Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Touching Base! Part 86


As we prepare for 2010, we need to remind ourselves that there will be a thousand things calling for our attention. Some of those voices will be good, some bad. Without making the decision to live intentionally we will take on the shape of whatever our environment chooses to squeeze us into.

However, following Christ means seeking His Kingdom first! That requires a mind that chooses, a heart that embraces and a soul and body that are determined to allow the Holy Spirit of God to make us into what He wants us to be. My Bible tells me that we are most often shaped by choice, not chance. God wants us to choose His path, truth and life. As we seek to Love God more passionately and Serve others more significantly in 2010, it will require you choosing to do that and God empowering your willing and open life.

I want to encourage you to use the following exercise to work through living a more intentional life in
2010. Doing this in some kind of relational context will make the exercise more thorough and transforming.

Four Ways We Can Choose To Live in 2010:

1. Reactionary
Obviously there are times in life we need to be reactionary - responding to the crisis or need of the moment. However, when this solely describes our life, some of the other very important items will go unaddressed. We will end up allowing everybody and anything to set our agenda! Check out the following texts and ask yourself the question “What would happen if the central character in each text lived a reactionary lifestyle. What might not get done?

Text: Proverbs 6:6-8, Proverbs 27:23, Psalm 119:105

What important things are often neglected in your life when you choose to live a reactionary lifestyle? What do you need to say “no” to (or “not yet”) so that the more important things get done?

2. Conforming
When we look at the issue of conforming, it is a deeper idea. Reactionary could be defined as those things that shape and control our schedule. “Conforming” is referring to those things that shape our character. Conforming could be seen as the result of reactionary.

Text: Romans 12:1 “Conform” Con – Latin for commit. Paul is saying to not commit to the form of... the world - another way of saying world system, practices and standards contrary to God.

What are some of the negative factors that have had to much of a shaping influence in your life in 2010? Some suggestions would be, bitter experience, disappointment, failure, success, wrong belief (I don’t measure up), media, relationship, unforgiveness, our titles (make us proud or feel worthless), business.

Ask someone nearest and dearest to you, “What do you think is having the most influence over me in shaping my values, attitudes, priorities?”

3. Compulsive
Compulsiveness refers to being driven by wrong motives or destructive forces. “Our energy comes from our brokenness.” We may be doing the right thing but for the wrong reason. Often our energy that comes from our brokenness moves us in unhealthy directions.

Text: Read through the following texts that refer to motives and drivers: 1 Corinthians 4:5, Philippians 2:3, 1 Timothy 6:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:3.

List and discuss several unhealthy motives?
What are the one or two you may need to deal with or keep an eye on?

4. Intentional
Living intentionally has a higher value to live by, a deeper calling. The “salsa” may get cleaned up, but not right now.

Living intentionally means not conforming to the negative, but makes a very conscious choice to commit to be shaped by people, values, and truth that represents the high road. Note what Paul said – “Don’t be conformed to the world but be transformed by…” what? and to… what? Read Romans 12:1,2.

Living intentionally is not compulsive because it weeds out dark motives, and it is relentless in having a pure heart. The intentional person takes very seriously Psalm 139 - “Search me Oh God....”

Look at the three pictures of intentionality discussed on Sunday morning. What insights are gained about intentionality? Jesus Luke 9:51-55, The Woman Luke 8:40, Paul Phil 3:7-11.

As we did on Sunday morning make a 7-day map of your life, highlighting the major markers of your Week (Work Time, Weekend, Personal Time, Family Relationships, Your Leisure Time – Weeknights 6pm-11pm)

When along this 7-day map are you most vulnerable to not live intentionally?
When might the “spilled salsa” be your downfall? (Had to be there Sunday morning to understand “Spilled Salsa”!)
What place along the path represents the area where negative factors have the greatest power over you to shape you or conform you?

So, how will you choose to live an intentional life in 2010 in the following areas?
  • Physically - How am I taking care of this temple?
  • Spiritually – What am I doing to mature my walk of faith?
  • Emotionally – How am I processing issues at this level?
  • Mentally - Am I exposing myself to the right kinds of people and resources to allow my mind to experience some stretch?
  • My relationships - How am I doing in pursuing my family and friends?
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)


Friday, December 18, 2009

Touching Base! Part 67

Restoring Relationship

As you approach Christmas Day, ask yourself this question – “How many broken relationships do I have?” Unfortunately, for some, “broken relationships” are what best describe their past and present. They are out of sorts with someone from the church, for example, so they refuse to speak, look or come anywhere near that person. They could list for you three or four people that bug them, ruffle their feathers, irritate their space…!

If it’s not in the church, then family represents an area where a “burning wreck” of some sort is still smouldering. Christmas may be somewhat awkward because coming together means being in the same room with “so and so!” Some make Christmas plans that ensure avoiding the person altogether. If there is a chance encounter, it is as brief as possible.

If it’s not family then it’s the work place or some other context of relationships where someone exists that “gets our goat”… “has a way of pushing our hot buttons”…”gets under our skin” (any other idioms…?)

Relationships are complex. And it’s true that, because of their shortcomings, some people make relationships a “d-word” experience for us - we are drained by them, dread thinking of being with them and are delighted when we are far from them (got another “d” word…?)

But if you think of it, as Christians, we should be setting the pace for healthy community. The message of Christmas is that we have a Saviour who came to deal with broken relationships. God knew that sin had broken the most important relationship of all and so He sent His Son Jesus –
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21, NIV)
Sin created a barrier between a Holy God and broken humanity. God tore down that barrier of sin through the work of Christ on the cross. God restored what was broken, healed what was sick and made it possible for all humankind to get right with God. In other words, the Head of the Church, our Saviour and Lord, is central to the greatest reconciliation work in all of history.

Shouldn’t it then make sense that those of us who follow Christ, should be leading and modeling the way when it comes to living in healthy community? Doesn’t it make the slightest bit of sense that Christ followers should be taking the initiative in the restoration process when it comes to our relationships? Granted, we can do our part and still not have complete healing because of the other person’s choices. However, their refusal to make it right is no excuse for us to stockpile one more “un-relationship”. We must do what we can, and live out the Christ life, because following in the steps of Jesus means working at having healthy relationships with people, whoever they may be.

So what is “the big ask” this year? Maybe for you, it’s to make it right with that one person that gets your goat. After all, can’t you see the hypocrisy of us celebrating God’s reconciling work initiated at Christmas, while inside we harbour unhealthy relationships?

This Babe in a manger really did come to change the world. That change starts with each one of us!

Merry Christmas!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Touching Base! Part 66

The Round Table

I like the imagery of a round table with people sitting at it. To me it speaks of what a true team looks like – each aware of the others’ presence, listening, interacting, and supporting. Contrast that imagery with sitting in rows and looking at the back of the head in front of you. For many of us, our team experience is more characterized by “rows” versus “the round table”.

Several weeks back, we had an excellent Congregational Meeting. I know that for some, the words “excellent” and “Congregational Meeting” may not seem like words that belong together. However, believe me, the evening was an encouraging one: we heard a testimony from one of the men from the Bethel Houses ministry, we ate together, and then we interacted at round tables about key ministry issues with which Bethel is dealing. Each of the elders hosted a round-table discussion and took notes. We deeply value the team, and what the team has to say. While it is not our goal to act on every comment and idea it is our goal to listen, learn and implement where and when we feel God is leading. God often leads through the input of the team! You are part of that team if you call Bethel your home church.

On December 8th, the elders looked at all that had been said. We discussed our observations and how we thought some comments needed to be processed. I wanted to share with you some of the initiatives that have resulted from those meetings:
  1. We agreed that some of the comments would be good discussion material for our elders’ retreat that is being held on January 9th at Ewen Mackenzie’s house.

  2. Based on that evening’s input and other discussions we have had, we are looking at doing a teaching series on stewardship and evangelism in the New Year.

  3. Several times, the importance of prayer was mentioned. As an elders’ team we are grateful for this issue being raised. In response to this input, we are planning that our next Congregational Meeting (on Sunday, January 24th at 5pm) will not only include a potluck and ministry feature, but will also be a time of focused prayer. What better way to begin the New Year as a church, than to come together and present to God the many challenging issues and opportunities which we are facing? We are asking that you make this meeting a PRIORITY!
The New Testament is very clear about the importance of Churches being elder-led. However, the leadership mantle does not give someone a “blank cheque” to just go and do what they want. We are guided by God’s Word, empowered by the Holy Spirit and in partnership with the body of Christ. The round-table is a place that we can all grow stronger and develop the relationships that are necessary as we minister together in these challenging and changing times!

