Monday, December 12, 2011

Touching Base! Part 151

A Gift in a Box
Part 1 - The Gift of the Magi

Guest posting by Eric Prost

(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.

In this December series, “A Gift in a Box”, we’re examining some of the blessings that flow from the true Christmas gift, Jesus Christ.

In his famous short story, The Gift of the Magi, American author O. Henry (1862-1910) tells a conventional Christmas story but then concludes with a twist, a surprise ending. In the sermon and the accompanying TB, we’ll look at the famous story of the Magi in Matthew’s gospel, not drawing surprise or unexpected conclusions, but hopefully glorifying God by seeing it afresh.

Read Matthew 2:1-12.

The Magi gave the baby Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Their gift to us is to show us how to respond as obedient, subject, surrendered servants to our Master.

A lot of traditions surround the Magi, or wise men, who came from the east bearing gifts: some traditions name them (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar)... other traditions make them magicians or assume there were 3 (or 8 or 12)... many believe they were Persian scholars or priests who travelled west to Jerusalem until the story begins in Matthew chapter 2.

What is clear from the Biblical account is that nothing in the story is easy. The Magi from the east probably travelled 1200 miles, which may have taken up to a year by camel. When they arrived, they weren’t sure where to go. When they ask the king (Herod), he is disturbed by their arrival and their questions. Everyone is upset. No one is happy or too curious. Even the priests and local wise men are not impressed. They know from ancient scripture, which they quote, that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem, and they point the way for the Magi… but don’t bother to go along.

Then the magi are tricked by Herod (almost) into divulging the whereabouts of the baby King so that Herod can murder Him. They then give their best gifts away. Finally, the visitors who travelled so far and should have been held in some esteem, sneak away out the back door, never to be heard of again.

Nothing about the account was easy… except for one thing, in verses 10 and 11:
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed […] and they bowed down and worshipped him”.
In the KJV and English Standard versions it reads, “and fell down….” and in J.N. Darby’s translation, “and falling down did him homage”.

To be overjoyed, and then to be subject to Christ, to worship him, to do obeisance, to surrender – face down – seems to have been easy and spontaneous.

Now read Romans 6:16-22.

The Magi take us back to our Christian Beginnings, to the basics. We often hear of the great truths about being co-heirs with Christ or about being children of God or about being Christ’s bride. But first, we must be his slaves and he our Master.

We can be one of two things: we can be slaves to sin resulting in death, or we can be slaves to God and righteousness leading to holiness. Either way, we are slaves (a stronger word than “servants” and probably a true translation).

As John Stott puts it,
“Conversion is an act of self-surrender; self-surrender leads inevitably to slavery; and slavery demands a total, radical, exclusive obedience. So, once we have offered ourselves to him as his slaves, we are permanently and unconditionally at his disposal”.
This may not be easy. We can look to the Magi as they spontaneously fell before him as an example, but it can be hard to do.

Finally, it’s important to realize who the Master is.

God isn’t asking us to be enslaved without knowing something about the Master.

He demands holiness, yet is meek and lowly of heart and says his yoke is easy and his burden light (Matthew 11:29). The Magi offered the gift of myrrh, which can foreshadow when the same spice was later used to prepare Christ’s body for burial by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (John 19). The Magi asked where they could find the “king of the Jews,” the same title later fixed to his cross. We are to be slaves to a Master who sacrificed himself.

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) wrote that “Never had a soul true happiness but in conformity to God, in obedience to His will”. He emphasizes how we were bought for a price and now belong to God and live in a relationship of obedience. Therefore, Christians should “come, not seeking a sign, but determined to go on seeking Him, honoring Him, serving Him, trusting Him, whether they see light, or feel comfort, or discern their growth, or no” (emphasis mine).

So this Christmas we fall down, overjoyed, before a baby, and then rise, changed, surrendered, ever to be at his disposal.

Questions: In Romans 6: 19, does it seem like Paul is apologizing for the stark comparison of Christ-followers to slaves? Do you ever lose sight of some aspect of your position as a Christ-follower? Do you ever ignore being a slave or a bride or a son/daughter or a conqueror or a disciple or an evangelist?


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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Touching Base! Part 146 (Re-Post)

Guest posting by Meredith MacKenzie

(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.

People often call prostitution the “oldest profession” and hold very negative opinions of those involved in its practice. And while many persons are involved in prostitution (men, women, children, transgendered) most of the comments in this Touching Base will refer to women. My purpose is to provide some background information on sex work in Canada, what our current legal climate is, as well as suggestions for a way forward and why, as Christ followers, we should care. As you read the following facts, you will come to realize that most people are involved in sex work as a profession of last resort.

