Friday, January 29, 2010

Touching Base! Part 72

Hot Topics Part 4 – Strength In Depression
(This article can also we found on our website at under the tab called “Blog”)

This touching base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God’s Word needs to be discussed in community.

On Sunday January 31st I was invited to share my story at Bethel. I focused on the unique opportunity we are given as Christians to exchange our weakness for His strength. We all have weaknesses. The real issue is that too often we silently attempt to muscle our way through the challenges of life as weaklings. It is so ironic! Jesus is in us, around us, over us and under us and right beside us and yet we so easily default to a kind of “me, myself and I” mentality that blocks the strength Jesus longs to exchange for our weakness. What is it with us? Will we ever learn?

How can depression be a hot topic? Why are depression and related emotional challenges such a common issue in a town filled with intellects and upwardly mobile people? What does it mean for you to exchange your weakness for His strength? What would it look like if you did exchange your weakness for His strength? How can you help someone that trusts you sojourn through a season of depression?

There were twelve lessons I shared with you from my personal journey. Which of the following did you connect with the most and why? What specific paradigm shift do you desire and intend to switch from and to?


Grace is to rest in His arms.
Grace is to let God initiate.
Grace is to hear the voice of God.
Grace says “God will handle it.”
Grace is God guiding the journey.
Grace says God uses anyone.
Grace is unpredictable.
Grace is without agenda.
Grace is the fear of God.
Grace is relationship.
Grace is God’s type.
Grace comes from God.


Performance is to work my arms.
Performance is to self start.
Performance is to control/manipulate.
Performance says “I can do it.”
Performance says “Go and get it.”
Performance says “We are the team.”
Performance is strategic.
Performance is agenda-driven.
Performance is the fear of man.
Performance is production.
Performance is type A.
Performance comes from me.

If you were to add your own lesson that moved you from performance to grace, what would it be?

What words would you substitute for grace and performance to make the exercise of exchange more personalized?

Do you really want the strength of God? How much weakness must you endure before you are driven to your knees begging for the strength of Jesus?

God bless you in your journey toward emotional wholeness and spiritual health.

Warren Reeve

Friday, January 22, 2010

Touching Base! Part 71

Hot Topics Part 3 – The Gift!
(This article can also we found on our website at under the tab called “Blog”)

This touching base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God’s Word needs to be discussed in community.

On Sunday January 24th, Rhonda and I talked about the issue of forgiveness -- our forgiveness towards those that sin against us. We focused in on how forgiveness is a “gift” God has placed in our hands to have a healthy soul, and healthy relationships.

How can forgiveness be a “hot topic”? Why is this not an easy topic for some? How have you misused it? How have you seen others misuse it?

There were three points we developed to show how forgiveness is a great gift.

A. Forgiveness is key in maintaining a healthy heart in a life that can, at times, beat you up.
I don’t think anyone would disagree that life can beat a person up. Life has a way of wounding us all and bouncing us around. If we are to maintain, or work towards, a healthy core (heart) we must make sure we use the gift God has given to us. Read through Matthew 18:15-35 and take special note of the radical statement Jesus makes in verse 22.

Notice the first scenario v. 15-20.

We talked on Sunday how the victim seeking reconciliation (where possible) has already entered into the forgiveness process. How would this reconciliation process be hindered if the victim seeking to reconcile was not working through forgiveness? Imagine them seeking reconciliation with a toxic, jaded attitude.

Notice the second scenario that sandwiches the radical statement, v.23-35.

Where can an unforgiving heart lead a person? Note v.32 – “wicked” can mean diseased and sick.
Now note the radical statement in v. 22. How does this statement influence our understanding of the two scenarios?

Here are some of the points about forgiveness that come out of this text and which we made on Sunday. Discuss, develop and add your own.

Jesus’ command for us to forgive was typical of all His commands, which were meant for our protection and health and the good of the extended Body of Christ. Many studies have been done which prove that bitterness and unforgiveness literally poison the body and that conversely, forgiveness and extending of grace is life-giving and disease-inhibiting.