“..., ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. [21] She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ ” (Matthew 1:20-21, NIV)


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Touching Base! Part 65

Last week, Mark concluded our series in Deuteronomy. That morning also allowed us to “soft launch” into our Christmas series, “The Advent Conspiracy.” We thought it would be a good idea to define the concept a little further so that you understand where we are headed in the next 4 weeks as we move into the Christmas season.

The Advent Conspiracy is not a four-point check list on how to do Christmas - it is about entering the story of Jesus more deeply with a desire to worship more fully. It dares to ask the question, “What if Advent is bigger than we dare imagine?”
Over the next four weeks, it is our goal to raise the level of compassion and awareness by practicing four simple, but powerful, counter-cultural concepts:

November 29th: LOVE ALL…
… the poor, the forgotten, the marginalized, the sick, in ways that make a difference
Overcoming for those who are overcome
Mark Kotchapaw and the Compassion and Justice Team did a fantastic job raising the awareness
of the needs around us and also equipping us with action steps to make a difference.
(see Touching Base 64 for more information)

December 6th: SPEND LESS…
… and free your resources for things that truly matter
Fred Grendel will be helping us to understand how we can make an old tradition new

December 13th: GIVE MORE…
… of your “presence”: your hands, your words, your time, your heart
This Intergenerational Service will challenge us to be giving more then just presents.

December 20th: WORSHIP FULLY…
… because Christmas begins and ends with Jesus.
Bill Duffy will be discussing the importance of worshipping Jesus in the miracle of His incarnation.

5:00- 6:00 pm
Join us as we worship the Light of the World.

We are greater together then we are apart. May you be challenged to consider new collaborations with others in your community as we serve those in our midst. Join us at Bethel as we enter the Conspiracy.


The library has purchased 3 copies of the book Advent Conspiracy for you to take out and read. This excellent little book will show you “how to substitute consumption with compassion” and “have a Christmas worth remembering, not dreading.”

Friday, November 27, 2009

Touching Base! Part 64

Letters To The Next Generation -
Overcoming for those who are overcome!

On Oct 18th, we started a series entitled, “Letters to the Next Generation”. The series is based on the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses is reminding the next generation of the laws of God and challenging them to write a better story than the first generation. While God did many great things through that first generation (namely the big exodus from Egypt), they were predominantly remembered for wandering in the wilderness (in the Plains of Moab) for four decades. Imagine that, for forty years, they wandered and probably many wondered about all that went wrong. God called them to possess the Promised Land but instead they ended up falling short and in the wilderness, the Plains of Moab, for forty years. I want to encourage you to use this Touching Base in your small groups, and in your mentoring relationships to discuss what we talked about on Sunday. The following is a guide to help you go deeper based on Sunday’s (Nov.29) message.

Big Idea: We are to engage in demonstrating compassion and upholding justice.
Text: Deut. 10:18-19; 14:28-29; 15:4,7,11;16:11; 24:10-22; 26:12-13; 31:12

This past Sunday we looked at an issue that is very much part of our church purpose statement, Loving God Passionately And Serving Others Significantly. By just looking at the text of Deuteronomy, we can see that God has a large heart for the fatherless, widows, aliens and the poor.

To begin, discuss the service on Sunday. What impressed you? What story moved you? (Ken shared about Honduras, Rhonda shared about Garbage City, Meredith shared William Booth’s story, there was a DVD presentation, Joanna shared about the situation in Kingston)

As a group or individual, read through the texts for this week and make your own observations. I have included my own at the end of this article.

Now comes the real test of your bible knowledge: How many texts can you reference in the New Testament that speak of these same kinds of issues?

Why has it often been the case that the Church (universal) has ignored the important issues raised in these verses (in both the Old and New Testaments)? What do we have to be careful about when attempting to build bridges with the poor or reaching out to those who are in need as described in Deuteronomy and other bible texts?

Look at the Advent Conspiracy initiative. Is there something you can do as a group to participate in this “conspiracy”? (The forms were handed out on Sunday)


To sum up the dialogue from your meeting/or personal reflection, how would you summarize the nugget that you would want to pass on to the next generation?

As a small group, go see the movie The Blind Side - A homeless black teenager, Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) has drifted in and out of the school system for years. Then Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and her husband, Sean (Tim McGraw), take him in, transforming Michael's life and theirs). It is based on a true story and is a powerful example of transforming love! I took my wife to it for her birthday.


My observations of the Deuteronomy texts.

1. The nature of God reflects a compassionate disposition towards the poor Deut 10:18. This is an important point. It shows that this is not just an OT law but a reflection of the character of God that is the same yesterday today and forever. (Continuity versus Discontinuity).

2. Our care and concern for the poor or needy (not always poor) is a reflection of the nature of God. Our action Deut 10:19 is a response God’s character Deut 10:18.

3. Being fatherless, an alien, widowed and or poor does not reflect that God no longer loves them or that they are in some way second class citizens. Deut 10:18,19 Bad things happen to good people.

4. God does not recommend helping out the poor but commands it- Deut 15:11 Deut 24:22

5. Personal wealth means we are to take responsibility for the less fortunate. With blessing comes responsibility. This is implicit in the Deuteronomy text.

6. The “how to’s” are laid out in Deuteronomy. Every generation needs to figure out the how to! - Deut 14:28,29; 24:19,20; 26:12,13

7. God has some very strong words for those who do not live a generous life style. Deut 27:19

8. There should be no poor but there will be poor (Deut 15:4,11) What accounts for this “should not be but will be” scenario?

9. Deuteronomy was not just about a handout but a hand up. For example, the aliens (one needy people group) were encouraged to learn God’s truth. Truth that Deuteronomy declares will bring blessing ( Deut 31:12). In Deut 16:11 the aliens, fatherless and widows were to be part of the community. Relationship would be the bridge for skills, knowledge, wisdom etc to be passed along. Deut 24:14 illustrates how the poor were to be employed, given opportunities to build a life, create equity.

10. Blessing comes from blessing others. Deut 14:28,29 What kind of blessing?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Touching Base! Part 63

Letters To The Next Generation -
Overcoming our Dead Duck Story!

On Oct 18th, we started a series entitled, “Letters to the Next Generation”. The series is based on the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses is reminding the next generation of the laws of God and challenging them to write a better story than the first generation. While God did many great things through that first generation (namely the big exodus from Egypt), they were predominantly remembered for wandering in the wilderness (in the Plains of Moab) for four decades. Imagine that, for forty years, they wandered and probably many wondered about all that went wrong. God called them to possess the Promised Land but instead they ended up falling short and in the wilderness, the Plains of Moab, for forty years. I want to encourage you to use this Touching Base in your small groups, and in your mentoring relationships to discuss what we talked about on Sunday. The following is a guide to help you go deeper based on Sunday’s (Nov.22) message.

Big Idea: God can do deeper things in you and through you because of your DDS (Dead Duck Story)
Text: Deut1:34-40, Deut 3:21-29, Deut 4:21, Deut 34, Numbers 20:1-13

On Week Six of our series, we talked about our Dead Duck Stories. If you were present, do you remember the dead duck joke I told at the beginning? We defined a DDS as a story that surfaces feelings of dissatisfaction because your expectations were not realized. As we begin this week think of the following question.

Do you have a humorous DDS to tell?

The Text
The question we asked on Sunday was, “What was Moses’ Dead Duck Story?” Read the above texts and piece together Moses’ story.

On Sunday, I made four observations about DDS’ coming from the experience of Moses. Work through these as a group or on your own. What additional observations would you make?

1. Our Dead Duck Story may represent where we have had the biggest battles with God.
Text: Deut 3:23-29
Have you ever had such raw, unedited emotion with God over a DDS? Would you describe it as pleading/groaning, anger or ....?

Comment on the following quote.
“Sometimes it is in our most trusted or intimate relationships, that the deepest sense of disappointment is planted into our souls.”

If you have time work through the following texts and attempt to develop the emotional component of these references. 2 Samuel 12:16, Psalm 77:2-11, 2 Corinthians 12:8

2. Our Dead Duck Stories can be what makes us or breaks us.
Text: Deut 34:5-12
On Sunday, I talked about how this DDS of Moses could have derailed him. Work through the text and discuss what arguments Moses could have used to make his case for being the man to lead the Israelites.

“Wouldn’t it make sense for the man who had paid such a heavy price leading the children of God through the wilderness to be able to end his ministry with a reward? Yes, a thousand times yes—in man’s eyes. But “ ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, / Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. / ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, / So are My ways higher than your ways, / And My thoughts than your thoughts’ ” (Is. 55:8–9).”

It is very evident that Moses’ response was the right one. Instead of growing bitter he seemed to grow stronger through the ordeal. Think of the various roles represented in your group (parents, leader, teacher, student etc). What are the consequences in a person’s life and those he or she leads if they allow their DDS to make their heart toxic? Have you seen this before?

