Sunday, October 31, 2010

Touching Base! Part 104

Were you born on third base?
(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 base were you born on? “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” (Barry Switzer) This was a statement tagged on to George Bush Junior. Bush was born intelligent, healthy, handsome, tastefully wealthy, with the best social and school connections and a lust for adventure, to a mother and father who taught him the virtue of public service.

So what base were you born on?
What are the criteria for how you answer that question?
How does travelling overseas and seeing how many others live impact your answer?

A look at our text
Our text this past Sunday was Luke 5:17-26. Read it and become familiar with the flow, emotion, tension and message. The story begins with the cameras focusing in on third base. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law, in comparison to the paralytic, were “third base” guys. The paralytic on the flying carpet is not even on base. Perhaps he is outside the stadium begging for some loose change. Jesus is the umpire calling balls and strikes. What I love about this story is that Jesus (once again) takes someone who has no doubt been marginalized, and brings them into the center of the story.
Who are these third base guys?

The Pharisees had, earlier in their history, helped the Jews maintain the purity of their religion by teaching how the Mosaic Law and the traditions that grew up along side it ought to be applied in daily life. But many of them became rigid, imbalanced, and hypocritical (cf. comments on 11:37-54).

The "teachers of the law" were not a religious party, like the Pharisees, though most of them were also Pharisees. They were respected as having expert knowledge of the details of the Jewish legal tradition and so would be expected to form an opinion about the correctness of Jesus' teaching.

Comment about the friends of this paralytic man. What do you admire about them? Who was instrumental in bringing you to Christ? What were the biggest barriers that your friends had to help you work through in order to come to Christ?

On Sunday I talked about forgiveness and what this text teaches us about this issue.

1. God forgives, and forgiveness deals with the root issue of our broken world.
Note how the beginning of this story only allows us to see the physical, yet Jesus sees a much deeper issue. What are the words in the first four verses that demonstrate that Jesus sees a much deeper problem? What role did the faith of the friends play in this story? What must have Jesus seen in the faith of the paralytic to forgive him?
Read the story that follows (Luke 5:27-32) and comment on how forgiveness defines the central ministry of Jesus.
One observation worth noting in our story is that the Pharisees were present. This is the group that Jesus had to scold for making religion all about outward appearances. He explained (Matt 5-7) that true righteousness is a matter of the heart and not external religious practices alone. What they witnessed in this story went to the heart of the matter! Forgiveness always does.

Forgiveness means to cancel a debt, to send something away, to let go or release, as in Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”

2. Only God can truly deal with the sin issue
While we may be critical of the third base guys, they do make a good point. Check out what they are thinking in v.21. They accused Jesus of blasphemy (sacrilege, irreverence) for misleading the people and claiming to forgive sin. Discuss how Jesus handles their thoughts. Discuss what he does and what he says. What was his point?

To appreciate the statement “Son of Man” you need to understand the context of this title. We often think that it just refers to Jesus’ humanity. However, it is a multifaceted title that also references His deity. The Pharisees and teachers of the law would have known the context of this title and the well-known Jewish text that it was associated with it, Daniel 7, predicting the coming of the Messiah. It is a title that makes bold claims about his messianic mission. As one writer says, it declares that the messiah would be divine. This is why, in Mark 14:62, the high priest is irate at Jesus calling himself the Son of Man. Its messianic connection and reference to deity made the religious leaders accuse Jesus of blasphemy. You don’t get accused of blasphemy for declaring to be a mere human being.

My big idea on Sunday was: Jesus can forgive, don’t forget it!
Do you think these guys on third base ever forgot it? Did they become followers (mere speculation but interesting to discuss because for some, no amount of evidence will cause them to come to faith)?

What about the paralytic? Did he ever forget this day? Do you think he ever questioned God’s goodness in forgiving him? What’s the greatest miracle as we watch this man walk off toward his town?

On Sunday I concluded with several questions, asking if we ever forget that God can forgive sin. Think through these questions and discuss and then take some time to respond in prayer.

