Sunday, March 28, 2010

Touching Base! Part 80

Hank’s Plank, Spock’s Speck
(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.

We live in a day and age when the Church is being shot at from all angles. In the book UnChristian, David Kinnaman outlines what outsiders think of the church. One of the criticisms is that the church is judgmental. Have you ever run into an outsider with a negative impression of the church?

Have you ever found yourself interacting with someone who is attacking or toxic towards the Church?

Do you know any outsiders that are now coming back to the Church, giving the Church a second chance?

On Sunday we talked about Luke 6:41, 42. We talked about how it is important to judge, but we must do it correctly. Read the text and go deeper on the points that I developed.

Judgment begins with me

We named the judge in this text “Hank who has the plank”. We named the one being judged “Spock who has the speck”. It would seem that Hank is engaged in the process of judging Spock without giving any consideration first to his own heart’s condition. Jesus’ words in v.41 are shifting the focus from Spock to Hank, from pointing the finger outward to pointing the finger inward at Hanks own heart. Don’t you find it amazing (dreadfully amazing) that Hank can bypass his plank to see Spock’s speck? As a group, discuss what it is about our hearts, our human condition that can cause us to bypass our issues while condemning someone else (notice this is Jesus’ question in v.42).

Some of my suggestions on Sunday were....
  • Pride fuels judgmental attitudes
  • Arrogance is perhaps the most socially acceptable form of sin in the church today
  • Maybe Hank is a pastor or church leader and doesn’t feel he can be that honest
  • Maybe the plank has been there for years and acknowledging it now will destroy his image
  • Lack of courage
  • Shame, embarrassment
Even though we may miss or ignore the obvious plank, the world (outsiders) see clearly (along with Jesus) what we may not see or choose not to see.

In UnChristian, “85% of young outsiders have had sufficient exposure to Christians and churches that they conclude present-day Christianity is hypocritical”. Notice that this is Hank’s real nickname. The “H” word!

It is carried out as a means of blessing not cursing.

As a group, note Hank’s first approach in judging Spock (v.41) and his second approach in v.42b.
In his first approach he came at Spock with a “knife”. Some call this being judgmental versus judging. Judgment is central to the bibles message but Scripture relentlessly warns believers against being judgmental.
“To be judgmental is to point out something that is wrong in someone else’s life, making the person feel put down, excluded, and marginalized. Some part of their potential to be Christ followers is snuffed out. Being judgmental is fuelled by self-righteousness, the misguided inner motivation to make our own life look better by comparing it to the lives of others.” (UnChristian, page 182)

Notice the second approach v42b. Consider these questions as you examine the text and think of the contrasts of the two approaches.

What is the big difference in Hank? He has been with Jesus before engaging with Spock in approach 2 versus 1. Maybe our biggest problem in judging is that we don’t spend enough time with Christ first before we go and say the hard stuff to people.

What is the difference in Hank’s credibility? It is plank to see that Hank is wrong (uncontrolled laughter at this point) in how he is initially going about confronting Spock.

What is the difference in tone? On Sunday I talked about the difference between a bull in a china shop and a butterfly in a china shop. Being a butterfly does not indicate weakness but being careful in what one says because by being aware of one’s own sin and brokenness, a person is more aware of the other’s (Spock’s) own brokenness and trouble.

What is the difference in outcome? Is there any? Is there a better chance Spock will be more receptive?

How we communicate is just as important at times as what we communicate. By Hank dealing with himself first, the “how” will be deeply altered. Agree?

How might the solution be different? Note in v.41 and v.42 Jesus makes this statement “remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” In approach 1, Hank might stab and run. In approach 2, Hank might understand these words differently. This can be a process and a journey, and it can also build great depth in your relationship. To point out, but not help out, is not the complete picture. Specks are indicators that people need help. They have lost their way; they are falling, and bound. I believe that there is a relationship that justifies the dialogue to begin with, and a relationship that is crucial in helping one find freedom.

What might “removing the speck” look like in approach 2?

As you think of what Jesus said here in Luke 6, what other texts bring more information on how to judge correctly? As you think of Jesus’ words here in Luke 6, are you judging correctly? Do you have the courage to speak up? Note that Jesus calls Hank and Spock “brothers”. Based on what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, how is judging those outside the church different? (Quick answer - In Paul’s context, judging is not just discerning right from wrong but carrying out punishment. That’s God’s job. Our job is to discern right from wrong, let them (outsiders) know of their accountability to God and governing authorities, and to demonstrate mercy.)
We would miss a major point if we did not point out the real protagonist in this story. It is not Hank if he confronts correctly or Spock if he responds humbly - it is Christ. How does Easter illustrate God judging correctly? How does Christ help us take the plank of sin out of our eye not only at salvation but as we walk in repentance?