3. Our Dead Duck Story will test us on how we respond to God’s authority.
Text: Deut 3:10 “That is enough!”

There are many issues that we need to consistently come to God on. You can probably think of a few that you daily lift up to God. BUT there are others where we need to let it go. Paul said I pleaded three times.... then he let it go.

Is there any one in your life where you need to say or have said “Let it go!” “Move on!” “Get over it!” “That is enough!”?

As a believer, how do you discern between issues you need to keep interceding on and issues you need to let go of? Have you ever sensed God saying to you, “That is enough!”? Why is it hard to let go?

On Sunday I said, “I think based on what we have said in points above - he relinquished this issue into the hands of Yahweh who he knew loved Him, looked out for His best, and was sovereign. In other words I think his theology helped him here. “That is enough Moses- now you let me take this issue for you and you walk in freedom not in the bondage of bitterness.”

What theological truths are important for a person to understand so that they can let go?

4. Our Dead Duck Story can become our clarion call to those we love and care for.
Text: Deut 4:2, 5:23

Some of the most important things, the most profound insightful things we may say to the next generation or those we love and are building into will come from our DDS.

As a group make a list of insights gained, wisdom learned, from your DDS.


To sum up the dialogue from your meeting/or personal reflection, how would you sum up the nugget that you would want to pass on to the next generation?


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Touching Base! Part 62

Letters To The Next Generation -
Overcoming the need to earn it!

On Oct 18th, we started a series entitled, “Letters to the Next Generation”. The series is based on the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses is reminding the next generation of the laws of God and challenging them to write a better story than the first generation. While God did many great things through that first generation (namely the big exodus from Egypt), they were predominantly remembered for wandering in the wilderness (in the Plains of Moab) for four decades. Imagine that, for forty years, they wandered and probably many wondered about all that went wrong. God called them to possess the Promised Land but instead they ended up falling short and in the wilderness, the Plains of Moab, for forty years. I want to encourage you to use this Touching Base in your small groups, and in your mentoring relationships to discuss what we talked about on Sunday. The following is a guide to help you go deeper based on Sunday’s (Nov15) message.

Big Idea: Not until we are convinced of the love of God will we walk with joy in the grace of God!
Text: various - see below

On week five of our series, we talked about how Deuteronomy is a great love story involving the Pursuer (God) and the pursued (Israel). Maybe to our surprise, we discover as we read these letters, that Deuteronomy is not just about law, land, long passages, lists, and the last words of Moses, but it is also about love - it’s a love story! The Pursuer God declares His infinite love for Israel and consequently for all the nations of the world (check out Gen. 12:1-3).

As you take this issue deeper, discuss (or ponder on your own) great love stories that you have read, watched or been part of. What are the ingredients that make for a great love story?

God Demonstrates His Love

On Sunday we talked about how God demonstrated His love for Israel in a manner that the Gentile eye may not pick up reading this text thousands of years later. However, the original Jewish audience would have recognized it immediately. God packaged His words in the format of an Ancient Near East “vassal treaty”. A vassal treaty involved a great king making a treaty with a lesser king (whereas “parity treaties” took place between parties of equal strength). The outline of a vassal treaty is exactly the outline of Deuteronomy. You may want to read through some of these texts)

Introduction of the parties (Deut 1:1-5 - children of Israel and God represented by Moses)
Historical Prologue (Deut 1-4 - outlining a history of the two parties)
Law (defining how the vassals were to behave (Deut. 4:1-26:19- note especially the 10 commandments))
Blessings and Curses (28:1-14 and curses – 27:11-26, 28:15-68)
Witnesses (Deut 30:19, 20)
Review and Succession (Deut 31:9-13)

The one twist on this outline was that the great King Yahweh was not intimidating and imposing Himself upon the vassals. In many vassal treaties the great king had already conquered or cowed the other king into vassalage by the time the treaty was written. This is NOT the case with this treaty (covenant). Read Deut 4:32-38. What had God demonstrated to the people of Israel (first generation) before the covenant was ratified on Sinai? In the renewal of this covenant in Deuteronomy, what is it that God wants His people to know? (That He loves them!!!! I cheated and gave you the answer.)

Discuss the following quote by N.T. Wright:
“First, people sometimes supposed that the point of a sacrifice in the OT was for the worshippers to do something to earn God’s favour. Not so. That rests on a misunderstanding of the Jewish law itself, in which the sacrifices were required by God, and were but as a way of responding to his love. We can’t of course know what was in the hearts of all ancient Jews as they worshipped. But the system certainly wasn’t designed as a way of twisting God’s arm, but as a way of responding to his love.”

What New Testament texts illustrate this awesome truth that God loved us first before we signed on the dotted line ? (i.e. Romans 5:8)

Discuss in your group how big of an issue you think it is for people to live in response to God`s love as opposed to seeing life as a means of earning God’s love (we can live life as a means of making God indebted to us. Alternatively, we can live our lives as a response – eternally indebted to Him for His great love. Huge difference).

Tim Kellar says, “Instead of obeying to make God indebted to them, Christians obey because they are indebted to him. The difference between these two ways of morality could not be greater. I want to preach that Christian morality is a response to grace, not a means to grace.”

Discuss the difference. I have included my notes from Sunday for fodder for the discussion:

“Means” - I am wondering, “What does He think of me today?”- Dominant emotion: insecurity
“Response” - I know what he thinks, “He loves me!” Brings peace and calm.

“Means” – My motives are questionable - not love but obligation, fear, anger, ritual without heart - Right things, wrong reason – i.e. ministry involvement out of guilt, indebtedness, or for reputation
“Response” - My motive is gratitude, worship - Right things for the right reason - “Ministry is what you leave in your wake as you follow Jesus.”

“Means” - I may try to one-up myself “What can I do today that will really impress Him?”
“Response” - My goal is just to keep in step with the voice of the Spirit.

“Means” - I become overly conscientious of how I look, what others may think, yet by-pass examining my heart (because the heart is full of turmoil and/or darkness that I can’t admit because if I do then God will really be mad at me).
“Response” - I am free of what others may think, but more importantly am allowing God to do a deeper work in my heart.

“Means” - My language and tone in speaking to God and others can be guarded, self-righteous, stilted.
“Response” - My language and tone in speaking to God and others is vulnerable, relaxed, etc.

“Means” - I take myself way too seriously in the salvation equation.
“Response” - I take very seriously God’s love for me!


How would you help someone who is a follower of Christ move from a “means” to a “response” kind of living?

To sum up the dialogue from your meeting/or personal reflection, how would you sum up the nugget that you would want to pass on to the next generation?


Touching Base! Part 61

Letters To The Next Generation -
Overcoming the “rust”!

On Oct 18th, we started a series entitled, “Letters to the Next Generation”. The series is based on the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses is reminding the next generation of the laws of God and challenging them to write a better story than the first generation. While God did many great things through that first generation (namely the big exodus from Egypt), they were predominantly remembered for wandering in the wilderness (in the Plains of Moab) for four decades. Imagine that, for forty years, they wandered and probably many wondered about all that went wrong. God called them to possess the Promised Land but instead they ended up falling short and in the wilderness, the Plains of Moab, for forty years. I want to encourage you to use this Touching Base in your small groups, and in your mentoring relationships to discuss what we talked about on Sunday. The following is a guide to help you go deeper based on Sunday’s (Nov8) message.

Big Idea: It’s after you have been most faithful that you may need to be the most careful.
Text: Deut 8:1-18 (There are many texts that deal with this similar theme in Deuteronomy.)

On week four of this series, we specifically talked about two issues (success and pride) that can trip us up in our walk with God. In Deuteronomy 4:25 Moses makes an interesting point. He says that it’s when you have been most faithful (in the land for a long time) that you may need to be most careful. It’s after you have some victories under your belt, after you have accomplished much, where you may feel like you are on top of the world - that’s when the “rust” can settle in.

In general, can you think of any examples of people who started off well but did not finish well? What was it that tripped them up in your opinion? Any personal examples?

On Sunday, we defined rust as any growth, habit, influence, or agency tending to injure, deteriorate, or impair the mind, character, abilities, usefulness, etc. Let’s examine the issues that can cause rust in our walk with God.

Cause #1: Success

Deut 8:1-18- What verse(s) indicate that success is a gift from God? What verses indicate the kind of success Moses is talking about?
The interesting thing about success is that Moses sees another side to it. Do you see the other side? Look at v.10 and v.11, v.13 and v.14, and v.16 and v.17. What is Moses warning them about? Finish this sentence,” The gift of success can become....”
On Sunday, we looked at how all the success that God would grant the second generation would bring a degree of satisfaction. The danger is that it can stifle our hunger and focus on God. Success can cause us to forget God, let Him slip from our view.
Discuss how this can happen?
How can you tell if success has become a trap?