  • Jesus asks us to forgive 70 x7 because He knows there will be an infinite number of times we will be beat up in this life. Every offense needs to be addressed with a forgiving heart.
  • Forgiveness does not mean convincing yourself that the offence of the other person was okay (v.15-20 illustrates that). There is accountability.
  • Forgiveness is a choice. It is a choice we will need to make 70 x7 times. Jesus didn’t say we will feel like it 70 x 7 times.
  • Forgiveness is choosing to let God be the one who exacts justice. There is a biblical way of dealing with offenses (15-20) But sometimes this process is impossible to follow and we must trust God with justice. We may not see it in this life.

B. Forgiveness is key to contributing to healthy relationships
Paul said to exercise forgiveness in relationships because he knew that “stuff” would come between people that would pollute and distort the human heart and compromise the relationship. (Col 3:13, Eph 4:32) The term “forgiveness” literally means to send away, remove, to cover.

Forgiveness in human relationships, while not on the same grand scale as God’s forgiveness, still has the same effect of sending something away. What are the various toxins that need to be “sent away” in human relationships? How does forgiveness facilitate that process?

Read Leviticus 16:21-22- This is great imagery in the Day of Atonement for how sin is sent away. What would you need to put on that goat that is damaging a current relationship?

Discuss these two statements.
“Forgiveness involves choosing to let go of bitterness, revenge, anger and judgment. This is the stuff disease is made of. If God is real and powerful, then surely He has the ability to take these toxic emotions from our hearts and replace it with peace, love and grace if we ask Him.”

“Forgiveness sometimes involves forgiving ourselves and applying the same principles to ourselves as we do for others.”

C. Forgiveness is essential in maintaining a healthy walk with God
Check out Matthew 6:14-15. This serves as an appendage to the Lord’s Prayer. On Sunday we talked about how this is not talking about losing ones salvation. God is clearly referred to as our Father and if you read the larger context it is very clear that these people are considered children of God. This has more to do with God’s discipline of His children. These verses are essentially saying that we cannot carry on business as usual with unforgiveness in our hearts. When we withhold forgiveness, we hinder our relationship with God. God, in
His love for us and wisdom, does not let us get away with it. He withholds forgiveness until we wake up to the grim realities of withholding forgiveness toward others.

Note: Only God has the right to withhold forgiveness. We are never instructed in Scripture to withhold forgiveness to teach those we love a lesson, or to withhold forgiveness until there is repentance.
Do you think God is setting a double standard?

Thought to ponder: If we withhold forgiveness until someone repents, then we are letting that person shape and determine the health of our relationship with God.

How much of one’s spiritual stagnation may have to do with unforgiveness issues?

Rhonda and I strongly believe that forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts God has placed in our hands to use. It is our prayer that you will use it 70 x 7! Stay healthy!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Touching Base! Part 70

Update on the Elders and Staff Team
(This article can also we found on our website at under the tab called “Blog”)

I wanted to update you on what two key teams have been up to lately at Bethel. As you may know, Bethel operates on the premise that ministry is a team challenge. We go farther and think smarter as a team. Team helps us stay in ”accountable” relationships, and allows us to complement or balance one another, since no one person has the total gift package.

The Elders’ Team

This past Saturday (January 9th) the elders’ team met for a half day (1-5pm) to think, pray and discuss the issue of Bethel’s vision. As a Church we have identified our purpose statement (which answers the “what” question) - Loving God Passionately and Serving Others Significantly. This is rooted in the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19, 20.

We also have developed our 3g’s which help us define and measure success in keeping with the Great Commission (Growing in intimacy with God, Growing in intimacy with others, Growing in acts of service). If you think about it, every church that seeks to honour Christ as the Head, should have a purpose statement that is derived from the Great Commission. They should also seek to develop ministries in keeping with that purpose.

