Saturday, February 27, 2010

Touching Base! Part 76

Spiritual Olympians
(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.

With the Olympics everywhere we look, we certainly have been reminded of the cost athletes pay to become world-class athletes. Stories of sacrifice, discipline, cost and energy abound, but there still remains oh-so-little room at the top. Gold, silver and bronze - only three spots, but dozens competing in each sport. Talk to some and they would say if you don’t win gold you don’t win anything.

What has been a project, goal or dream that you have or are working towards? What has it or is it costing you? How do you know when the price has exceeded the value of what you are shooting for?

On Sunday we read Heb 12:1, 2, Galatians 5:7 and 1 Cor 9:24-27. How is following Christ like being an athlete? How is this analogy helpful? Where does this analogy possibly break down?

In Luke 5:1-11, our text from last Sunday we saw the trainer (Christ) calling one of His key trainees (Peter) to follow Him. As we looked at the text we talked about two key essentials in becoming a spiritual Olympian. A spiritual Olympian is a Christ-follower who is reaching, striving, and running. Not attempting to earn God’s love, but living the adventure of passionately loving God because He first loved us.

In this story Peter encounters to aspects of Christ’s character that will be essential for him for the long haul. Without these two key essentials, following Christ becomes impossible.

Recognition of Christ’s Authority (v1-7)

Re-read this section and discuss the possible tension of a Rabbi telling a fisherman how to fish.
What is the key line that illustrates Peters surrender?

Take this statement “Because you say so!” and attempt to put it in your own words, i.e. “my fishing manual says the opposite, my experience tells me there are no fish out there BUT let’s do it your way.”
The text does not tell us too much about James or John. How do you think they are responding?

Peter is on the thin edge of the wedge when it comes to learning about who Christ is, His authority and power. Jesus’ authority determines when Peter fishes in this story, but Christ’s authority will ultimately determine how Peter lives, who he becomes, how he invests his life and how he dies. Verse 11 is a great picture of responding to Christ’s authority.

Here are some questions for you to consider about Jesus authority.
  • Does His authority influence how you fish?
  • What is the context (for Peter, Sea of Galilee) where you are dealing with His authority?
  • Are you wrestling with His authority? If so what is the issue?
  • Are you surrendering to His authority? What does that look like?
  • What is it about our culture that undermines the authority of Christ?

Acceptance of His Grace (v8-11)
Read this section and ask these questions.
Who is harder on Peter? Is Peter harder on Peter than Jesus? Or is Jesus harder on Peter than Peter? Who is pushing who away? Who is inviting and engaging, who has disqualified themselves? Who is seen as the pursuer in this whole story?

I wonder as I read this text and see how Peter responds in v.8b if Peter had a tendency to get down on himself and beat himself up. One author has described Peter as a “man of contrasts”: not always stable and reliable. When you read deeper into Luke you discover that Peter will deny Jesus three times, probably driven by fear as in this text and it will be Jesus who will pursue Him again. Read Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5. Why did Peter get special mention? Was it because he was one of the lead apostles or was it Jesus’ way of inviting Peter back after such a devastating failure? Did Peter need a little grace talk?

There will be points along our journey in becoming all God wants us to become that we may be harder on ourselves than Christ is. Our darkest valleys can come about because of what we say to ourselves and how we beat ourselves up.

Know anyone that tends to do this to themselves? Know anyone that needs the grace talk?

The following are statements you may wish to discuss and add to.

  • When failure shapes us negatively we give that issue greater authority in our lives than Christ. When grace shapes us we learn, and live at a deeper level of trust and authenticity.
  • When failure shapes us negatively, we believe lies. Lies that put us down and keep us down. When grace shapes us we embrace the truth that Jesus speaks to us, truth that enables us to grow stronger.
  • When failure shapes us we may become more judgmental and critical of others. When grace shapes us we find the tenderness within to extend grace to others because our hearts are healthy.
  • When failure shapes us we tend to live with a lot of secrets. We rarely share about our journey. When grace shapes us we tend to allow our weaknesses to enable us to help others. We speak wisely out of our scars.
  • When failure shapes us we find relational intimacy difficult. When grace shapes us we are more willing to allow people to see us for who we really are - a sinner saved by grace.

As you close, talk about which aspect of Christ character you have the hardest time with - His authority or His grace?

How about authority?

Some people may have a really hard time with authority because of a particular issue they are wrestling with right now. Some people may have a hard time with authority because it is part of their temperament to buck authority.
Some may be wrestling with the authority issue because of the world they live in that questions every authority. Throw it off and live!

How about grace?

If we grew up in a home where we had to earn love then God’s grace might be something we have a hard time receiving. Repeated failure might be why someone has a hard time receiving grace.