Personal questions as you reflect on successes impact on your life.
Have I lost the vision that I once had?
Have I veered off the path I once was on?
Have I fallen prey to what I said I would never do, never become?

Cause #2: Pride
Deut 8:14 - Success is one cause of pride. Note the connection in the text. Obviously there are many other causes of pride. How can failure cause pride?
Note, the word as a verb means “to exalt, lift up on high”. We can either exalt God (Psalm18:47) or ourselves. On Sunday I said that when we become proud we can become weird. I illustrated this in three relationships. Discuss/reflect on this.

In our relationship with God
“It (pride) is the complete “anti-God” state of mind” (C.S. Lewis). Moses says that pride could lead to Israel forgetting God! What does pride do to a person’s relationship with God?

In our relationship with self
Deut 8:17 is an astounding verse on where pride can lead. How is this a distorted view of self?

In our relationship with others
Certainly Israel is a sad example of how pride distorts our relationship with others in community. What is it about proud people that make them difficult to work with, or even be with?
Discuss the following signs of pride. What signs can you identify with?

1. Insecurity.
2. The need to be right.
3. Being argumentative.
4. More invested in being heard than in hearing.
5. Anger.
6. Irritability and impatience.
7. Lack of submissive attitude.
8. Not easily corrected.
9. Receiving correction but not changing.
10. Needing others to take your advice.
11. Needing to proclaim your title or degrees.
12. Being stubborn.
13. Comparisons and competition.

To sum up the dialogue from your meeting/or personal reflection, how would you sum up the nugget that you would want to pass on to the next generation?


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Touching Base! Part 60

Letters To The Next Generation -
Overcoming “8000 meters”! Part 2

On Oct 18th, we started a series entitled, “Letters to the Next Generation”. The series is based on the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses is reminding the next generation of the laws of God and challenging them to write a better story than the first generation. While God did many great things through that first generation (namely the big exodus from Egypt), they were predominantly remembered for wandering in the wilderness (The Plains of Moab) for four decades. Imagine that, for forty years, they wandered and probably many wondered about all that went wrong. God called them to possess the Promised Land but instead they ended up falling short and in the wilderness, the Plains of Moab for forty years. I want to encourage you to use this Touching Base in your small groups, and in your mentoring relationships to discuss what we talked about on Sunday. The following is a guide to help you go deeper based on Sunday’s (Nov1) message.

Big Idea: We need to build a life that helps us remember God!
Text: Deut. 6:4-9, Deut. 27

On week two of this series, we talked about how “8000 meters” is a place where we can forget God. It’s a place where we set aside what we know to be true for what is expedient - forgetting previous morality markers and forging ahead with a new set of rules, a brand new compass. This past week we talked about building a life that helps us remember God. As a group, brainstorm on all the things you do in your personal life to aid a failing memory either because of age or business. What are the things you most often forget (turning the lights out, locking the door, carrying your wallet)? Consider what we do to remember as a nation? Can you think of any examples of major events, aspects of our history or national story that have been forgotten?

The overarching question on Sunday was, “How are we building a life that helps us remember God?” Before jumping into the texts you may want to discuss how people keep God central in their lives on a daily, weekly basis. What are their best practices?

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Read and make observations about this text. Notice verses 6,7,8,9. What do you notice? What do you see happening? Describe the behaviour? One important observation is that there is a private space, a home where God is remembered / honoured; a private space where the kind of devotion mentioned in v.5 is being nurtured in the hearts of children, and modeled by parents; a private space that prioritizes loving the one God, where forgetting God will become difficult.
How does your private space help you remember/remain aware of God? What personal disciplines keep God at the center? What symbols or visuals do you have in your home that aid your God focus? As a parent, what kind of home are you building for your children so that God is central? As a parent what do you find difficult about this challenge? The home is a key piece in building a life that helps us remember God. This is the nugget Moses passes on to the next generation.

Deuteronomy 27 (We only looked at v1-14)
Read and make your observations. The context is a corporate one. What community experiences with other followers of Christ help you remember/remain aware of God? Moses’ words were addressed to “all Israel”, an expression used at least 12 times in the book. What we do in private does help us remember / remain focused, but our community experiences are indispensable. This was characteristic of the Jewish community.

This one-two punch (private focus (Deut 6:4-9) and corporate reinforcement (Deut 27)) is powerful. How many of you grew up in a spiritually alive home and had a healthy corporate experience? Today- How many have a private space that fans the flame and a corporate context- going deeper with others- that also fans the flame? List examples of corporate gatherings that help fan your flame. What are the memorable corporate experiences that have facilitated a deeper work in your life? What is a relationship that helps you remember? What is it about that relationship that helps you remember?

To sum up the dialogue from your meeting, what would you tell the next generation about building a life that remembers God? What’s the nugget!


Touching Base! Part 59

Letters To The Next Generation -
Overcoming 8000 meters!

Last week we started a series entitled, “Letters to the Next Generation”. The series is based on the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses is reminding the next generation of the laws of God and challenging them to write a better story than the first generation. While God did many great things through that first generation (namely the big exodus from Egypt), they were predominantly remembered for wandering in the wilderness (The Plains of Moab) for four decades. Imagine that, for forty years, they wandered and probably many wondered about all that went wrong. God called them to possess the Promised Land but instead they ended up falling short and in the wilderness, the Plains of Moab for forty years. I want to encourage you to use this Touching Base in your small groups, and in your mentoring relationships to discuss what we talked about on Sunday. The following is a guide to help you go deeper based on Sunday’s (Oct 25th) message.

Big Idea: Life can take us to an altitude where we can forget God
Text: Various
Forgetting God - Deut. 4:9, 23; 6:12;8:11; 25:19
Slipping – Deut. 4:9

On Sunday we talked about how “8000 meters” is a place where we can forget God. It’s a place where we set aside what we know to be true for what is expedient - forgetting previous morality markers and forging ahead with a new set of rules, a brand new compass. As a group do a quick Scripture search and list examples of individuals or groups experiencing “8000 meters”. (Some clues - Adam and Eve, Jacob, David, nation of Israel, Peter, ...) Know of any great biblical examples of people winning at “8000 meters”? (Check out Matt 4:1-11)

Develop with your group these two key ideas, forgetting God and “let them slip” (Deut 4:9).


The word forget can mean to become lame, lose the use of a limb, crippled!

It can also mean to cease to care, ignore thus resulting in being put into a position of disadvantage. “8000 meters” is a point where I can ignore God, His truth and find myself in a position of serious disadvantage, crippled!

Discuss the anatomy of forgetting, how does this happen, what goes on in our mind, what does this feel like? Did the ball illustration on Sunday make sense in illustrating how we can’t engage with our environment (God)because we are busy catching the ball? ( Don’t trash the ball illustration I am overly sensitive to criticism.)

“let them slip”

The word slip refers to something changing direction. Like when you are walking or driving and you end up off the path. It’s the idea of taking something off. The removing of clothes and or accessories. Notice that for the Israelites the removing of “clothes”(walking away from God) did not mean they were naked. Read Deuteronomy 18:9-13 to see what this new “wardrobe” might look like. How does this concept of slipping overlap with the idea of forgetting? What added insights does it bring to the discussion?

Comment on this quote that reflects on “8000 meters”:

“In his play ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night,’ Eugene O’Neill has one of his characters utter a powerful statement toward the end of her life: ‘None of us can help the things life has done to us. They are done before you realize it and once they are done, they make you do other things, (forget, slip) until at last everything comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you’ve lost your true self forever.” Ravi Zacharias in The Grand Weaver (p.11)

Talk about your own journey and places along that journey that may represent “8000 meters”. Have you grown stronger? What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about the importance of the body of Christ?

Talk about these pictures below. (If not displayed, I am referring to five pictures, each displaying the word JESUS. The first has JESUS displayed in the middle, the second has JESUS displaced slightly to the left, etc. until JESUS is completely missing from the fifth picture.) What one may represent where you are now? Who is God asking you to come alongside to encourage while they are working through their “8000 meters?”

To sum up the dialogue from your meeting, what would you tell the next generation in light of the reality of “8000 meters?”


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Touching Base! Part 58

Letters To The Next Generation

Starting this week we begin a series of messages entitled “Letters To The Next Generation.” The series is based on the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses is reminding the next generation of the laws of God and challenging them to “write a better story” than the first generation.

While God did many great things through that first generation (namely the big exodus from Egypt), they were predominantly remembered for wandering in the wilderness (The Plains of Moab) for four decades. Imagine that, for forty years, they wandered and (probably many) wondered about all that went wrong. God called them to possess the promised land but instead they ended up falling short and wandering in the wilderness, the Plains of Moab, for forty years. I want to encourage you to use this Touching Base in your small groups, and in your mentoring relationships to discuss what we talked about on Sunday. The following is a guide to help you go deeper based on Sunday’s (Oct 18th) message.

