Saturday, September 25, 2010

Touching Base! Part 99

Ever Experienced Transition?
(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.

Like it or not, here comes change. No season stands still, no circumstance lasts forever. Death itself will bring the ultimate change, but while on earth, our lives are often blessed, rocked and turned upside down because of transition.

Transition involves experiencing change, often loss:
  • The loss of a role
  • The loss of a person
  • The loss of a place
  • The loss of your sense of where you fit in the world

Some transitions can be exciting and hope-filled, other kinds of transition can be dark and despairing. Some transitions can represent places where we find ourselves surrounded by friends and family, and other transitions can be very lonely experiences. Some transitions we choose, we plan for, and we welcome, other kinds of transitions are forced upon us, and come our way without an invitation.

What is your transition?

This past Sunday we talked about how transitions represent seasons in our lives when our worlds change and our hearts can be open to a deeper work of God.
The question was: what are you learning in your transition?

Image #1 - Changing planets

Some transitions we walk through can feel like we have changed planets. It is not necessarily “bad” or “not welcome”. Think of the student who goes from a high school in her hometown, to moving away and arriving on a campus of several thousand students. That’s a “small planet, big planet” transition. What about the person who experiences a job promotion or who just got married or the young couple who just had a baby. That can seem like a completely new planet!

As you think of your life, what have been some of the transitions that felt like you were living on a completely new planet? Focus on the positive transitions.

Read the following texts on change and how God controls our times – Eccl. 3: 1-8, Daniel 2:21, Psalm 31:14,15. How has God taken you deeper with Himself when you changed planets?

On Sunday we talked about one of the dangers of some transitions being the removal of accountability structures or friendships that may have kept us on track and keen for God. This especially applies to students moving away to attend school. What are other dangers we need to be aware of?

Image #2 - Drop in Altitude

While changing planets may be a positive, a drop in altitude refers to transitions that are unwelcome and wear us down.

What are some of the tough transitions in life that can feel like a drop in altitude?
On Sunday I read Psalm 102:1-11. Read this text and talk about what images, feelings and expressions you can relate with when in this kind of transition. How has God taken you deeper with Himself in these tough kinds of transitions?

The danger when we drop in altitude is that we can become marked and even defined by some of the negative emotion that surrounds us. I talked about how if we are not careful we can become “water-logged” with the negative stuff that is thrown in our face.

What are you doing to guard your spirit as you have experienced a drop in altitude?
Who have you surrounded yourself with that can speak words of life and hope into your soul?

Image #3 - The Slinky Factor

One of the truths that transitions teach us is that we are complex people. The slinky illustrates our complexity. Ever watched a slinky go down the stairs? The front part “arrives” on the step below first, and it’s then followed by the rest of the body of the slinky. It is not instantaneous, and it takes time for the whole slinky to arrive on the next step. We are much like that. In some transitions, we can find that while we are physically present in our new surrounding, we are very much still not fully “present” (emotionally, mentally etc.) It can take a while for all of us (singular) to arrive.

Read Psalm 137:1-6. What are the Israelites longing for? What part of them is really not fully present in Babylon?

What transitions illustrate the Slinky Factor?
Some examples…
  • A person has just moved to Kingston yet they are still very much still back home in their heart and mind.
  • The loss of a spouse makes us realize how long it takes for our “insides” to catch up with our external reality of one less person living in the home.

The danger of this kind of transition is when we don’t give ourselves the space or permission to catch up, i.e. when we don’t do the hard work of processing.

How can we give ourselves space on this issue? What can a person do to help the process along?

As a group, ask yourselves the question: is there anybody at Bethel, at work, in your neighbourhood that could use some help as they work through transition?


If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Monday, September 20, 2010

Touching Base! Part 98

Sunday on Sundays
(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 certainly live in a day when many are taking shots at the church. “It’s full of hypocrites!”… “They don’t care for the poor!”… “It is irrelevant.” Some is substantiated and some of it is just unfounded, exaggerated and caters to people bent on being a critical. I think some even use the “critic” card to justify their own tepid spirituality. As I read the other day, it is easier to be critical and unsupportive than positive and affirming.