Spiritual Olympians surrender to His authority and respond to His grace.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Touching Base! Part 75

Two Side Of A Coin
(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.

All of us have experiences in life where we can remember exactly where we were when we heard the news of a particular event. Think of some major events and share with the group where you were (if you were born at the time).

Where were you when...
… JFK was assassinated?
… Elvis died?
… the Challenger exploded?
… Princess Diana died?
… 9/11?

Make it a little more personal. Where were you when you heard the news of a close family member dying?

On Sunday we looked at Jesus’ very memorable words in the synagogue, in the town He grew up in (Luke 4:14-21). This was an event such that people would definitely remember where they were when it occurred. Jesus was declaring Himself to be the Messiah, the one they had been waiting for. Synagogues were scattered across the Galilean countryside, and were a means of keeping hope alive that the Messiah would come.

As Theophilus (the recipient of this letter - Luke 1:1-4) read v. 18-19 in the context of the entire letter, he would note that there were two sides of a coin.

Poverty - while being physical and visible, this also referred to a poverty of righteousness seen in the many scenes of Luke. Note what John said to the tax collectors and soldiers (3:12, 14); note what he says to Herod (3:19,20); Note what Luke points out about the religious leaders and the crowds – Luke 6:11, Luke 6:24-26,
Luke 22:1-6

Prisoners - Every Jew knew what prison felt like. From heavy taxation to a Roman population of 1.2 million where 50% were slaves, they lived it every day. Yet Theophilus would discover two sides of a coin. Luke 24:45-47, Romans 6:22, 23, Gal. 3:22 - What do these verses reveal about the other side of the coin?

Blind - While there were many physically blind people, the other side of the coin demonstrated a more severe kind of blindness. Acts 26:15-18, 2 Cor. 4:4

Oppressed - This is a word that refers to those that are bruised, like broken pottery that is shattered and scattered. Again Theophilus would see Jesus ministering in the context of broken pottery. However, the other side of the coin showed that Christ Himself was bruised and beaten (See Luke’s reference to crucifixion). But the difference between our suffering and His was that His made forgiveness, healing, hope, and rescue possible and dealt with the root cause of so much pain and suffering - sin. Luke 24:45-47.

Talk about this image below and how it illustrates the four highlighted words above.

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour - This is where Jesus stops in quoting Isaiah 61. Read the article below that helps us understand why Jesus stopped where he did:

“And a day of vengeance of our God” (Isa. 61:2b). Jesus had not come to condemn, but to save. Our Lord understood that His role as Messiah was to come twice, the first time to reveal God to men, and to provide a way of salvation. The second coming was to bring God’s judgment to the earth and to destroy His enemies. Our Lord’s use of this text in Isaiah reflects this distinction between His first coming as Messiah, and His second.”

In quoting Isaiah 61, Jesus clearly demonstrated that his agenda (and consequently the Church’s agenda) is to deal with both sides of the coin. We must engage with the physical realities that demonstrate the brokenness of our world, but we must also aim higher in dealing with the spiritual side - the good news of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross.

Talk about what happens when we ignore one side of the coin as a church or as individual believers. What are the consequences of an unbalanced message? Note the positive contributions of Christianity to alleviate human suffering and inequality throughout the centuries. What might you add?

  • Hospitals, which essentially began during the Middle Ages
  • Universities, which also began during the Middle Ages. In addition, most of the world’s greatest universities were started by Christians for Christian purposes
  • Literacy and education for the masses
  • Representative government
  • Civil liberties
  • The abolition of slavery, both in antiquity and in more modern times
  • Modern science
  • The elevation of women
  • Benevolence of charity; the “good Samaritan” ethic
  • Higher standard of justice
  • High regard for human life
  • The codifying and setting to writing of many of the world’s languages
  • Greater development of art and music. The inspiration for the greatest works of art.
(Resource: What If Jesus Had Never Been Born, D. James Kennedy, pp. 15,16)

Discuss the following statements
“Efforts at social improvement that neglect this great goal will be looked back on by poor people in hell as a horrible form of ecclesiastical malpractice.” John Piper

“Yet without a social conscience and attention given by the Church to the physical needs that surround us, our audience may never be willing to listen to the other side of the coin.” Yours Truly.


Pray for each other that as you move through your world that you would know what side of the coin to emphasize. Pray that Bethel would boldly live out both sides.