Big Idea: Ruts in your walk with God, can become what defines you if your heart is not right with God.
Text: Deut 1:19-46

All of us have a generation that is following us, a “next generation”. If you could boil down a list of two to three most important things you would want to pass on to the next generation, what would those most important things be? What does your list indicate about your own journey, and lessons learned? What did the generation ahead of you pass down to you (the good, the bad and the ugly)?

In Deuteronomy 1, Moses is telling the story of the first generation so that the next generation will benefit from their own failures. So the next generation is being challenged to write a better story by avoiding some of the pitfalls of the first generation. Moses identifies three pitfalls in Deuteronomy 1:26-29 (rebellion - v.26, false beliefs - v.27, and fear - v.28,29).

Make as many observations about rebellion that you can by reading the text. If you were present on Sunday, recall the grumbling, low tones and “in your tents” comments.

False Beliefs
What is the lie they are believing? How is this the “perfect” lie to believe? How does it justify their rebellion and shift the focus? What “perfect” lies do people choose to believe to justify and shift the focus?

How common do you believe fear is when it comes to identifying a root of rebellion? Is fear an emotion we would often associate with rebellion? How have you seen fear trigger rebellion in your own life? How have you seen false beliefs about God trigger fear?

Comment on these quotes:

“I think these three factors - rebellion, false beliefs and fear are feeding off of each other. Rebellion is feeding false beliefs. False beliefs are creating a platform for fear. Their fear feeds back into false beliefs and incites further rebellion. They have a parasitic, blood sucking relationship.”

“Fear doesn't want you to make the journey to the mountain. If he can rattle you enough, fear will persuade you to take your eyes off the peaks and settle for a dull existence in the flatlands.” Max Lucado, Christian Author

What are other powerful emotions identified with rebellion?

On Sunday I defined the Plains of Moab (geography of the wandering Israelites) as a place we need to advance from, a place we have been too long.

Are you stuck in a rut in your walk with God because of rebellion, false beliefs or fear?
Know anybody close to your heart that is stuck?

Take time to pray about these issues. We can write a better story!


Friday, October 9, 2009

Touching Base! Part 57

Beauty in Death
(by Carmen Gauvin-O’Donnell)

Fall has always been my favourite season (followed by winter… yes, the more snow, the merrier, as far as I’m concerned. There. I’ve said it. Feel free to mumble to yourself about how Carmen is living proof that broken people really can lead productive lives.)

But first among seasons in my heart is autumn. I mean, what’s not to like? The colours… the cooler temperatures and crisp morning air… a fire in the wood stove… the sound (and distinctive smell) of dead leaves crunching under my feet as I walk in the woods, the sight of birds and squirrels and chipmunks, considerably fatter than in the spring, scurrying about busily in final preparation for the winter to come.

Not to mention a harvest of turkey and stuffing and fresh apple pie… yum!.. and an extra hour of sleep on November 1st … but I digress! :)

What I love most though, are the colours of the world around me, that rich palette of reds and yellows and golds and browns. If you’ve ever taken a drive in one of our provincial parks at this time of year, you know exactly what I mean.

And do you know what is most incredible about this beauty? It’s all dying! It’s in the throes of death, but God in His creative genius ordained that it would happen in such a way that we would be awed with its beauty, even as it dies.

I started thinking about that one day and suddenly realized that here was an image and lesson for all of us: in order for nature to live next spring, it must die this fall and shed the old in order to put on the new. And in the same way, we must die to self so Christ can put “the new man” (or woman) on each of us.

So that’s the question I ask myself, and all of you, this week: have we been crucified with Christ? Because if so, Christ calls us to die to self on a daily basis for His sake.

And there’s a point behind it too: like all those trees and plants in nature, the beauty of one dying to Christ should leave the world awe-struck.

Matthew 5:16“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Touching Base! Part 56

Cram, Cram, Cram

Ever been guilty of saying too much, eating too much, or squeezing too much into a short period of time? I, like you, am guilty of shoehorning way too much into too small a space or time period. Sometimes my eyes are bigger than my stomach, my ambition is greater than time permitted or my “to do” list is greater than the strength left in my mortal body at the end of the day!

As Bethel grows, one of the issues against which the leadership is trying to guard is being guilty of shoehorning way too much into the church calendar. We realize that Bethel’s primary task is not to make people insanely busy, but rather for them to be radically transformed by the God of the universe who calls us out and into His transforming light.

One area where can be guilty of “cramming”, is our morning services. We believe that the essential elements of the morning services are worship, teaching, story (people sharing about what God is doing in their lives) and prayer. We want to make sure that we never compromise on those priorities as we believe that Sunday morning services can play a key role in helping people grow in intimacy with God.

As a result, we are going to start making a greater effort to limit (and at times, eliminate) announcements so that we can focus on the above priorities. We have found over recent weeks, months and years (even when Adam and Eve walked the face of the earth) that announcements can run wild, take up precious time and even make people look like deer caught in the headlights. So if you are a ministry leader or wanting to communicate important matters to the church let me encourage you to take advantage of the eight ways to communicate at Bethel:

- Website - Make sure your ministry information is always updated on our web page (once the new pages are up and running)
- Bulletin - Each week we hand out about 480 bulletins. Make sure you read it to stay informed and that you keep your ministry events posted as necessary.
- PowerPoint slide – Each week we will have one power point slide up featuring key announcements. The staff will decide each week what needs to be on the PowerPoint.
- Coffee and Conversation - Each week dozens of people sip the ancient brew in our gym between services. Feel free to set up a ministry booth highlighting your up and coming event. Contact Tara at the office for more information.
- Word of mouth - If you lead a ministry make sure your leaders are promoting your up and coming event.
- E-mail - One push of the button can be like magic.
- Facebook - Fred our youth director uses this for promoting events.
- Ministry Feature - There will be times where we can invite a ministry worker to the front and tell their story of what is going on in their ministry. This can be a great platform for promoting what is happening. This Sunday (Oct 4) Sandy will be doing this with the Bethel Houses.

If you would like to interact on this Touching Base feel free to contact Rhonda Kotchapaw ( Kathryn Vilela ( or myself ( We are the team that looks at Sunday morning service design.


Touching Base! Part 55

Faith’s Silent Partner

Over the last two weeks we have been diving into the issue of doubt and faith. All who are on the journey of faith have encountered seasons of doubt. As one person said, it’s not the opposite of faith but a cousin of faith. Pride is the opposite of faith. This week’s TB is designed to help you discuss this issue with others at the level you desire. I strongly encourage you to deal with the underlying issues of doubt, and understand how doubt can be a gift.

A. There are a number of responses we have at times to God’s truth. Below is listed some we talked about on Sunday. What would you add?
• There are things I don’t understand about God that leave me angry or grieved.
• There are things I don’t understand about God that leave me morally disturbed.
• There are things I don’t understand about God because they are so puzzling.
• There are things I don’t understand about God, but they flood me with gratitude because I couldn’t live without the reality of their truth accepted by faith.

B. Over the last two weeks, we have identified some of the underlying issues of doubt. Again, what might you add? Which ones deeply resonate with you?
• Disappointment with God
• Disappointment with other Christians (i.e. not all doubt results from the facts not lining up. Sometimes people hesitate to believe because Christians don’t “add up”.)
• A hostile environment (“It is estimated that up to 51% of Christian college freshmen will renounce their faith before they graduate from college.” )

C. We took some time to look at how doubt can be a great gift. Do you agree that doubt can be a great gift? How can doubt be toxic? It has been said that “doubt is a good servant but a poor master.” Discuss and add to the following ways doubt can serve us in strengthening our faith.
• Doubt can makes us dig and think more deeply about issues of faith.
• Doubt can help us ask the Who question.
• Doubt can move us deeper into community.
• Doubt helps us realize our hunger for God
• Doubt can prompt us to look inside ourselves.

D. Finally, next Sunday (Oct 4th) Dr. Craig Evans and Rachel Tulloch will be joining us. Dr. Evans will be speaking in the morning on Biblical origins and at night (5:30pm) both Craig and Rachel will be speaking and fielding questions from the audience. What are the questions you would like to ask? Come to next Sunday night’s session prepared to ask questions


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Touching Base! Part 54

Upon Request...

Some have been asking for a list of the names of God we studied over the summer months so here is a quick review.

I want to encourage you to use the names of God as you pray. These names remind us of His character and how we are to respond to Him. One thing I do in my prayer life is speak out a name and then pray in a way that reflects the will of God reflected in the name. For example one day as I was standing in front of the Church looking down Johnson Street I prayed “Today Lord I acknowledge You as Yahweh Sabaoth - the Lord God Almighty. Do a mighty work in and through Bethel that will touch the surrounding community. As Yahweh Sabaoth, come up against any powers that resist greater expressions of your Kingdom work here in downtown Kingston.”