Whatever the case, some of the criticism is justified and needs to be listened to and learned from. There may be a grain of truth or a whole saltshaker’s worth of truth in the verbal firing range.

Read the following testimony and if you are in a group talk about where you stand regarding the Church (think more broadly than just Bethel):
“In 2002 I was at the height of my personal “church is irrelevant” rebellion phase. My wife and I had just gone to Little Rock, Arkansas, for her high school reunion, and visited a church there that used to be her church, years ago, as a kid. Now, in the new millennium, this place had put the “glitz” in “glitzy”. You could get everything there. Gourmet coffee. CDs. An array of books. There was a climbing wall for the teens. Beepers for the parents of young children. Lots of Cadillacs and Benzes in the parking lot, and a sermon on reaching your potential after a fabulous performance by an all-white praise band in matching polos. Their smiles were blinding. It was all so fabulous that I almost got sick to my stomach. And nobody said hello.” (Why We’re Not Emergent, DeYoung and Kluck, page 59)

On Sunday we talked about how we want the Church (specifically the Sunday a.m. gatherings) to be a place where people encounter God. This was a follow-up to the September 12th message (you can get that Touching Base online). We talked about how it is so easy to carry on with business as usual, but leave Jesus behind.

Read Luke 2:41-58.
How can this happen in the Church?
What is the fallout?

We talked about people on the platform and people in the pew. We all have a responsibility to nurture an environment where God is at work. Paul says we are a holy temple, a dwelling place for the Spirit of God (last week’s message - Eph 2:21,22).

Discuss the following questions that we considered on Sunday morning. After your discussion take time to pray for Bethel. Also pray for churches in the community that may need a fresh work of God. After all it is His Body, His Church and it is His manifest presence we so desperately need.
  • How do you (people in the pew) go about preparing for Sunday morning? Do you think you do enough, what more could you do so as to come with a heart ready for corporate worship?
  • Sometimes the person on the platform needs to guard from performing. However, people in the pew can be tempted to perform as well. How can that be possible?
  • What should I do on a Sunday when the song being song does not exactly express where I am at? For example the song may say “I surrender all”, but I realize that how I am living is more better expressed, “I surrender some.” Is it hypocritical to sing it?
  • Can you effectively assess if a service was “successful” or not? Why?
  • What must Bethel guard against? What might be some of our slippery slopes, tendencies to get off the rails?

When exiting a service sometimes all people comment on is the length of the sermon, the volume of the music or the noise of the baby three pews down from where they were sitting. Think about some comments and questions people should be asking that might reflect a healthier heart (don’t get me wrong… sometimes preachers preach too long, songs are too loud and babies need to be in the nursery).

Here is a sample:
  • How did I contribute today to Bethel being a healthy Church?
  • What did God speak to me about in the service?
  • How can I follow up on what I was challenged with?
  • Who can I share this with?
  • Who needs to be encouraged?


If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Friday, September 10, 2010

Touching Base! Part 97

What are You Looking for in a Church?
12 Sep 10

(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.

What do you value in a church? Many value authenticity. Being authentic in our relationships speaks to our need as individuals to connect with people. Studies show that significant human contact is good for one’s overall health, wholeness and happiness. For many, the lack of authenticity is a major turn off in any context but especially in the Church. Being inauthentic is where people go through the motions, smiles are as fake as the designer shoes, greeting card theology passes for spiritual meat, doubt and suffering are embarrassments. When this kind of culture is allowed to define a church, church can become a real downer.

Authenticity does not only apply to the horizontal plane but also to the vertical plane of life. Authenticity is also linked with His presence! It’s where people really connect with God. It’s where God really shows up, where we do not just talk about Him, but experience Him! Authenticity! It's where people truly grow in intimacy with God. I have listed some characteristics of a church where God authentically shows up, does His work and changes lives.