Have you forgotten?
Do you live with the shame of your sin even though you have asked for God’s forgiveness? If so, maybe you have forgotten.
Do you at times find yourself attempting to earn God’s forgiveness, which he has already told you is a free gift? If so, maybe you have forgotten.
Do you try to bury your sense of guilt or shame with busyness or drugs, alcohol? If so, maybe you have forgotten.
Are you attempting to deny or justify various actions, all in an attempt to deal with your own sin? If so, maybe you have forgotten.
Do you refuse to forgive those who have sinned against you? If so, maybe you have forgotten.
Are you allowing your own sin to shape you, limit you, taunt you, play over and over again in your mind, making you feel like a second class citizen? If so, maybe you have forgotten.
Do you feel that God would in no way forgive you? If so, maybe you have forgotten.
Perhaps you have not forgotten but have never been told. The majority in this story had never been told, until this day, that Jesus forgives.

Forgiven! Forgotten?


If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Touching Base! Part 103

Planting Your Flag
(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.

“Planting your flag” is an expression I heard years ago referring to the idea of commitment. When we plant our flag, we identify what it is we are committing to, we make the commitment and then, through good times and bad, for richer or poorer, we commit, stick to it and work it out. That kind of commitment is often lacking in many areas of society these days. Marriages are often the first example given, but it can also be seen in the local church. This TB is designed to help you think about the various groups of people who plant their flag at Bethel.

The Old timers (not only in age but in time at Bethel)
These are the people that can reference events in the church that happened 20, 30 and even 50 years ago. They have a deep-rooted history with the church. They have a panoramic view as they can see how the church has dipped and soared, thrived and dived. They can tell you about people who died long ago, and the role they played in the church. They can tell you when so-and-so was just 5 years old and now they are a grown adult, married with children. Many in this group can provide a long list of the ways they have served in the local church. In many ways, these are the people who help connect a church with its past as it moves into the future. Personally, I have found these kinds of people at Bethel extremely encouraging, providing lots of good insights and willing to transition into the future. I always find it interesting to hear their stories of how God worked so many years ago. This group needs to be listened to and included in ministry. Their service years are not over even if they may be in their senior years.

The “We are not new but not pioneer” group
You may find yourself in this group. You have some history but not pages and pages like the above group. However, like the above group, it is hard to remember what it feels like to be a newcomer. This is the group that in many cases has taken on the bulk of the ministries. They have developed a real ownership of the church and an interest in its development. This group can appreciate the changes that have occurred, and understand some of the tensions that come with moving ahead. Many of these people are great at helping the church transition while respecting some of the long-held traditions in a church.

The new arrivals
These are the folks who, possibly within the last 12-24 months, have started attending. There can be a whole host of feelings accompanied with new arrivals:
  • A sense of loss as they really miss their home church back in the town they left
  • “Woundedness” that might have resulted from a bad exit from a previous church
  • Feeling like an outsider as they try to find their place in this new church
  • Uncertainty about how things work, where things are, why things happen the way they do
  • Anticipation at the prospects of their new church home

One of the most exciting things we observe is when new people jump on board. They have a passion for the city, a love for the church and a desire to participate in God’s kingdom. Many of these people don’t “ride the pines” but get right in the game, either in the church scattered or gathered. Don’t forget your workplace is one of your primary areas of ministry. We count it a privilege to encourage you and learn with you in that area of ministry.

Church hoppers
These are people that can drive any church crazy - no commitment, no loyalty, and no involvement. Like a tourist, they show up for a while, observe and then move on to the better “show” in town. No doubt, they have a distorted understanding of the church and a very “consumeristic” outlook. These are not the people that help you win the game. We need to help these folks find their way through this season. There can be a number of factors that prevent people from settling down in a local church. We need to encourage them to put down roots in a local church, whether it is at Bethel or elsewhere.

In this day and age where loyalty to anything is becoming increasing rare, I am grateful for the first three above-mentioned groups. It is exciting to see how God is weaving together the new with those who have been around for a while at Bethel. We are all at different stages and phases of being, and we all have unique ways we contribute (gathered and scattered). It is my prayer that God will continue to bring us together in unity as we come under His headship.

Exit Folks
Let me close with mentioning one last group. This isn’t a group that actually attend Bethel, since by very definition that would be impossible. These are the “Exit folks”. These are people that, for whatever reason, have left Bethel. This has always happened and will always happen. Sometimes there are very legitimate reasons why people leave – they move, they graduate, or they struggle with various issues. We need to be extremely sensitive to this group, praying for them and responding to God’s promptings should He lead us to follow them up.


If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Friday, October 15, 2010

Touching Base! Part 102

Elders’ Update
(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.