Take the names of God and expand your vocabulary in prayer and worship. Take the names of God and be reminded that the name of the Lord is a strong tower! (Proverbs 18:10)

Abba Father. A name that not only speaks of intimacy, but of obedience and acknowledgment of authority and roles. Read Mark 14:32-36. Jesus used this name when his obedience was being challenged. He uses this name to express His contrition to the will of the Father.

Cornerstone. This is a name of God (Jesus the incarnate Son of God) that reminds us of His authority but also His ability to overcome public polls, waves of resistance and words of put down. Read 1 Peter 2:4-8 and Mark 12:1-12. As we face resistance we know that we have a High Priest who has walked in our shoes.

Yahweh Sabaoth. This is the name David used when coming against Goliath.
Read 1 Sam 17:45-47. It is a name that means all created agencies and forces are under the leadership or dominion of Yahweh, who made and maintains them.

Yahweh Maccaddeshcem. Read Lev 22:32-33. Can you spot the name of God? He is the Lord who makes you holy. The Lord who sanctifies, and sets you apart for a special purpose. God desires to work in you, and through you to shape you and transform you.

Yahweh Rapha. This name originates in Ex 15:22. It means, the Lord our Healer. As we search the Scriptures we understand that the greatest disease He heals is sin. However, he also heals us emotionally, physically, and mentally. There is great mystery in this name but thank God He is the Lord our Healer.

Jehovah Jireh. In Genesis 22 we read of Jehovah Jireh. You can be guaranteed that from this moment on Abraham never forgot Jehovah Jireh his provider.

Yahweh Nissi. This name means the Lord Our Banner and it originates in Ex 17:15. Our lives unfold before the banner of God in which His truth inspires us and directs us as we engage in daily activities. As you read God’s Word what truths, does God want you to see on the banner?

Yahweh Rohi. In Psalm 23 David refers to the Lord as his Shepherd. Yahweh Rohi refers to the shepherd like qualities of God. David points some of them out in this Psalm. David is well acquainted with shepherds seeing he was one before becoming King.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Touching Base! Part 53

Saying it Again and Again

Ok you have heard me say it before and I am going to say it again- “We all must take responsibility for building community at Bethel.” It doesn’t happen......

• As a result of the elders planning it
• Because we preach sermons about it
• When people tell stories illustrating the value of it
• As a result of articles being written about it
• When we hang banners announcing it

It happens when you and I realize that regardless of our gift mix, personality type, or years at Bethel, we can and must contribute to Bethel being a place where people find a home, go beyond the crowd and engage in deeper community life together. This is an attitude we must live out, a value we must embrace, and a responsibility we must take seriously. It must be something we are conscious of, that we own and desire to see in every context at Bethel. It requires great commitment because community takes time, trust, knowledge, and repeated actions of engagement with people. Persistence can eventually break through the many cultural and personal barriers people put up that resist community.

So let me suggest some ways you can champion community at Bethel:

Be a networker. That means when you meet new people be aware of what ministries you should connect them with. Introduce them to the appropriate leaders. Also take time to introduce new people to others you know. Networking is for some a tremendous gift they have that can deeply enrich the church as we build community.
Be a pew slider. Nothing worse than coming into a church on a Sunday morning, and not being able to find a place to sit. At Bethel this is a common problem. When regulars sit motionless in their pews, looking like they have been somehow glued to their pew, it can make it awkward for others looking for a place to sit. Slide over! This is a skill that can be mastered very easily. Just watch out for slivers.
Be a team player. Many of us are involved in ministry at Bethel. The best, safest and smartest ministry takes place in the context of a team. Thus if you are on a team, be sure to be contributing to the community value on that team. Attempt to get to know some of your ministry partners in contexts outside of Sunday morning. As we have said in the past, pursue the story behind the face. One way you can do this is by coming to Together being held Sunday the 13th from 4-6 p.m.. This event is for all volunteers at Bethel.
Be prayerful. This is God’s church and it is His desire more than it ever could be ours for the church to experience rich community together. With such diversity at Bethel it will take nothing but a miracle for community to be built.
Be willing to cross over. If you are going to contribute to community at Bethel you must be willing to cross over. Move from the familiar to the unfamiliar. Shift from the same old crowd to embracing new people of a different generation and even persuasion. I am not saying bail on all your long time friendships but I am saying we must be willing to spend time with the new, and the different, helping them find where they can experience community at Bethel.

So...... let’s get at it! Growing in intimacy with others changes lives!


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Touching Base! Part 52

Family Ministry Update
Fall 2009

Well fall is here, and with it we have some new and exciting changes in our children’s Sunday morning programming.

You may or may not have noticed that our new signs are up indicating where are preschool and elementary programs are taking place.

Our Nursery is for our little ones ages 0-2 years. It is in the same room as always. Simone Wylie is our Nursery Coordinator and continues to do a great job organizing the schedule, and we have some changes that we are planning to implement in the near future.

Waumba Land is the new name for our “Juniors for Jesus” program.
“Waumba” means Creator in Swahili.
So, Waumba Land, means the land of the Creator.

We want the children coming out of Waumba Land to understand that:
God made them,
God loves them and
Jesus wants to be their friend forever.

We have begun the transformation in this room but it is still not finished so you will have to bear with us as we complete it this fall.

This Sunday morning environment is for our JK/SK kids (4 and 5 year olds). Please note the change in ages…..the Juniors for Jesus program was geared to our 3 and 4 year olds…Waumba Land is geared to our 4 and 5 year olds. Children in SK this year will continue stay in the Waumba Land room.

So if you are following along…you are probably wondering well what about the 3 year olds?

Age 3 is a “flex” year: those kids who are ready for a structured program can join the Waumba Land program, and those who aren’t ready for a structured program and would rather play can stay in the Nursery.

The vision is to be able to offer a separate program for our 2 and 3 year olds. Numbers and the availability of new volunteers will dictate how soon we begin to implement this vision.

I’m really excited about the teaching team we have in place for our Waumba Land program. They are a group of competent women and 1 man who are really interested in teaching our preschoolers about God. Please encourage them and pray for them.

And of course we want to be intentional about empowering parents because we believe that what happens at home is more important than what happens at church so every month we will be emailing our parents a resource that will help you to reinforce and continue teaching throughout the week what we will be teaching on Sundays.

Next up, UPSTREET!
Upstreet is the new name for our Sunday morning environment for our elementary aged children in grades 1-6. When you come to the UpStreet area, you enter a “city street”, creating the feel of a neighborhood where children learn biblical truths in an engaging, age-appropriate way, and build quality friendships with other kids and adult leaders.

Upstreet is built around three primary biblical virtues:

We are also making the grade 6 year a “flex” year. If your child is in grade 6 this year, they have the option of participating in our program or they are also free to join Doug and Maureen Brown’s Sunday school class.

We have been busy redecorating our downstairs to have a ‘street-like’ feel.
And have also been trying to build and strengthen the structure of what the previous interim children’s ministry director Pam Briand has put into place.
We are continuing to use the same curriculum but are hoping to be more strategic and intentional with it. So we have divided up the responsibilities for this ministry into Large Group and Small Group. We are looking for volunteers in both of these areas.

Caroline Cuthbert and me are the current Large Group coordinators and Candice Laframboise is the Small Group coordinator. We are looking for volunteers for both of these areas.

Our Large Group teaching time is looking for volunteers who like to teach in a large group setting. They enjoy doing drama, being upfront and don’t mind memorizing moderate amounts of lines. It requires varying amounts of commitment.

Our Small Group time is looking for volunteers who have a heart for mentoring a small group of children. In order to deepen the level of intimacy and ministry, we are trying to set up 2 leaders per 6-8 children which requires a commitment of every other week.

We realize that this is a big commitment but let me explain why we think this is crucial: as children move more towards independence in their elementary and high school years, it is very important that there be other voices speaking into their lives that are saying the same thing that their parents are saying. In order for that to happen, there needs to be relationships and building those relationships take time.

We live in a culture that is fighting for the hearts of children…we need to fight back and I believe that strengthening our small group ministry in the elementary ages is a powerful way to do that.

If you would like to make an eternal difference in the lives of a handful of children please talk to Candice Laframboise. We are still looking for small group leaders.

This is a wonderful ministry for our teens and university students. We are praying that our September 13th ministry fair will inspire this age group to get involved. We do need more mature leaders as well because our students are only here for part of the year.

Of course, like the Waumba Land ministry, we want to be intentional about empowering parents because we believe that what happens at home is more important than what happens at church, so every week we will be emailing our parents a resource that will help you to reinforce and continue teaching through the week what we are teaching on Sunday. If you would like to take advantage of this resource, make sure we have your email address.