Happy Easter! The Judge has judged us correctly!


If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Friday, March 19, 2010

Touching Base! Part 79

Crazy Love!
(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.

(Note: The reflection done by Meredith on Sunday is found at the end of this TB)

One of the reasons why Christianity spread so rapidly in the early centuries was not because their programs were the slickest or because of eloquent speakers. It was love, the radical love of the Christians that revolutionized their world. As we approach Easter, we are once again reminded of the amazing love of Christ that empowered and propelled those early Christ followers to love their world.

This past Sunday we looked at Luke 6:27-36 in our series, Who Is This, Anyway? Jesus says some things about loving our world that might be perceived as crazy, in comparison to how we might normally think. Before jumping into the text, think of your own world and identify who is hard to love. Who is it that makes you want to run, dodge, hide, do anything but engage and demonstrate the love of Christ? When you think of that person or persons, what are the emotions connected with that face?

Now take some time to read through the text and note all the statements that seem radical or counter culture to our world or your world. What statements do you find most challenging? What statements seem most illogical? What statement describes the exact opposite of what you would naturally do?

This past Sunday, I made three points about “crazy love”:

Crazy love does not love people because they are loveable or deserve it. (v.27-31)
Discuss what it is about these folks in this text that makes them hard to love. How does the Golden Rule (v.31) change our perspective on loving people? What is the question that the Golden Rule implies we ask when attempting to love a difficult person? How would living by this rule change a relationship you are currently in? How would living by this rule change a lost, broken relationship you have experienced?

Crazy love challenges us to take the higher road. (v.27-34)
Identify the “high road and “low road” actions and attitudes of this section (for example the high road of love versus the low road of being an enemy). Notice how opposite the high road is versus the low road. This is where the tension is.

On Sunday we talked about how Jesus wasn’t talking about judicial law but personal relationships. Jesus understands - and the rest of Scripture illustrates - the need for good, just government. In this text Jesus is specifically talking about personal relationships amongst non believers (note that this kind of love needs to be practiced amongst Christians as well.) We also noted in this text that Jesus is using a teaching method called hyperbole in some of these statements.

Hyperbole: A rhetorical exaggeration, a figure of speech often used by Jewish wisdom teachers to underline their point. The point of Jesus’ hyperbolic illustrations is generally to grab the hearer’s attention and force that hearer to take his point seriously.

With this in mind, will there be times we need to do literally what Jesus is saying in v.29,30? What are some modern-day examples of v.29, 20? Read through 1 Peter 3:9-12. Also read Phil 1:9-11 and discuss “discerning what is best” in light of Jesus’ words.

I think in all of this there is a danger to avoid. The danger is to miss out on how radically Jesus is asking us to love.
Bob Deffinbaugh says, “I think that we can quickly see that one must interpret and apply our Lord’s words in the light of other biblical principles. But while there may be exceptions, our Lord’s intent is to deeply imbed the principle in our minds.”

Crazy love does not expect anything back and does expect something back- this statement sounds crazy. (v.35,36)
What does this text say about not expecting anything back?
What is the danger in loving with the condition of expecting something back?
What do you do if this is someone’s reality (getting nothing back) in a marriage or as a parent?

Notice where the text says there is reward. What do we learn about reward here? What might we expect from God?

Notice how Jesus words bring the listener to the point of realizing that God demonstrated this kind of love and as we look back with hindsight, we realize Jesus will demonstrate this kind of love on the cross.

Take some time to pray for empowerment to love in this “crazy” way. Also take some time as we approach Easter to reflect and thank God for modelling this kind of love to us.


Reflection - by Meredith MacKenzie

This passage in Luke talks about a radical love, there is nothing normal or boring about this type of is absolutely transforming.

What if worldwide, Christians practiced this radical love?

What if Canadian Christians loved like Luke chapter 6? What would our politics look like? What would foreign and local policies look like?

What if you practiced radical love? What would your world look like? What would your church look like? What would your workplace look like? What would your relationships look like? What would your family look like?

What if that radical love in Luke Chapter 6 motivated us to:
  • speak for those without a voice (Prov. 31:8-9),
  • defend the rights of the poor and needy (Jer. 22:15-16),
  • proclaim freedom for the captives (Luke 4:18),
  • love our Lord with all our heart and soul and our neighbour as ourselves,
  • practice justice, mercy and faithfulness (Zech 7:8-10),
  • bring justice to the nations (Is 42:1),
  • stop the trampling on the heads of the poor and maintain their rights (Ps 82:3),
  • act justly, love mercy and walk humbly (Micah 6:8)?

“What if you got involved?” This is the question Martin Luther King Jr. asked in the speech he gave the night before he was assassinated. He was talking about the reaction of the priest and the Levite compared to the Good Samaritan on the road to Jericho.