Research has shown us that most women involved in prostitution are sexual abuse survivors. A study that interviewed 854 women currently or recently involved in prostitution showed that, of the 100 respondents from Vancouver’s downtown east side[1]:
  • 54% were younger than 18 at age of entry
  • 86% experienced homelessness (current or past)
  • 73% were beaten or hit by a caregiver as a child
  • 84% were sexually abused as children
Furthermore, while in prostitution:
  • 67% were threatened with a weapon
  • 91% were physically assaulted
  • 76% were raped
  • 95% used drugs
  • 47% used alcohol
When asked “What do you need?” these same women reported:
  • 95%, to leave prostitution
  • 66%, a home or a safe place
  • 67%, job training
  • 82%, drug/alcohol treatment
  • 41%, health care
  • 41%, peer support
  • 58%, individual counselling
  • 49%, self defense training
  • 33%, legal assistance
  • 32%, legalize prostitution
  • 12%, child care
  • 4%, physical protection from pimp
A Toronto study found that 90% of women wanted to escape prostitution but could not[2]. In Nevada 81% of women in LEGAL brothels stated they “urgently want to escape prostitution.”[3] It should be noted, however, that there is a small and vocal minority of sex workers who say they choose prostitution as a viable job option.

More Canadian data shows us that 70-80% of those involved in the Canadian sex industry began as children. 80-95% are fleeing from sexual abuse that usually began in their homes[4].

Further marginalization occurs within our current legal system as well. A Vancouver study concluded that, in the past, police have largely overlooked men who buy sex from children. From 1988 to 1994, the study stated that only six charges were laid against people who bought sex from children. In the same period, however, 354 juveniles were charged for selling sex[5].

There are many factors that influence involvement in prostitution. They can include sexual abuse history, drug dependency, trafficking, emotional and financial duress, lack of supportive family structures, poverty, limited education and a real or perceived lack of choices.

Current debate in Canada is being waged in the courts regarding legalization, decriminalization and abolition:
  • “Legalization” refers to amending the Criminal Code so that the industry of prostitution is entirely legal and regulated like other industries;
  • “Decriminalization” aims to repeal certain parts of the Criminal Code, allowing for prostitution to be considered in the same manner as other occupations;
  • The “abolitionist” argues that prostitution is not, and cannot be, a safe, legal form of work for anyone. They seek to decriminalize the actions of the prostitute and criminalize the purchasers and purveyors.
Sweden has adopted a policy based on gender equality - they argue that normalizing or legalizing prostitution is equivalent to tolerating violent behaviour and disrespect to women. Thus, they have instituted harsh penalties for johns (the men who pay for prostitutes) and have provided funding for the provision of supports for prostitutes (aftercare programming, counselling, rehabilitation, etc.).

Since the Swedish laws criminalizing the demand side of prostitution were implemented in 2000, trafficking in humans has almost completely stopped (down to about 400-600 women per year). Finland, whose prostitution laws are similar to Canada’s, registers 10,000-15,000 trafficked women per year, and yet is half the size of its neighbour Sweden. Stockholm, Sweden also saw the number of johns reduced by 80% and street prostitution was reduced by 66%. [6]

Now let’s contrast this with the situation in the Netherlands, which adopted a policy to legalize brothels and address prostitution from an employment/labour law position. They believed that the new laws would protect women from violence and eliminate organized crime’s involvement in prostitution. Unfortunately, since legalizing prostitution in 2000, 66% of Amsterdam’s legal brothels have been closed down due to the government’s inability to control organized crime. The number of children in prostitution has increased by more than 300%. One state in Australia also legalized prostitution (Victoria) and saw increases in child prostitution.[7]

The links between prostitution and human trafficking are undeniable, since prostitution is the destination point for most trafficked persons. By the mid 1990’s, 75% of women in legal German prostitution were from other countries (most had been trafficked from Eastern Europe).[8]

So prostitution is only and ever a violent exploitation of vulnerable individuals.[9] It is an issue of gender equality and involves the sexual exploitation, violent oppression and abuse of society’s most vulnerable children, women and men. The Bible is full of reasons why we should care about the issues in prostitution. After all, God has charged us with the responsibility to act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8). We are also told in Matthew 23:39 to love our neighbours as ourselves, and Isaiah 1:17 tells us to “say no to wrong, learn to do good, work for justice, help the down and out, stand up for the homeless, go to bat for the defenseless.”

Are there any barriers you can identify that prevent you from engaging in this issue…?
… personally?
… culturally?
… structurally (politically)?
… as the Church?

Where can we go from here?
  • Consider your own attitudes about prostitution and challenge cultural attitudes by raising awareness on how the purchase of sex involves exploitation (see the NCAP website below).
  • Lobby for appropriate policy changes to protect those at risk (see Evangelical Fellowship Link).
  • Provide a safe place of welcome, acceptance, friendship, healing and restoration (i.e. true Christian Community) where lives can be transformed.
Meredith MacKenzie

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact us at

[1] “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Farley, M., Cotton,A., Lynne, J., Zumbeck, S., Spiwak, F., Reyes, M.E., Alvarez, D., Sezgin, U. Journal of Traumatic Practice 2 (3/4): 33-74, 2003.