It is ...
  • A place that sees people, not just attending and pretending, but being the church 24/7
  • A place where lives are deeply challenged by the Word of God and where life change is the expectation
  • A place where human leadership is not deified, but where God's leadership is exalted.
  • A place where outrageous acts of service happen to bless those who have less
  • A place where people are committed to the hard work of relational Wholeness
  • A place where prayer is not just talked about but upheld and Prioritized
  • A place that is known by the community because when God is at work - you can't hide it or contain it.
  • A place where the most unlovable person, the most wretched person is loved, discipled and embraced.
  • A place where Christ's death and resurrection are proclaimed and people, through repentance and faith, are made new in Christ - their lives are changed both now and forever.
  • What might you add?
In Ephesians 4:3 Paul is telling the Ephesians to guard the unity of the Spirit. V.1 makes it clear that living in such a way is partly what it means to live a life that is worthy. However, if you read this text in context and read Eph. 2:21, 22 we see two other motivations to guard the unity. Unity in diversity (Jews living with Gentiles) is a reflection of the very character and nature of God (v.2:18, note God in Trinity working together in the act of salvation) and it is a place in which He desires to dwell. Let's think about the second motivation. Paul makes it very clear that God dwells in the context of unity, where diverse people come together because of their common bond in Christ. Check out Psalm 133.

So the question is, what can I do about nurturing unity in the body of Christ? Whether at Bethel Sunday mornings or in a small group or another ministry context, unity is crucial if we seek to experience the manifest presence of God. Authenticity is linked with His presence.

Let me give you two answers to that question.

1. We need to guard the unity (v.3)

The verb guard suggests difficulty and a resolute determination, ongoing determination to overcome. Literally it reads "being eager to maintain”. In other words, it’s not easy! Notice what else Paul says about our behaviour in v2. And v.1 makes it clear that Paul is describing partly what it means to live a life that is worthy.

Some questions to consider:

What context do you find yourself in that you need to guard the unity?
What makes it so difficult right now?
Who makes it most difficult, right now?
Are you just going to live with those unhealthy undercurrents?
Are you just hoping it will go away?

What is true corporately, is true individually. How many Christ followers are spiritually dwarfed because they have so many relational troubles with other Christ followers?

2. In guarding, I need to ask three questions:

Am I allowing the enemy a foothold? (Eph 4:27)

Notice “foothold” is connected with residual anger, but this is only an example of how we can give the enemy a foothold.

Foothold - meaning “any portion or space marked off”, a space, a place that is accommodating, welcoming.

Am I grieving God the Holy Spirit? (Eph 4:30)

Read v.29-32 and notice how opposite this behaviour is to what Paul describes in 4:2,3.
Grieve - to be sad, sorrowful, distressed

Do you ever think of God as weeping?
Do you ever think of God as having a heart broken?
Look at Christ and you will see a God that weeps!
Read the OT and you will read of a God that weeps!
God is sad because He has made the church for so much more, to rise so much higher, to be so much greater but the Bride has settle for so little.

Do you remember a time in your life when you grieved God? Talk about what that did to your walk with God and with others.

Am I walking in the fullness of the Holy Spirit? (Eph 5:15-18)

Remember Eph 1:14: the Holy Spirit is deposited into our lives when we move from hearing to believing. Each Christian has all the Spirit, but the command here is that the Spirit have all of him/her on an ongoing basis. We are to be aware of those other things that can intoxicate, those other cheap substitutes, and instead be filled with the Spirit. Don't reduce His influence or block Him out. You have all of Him, be sure He has all of you.

As a group pray that your group, Bethel Church and the Church throughout Kingston would be a place where God's Spirit dwells. Pray that people would take responsibility to guard the unity so that God's Spirit would be released and honoured, not grieved and shunned.


If interested in joining or starting a small group contact