“This was the work of Jesus himself: to heal the sick, feed the hungry, give sight to the blind, care for the poor; give righteousness to the scandalous and scandalize the self-righteous; give hope to the hopeless and love to the loveless. And he's not done yet.” John Ortberg


Friday, February 12, 2010

Touching Base! Part 74

“Odds and Ends”
(This article can also we found on our website at under the tab called “Blog”)

When I think of “odds and ends” I think of my tool kit that has an odd assortment of stuff in it as well as some tools. I think of my mom’s sewing room in the house in which I grew up. You could be guaranteed that there were odds and ends of fabric lying around that were the cast-offs of the latest sewing project. I think of that famous drawer in most homes that when you open it up you have difficulty shutting it again... clutter, clutter clutter. It is where you place stuff that doesn’t have a zip code but is valuable, at least to you! Every house has such a drawer or room.

Well this Touching Base is about Odds and Ends. No real order or theme but just stuff that is important and good for you to know.

• We had a great elders retreat last weekend (Feb 6th). This was our second half-day retreat in the last 5 weeks. We are working hard on identifying what our vision is as a church, and we are now in a position to take this dialogue to the church. We want everyone who desires it, to be in on the conversation. All are valuable contributors. We are prayerfully anticipating having a clear sense of vision by June. The following are some ways we define vision.
  1. What is our greatest opportunity to have an impact on the kingdom?
  2. It is our organizational sweet spot.
  3. It is our picture of a preferred future.
  4. Our purpose (Loving God passionately and Serving Others Significantly) is what we do, vision is where we are going.
• Next Sunday afternoon, following the second service, many of us are driving to IAWAH for an afternoon of food, fellowship and winter fun. Carmen tells me there is still room for about 25-30 people so see her between the services on the 14th and sign up!

• We are going to have a combined Newcomers and Membership potluck luncheon on March 7th after the second service. We have a lot of new people in the church and we find that eating together is a great way to help people connect. People who are interested in checking out membership are also invited to this luncheon. We will have a special focus for them as well seeing that their questions are sometimes different.

• We had a lot of positive feedback on our Congregational Meeting (Celebration of Ministry) in January. We ate together then spent the remaining time praying for the ministries of Bethel and the city. Many of our elders helped lead in this focused time of prayer.

• God has blessed Bethel in many ways: we have much unity, we are growing, financially we ended 2009 on a strong note, we have great teams ministering, people are seeking to make an impact in the city etc. BUT, we are not seeing the numbers we desire in the area of people coming to faith in Christ. This is an area of prayer and concern.

• Our Youth Ministry and Family Ministries are strong and increasingly thinking strategically. The youth just had a great retreat at IAWAH called “Toque” and our Family Ministry is testing the waters to see if doing a March break camp for kids is viable.

• We continue to value our partnership with IAWAH. We believe that this camping ministry is key in helping make disciples. Fred, our Youth Director works for IAWAH about 10 weeks per year. I have recently joined the board.

• We are currently beginning our search for Bethel’s new secretary. Tara (Queen’s student) has been filling the position for the last 2 years. She is graduating and moving this summer so if being Bethel’s secretary is something that would interest you, please watch upcoming bulletins for details on how to apply.

• We continue to see people entering into deeper community by joining small groups at Bethel. We now have 12 small groups running with plans of starting others in the near future. We are delighted to be in partnership with Queen’s, and Cafe church in running Alpha.

• We are talking about doing a third service. We are toying with the idea of experimenting with a ”videocast” into the new gym this fall. What this means is that at our 9 am service we would provide a live feed into the new gym for people to participate in the service as they watch it on the big screen. This would give us 200 more seats. On most Sundays we are at least 80% full in both services. To any newcomer to Bethel, the sight of the sanctuary being that full can translate as “There is no room here for me.” This is an opportunity we need to address.

• Our intern Joanna Moon has done a terrific job this year. We are currently looking for another intern for this Fall.

• We continue to develop the idea of “team teaching”. While I speak the majority of the time, Bethel is blessed to hear from different voices. I would get sick of me if it was me all the time! In the month of January during our Hot Topics we heard from Scott Forbes with International Justice Mission, Warren Reeve regarding depression and my wife taught with me as we addressed forgiveness. This March 7th former interim pastor Lew Worrad will be speaking. Some renamed the Old Testament the “Lew Testament” in his honour.

• In the last few weeks, we have resurrected the need to P.I.E. a face every Sunday. Pursue, Include, Engage. We are all responsible to make Bethel a place where people can connect. If we are a cold and unfriendly church, it’s because not enough of us are realizing it takes all of us, not just some of us, to help get the job done. We need everyone to help raise the relational temperature at Bethel.

• One of our values at Bethel is that the leadership is open to your suggestions, directions and reflections. Please engage the leadership with your questions and input. I have learned a lot and continue to learn a lot from the many of you who share what is on your heart. It is hard for leadership to see every issue.