If you have any questions about our Upstreet programs, or would like to volunteer in our Large Group or Small Group areas, please talk to myself, Caroline Cuthbert, or Candice Laframboise.

If you are interested in volunteering in the Nursery, speak with Simone Wylie.

If the emerging vision of having a program for our 2-3 year olds in Waumba Land interests you, please contact me.

I’m really excited about the teams we have so far for our Sunday morning children’s programs. We have some excellent leaders at Bethel with some great organizational skills and a real heart for God. Please encourage them and pray for them.

Finally, I would like to say thank you to those who have already given countless hours of painting, redecorating, and volunteering in leadership roles. Without them, I just wouldn’t be able to tell you about these exciting changes.

As we head into this year, I really covet your prayers for all these new initiatives. I believe there are some exciting days ahead, but I also know that we are in a battle. The enemy wants the hearts of our children and is looking for ways to destroy families. This kind of spiritual war can only be fought with the powerful prayers of God’s people.

Because children and families matter,
Jamie Stinson
Family Ministries Director
Bethel Church

Friday, August 28, 2009

Touching Base! Part 51

Are You Ready? Important Things to Know!

Two Services. With the return of our college and university students, we will be going back to two services on Sunday, September 6th.

Small Groups. This fall it is our desire to see three to four new small groups birthed at Bethel. We have established a team who is overseeing and helping develop this extremely important ministry. Choosing to go deeper with a few can happen in a number of contexts. We encourage you to go deeper and experience community. Our team overseeing this ministry consists of Fred Grendel, Steve Dickey, Doug Boyd and Mark Kotchapaw. Feel free to contact me about this ministry at

Re-Launching our Adopt-a-Student Program. With almost 300 students attending Bethel, we desire to help as many of them as possible connect into community. There is a sign-up sheet in the foyer of the church if you are interested in adopting a student this Fall. Details about this ministry will be available in the coming weeks. Contact Fred Grendel for more information,

Figuring Things Out. On Sunday, September 13th at both of our morning services we will be talking about our purpose and three priority areas as a church. We desire that all who attend Bethel understand how we are organized, what key commitments need to be made by all and why we do the things we do.

Ministry Fair. Also on Sunday, September the 13th, remember to pop into the gym between services for the annual Bethel Ministry Fair. Learn what goes on at Bethel (and in the community), how we can help you and how you can help us!

Together. On Sunday, September 13th from 4-6pm, all ministry workers at Bethel along with their spouses are invited to attend this two-hour event. We want to encourage our workers, help them connect with the many others involved in ministry at Bethel, communicate and contribute to all our teams being healthy as we move into our Fall ministry season. Please put this event on your calendar and plan to attend. Contact any of the staff for more information about this event.

Connecting. On September 27th at 4pm, we will be having a one-hour session for new people at Bethel Church who want to find out more about who we are, our purpose and how they can fit in. Following that at 5pm will be a potluck open to everyone at the church. Potlucks are great ways to connect with long-timers at Bethel as well as newbies. A sign-up board will be available in the next several weeks.

Believing is Seeing. On Sunday, October 4th, Dr. Craig Evans, a leading apologist, will be speaking at Bethel to wrap up our three-week Sunday series on Faith and Doubt. He will be speaking on the origins of the Bible. In the evening, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. he, along with another apologist, will be hosting a three-hour Q-and-A along with presenting on some key issues pertinent to our faith. We encourage you not to miss out on this event. It is designed to help Christ followers articulate their faith and to assist seekers as they investigate faith issues.

In addition, if you are the parent of a child or teenager you need to be in contact with the appropriate leader to be informed of events and ministries happening this fall. Our Director of Family Ministries (for nursery up to grade 6) is Jamie. You can contact her at Fred is our Youth Director (for grades 7-12) and he can be contacted at


Touching Base! Part 50

Practising Healthy Community

What’s wrong with this picture? Person A walks up to person B and begins to engage in conversation. In the conversation person A expresses some concerns about person’s B area of responsibility. They talk for a while about the situation and then it becomes clear that person A is not necessarily expressing his concerns but rather represents other individuals and their concerns about person B. Person A is really just the bearer of news.

Do you see what is wrong with this picture? I think there are several things -

A. Instead of the concerned person(s) going directly to person B they send their messenger. While this can be appropriate in some cases, often this illustrates a bigger problem where people don’t deal with issues face-to-face but rather talk to everyone but the right person. When this happens often resolution is replaced by issues going unresolved and being allowed to fester.

B. People miss out on an opportunity to engage. When we don’t go face-to-face with the person with which we may have a concern, the missed opportunity to engage can result in not getting clear understanding of the person’s position, not appreciating their style of leadership and not having the opportunity to build relationship. Problems, challenges, or concerns between two mature individuals can be great opportunities to grow a relationship and seek God together on the resolution.

C. We develop an unhealthy culture where people do not take responsibility for what they say. If people think they can say things without ever having to speak to the key person involved then we can in some ways create an irresponsible culture. They say that “loose lips sink ships”. When we feel we can just talk about so-and-so but never go face-to-face, the tendency is to sink ships!

D. The messenger can misrepresent the person(s) they are representing. Whether intentionally or not, sometimes things can get exaggerated, taken out of context or twisted to fit someone else’s agenda. Like, “Did you hear about the 12 pound pike I caught last week?” (when actually, it was only 7 pounds)

At Bethel, healthy community is important. Because it is important, you can be guaranteed that the enemy will try to inject dysfunction into our body. Let’s be sure to stand on guard, watch the gates and contribute to a healthy vibrant community. You can do that by encouraging people to go face-to-face with people. Encourage people to speak up and out to the right person.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Touching Base! Part 49

Helping People

This week I have been reminded of the great privilege we have of helping people. It is truly awesome to be able to come alongside someone and, whether through a conversation or some other tangible expression, be able to contribute to turning a life around.

In my experience as I attempt to help people, there are some valuable lessons I have learned that help me, especially since not everyone I help out will have a story-book ending. At times, helping someone can be draining, messy, unpredictable and full of surprises. Thus it is important to keep ourselves focused on our role and keep some guiding principles in mind. Here are a few I have been reminded of lately.

- I can’t always be the “go to” guy. Sometimes the best thing I can do in helping others is to not direct them to me but away from me. I realize that sometimes, someone else has a better skill set or more time to deal with the situation. The best way I can help, then, is to empower them to initiate relationships with some other key person that can walk with them. If I have a saviour complex or a need to be needed then I will fall into the trap of taking on everyone’s issues.

- I must be tuned into the voice of the Spirit. What I say, how much I say and when I say it, are crucial. Just because I may know the answer or have the solution, does not mean it is the right time to speak it. Words can hurt, bury someone or be confusing if I don’t speak timely words into someone’s life.

- I might just be a “one-lap guy”. People run many laps in life and my role in someone’s life does not mean “until death do us part.” I realize that God may bring me into a scenario for a period of time and then I must be willing to identify my time as finished and entrust God to hand the baton on to someone else. God may not use me in someone’s life to help them cross the finish line. If it’s a ten-lap race and I am involved in lap 4, I may not see the results I would like. I must realize I am part of a process, not necessarily from the start and not necessarily to the end.

- Sometimes the best thing we can do is ask questions. Often we think helping is counselling and offering up deep insight. Maybe so, but sometimes it’s the questions we ask, not the answers we give, that help the most. Questions help people understand themselves, their situation, and get perspective. Questions can be our way of helping people work toward a great solution.

As we learn to Serve Others Significantly, which is the second part of our purpose statement, the first part becomes even more important, “Loving God Passionately”. It is only as we stay connected with God, refreshed by His Spirit, counselled by His word that we can truly help people.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Touching Base! Part 48


A few weeks ago while there were riots over the election in Iran, saber-rattling by North Korea over nuclear weapons, the biggest story of the week, it turns out, was the story of President Obama swatting a fly.

“ ‘I got the sucker!’ Obama told CNBC correspondent John Harwood after killing a fly that had been buzzing around his head. Harwood laughed and the camera crew applauded. But the sight of the fly’s corpse lying on the White House rug was too much for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - and insects, apparently. They sent a letter to the Fly Swatter in Chief, expressing their disapproval.”1

I think the general public told PETA to buzz off!

Ever felt like that fly getting swatted? Ever felt like your buzz just got busted, your wings got clipped, your life got driven to the floor? Many have, many do and many will. Battles where we feel like we are getting swatted are part of everyone’s experience. Go up to any person and ask them this question, “What’s your battle?” Do you think they would have an answer? Would they have to search long and hard for an answer, or do you think most would have an answer right at the tip of their tongue? My guess is that they would have a novel for you - a trilogy actually - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Agree? Before reading any further why not answer that question yourself? “What’s your battle?”