I wanted to provide a brief update regarding what the elders’ team is up to at Bethel these days. At Bethel, we believe that leadership matters. It is not our desire to manage or just maintain, but to continue to lay tracks and develop vision so that Bethel can continue to grow, mature and develop key ministries in keeping with that developing vision. Neither is it our goal to be the busiest Church in town or to offer every possible program. Our desire is to see the body empowered and released to be the Church 24/7. I would encourage you to take some time and give us your input on some of the issues raised in this Touching Base.

Transitioning our meetings

If you have ever sat on the board of any kind of organization, then you know that details can bog down teams and get them stuck in the muck-and-mire of administrative detail. As a church leadership team under Doug Boyd’s leadership and now Steve Dickey’s, we have been successfully shifting our agendas to what we believe are more elder-like matters that must be addressed. Bethel currently has some very strong teams operating and that allows the elders’ team to focus in on key issues essential to Bethel’s current health and future development.

Thematic meetings

We have laid out several months’ worth of meetings to look at key issues. The following is a list of those themes:
  • Sept 28th - The elders’ team met at my place and, along with an invited guest, discussed issues related to personal growth in the Christian life (the Big Fat Theological Term is “sanctification”). We spent two hours discussing the kinds of issues people have difficulty gaining victory over. We looked at a number of causes - unforgiveness, unrepentance, generational patterns, and the demonic, that can sabotage the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. We will be bringing this discussion to the Bethel services on December 5th.
  • Oct 12th – The theme of our meeting was to discuss our emerging list of values at Bethel. Values are not doctrinal statements, but statements that help us understand how we do ministry and the kind of culture we are attempting to develop. We all agreed that values that are biblically-rooted can help steer the church in building positive Christ-honouring relationships, both inside and outside the gathered church. These values are Team, Excellence, Authenticity, Relevance and Solidarity. If you attended the “Together Again” event then you are already familiar with these values.
  • Nov. (date TBD) - Our theme for this meeting is “the Marks of a Disciple”. We believe that the description of the kind of disciple we are attempting to develop is essential. We want , and need, to know if our ministries are helping shape Christ-like people. Our five marks are:
  • Heart for God ( Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
  • Biblically-Measured (everything by the Book)
  • Prayerfully Engaged
  • Relationally Whole (family-centered, friendships, teams etc)
  • Committed to the whole Gospel (physical and spiritual)
  • Bill Duffy will also be joining us that night to talk about the pastoral care ministry at Bethel. Bill is on staff and helps us with visitation and connecting new people into Bethel. We are very encouraged with how many are participating in small groups this fall. We have approximately 130 adults in small groups, and this number does not include the many students who attend Bethel and participate in groups on campus.
  • Dec. 14th - The elders’ team will be discussing how we can more effectively nurture mentoring at Bethel. We have often seen the incredible value of one-on-one relationships in the body of Christ. What makes this a challenge is that we cannot “program” mentoring. It must happen through relationships, and from the grass-roots on up. We will also be discussing our next BHAG (Big Harry Audacious Goal) for the church. We believe that God is preparing us to corporately take on an initiative in the downtown core that will help us not just declare the Gospel, but also demonstrate the Gospel in good works. This is a major initiative that is currently in process and will gain more traction at this December elders’ meeting.
  • January (½ day retreat) - The elders have started taking a half day each January to work through vision issues. Our retreat agenda is not set but as you can see from the meeting agendas, we will have lots to choose from for our discussion.
  • Finally, as an elders’ team we are going to be reading together Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (the staff is reading this as well). This is a great book that looks at how Christians grow and change and what some of the road-blocks to change are.


While this is tentative, we are planning on introducing our vision in February 2011. We are grateful to the many of you who have participated in the various forums at Bethel to help clarify our emerging vision.

How can you help?

Please pray for each of our elders and their spouses. They are all busy people - Steve and Donna Dickey, Ewen and Sharon Mackenzie, Scott and Simone Wylie, Roy and Meredith Chan, Eric and Mary Prost, Ron and Tooty Dickey, Doug and Maureen Brown and Mark and Rhonda Kotchapaw.


If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Friday, October 8, 2010

Touching Base! Part 101

How Exclusive Is Your Bubble

(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 had the experience of re-entering, or returning, after being gone for a while. Think of the possible scenarios…

… returning to the home you grew up in
… military personnel who return from a tour of duty
… the man or woman who re-enters society after working through drug or alcohol addiction
… inmates that are set free and find themselves feeling like strangers around the dinner table
… someone whose marriage ends and they re enter the single life

Take a moment and talk about times that you have “re- entered”. What did that feel like? Was it exciting or highly intimidating?

