Friday, April 17, 2009

Touching Base! Part 34

A Sea Of Faces

“They” is a plural pronoun that refers to people in general. When we read in Acts 2:42 that “They devoted themselves....”, we really have very little idea who “they” are. Yet to the original audience you can be assured that “they” had faces and stories and that this group developed pockets of smaller community in that large group so that stories could be told and lives connected.

The challenge at Bethel is to encourage people to Pursue, Include and Engage (PIE) a few faces. The Church was never established to be a place of “people in general” but a place of “people specific”.

This week, I want to encourage you to use the following tool to PIE a few faces. Take time to sit down and reflect on some of the suggested questions the various decades ask. Identify the decades present in your group, add to the questions, and use them to PIE the faces in your group.


Questions of the Decades

(Resource: Gordon Macdonald, A Resilient Life)

20’s – Identity questions
• What kind of man or woman am I becoming?
• How am I different from my parents?
• Can I love and am I lovable?
• Who will offer me the family like connections that I need or never had?
• What do I want to do with my life?
• Around what person or conviction will I organize my life?

30’s – Responsibilities of life begin to emerge
• How do I prioritize the demands being made of me?
• How far can I go in fulfilling my sense of purpose?
• What does my spiritual life look like? Do I even have time for one?
• Why am I not a better person?

40’s – The complexities of life accelerate
• Who was I as a child and what powers back then influenced the kind of person I am today?
• Why do some people seem to do better than me?
• Why am I often disappointed with myself and others?
• Why are limitations beginning to outnumber options?
• What would it take to pick up a whole new calling in life and do the thing I have always wanted to do?
• How do I take care of my aging parents?

50’s – They have moved across life’s middle
• How many years are left?
• Why is time moving so fast?
• Why is my body becoming unreliable?
• How can my spouse and I reinvigorate our marriage now that the kids are gone?
• Who are these young people that want to replace me?
• What do I do with my doubts and my fears?
• Will we have enough money for the retirement years?

• When do I stop doing the things that have always defined me?
• Who will be around when I die?
• Why am I curious about who is listed in the obituary column of the papers; how they lived and why they died?
• If married – which one of us will go first, and what is it like to say good-bye to someone with whom you have shared so many years of life with?
• What do I regret?
• Are the things I have believed in capable of taking me to the end?

70’s and 80’s
• Does anyone realize or even care who I once was?
• Is anyone aware that I once owned (or managed) a business, threw a mean curveball, taught school, possessed a beautiful solo voice? Is my story important to anyone?
• How much of life can I still control?
• Is there anything I can still contribute?
• Am I ready to face death?
• When I die will I be missed or will news of my death bring relief?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Touching Base! Part 33


Without disclosing confidences, this past week I sat and listened to several people tell me their story. No, not a story they made up, or were hoping to publish, just their story- raw, unedited, real. Their story of:

• experiencing God, sensing God stirring their hearts, drawing them to Himself
• wrestling with the mystery of following God
• dealing with personal issues that they felt were holding them hostage and not allowing them to move ahead
• dealing with doubt and uncertainty on the journey
• finally letting God have His way and setting aside their stubbornness
• brokenness, shame and despair
• wonder as they reflect back and see how God has orchestrated all the pieces fitting together
• seeking, pursuing and discovering God yet still filled with questions and a deep sense that the journey ahead is long and windy
• deep disappointment and learning to hear the voice of God in the charred remains
• salvation

One truth about every person that walks the planet is that we all have a story. “Story” has been defined as “A narration or recital of that which has occurred; a description of past events; a history; a statement; a record.” If someone said to you “Tell me your story.” Where would you start? What might you focus in on? What might you be tempted to leave out, embellish, or tone down? Where in your story might the pain be the greatest, the joy the fullest, the growth the deepest?

Let me encourage you in three ways regarding story.

1. Pursue people to understand their story. Each week at Bethel, counting both services, we have 600 “stories” walk in and out of our building. If we would only take the time to listen, there is a wealth of wisdom and perspective to gain. Why not sit down with someone this week and open up the conversation with these words, “Tell me your story.” Better than any novel or the TV screen is hearing the drama spoken from someone’s lips.

2. Sharing our story deepens our sense of connectedness. Whenever someone tells me some part of their story and I mine, there is a bond established, a bridge built.

3. Finally, what makes following Christ so exciting is to realize that our story somehow fits within the Grand Story of the ages. God in His wisdom is now dwelling among us and within us. A loving God is ushering us into the ways and wisdom of the kingdom. And He is weaving His grand purposes through the fabric of our story.

Take time to listen, take time to tell your story!


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Touching Base! Part 32

Cheating God

God didn’t take on flesh and then die on cross and resurrect from the dead so He could finish in second place. His death and resurrection clearly declare that He alone is worthy of absolute worship, pure devotion, and supreme love. To be a Christ follower means to have Christ at the center of our lives, not in the margins or in some other place so that other things can be central, and Christ marginalized. Easter is a good reminder of not only the mind-boggling work of God on our behalf but of the incredible debt of gratitude and love that He deserves from us. Anything less than absolute surrender is cheating God of what He is worthy.

As one who desires to live a Christ-centred life, I recently sat down and listed some of the ways I and others can be tempted to “cheat” God in this area of pure devotion.

I cheat God when.....
• I do not take the time I need daily to calibrate my life with His Word. It is so easy to allow things to push aside that much-needed “God time” in my life.
• The pace of my life does not allow me to live an attentive life to the voice of God speaking, nudging, or prompting me. I find that even a 10-minute time-out during a busy day can help me reframe my day and “retune my spiritual ears” to God’s voice.
• I allow ungodly thoughts or actions to find a harbour in my life. As Paul said, I am His temple, we are His temple and thus what is allowed in and what comes out (words, behaviour) need to be in keeping with His character.
• I am too proud to talk about my “battle zones” with people. God is often most glorified when I/we are willing to talk about the issues we grapple with. God works through weakness, through stories of our lives being under construction.
• I lack the courage to speak up or take action in an area in which I know He has prompted me. How many of us have failed to walk through an open door God set up for us? How many of us have missed an opportunity because we may have been afraid of looking foolish?
• I am not thorough. God is most glorified when I do my best with whatever He has called me to do. When I cut corners, leave something to the end and thus don’t do a great job, then I think God is cheated. I know it’s true that God works in spite of us but I also think that God would appreciate a little more effort at times from our end.

How might you cheat God? Scripture says not to cheat God but to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:5)

Just after writing this, I received this poem from someone in the church. She said that God used this poem in her life when she was to busy and was not taking time for God. Thought you might appreciate this.


Crowded Out

My day was filled with many things
Some that I cared a lot about
For I had planned each moment full
But my Lord was crowded out.

I really meant to read His Word
To pray with heart devout---
But things just crowded in until
My Lord was crowded out.

For things I wanted most to do
The time I found, without a doubt
And somehow days were oft the same;
My Lord was crowded out.

My heart grew sad without His smile
The foe was hard to rout;
For He alone who's all in all
My heart had crowded out.

At last I've learned to plan 'round Him
Though friends may plead and pout;
And days are double full and rich
Since He's not crowded out.