Vision is different. Vision, or as some might call it, “the Kingdom Concept”, answers questions like “What is our greatest opportunity to have an impact on the kingdom?” and “What is it that God has uniquely gifted us for that will extend His Kingdom?” and “What kind of future are we pursuing?”

Three issues that affect vision are resources, context and history. Every church has different resources and capabilities. Many churches are surrounded by unique needs and opportunities. In addition, every Church has a unique history of why it was established in a particular area. You will remember that Bethel was planted in 1874 as a new church on the outskirts of town, to reach people in that area. In the 70’s and 80’s there was a renewed commitment not to move out to suburbia, but to stay in the downtown core.

As your elders, we take seriously our responsibility to identify, with absolute clarity, the vision that God has for Bethel. We want a clear and concise statement so that we can strategically build a ministry with that vision
in sight. We believe that God has a unique work for Bethel. The team will be meeting again on Saturday February 6th for another half-day retreat. We then will be taking the conversation to small groups, leadership teams and other groupings of people in the church. It is our prayerful desire to have a clear and compelling statement identified by June of this year. All are welcome to engage in the process.

Please pray for your elders’ team as we provide important oversight to the Body of Christ.

1 Peter 5:2
Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—
not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be;
not greedy for money, but eager to serve;

Your elders are Roy Chan, Stephen Dickey, Eric Prost, Doug Boyd, Doug Brown, Ewen Mackenzie, Scott Wylie, and Mark Kotchapaw.

The Staff Team
Last Tuesday (January 12th) the staff team (Carmen, Fred, Jamie and myself) got away for a whole day retreat at IAWAH. The staff team is responsible to provide leadership in particular areas of ministry where the purpose and 3g’s are developed. We work under the authority of the elders’ team who are accountable to the congregation. At Bethel we believe that every person is gifted and wired for ministry, so it is not our goal to keep ministry all to ourselves but get as many into the “game” as possible. This is in keeping with Ephesians 4.

We took the first part of the day to discuss how each of us is growing in the 3g’s. We believe that having healthy staff members leads to having healthy ministries. When the leadership is sick, the whole organization can be sick. It is our job as staff to keep each other accountable in our walk with God, in our walk with others and in the development of our skills and resources God has given us.

The second part of our day was spent in looking at various ministries that come under our 3g’s and are ministry initiatives that we share. For example our Winter Fun Day (Feb 21st), Membership Class (March 7th), a volunteer appreciation initiative in April. We also discussed the need for a new secretary once Tara leaves us this spring. This will go to the Personnel Team for them to provide leadership in the hiring process.

We concluded our day with a discussion in general terms of important dates and ministry initiatives from June to December. Before we jumped in our cars and headed back to town we went for a walk in the woods, something that not all of us enjoyed. Guess who doesn’t like walking in the winter wonderland?

As I have said before, for many decades now Bethel is a Church that has been meeting unique needs in the downtown core. Each generation of leadership is responsible to build on much of what the previous generation has started and to understand the current times and to keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

Don’t just pray for the two teams I have mentioned but for the many teams at Bethel. Without Spirit-led teams, we won’t be the Church God wants us to be.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Touching Base! Part 69

Hot Topics Part 1 - God Said… What?!
(This article can also we found on our website at under the tab called “Blog”)

This touching base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community. God’s Word needs to be discussed in community.

Every person has a few “hot topics” in their life. Think about some hot topics in your own life: what makes them hotter than others? Have you ever found yourself in a group discussion where the topic was hot? Was that an uncomfortable experience? How do people often relate to hot topics? How did (or does) your family handle hot topics?

On Sunday we looked specifically at Deuteronomy 7:1-2 and 20:16-17 (please read the surrounding verses to understand the context.) What makes these verses hot? What makes you uncomfortable? What are the reasons given for the destruction of these nations? Does the reason that is given satisfy your discomfort? Can you imagine how a seeker would respond?