So I ask you this morning “What if you got involved?” What if you loved like Christ tells us to in Luke chapter 6? Could anything in our lives or in this world really be the same if we loved like this?


Friday, March 12, 2010

Touching Base! Part 78

(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 past week, the staff took a good hour to talk about what we are learning about our personal leadership, ministries, the work of God in our hearts, and the well-being of our souls by examining our surroundings. Some of the issues we reflected on, and questions we answered, were:
  • Think of your ministry context, and even the broader context of Bethel, and list 3-5 things you are learning.
  • What do these insights tell me about myself, my needed action steps, and the people I am leading?
  • In light of my ministry context what are some needed initiatives, ministry priorities?
  • What does it look like God is doing?
  • What area needs more of my attention?
We all have context that we lead, follow and serve in. We all have a world that surrounds us, spaces and places that we spend vast amounts of our time. Much can be learned about ourselves, God’s work, and the world as we take note, reflect, observe and think.

Why not (as a small group or alone) take some time to reflect on the above statements. Contextualise them for your world. If you are in a group, and as others share, ask clarifying questions, questions that will help all of you see deeper into issues. At the end of your time, pray for one another. Here were some of my personal observations.

Observation #1
One of my jobs as a leader is to help people see the problem. Oftentimes in church ministry, “success” is defined by “bucks, bodies and buildings”. These days, Bethel has all three. We have been blessed with generous people that help fund the work of the Church. We have seen many new people get on board and start taking part in our ministries. We have a very strategically-located building. So some can come to Bethel, look around and think we are successful. In many ways we are experiencing God’s blessing.

However, to use a sports analogy, the majority of people are still in the stands, far from God in the Kingston community, while the minority are on the field following Christ. How can we be content or seek to maintain the status quo when there is so much of a world yet to minister to? “NASA… we have a problem!” Leadership is partly about helping people see the problem and then engaging in a process of casting a vision that will address the problem.

Observation #2
I need to be careful that when something new goes on my plate that something else goes off the plate. Have you ever noticed that it is easy to keep adding to your to-do list without doing the hard work of elimination? The longer I stay at Bethel, the greater the temptation to start up something new, take on a new initiative, launch out on a new project… but never engage in the thoughtful process of elimination, either by delegating better or by just stopping doing something altogether. There are very few people who will ask you if your plate is too full. Most people have no problem adding one more item to the pile on your plate. I must guard this for myself. How about you?

Observation #3
My sensitivity to criticism escalates when that which is being criticised has become an idol in my life. Let’s face it, I am not a perfect leader, preacher, pastor, shepherd, friend, husband, father etc. etc. etc. As sure as the sun rises and sets, criticism will come one’s way, my way! I find that I do not process criticism well if I have made that thing- my preaching, leading etc an idol. If I am attempting to establish my significance in an unhealthy way through what I do, then I set myself up to be defensive when someone criticises my efforts. There is tremendous liberty in being able to listen and learn from those who have hard things to say. While Bethel has been a very encouraging place to serve, I know I must guard becoming an idolater.

Observation #4
We are all trying to figure out how to reach a world that has no time for God. In some ways I feel like the spiritual appetite among many people is greater than it has ever been. But the other side of that thought is that it also seems like increasing numbers of people have no time for God, the Church and His Word. We live in the best of times and what seems the worst of times, spiritually-speaking. I often walk the streets of Kingston praying and asking God how He wants to shape Bethel so that we will engage, challenge and change the culture in which we live. I feel like I am fumbling around and seeking His direction on how to do that personally in my neighbourhood and as a leader as I provide team leadership for Bethel. Any Church that is alive and attempting to keep in step with the Spirit is wrestling with this issue these days.

Depth of thinking, learning and faith comes from pondering the given, the obvious, the routine. One lesson I am learning over and over again is to be a better student of the obvious. Life is like Scripture, the more you study it the more you see. I think the temptation with our surroundings is to take them for granted when what we should be doing is poking questions at the obvious. This week, I was reading a brief article by one of my favourite authors, Gordon MacDonald. I was amazed at how many insights he gained by just sitting in a restaurant and observing people. He made a kaleidoscope of observations and insights, lost to most who live with an unobservant eye.

One of my challenges in leadership at Bethel is to make sure that the speed at which I live does not prevent me from seeing my world as God wants me to see it. To understand what I am talking about, next time you are driving through town look around and really see what you have driven by for perhaps years. Then walk that same route and note how much more you see. Speed makes all the difference in our ability to really see the world. What are you seeing these days?


