Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2014 Timothy Keller Conference in Hong Kong

2014/3/19-21, 3 days in Hong Kong. Main theme is Grace to City. Rev. Timothy Keller spoke on 4 topics with Mandarin translation.

  • Grace Dynamics - 恩典的動力 (my notes)
  • Contextualization - 福音的處境化 (my notes)
  • Integrative Ministry - 事工的整合 (my notes)
  • Movement Dynamics - 福音運動的活力 (my notes)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Day 3 - Q & A between Tim and City to City network pastors and church planters

Tim did a Q & A with church planters, pastors, and core members. Just quick notes but from my perspective, it's extremely helping because of these customized questions.
  • (Spending time to a person) - We can't not spend too much time to a needy sheep and ignore the other 99 sheep (not preparing sermon well feeding them). Distinguish a lost person, a potential christian leader, and a needy person.
  • (Church model) - prefer doing church planting rather than an multi-site church
  • Recommend St. Gregory the Great's book: The Book of Pastoral Rule: St. Gregory the Great (Popular Patristics Series)
  • (Confidence or calling to doing ministry in NT city) - He didn't have one. He didn't have any confidence or arrogance. He went because no one wanted to go after his asking. He went because there was an opportunity over there. "It's a duty," Tim said. Why not for out of "duty" and "should?" For almost beginning 2 years in NT city, he was always in anxious and could go to bed and sleep without prayer.
  • (Spouse) - While doing church planting, your marriage will never fall on "Fine" point. It's always between intolerant and not good but tolerant. Always ask you spouse! You don't correct her feeling. If she said, "you don't love me," then you really have to make her feel loved by you. You can't say "you're wrong!" I love you, you have to know. So, always ask your wife.
  • (Age issue) - The same candidate, western people tend to think he is too old while eastern says too young.
  • (Leaders selection) - Let a group of leaders decide who can take lead. Especially, doing cross culture background, let those having the same background (culture) make the decision.
  • (Every church has to do church planting?) - It's hard to plant a church if the mother church is not in a renewal mode. In general, every church should do church planting. 2 and 3 small churches work together is a great idea.
  • (Culture difference) - A multi-classes church is infinitely harder than a multi-racial church. Let's say a group of people with various ethnical and cultural background. If they all get an Ph. D, they are the same (the one). Nobody cares what language you use or your background. However, homogenous race with different social classes still has a great difference.

Day 3 - Movement Dynamics (2014 Timothy Keller Conference in Hong Kong)

Personal revival, church renewal, to the whole city movement. Let't dive into the last speech by seeing what is movement, what is gospel movement, and how to promote the movement.

What is movement?

There are 2 different organizations (not 2 entirely different, like an spectrum)

Movement Institution
Core Common Visions Hold by rules and traditions
New ideas From all over (collaboratively) From top to down
Format Constantly changed (innovated, creative, always moving) Hard to change, resist to change, Job to conserve things, refuse to change, rules and bylaws
Power Willing to share Is guarded

Question: a church is a movement or an institution? Both! Acts 7, a great persecution, Steven murdered. Acts 8, apostles stayed, else scattered. All results are not planned. It's a movement. At the same time, in Samaria, they called the apostles from Jerusalem. Why approval from them needed? They have authorities give by Church, and followed Jesus. They knew what is the core of Christianity.

Problem: too institution, not movement enough.

1st: Occupied by clergy. New lay people can start a new ministry easily. Afraid of maturity, right doctrine, fear of loss power, face issue, and etc. Just remember in Acts 2, tongues as of flame fall onto everyone. Apostles didn't get a bigger one.

2nd: We do things by tradition or by culture. Don't add traditions to the Bible. For examples, we're asked to preach to word of God. But the Bible didn't set up how long it should be. In the States, main speaker in large conference only has 18 minutes while in China you will be asked delivering as least 2 hrs.

We do need apostolic doctrines (Apostle Creed, Nicene Creed). We also need revivals, and they appeared differently in Church history. Revivals are encouraging because God can break through any city at any time. 1859 Northern Ireland, 1/3 converted. 1858-1859 Fullerton St., 10% converted. 20th early, Korea, now grow to over 30% Christians. 20th middle, Africa and South America.

What is gospel movement?