In our text this Sunday, there is a man who has been “away”, perhaps for a long time. And what Jesus does for him will allow him to come home again.

Read Luke 5:12-17.

To really understand this story, you have to understand how ostracized this leprous man was. He was viewed as ceremonially unclean - in fact, the Law commanded that such a man cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” as he walked along. Clothes that were leprous (general term for a broad range of eruptive skin diseases and disorders) were destroyed. Houses that were found to be contaminated in this way were either given a major renovation or levelled to the ground. The reason garments were burned and houses were levelled… this man has all over his body. Note v.12, “covered with leprosy”. Read Lev. 13:45–46.

What Jesus does (He actually touches him), is off-the-charts radical. Not only because the man was leprous, but because of how some of the religious establishment and much of culture viewed such a person. Priests were noted for throwing stones at lepers, religious teachers often accused them of being more sinful than others. The bottom line is that if you were a leper you would not win a popularity contest. Don’t even think about a beauty contest!

As a group, discuss how you think this man must have felt living with such a cloud over him all the time.

Notice what the leper says in v.12 - note that the critical issue is not the leper’s faith (i.e. he doesn’t say “Lord, if I am willing … ”), nor is it the Lord’s power (i.e. he also doesn’t say “Lord, if You are able … ”), but the Lord’s sovereign will (i.e. he actually says “Lord, if you are willing…”).

Talk about how else this leper may have experienced healing beyond just the physical aspect, because of Jesus’ touch. The following will help you out:
“Touching eases pain, lessens anxiety, softens the blows of life, generates hope and has the power to heal, according to most experts. In fact, modern psychology and medicine are confirming what mothers across the centuries have intuitively known--namely, the healing power of touch.”
Discuss the following statement: “If the church is going to be the Church of Jesus Christ, it must learn the power of touch.”

Some further questions to reflect on as you think of this story.

Why would He touch him?
I think C.S. Lewis states it well - “ You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
Society saw a leper, Jesus saw a soul; society saw someone who was disposable, Jesus saw someone worth redeeming.
How can at times people’s “leprosy” prevent us from seeing their true value in God’s eyes?

What did this act of touching and healing demonstrate about Christ? V.14
What Jesus asks this man to do is totally in keeping with Jewish teaching (check out Lev. 14:1–32) The fact that a man would go to the priest claiming healing from leprosy would alert the religious leaders that something new was afoot in Israel.

Who are the lepers today?
Think of this question on both a personal and a church-wide level. Some suggestions –
  • AIDS in our time, is the Leprosy of Jesus’ day - yet Jesus touched the Leper
  • Addicts,
  • The mentally ill,
  • Gays/lesbians/bisexual/transgendered
  • Someone who has hurt us, we avoid – we put them outside our “bubble” – remember the image from Sunday
  • What would you add?
How does this story illustrate the Gospel?

What do you think this leper saw in Jesus that made him think that Jesus wouldn’t throw stones but extend a hand of help?

Who is on the outside of your bubble? Who is it that you would rather walk away from than towards?

This story demonstrates once again the authority of Jesus, which is one of Luke’s main points. However, it deeply challenges our stereotypes of people and shows us all how we can form unhealthy opinions of others and create a “we-them” kind of world. Might Bethel bridge that gap, see lives transformed, bodies healed and the church engaged!


If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Touching Base! Part 100

What Did Avatar Not Show Us?
(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.

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once made the rather colossal claim that he had unassailably solved all philosophical problems. A measure of modesty entered into the equation, however, when he declared that the most significant portions of reality were beyond the grasp of language.

If you saw the movie “Avatar”, you may have noticed (I didn’t until I read a critique of the movie) that what the cameras did not show was “Eywa”. Eywa is the guiding force and deity of Pandora and the Na'vi (the inhabitants of planet Pandora). The Na'vi believe that Eywa acts to keep the ecosystem of Pandora in perfect equilibrium. The writer of the critique talked about how, with all the 3D magic of the movie, the cameras could not (or possibly chose not) to attempt to capture the imagery of Eywa. The writer said “Avatar is most remarkable for what it chooses to conceal from the camera.” Perhaps this is where Ludwig Wittgentstein and James Cameron (writer and producer of Avatar) agree - “the most significant portions of reality were beyond the grasp of language.”