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Touching Base! Part 77

What Are The Staff Reading?
By Carmen Gauvin-O’Donnell

(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 TB topic was actually suggested to me on the squash court by Julie Wight. She has just finished reading Yann Martel’s book, What is Stephen Harper Reading? and told me that she’d love to know what the Bethel staff have been reading lately. Well, Julie, your dream has come true: not only do you get to play squash with me every week, but I even do everything you tell me! :)

Firstly, I can say that since his arrival, Mark has repeated (many many times! :)) in our hearing that “Leaders are Readers.” I wholeheartedly concur and would even take it further: learners are readers, and learning is a life-long process. Is there nothing on earth more difficult than carrying on a conversation with someone who is stagnant… hasn’t cracked a book/newspaper/magazine in years… has no idea what’s going on in the world… and has no interest in changing that fact? It’s painful, believe me.

So Mark encourages us all to read… and not just Christian theology either… we need to get out there and read all sorts of stuff, even stuff we might disagree with (if we’re comfortable with the idea). In Oliver Wendell Holmes’ words, “Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”

So here’s to stretching the brain! And at some point, we’ll have another posting about what the staff are studying in God’s Word.

Now YOU let US know what you’ve been reading! Feel free to use the “comment” box on the blog site online.



The Brotherhood of War, W.E.B. Griffin. I usually re-read this 10-volume military series every few years. In it, the author focuses on and fictionalizes some lesser-known American military engagements: the conflict against the communists in Greece, the Congo and the Bay of Pigs, among others, by following the careers of some core characters who simply grow on you!

The Pocket Guide to Amish Life, Mindy Starns Clark. This excellent short little book covers everything you wanted to know about the Amish, and even provides the pros and cons of each belief/tradition.

The Reason for Sports, Ted Kluck. Many believers seem to think that we Christians should be ‘above’ sports somehow. That stuff is all so … secular. But surely, one can love God and still watch/play sports?! As a lot of you know, I love sports, and that’s why I read this book.


Church Unique, Will Mancini. This tool is helping the Bethel leadership develop God’s vision for Bethel.

Knowing God, J.I. Packer. This classic work aims to redirect our attention to the simple, deep truth that to know God is to love His Word, and covers topics such as the trinity, election, God's wrath, and His sovereignty.

The Celtic Way of Evangelism, George Hunter. Celtic Christianity was one of the most successfully evangelistic branches of the church in history. The Celtic church converted Ireland from paganism to Christianity in a remarkably short period, and then proceeded to send missionaries throughout Europe. The North American environment today is really no different than the pagan Ireland of the Middle Ages, hence the usefulness of the Celtic method.

In the President’s Secret Service, Ronald Kessler. A behind-the-scenes look at the Secret Service, which safeguards both the American President and other VIPs, and the nation’s financial infrastructure.


The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey. This book helped me to see Jesus in a new light, and fall head-over-heels for Him again! It really challenges our assumptions, and the things about Jesus and the Kingdom that we take for granted.

Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers, Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. I've just started this one, but I think it's going to be amazing. It's talking about how prayer and action must go hand in hand, "Otherwise we have little more than a bunch of inactive believers or worn-out activists, and neither do much good for the world."

Anne's House of Dreams, L.M. Montgomery. Carmen said they don't all have to be theological - so I'll tell you honestly that I just finished reading this one... again (about the 5th time)... and I've cried every time.


...has been taking a Small Engine repair course in his spare time, so all his reading has been in small engine repair manuals… but he’s not finished yet so NO, you cannot call him to ask if he can look at your lawnmower! :)


Crazy Love, Francis Chang. A must-read for everyone! Chan writes with infectious exuberance, challenging Christians to take the Bible seriously. He describes at length the sorry state of lukewarm Christians who strive for a life characterized by control, safety and an absence of suffering.

Student Ministry and the Supremacy of Christ, Richard Ross. Ross introduces a new student ministry paradigm our churches desperately need.

Don't Waste your Life, John Piper. A must-read for college/university students, warning people away from a life that counts for nothing-and into a life that means everything.

When I don't Desire God; How to Fight for Joy, John Piper. The title speaks for itself.


The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, Scott McKnight. McKnight uses an odd encounter with an out of place bird (without spoiling the story) to illustrate the way many people approach reading the Bible.

Forgotten God, Francis Chan. The author pleads passionately for the church to live by the power of the forgotten God: the Holy Spirit.

Primal, Mark Batterson. This book is an invitation to become part of a reformation movement. It is an invitation to rediscover the compassion, wonder, curiosity, and energy that turned the world upside down two thousand years ago. It is an invitation to be astonished again.


The Reason for God, Timothy Keller. Keller mines material from literary classics, philosophy, anthropology and a multitude of other disciplines to make an intellectually compelling case for God.

Shake Hands with the Devil, Roméo Dallaire. For those who would understand the inexorable but entirely preventable unfolding of the Rwandan holocaust, this account, told from the eye of the storm, is indispensable.

Chrétien v. Canada (Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities, Gomery Commission), for my Administrative Law class. What a woman has to do to graduate around here…!