Let's rediscovery the gospel itself. In Mark 1, prophets revealed to us. In 1 Pet 1:12, Angels longed to look. The angels are infinitely wise and smart. They never get tired of the gospel. It's like looking at a beautiful diamond. We need to constantly love the beauty and greatness of the gospel. Justification showed how we're brought by Jesus Christ. Sanctification shows how much we live in Jesus Christ. Our sanctification is based on justification, not vice versa. It's more I'm in so I live a better life. Not I live a better life so I get accepted, which is the elder brother in Luke 15. The result of elder brother is either superiority or self-pittiness. We should know that we're perfect sinners and loved by God.

Secondly, there are nominal christians in the church, no power or vitality. It's not our job telling them you're not a real christian, no fruit in you life. The point is, you preach the gospel clearly. Then, we will realize it and wake up one day.

Thirdly, skeptics with Christian background may go to the church. We have to show them clearly with the beauty of the gospel, without self-righteousness. We need courageous gospel in confidence. When that happened, church grows.

On the other hand, we need to know that every revival is different than others. In John Wesley's era, the innovative part was out-door opening preaching. In 20th New York, it was lay-led mid-days prayer meeting. The only constant thing in gospel movement is nothing is constant. Tim believed, innovation is the crucial key of the growth in China. It must be true in creed, and conserve what needs to be conserved but not too much. And separate the tradition, God will lead us and we will see the movement.

We also have to be careful on balanced church practices. Different churches are strong in different ways, and often look down on what we're good at. In gospel movement, new organizations grow up, special kind of ministry reaching divergent people. Church planting is the result of the gospel movement. Planting a new church forces you to be innovative and tries to reach unbelievers. New church planting reinforce the movement.

How to promote the movement?

Extraordinary prayer

It's the element that always appear in every revival. Nothing over there all the time, except extraordinary prayer.

Spending 10-15% your time outside your church ministry

Don't pur all your time building your church. This isn't directly helping your own church. If you focus too much, your church is your identity instead of Jesus alone. Building bridges between different churches brings unity. It's a sacrifice. But you will new have a revival if you build your own.

Less-self when it comes to your church success.

Ex.: a newly planted draws 20 of your 200 congregations. And it grows to 100 members. Are you happy in Jesus' kingdom, or sad of 20 lost in your own kingdom? Logically, we know what we should be happy about. We know the correct answer, but feel difficult in our hearts.


informed friendship with different organizations or denominations with common vision of the movement.

God is the only One making these happened

Taking what happened to Redeemer Presbyterian Church as an example. Tim did all the research. But other things happened outside what he can imagine and control. Starting from 1970, the immigrants to NY City switches from eastern and southern Europe to Asia, Latin America, and south Africa, where Christianity grew at the same time in these areas. Most missionaries in NY city are not from western, but are non-western people. 2nd generations moved to Manhattan, who are more professional and well-educated. After 911, it changed Americans heart toward NY city. Originally it's notorious for its economic and financial success. After 911, people started throwing human and resources in. David Lloyd-Jones said, "try to bring a revival is like what Elijah did on the altar." You can do everything, but only God can send the fire. God can't send fire if there is no altar. Only God can ignite the altar.

Tim closed his talks in this conference with a Palm Monday story (see http://royshaff.wordpress.com/2010/03/28/palm-monday/

Palm Monday…. 
The donkey awakened, his mind still savoring the afterglow of the most exciting day of his life. Never before had he felt such a rush of pleasure and pride. 
He walked into town and found a group of people by the well. “I’ll show myself to them,” he thought. 
But they didn’t notice him. They went on drawing their water and paid him no mind. 
“Throw your garments down,” he said crossly. “Don’t you know who I am?” They just looked at him in amazement. 
Someone slapped him across the tail and ordered him to move. “Miserable heathens!” he muttered to himself. “I’ll just go to the market where the good people are. They will remember me.” 
But the same thing happened. No one paid any attention to the donkey as he strutted down the main street in front of the marketplace. 
“The palm branches! Where are the palm branches!” he shouted. “Yesterday, you threw palm branches!” 
Hurt and confused, the donkey returned home to his mother. 
“Foolish child,” she said gently. “Don’t you realize that without him, you are just an ordinary donkey?” 
— Author Unknown

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day 2 - Integrative Ministry (2014 Timothy Keller Conference in Hong Kong)

God blessed Abraham, so that he may become a blessing to others. God brought him in, then sent him out. God will never call you in without sending you out. We are all in mission. The 2nd night, on the topic of Integrative ministry, Timothy Keller is going to walk through Luke 5 and show us 3 aspects of mission: out into work, out into margin of society, out so that people may return to Jesus.