All of us go through seasons where we may feel like we are trying to walk through quicksand or navigate through a snow storm. Every element known to mankind seems to be pressing against us, pushing us down, and attempting to unravel us. It may not be the president’s quick forehand that sends us into a nose dive, but a host of other sources can send our world spinning:

Addictions - Some are being swatted around by various addictions that are draining every ounce of their energy.

Emotions - Toxic emotions often take a swipe at us, seriously reducing our altitude. I know from being human and talking to other humans that occupy this planet that fear is one such toxic emotion for many. Fear of meeting people, stepping out, trying something new, disclosing, trusting, and fear of the future.

Relationships - Here is a battle zone that could fill a few novels for many. Children, spouses, bosses, friends, neighbors and fellow team members can all represent battle zones.

Belief - Some battle with unbelief. After years of following they are now flirting with unbelief. This is such a huge issue that we are going to address this issue in a fall series entitled Faith and Doubt.

Physical - Aging bodies or debilitating sicknesses make us weary as we face each day with the pain, the inconvenience, the medical appointments to manage or mend our bodies.

As I think of our battles I am reminded of two things. First, this theme of battle is an issue that connects us together with all those of have ever occupied space on this planet and all those who will. We are “battle buddies”, a company of warriors. Whether you are strong or weak, rich or poor, young or old - battles know no boundaries. And I think that as we learn to share our battle stories we deepen our relationships with one another. We discover just how much we have in common. Letting people in on our stories helps us get perspective and strength for the next leg of the journey.

Secondly, this theme of “battle” connects us with God. God throughout the Bible is described as one who battles for us. In the Old Testament the imagery is one of God fighting on behalf of the Israelites to help them conquer their enemies. Physical battles that took place in literal war zones. In the New Testament God sends His Son to face the ultimate battle with sin. Swords are lain down and a cross is taken up. God realizes that we live in a world at war and He comes to us ready to help us fight! Are you battle-weary? Lock arms with others and find strength and counsel in community. Most importantly reach out to God. Remember what David said to that big ugly guy?

“David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Sam 17:45)

David may have been the fly, and Goliath the giant, but God was (and is) the Lord Almighty! So who ended up being the fly?


1Charles Colson, BreakPoint commentary dated 24 Jun 09, available at

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Touching Base! Part 47

A Passion for Stamps

In a bid to give Mark’s aching typing hand a break from all these weekly missives (not to mention his brain… I can actually see smoke coming out of his ears from where I sit here in the office), I offered to write this week’s Touching Base.

Some of you know that in the past little while, I have returned to a childhood hobby of mine, stamp collecting. It simply fascinates me to learn about what events, things and people different countries honour with a stamp (and, quite frankly, just how bad the English can be on North Korean stamps. But I digress.)

Now, I don’t just take my stamps and put them in a stock album. No… I have an album called the World Phoenix Album, about 600 pages, which has black and white illustrations for some of the stamps. You match up the illustration with the stamp you have (but only some of them… the only album in the world that illustrates most stamps is 60 VOLUMES in size and costs $17,000! Somehow I don’t think my husband would go for that…!).

In other words, what I’ve got is a glorified sticker book for grown-ups.

And most of you who know me also know I don’t do things by half either… to get myself “going” again, I bought a bag of 5000 worldwide stamps, as well as an electronic version of the 6-volume Scott Stamp Catalogue (about 8400 pages, full colour - thank goodness for auctions on E-Bay!) and stamp inventorying software called EZStamp. Oh, and if my husband asks, you know nothing :)

So all that to say that I have spent many hours recently just sitting and cataloguing those 5000 stamps. I won’t bore you with the details, but getting a stamp from the bag into my album is not as simple as “take it out and stick it in”. It’s actually a 4- or 5-step process, and not unlike Sherlock Holmes trying to crack a case. That’s why I enjoy it so much, by the way. Oh, and with 5000 stamps to catalogue, it’s also why I’m going to be doing it for the rest of my life.

My aim was to start out with a general worldwide collection, but I’m slowly but surely going to specialize the collection into stamps of Canada, religious stamps, soccer stamps and, believe it or not, stamps about stamps (my husband’s reaction to that one was “they have stamps about stamps? I have now seen it all.”)

May I be honest thought? As much as I’ve enjoyed myself, as the time has passed, I have increasingly been… reminded…? …guilt-complexed…? …convicted by a nagging question (and we know Who convicts, don’t we?)
Hey Carmen, how about you pursue Me
the way you pursue those stamps?

Boy, there’s a question for the ages, and for all of us.

I’ve realized how easy it is for me to go off on an obsession and in so doing, give God, (you know…the Almighty Creator of the universe? My only Saviour?) the short shrift. And that does no one any good, least of all me, because in the long term, it can be outright sinful. You see, when God said, “you shall have no other gods before me”, He wasn’t only talking about little statues, folks.

Am I suggesting that hobbies and activities are wrong? That somehow we need to be like cloistered nuns? Of course not! But loving God passionately and serving others significantly (have you heard that somewhere before?) means living a balanced life, and in that balance, God must come first.

So this week, duly chastened, I am going to work on that. May I encourage all of you to take a moment to do a quick life inventory as well? Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you -

-Has God been Number One in my life lately?
-If no, what (or who) has come to be in the way? Has it really been beyond my control, or am I just using it as an excuse?
-What can I do to give God, and the rest of my activities, their proper place?

Well, I have to go now. I need to go catalogue some stspend some quality time with my Abba Father.


PS. A lady walks into the post office and says “May I have 15 Christmas stamps please?”
The clerk replies, “Sure! What denomination?”
The lady sighs and says, “Oh… has it really come to this? Okay... 8 Catholic… 5 Protestant… 2 Jewish.”


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Touching Base! Part 46

Seasons of Church Life

As you can tell Bethel has entered into the season of, “Where did everybody go?” People head out, hoping to enjoy some summer sun and down time. With Kingston being a popular tourist destination, we no doubt will see visitors to Kingston in several of our Sunday morning services. Personally, I love the summer season as it allows me some down time but also the summer months are great months of long-term planning and working with leadership to make sure we are ready for the fall rush, the jolt back into reality.

Now don’t misinterpret me, much ministry happens in the summer, but the rpm’s definitely slow down as many people check out. I think the summer represents an excellent time for new people at Bethel to get assimilated into the community. With one service, it is much easier to meet people and establish some key relationships that will be the doorway into deeper community as the Fall approaches. I would strongly encourage you to be looking out for new faces and using the summertime to help these new folks connect. We are all responsible for building community at Bethel.

I just wanted to update you briefly on some of the things on which we are working. You can pray about these issues as God brings them to mind.

Internship. Joanna Moon will be joining us this Fall for eight months. She will work at Bethel ten hours per week, ministering in the areas of compassion and justice. She is a graduate of Queen’s who is taking a year off to serve with us. We are excited about partnering with her and seeing her partner with various organizations in town.

Family Ministries. Jamie Stinson is the newest addition to our staff. As the Family Ministries Director she is busy building teams, painting rooms and settling into her new ministry at Bethel. If you attended her presentation on June 28th then you will know the vision that we are pursuing and praying towards.

Teaching Series. This Fall we are doing two series that I am very excited about, “Faith and Doubt” and “Letters To The Next Generation”. Faith and Doubt will run for three weeks and culminate on Oct 4 with Dr. Craig Evans, a leading apologist, who will address Biblical origins. Letters To The Next Generation will start after Thanksgiving and be a study in Deuteronomy, looking at important themes that Moses felt needed to be passed on to the next generation. Also this Fall, we will be continuing to raise the bar in our prayer focus on Sunday mornings and having people tell the stories of their “God journey”.

Leadership Culture. On September 13th (Sunday) in the evening, we will be running an event called Together for all who are involved in ministry at Bethel. We want this to be a kick-off event that celebrates our partnership in ministry.

Small Groups. It is our desire to see more people involved in some kind of small group outside of Sunday morning. We are putting together a team that will consist of some of the elders to help us grow this very significant ministry.

Building Community. On September 27th (Sunday) we will be having a Potluck dinner at the church for the new people at Bethel to connect with all of us who have been here for a while. We have found Potluck dinners to really help people get better connected. Also on that day for our newcomers, one hour before the Potluck, we will be running a quick class to familiarize new people to Bethel.

Many more things are happening but these are just a few that you can pray about and be aware of. Please also pray for Carmen our administrator as she continues to work on almost anything and everything so as to ensure that we are safe, sound and secure. Also pray for Fred our Youth Director as he is working up at IAWAH this summer. Our partnership with IAWAH continues to be an important one as we seek to make disciples not only of all nations but of all generations.

Please contact me either by email ( or by phone
(542-2990) or if you have questions. Your input helps contribute to our being a stronger team!