracing myself” (this is important)