1st: Take faith out and into our work (Luke 5:1-11)

Meeting Jesus means change your identity and then change your view of work.

Change your identity

If God is infinitely good (beautiful), don't you fell bad (ugly) in front of him. See Isa 6:1-5 and Job 42:5-6. This is exactly what happened to Peter. He feels more truly than he is. His greatness destroys Peter's self-image. So Peter said in Luke 5:8, "Depart from me, for dI am a sinful man, O Lord.” In stead of throwing him away (remember the good vs. bad, beautiful vs. ugly contrast), Jesus included him. Now the true Peter becomes Peter with grace. It's essential. Our faith and relationship with God is not based on what we do, but what he has done to me.

How does this apply to work? The text is not saying quit you time and enter full-time ministry. Of course Peter left nets and boat (his job). But he also left his fishes (property, huge profits). Just imagine what other fishermen will do after his leaving. Now, to Peter, the meaning of property is totally emotionally changed. It means different. You won't sell you soul in order to pursue profits. You resource of security has been changed. 

Ex. 1: An improve comedy actors feels no pressure on the stage after receiving Christ. He said, "Jesus has died for me, all I have to is having fun on the stage."

Ex. 2: NY Times Jounalist, the more I care about the feedback of writing, the worse I will write.

Jesus didn't only take care of devotion, Sunday service, or small group. He is in all areas of our life.

2nd: Take faith out and into the margin of society (Luke 5:12-16)

Leprosy is not merely a physical disease. Due to fear of contagiousness, lepers are banished from the community. So it's also emotionally perished and socially isolated. The are outsiders, margin of the society. So question: what is the leper doing in town? He is risking everything on Jesus and puts hope on him. People may stone him to death due to his presence in town. Under the high risk, he still very police by asking "if you will?" (Luke 5:12) Please notice this leper is asking "cleaned, not healed." Healed is physical, but "cleaned" goes further to ceremonial concept. The result, as you can read, he got it. Jesus did not only speak or command, but also touched him. A human contact represents acceptance. Jesus is dealing with entire condition. He leave the center of power and reach the margin and outcasts.

Ex. 1: Jonathan Edwards thought there is no stronger command than the concept of giving to poor. An professor even suggested that Christianity is the first group in history teaching loving the poor (comparing to giving to poor).

Ex. 2: The beatitude "blessed are those who is poor in spirit." Christians do not only look at our bad actions, but also know that our good things (deeds) are out of bad motivations. That's why we're poor in spirit.

Why loving the poor is the sign of true faith (Jas 2:14-17)? It's only when the word sees us loving the poor, they start to believe our message. 

Ex.: A church woman can bearing and listening his pastor excellent preaching because of his abuse to his wife. If pastors don't walk with faith, the world won't believer our Word of gospel.

3rd: Take faith out so that people may return to Jesus (Luke 5:17-25)

Jesus said "you're forgiven" but actually nobody was asking for this. We are taught repenting then being forgiven. It looks like this paralytic receive forgiveness without any repentance. Most likely, Jesus saw something inside his heart. Jesus can help a person physically, psychologically, or even socially. But the fundamental issue is relationship with God. Others are based on this.

In Luke 5:23, Jesus threw a tricky question, "healing and forgiving sins, which one is easier?" Sins-forgiven is easy for us. Forgiving sins is hard for Jesus. He has to make the price.

Conclusion: we can trust Jesus with our life. The inexpensive, unspoken love of forgiveness of sins, that's what Jesus saw and responded.

Ex.: There is a sad division between main stream churches and liberal churches. One holds the gospel but doesn't know how to reach out. One touches people but doesn't give the ultimate remedy.

One more thins

New identity, great confidence, or any spiritual transformation, they don't grow up overnight. Take Peter as an example, the same theme between Luke 5 and John 21, fishing, seeing Jesus, after 3 years, Peter learn from running Jesus away to running to Jesus.