• Our Adopt-a-Student ministry continues to run and we are hearing many good reports. It has been a concern that not all the families that have been hooked up with a student have connected. Fred who leads this ministry is working on those glitches.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Touching Base! Part 73

The Spoons
(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.

This morning we are starting a teaching series in the book of Luke. Specifically, we are going to be looking at Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, which takes place from chapter 4 through chapter 9. Some might ask: why Luke and why now? One answer is that Luke does a thorough job in detailing many of the events of Jesus’ life, and he primarily has Gentiles (you and me) in mind. This is timely because one of the greatest gifts we can give people is a clear portrait of who Jesus Christ is. We want people to encounter Christ and to reflect back to the world His image and character as they are empowered by the Holy Spirit. As Christ followers, we need a clear picture of the One we follow.

On Sunday the big idea was- Jesus Christ is an outside/inside Saviour. He takes those who are on the outside and brings them inside. Luke demonstrates this clearly throughout the book. Much of this book has the outsider in view as the person to whom Jesus reached out.
  • Luke wrote from a Gentile/outsider standpoint in the best Greek for the broad Greek-speaking world.
  • Luke explained Jewish commonplaces to his Gentile/outsider readers, e.g., that Nazareth was in Galilee (1:26) and that the feast of Unleavened Bread was called the Passover (22:1).
  • Luke shows how the genealogy of Jesus goes back to Adam (3:38). He is not just King of the Jews (Matt 2:2).
  • Luke says that the good tidings are for all people (2:10), even outsiders.
  • Luke shows how prophecies are emphasized that include all flesh (3:5, 6) and illustrations are given of God’s ancient concern for Gentiles (4:25-30). Throughout the gospel, the Gentiles are part of God’s plan of redemption and one of Jesus’ concerns.
  • Luke’s Gospel has been called “the Gospel of the outcast, of the Samaritan, the publican, the harlot, and the prodigal” and “the Gospel of tolerance.”
  • “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost/outsiders” (19:10).
  • He presents Jesus Christ as the compassionate Son of man, who came to live among sinners, to love them, help them, and die for them.
The text we looked at was Luke 1:1-4. Luke was an outsider (Gentile) writing to an outsider (Theophilus). No doubt both men knew what it was like to be on the outside looking in. They knew what it was like to be on the receiving end of racial discrimination. Many Jews had a hard time (to say the least) with the idea that the Messiah would come and extend His ministry to Gentiles. Many Jews were hostile to the idea of Paul going to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21, 22).

Take some time to talk about circumstances in your life when you felt like an outsider, times where you felt like you didn’t fit in or didn’t belong. Note: There are times when we should not feel like we belong nor should we want to belong.

What (wrong) things do we Christ followers sometimes do and say and even impose on people that make them feel like they don’t fit in? For a biblical example read Acts 15 and discuss what unrealistic expectations the Jews were making of the Gentile Christians.

In terms of one’s relationship to God, is there ever a time when feeling like an outsider is healthy and productive?

Look at the text we discussed on Sunday (Luke 1:1-4)

Who may have been some of the eyewitnesses Luke interviewed? What would have been some of the more interesting interviews?

What do we know about Luke? (From the immediate text, and from Colossians 4:10-14?)

One thing I appreciate about Luke is that he took the time to investigate things “from the beginning” because outsiders mattered to God. He not only had Theophilus in mind but all those who would struggle with being accepted and loved by God.

Each and every day we are surrounded by people who struggle with feeling like outsiders for a number of reasons. Think of the following scenarios and discuss how you can help people overcome being an outsider.
Scenario #1 - For some, the “Church gathered” on Sunday morning can be a time where people don’t feel like they fit in. Bethel can be very intimidating to some. Big crowd, awkward traffic flow, and diversity. How can your words and actions extend grace and help build a bridge? What can you specifically do?

Scenario #2 - Our homes - some of us have children that really struggle with feelings of being an outsider. They don’t fit in, measure up or keep pace with the crowd. As a parent or spiritual aunt or uncle what truth about God can help them overcome? What action on your part would extend grace? What Luke did was write a letter, a very long letter.

Scenario #3 - Some of us may be building a relationship with someone far from God. They may feel like the Gentiles felt in the first century around some Christian Jews. What issues in their own lives might they feel disqualify them from God’s love? How can your words and actions (like Luke) bring truth and healing into that situation?

Scenario #4 - Got another one?

As a group, think of the imagery used on Sunday (see below) to communicate the feelings associated with being an outsider. Take some time to pray for those outsiders. This may be in relationship to their current status with Christ, or have to do with other areas of their lives such as various social settings.