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.”