This past Sunday we started into our Fall series entitled “Jesus One-on-One”. We looked at three stories that serve as three windows into glory beyond description. What the cameras of Cameron do not capture, Dr. Luke does capture with his detailed narratives of the life of Christ - glory beyond description.

If you are using this article in your small group discuss the following statement:
Maximus the Confessor (Abbot in about 6th cent) famously remarked that man is perched precariously between the grave and eternity. We nurture both a temporal and an eternal nature simultaneously.

Do you find that most people are somewhat aware of the eternal nature of life? Another way of asking this is, Do you encounter people who believe in the supernatural but have not been able to identify it?

Let’s look at the three stories that serve as three windows:

Story #1 Luke 4:31-37
Make as many observations about this story as possible. Notice the two names of Christ in this story. What name reveals that this Jesus is glory beyond description? How does the story illustrate the name?

I love the definition of the Greek word used for “authority” in this story: the liberty of doing as one pleases. The Holy One of God certainly demonstrates that Jesus has more authority than anyone else in this story, including the demon.

How does the presence of the demonic challenge or expand your theology?

Story #2 Luke 4: 38-44
Compare stories. What are the parallels and contrasts? Note the name “Son of God”. In the first story, the “Holy One of God” was demonstrated through His authority. In the second story we see authority but in addition, we see that Jesus has the bragging rights.

I’ll let Ravi Zacharias explain:
“In the 10th chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we find the story of a blind man named Bartimaeus. Look at his name carefully- “Bar-timaeus”. Ironically, we really do not have his name. He is simply “son of Timaeus,” which is what his name means. His only identity in the story is through his father. In that time and culture it was not uncommon for a son to be named in relation to the father, as in Simon Bar Jonah. This method established bragging rights within a culture.” (Has Christianity Failed You?, p. 29)

This is a title of nature and not of office. The sonship of Christ denotes His equality with the Father. To call Christ the Son of God is to assert His true and proper divinity. This name is used 37 times in the NT.

A couple of questions to ponder:
  • Why do you think Jesus in both stories told the demonic to be quiet?
  • How is it that the demons can have better theology than the religious leaders Jesus confronted in Luke 4:14-30?
Story #3 Luke 8:26-39
Certainly there is a lot that could be discussed in this story. However, for time and application I want you to think about how politically incorrect this third name of Jesus is.

In story number one, He is called the “Holy One of God”, illustrated by His authority. In story number two, He is called the “Son of God”, demonstrating His “bragging rights”. In story number three He is called… you tell me.

“Son of the Most High God”. The superlative used is interesting.
In this third story Jesus is knee-deep in demons. Note the word in v.30, “Legion” - a body of soldiers whose number differed at different times, and in the time of Augustus seems to have consisted of 6826 men (i.e. 6100 foot soldiers, and 726 horsemen). In the Luke narrative thus far this is the most demons we have seen, yet Jesus is the Most High God.

This was a very politically incorrect name to attach to Jesus. This story unfolds in Gentile territory. We partly know this because of the pigs. Gentiles were polytheistic, Jews were monotheistic. By declaring this third name, it is made clear that in a gentile culture that had many gods, that even deified the Roman emperor, Jesus was head-and-shoulders above them all. Most High! In fact note what Paul says about other gods:
1 Corinthians 8:4-6 “...‘there is no God but one.’ For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

Jesus’ presence on earth was not just an affront to the legions of the kingdom of darkness but an affront to the legions of Rome! It was as politically incorrect to follow Jesus then as it is now.

How is following Jesus today politically incorrect? How offensive could this third name be to a Muslim, Hindu or atheist? How is it possible to humbly declare that we worship Jesus the Son of the Most High God?

Finally, go back through these three stories and note where Jesus is. What I find amazing is that Jesus - the Holy One of God, Son of God, Son of the Most High God - is up to His elbows in human need, and brokenness.

“Avatar is most remarkable for what it chooses to conceal from the camera.” That’s what one critique said. I say the Word of God is most remarkable for what it chooses to reveal: the Holy One of God, Son of God, Son of the Most High God, here among broken and helpless people.

Jesus truly does represent a glimpse of the world beyond, yet is amongst us!


If interested in joining or starting a small group contact