Day 2 - Contextualization (2014 Timothy Keller Conference in Hong Kong)


"If what we have learned yesterday could be summarized as gospel into personal motivation (see Gospel Dynamics), today we're going to see how the gospel goes into the community," Keller spoke. If a person is greedy, we can tell. What if the whole society becomes greedy, it will be invisible. Don't ask a fish about water, because it doesn't know. Most of the time, culture is invisible. If a foreigner goes to a new country, the culture becomes more visible. Each culture has it's particular sin, and the gospel provides the particular redemptive hope. More people move into a city, the city culture becomes more complicated. For example, to the same church, the its neighborhood with Hindu and Pakistan background thinks the Christianity not conservative enough, while with Caucasian background views the Christianity way to conservative. If you want to address to them, contextualization is a skill. Tim Keller will presents this topic:

  • Definition
  • Cases of why we should
  • Practical methods
  • How the gospel equips us

1st: Definition

Contextualization is not compromised, is not giving what they want, is the biblical truth they need to hear, is not an agreement but powerful with clarity.

2nd: Cases why we should

(I put the conclusion of this part ahead) The gospel you received is not pure, it's a contextualized product given to you. If you don't contextualize, you overlook their culture. If you over-contextualize, you overlook your own culture.

Contextualization is biblical

In 1 Cor 1:21-25, Paul made distinctions between Jews and Gentiles. He challenged different cultures. Yet he even goes back affirmation of different cultures.

Culture Problem to gospel Contextualization Redemption
Greeks Philosophy and Reasoning fool Real wisdom: fulfill both justice and love need faith to cross
Jews Seeking result weak:why He died Real power: triumph the death need faith to crucified savior

Contextualization is inevitable

Every culture has differences. They can't 100% match and mean the same thing. Every aspect between different cultures has its own context and needs to be contextualized: our illustrations, humor, emotions, view of time, and etc.

Contextualization is reasonable

Some people are more logical (this → this → this); some more influential (wisdom instinct); some practical (see how it works). Their reasoning  is different. Thus, our persuasion should be different.

3rd: Practical methods


Learn their culture. Do it externally by reading books, novels, or etc. (ex: the real meaning of "Yankee.") Do it internally by knowing people from the culture. If you're with them, their problems will in your head. When you preach or read, you begin to see the answers from the Bible.

2 compensational strategies

(For some reason I lost my tracks in this part, can't figure out which are the "two.") Each culture has its story line and narratives. You identify it, challenge it, and find a happy ending in Jesus Christ.

Ex. 1: Study what happened  to Greco-Roman world. Greek has their own idea of "logos." From Keller's understanding, it's very similar to the idea of "天 Tian" in Chinese. And in John 1, John used the word "logos" and redefined or explained how it relates to Christian God.

Ex. 2: Mulsim doesn't have an image of God. If you have it, then you're trying to control or shaping him. Then he is not God anymore. For Christians, it's totally true in Old Testament. However, in New Testament, Jesus is the image of God so that we can know God better. God contextualized himself not  saying what we're wrong but solving our problems.

Ex. 3: NY story on human rights. An human-right fighter tires to help oppressed women in Africa. But they refused because they don't want her western value or culture. Christian can respond by telling: Nothing is relative. There must be a definite right and a definite wrong. Your human right idea must be based some definite value. Otherwise, you can't promote it.

Ex. 4: When a traditional Chinese with Confucianism immerses himself in Western Capitalism. The result in inability to find rest. We should preach Sabbath rest from the gospel. Because what underneath the work is still working, it should be rest in Christ.

Ex. 5: something about J. R. R. Tolkien. 

4th: 2 basic tools


1 Cor 8:9, we don't put stumbling blocks in front of people. We remove unnecessary things and offense. Even our humor could offend others. We only offend people in the gospel but nothing else.

Common grace and sin in each culture

Ex. 1: Western people want to believe a god with love. They don't like God's wrath or punishment. However, if you love someone (kids), you will get angry and punish them on the wrong. How could we want a loving God but reject his wrath or punishment.

Ex. 2: On inerrancy and Bible as the whole counsel of God. You love a friend and preserve his whole image. If we tear apart what we like and what we don't from the Bible, it's not God anymore. It's a man-made God in your own imagination and creation, not a real God.

Ex. 3: If there is not conflict or fight in your marriage (or friendship), at least one person doesn't let the other one know who he (she) really is. A sinner is logically different (contradict) from a real perfect God. It's impossible for you reading the Bible (knowing Jesus) without finding conflicts in you heart.