Comment on the following statements:

“When I introduce the Bible to my friends outside the church, these passages jump out at them, and they wonder how a nice guy like me could be so excited about what seems to them a barbaric book.” (McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy)

“...regardless of your best answers you are still left with something that makes us uncomfortable, something we wish God had done another way.” (Wright, The God I Don’t Understand)

On Sunday I gave the scenario of talking to a friend at a party and having her ask the question about how a loving God could order the execution of the Canaanite nations. Discuss the following responses.

1. Our response needs to reveal our own personal discomfort with these kinds of texts (I am assuming you are uncomfortable about these issues like myself)
  1. What harm can we do if we don’t allow people to wrestle with the mystery of these kinds of texts?
  2. Can you give examples of where Christ followers try to make excuses for God’s actions rather than just allow the text to speak and accept some of the mystery?

2. The Bigger Conversation
On Sunday I drew a round circle on an easel representing a table. I said that in order to gain greater clarity on the character of God and His conduct, we need to engage in the bigger conversation of Scripture. We need to invite others to the table. As a group (or an individual) draw that circle and review what I said about:
  1. Rahab (Joshua 2:9-11) This story of salvation is so important that it is mentioned three times in the New Testament. Rahab enters into the genealogy of the Messiah (Matt1:5), she is included among the models of faith (Heb. 11:31) and she is held up as an example of proving faith by action (James 2:25)
  2. David (David was not allowed to build the Temple because the blood of war was on his hands)
  3. Paul (Romans 15:7-12)

What does the bigger conversation reveal about God’s character and conduct?
Who else from Scripture would you invite to the table?

“No single story, not even Jesus’ story, can tell the whole Story. We need them all.”
(McKnight, The Blue Parakeet)

The Bible illustrates that there is a bigger conversation going on.

The point I was attempting to make on Sunday was that if we just listen to one section of Scripture, we will not see the bigger picture of who God is and what He does. By engaging with the bigger picture we get a balanced perspective. This leads into a problem for many Christ followers. They don’t read the whole counsel of Scripture. They have their favourite books or sections (Old Testament versus New Testament) and by not reading the whole they get a distorted picture.

On a personal note, who (biblical writer or name of biblical book) do you need to be engaging with more? (i.e. when was the last time you read Habakkuk or Job?)

3. God’s Sovereign Justice
When we engage with the bigger conversation we realize that God did not shoot first and ask questions later.

Discuss how these difficult texts are not examples of genocide but justice?

“The action of Israel against the Canaanites is never placed in the category of oppression but of divine punishment operating through human agency.” (Wright, The God I Don’t Understand)

When we read and understand the context of Genesis 15:16 we realize that God waited 400 years before acting? Does this represent God’s anger or patience? Would you have waited longer?

Discuss the following:

“I think in these kinds of situations God can’t win at the poll of public opinion. If He doesn’t act in judgment, we accuse Him of indifference. In how many situations around the world today do we wish God would act in divine judgment? But, when He does act we criticize Him for being unfair… an ‘angry God, some bloodthirsty bully’, to use Richard Dawkins’ own words.”

So, how would you answer the person at the party that night? I think I might add one more person to the bigger conversation - Christ. If in fact He is God in the flesh, then the bigger conversation tells me this: while I may be uncomfortable with God’s judgment of the sin of the nations in the Old Testament, I must equally wrestle with a Holy God who is willing to come in flesh and take onto Himself all forms of human sin - of which He was not guilty – so that I might live! Where is the justice in that? The innocent suffering for the guilty, and the guilty potentially walking free while the Innocent One suffers!

The response God asks of me to this scene of injustice, the cross, is not to earn what God did for me but to repent of my sin so that I may truly live. The cross represents what has been in abundance from Genesis to Revelation - Grace!

Please pass along any questions your group has on this issue. We may take time at the end of the series to respond to a few of them.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (.)
1 Peter 3:15, NIV


*Please note that Bethel Church does not necessarily endorse all of the author’s opinions in this book.