Brief conclusion

Don't please them, not afraid of criticism. Neither over-adapt the culture or under-adapt the culture. The gospel is Jesus, both human and divine nature, a perfect contextualized example, Word in flesh. Amen.

Day 1 - Gospel Dynamics (2014 Timothy Keller conference in Hong Kong)


Timothy Keller goes back to Luke 15:11-32, traditionally called "The Parable of the Prodigal Son" but titled "The Prodigal God" by Keller, as the foundation of this 3-days conference. This is the focal points of the spiritual renewal. He believed. And Keller tries to show the concept , the problems, and the remedies from the text.

We must carefully notice the audience of the original text. It's Pharisees and the scribes (Luke 15:2) Jesus was address to. Besides, at the end of the text, the father is talking the elder brother, not the younger. It gives us confidence that it's the elder brother we should think and address more deeply

Concept: two ways of controlling God

Controlling God means being you own savior. Either being very bad or being very good could be ways of controlling Him. Being very bad is obvious and easily understood. Being very good, acting morally and perfectly, still could be a form of selfishness inside you heart. Whatever you do is trying to earn the credits and to please God, so that you may gain the secure or rewards from God. It's still self-centered. The true idea is love God just because of who He is and He is happy. If you truly love someone, you're happy because he is happy.

Problems: 6 sings of elder brother spirit

  1. Often under the current of anger: You assume there should be a good life from God. The true is we can rejoice in whatever situation. 
  2. Having problems with criticism: You think you're good enough. There is no place for criticism.
  3. Being anxious and comparing to other people: Pride makes you feel superior than others. You always try to be better than other people.
  4. Not having an intimate joyful prayer life: You ask more rather than enjoy God.
  5. Staring people and looking them downBecause you're good, you look down other people, such as those who are different from you or in other denominations.
  6. Can't forgive.


  1. Repent more deeply: The Pharisees also repent, but they are still who they are. The wrong or shallow repent could be doing good things from selfish motivations. That's why Isaiah says "our righteousness is still dirty cloth" (Isaiah 64:6) 
  2. Great rejoicing in Jesus Christ: Luke 15 actually contains 3 parables. In the first two parables, the man makes effort getting his sheep back and the woman seeks diligently her coin all over the house. In the third parable, it seems that there is no cost for the younger son's return. However, the cost is even huge. It's the elder son's rope, ring, and calf. In our real life, it's the death Jesus making us return God's home. We can rejoice.

How to do that as a preacher

  1. Becoming an one person model ("Chief repenter," Tim said): We should not repent because we're sorry for the result of sin, not sin itself. We should not repent so that we might get rid of the consequence. Only when we hate our sins, we have to the power form God to conquer. Love God for what he has done on the cross.
  2. Don't preach synagogue sermons: It's referring to moralized sermon. Every sermon, the answer should be found in the faith to Jesus Christ. That's the ultimate solution. (Giving 2 examples: Queen Esther and generosity) 

End with John Newton's poem

Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring, for His grace and power are such none can ever ask too much.

Monday, March 10, 2014

完美的結束 Finish Well



我看到許多回應,都是優先肯定某某牧師多年來服事的辛苦,以及對於台灣教會的影響與貢獻。但我沒有看到的,是一種對於牧師傳道人需要忠心、小心、且用心的跑完服事全程的期待。讓我懷疑,似乎「有貢獻」是重要的,而「Finish Well」不重要!這是一種很可怕的苟且與神學上的漏洞。




Go deeper, keep going, and finish well.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Marriage quotes from Bonhoeffer

 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy ordinance, through which He wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time. In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to His glory, and calls into His kingdom. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more that something personal – it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. As you first gave the ring to one another and have now received it a second time from the hand of the pastor, so love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God. As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity the rights, and the promise of marriage above the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love. It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.
在《獄中書簡》(基督教文藝出版社,1999年九版)的第 212 頁,譯者許碧端卓越地譯為:



因為 Every Good Endeavor 這本書 ( 註1 ) (written by Tim Keller ),才有機會接觸到《魔戒》作者托爾金(J. R. R. Tolkien)的短篇小說與散文。托爾金是個天主教徒,像他這種文學家,字裡行間不是碰巧置入的贅字,而是時兒明...