[2] Elizabeth Fry Society of Toronto, 1987

[3] Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connection. ISBN: 0615162053, Melissa Farley, 2007

[4] Kimberly Daum, "Sexually Exploitated Children in Canada: The Law is Not on Their Side," Opinion/Essays, 17 October 1996

[5] “Vancouver: Predator and Pedophile Paradise”, a study by John Turvey, executive director of Downtown Eastside Youth Activities Society; Mark Clayton, "To Curb Vancouver’s Big Trade in Child Sex, Police Nab ‘Johns’," Christian Science Monitor, 1997

[6] “Selling Ourselves: Prostitution in Canada Where are we Headed? A comparison of the Swedish and the Dutch Models, and the Correlation Between Prostitution and Human Trafficking.” The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. April 2010

[7] Myths and Facts about Trafficking for Legal and Illegal Prostitution. Farley, M., March 2009.

[8] "Trafficking of Women to the European Union: Characteristic, Trends and Policy Issues," European Conference on Trafficking in Women, June 1996, IOM, 7 May 1996, Elizabeth Fry Society of Toronto, 1987

[9] Selling Ourselves
See also Prostitution of Indigenous Women: Sex Inequality and the Colonization of Canada's First Nations Women. Lynne, J., Farley, M. 2008.

Touching Base! Part 150

Wherever you are, someone’s been there.
Part 6 - Nehemiah

(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.

As I prepared for this message I kept thinking how I hoped this TB and message would challenge people to worship Christ more fully and engage the heart of the worshipper more deeply with the wonder and beauty of Christ. I hope that by reading and or discussing this TB, that both will happen.

On Sunday we concluded our Wherever you are, someone’s been there series. The final character we briefly looked at was Nehemiah, a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes of the Persian Empire. One of Nehemiah’s dilemmas was that rubble was his trouble. The walls of Jerusalem had been burned and destroyed, so the city and its inhabitants, commerce and culture were vulnerable to outside enemies. However, there was something else of huge importance that formed the centerpiece of Jewish life. It was the Jewell of Jerusalem and, no doubt, its survival (along with the people) was a major concern to Nehemiah. That jewel was the temple.

A temple:
- Was a political, social, cultural and spiritual center
- People travelled from afar to offer sacrifice, engage in various festivals

But here is the problem: temples are like our bodies- they wear out. Like the walls of Jerusalem, they eventually crumble. You see, the temple in Nehemiah’s day had been rebuilt years earlier on the foundations of a previous temple.

Temple #1- Solomon
  • Built 480 years after the Exodus- Many thousands of labourers and skilled artisans were employed in the work
  • It was destroyed (2 Chron. 36:18-21)
  • It lay in ruins for 70 years
  • Rubble was its trouble
Temple #2- Zerubbabel
  • Built by the 50,000 returning exiles (2 Chron. 36:23 and Ezra 2 - Note Cyrus is now King and the Persian empire has taken over the Babylonian empire)
  • Built on the footprint of the old temple
  • The name of the guy who was in charge – Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah
  • But for Zerubbabel, rubble was his trouble too
Temple #3- Herod the Great- sad, mad and dangerous
  • He restored a dilapidated temple that Nehemiah’s walls had tried to protect
  • Apparently his logo was on every block
  • Twice the size of Solomon’s
  • The area could hold up to 250,000 people.
  • Greatest building project of its time, built on 35 acres of land
  • But Herod’s temple became rubble as well: Within forty years after our Lord’s crucifixion, Roman legions took the city of Jerusalem by storm, and in spite of Titus’ efforts to preserve the temple, his soldiers set fire to it in several places, and utterly destroyed it (A.D. 70 – just had Jesus had predicted). It was never rebuilt.

A visitor in Herod’s temple brings us to our hope, our celebration of Christmas. Read John 2:18-22 (you may want to read the whole context). What did Jesus claim?

Big Idea: The work of man last only a lifetime (if that) but the plans of God last forever.

Jesus represents a hope that does not disappoint, a foundation that does not crumble, a structure that will not collapse, the centerpiece of our lives that will not be stolen, plundered and carried off.

Let’s take the remaining part of this TB to spell out why Jesus is a better temple.

A. The partnership between man and God is different in the “building” of this temple.

Earthly temple - For example, in the case of the building of Solomon’s temple, God partnered with Solomon. Remember Solomon’s words recalling what God told David - “Your son (Solomon) whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name.” (1 Kings 5:5)

Jesus - the temple - there is a partnership but a little different. Home Depot was not needed - no hard hats, nail bags, work boots. Check out Matt 1:18-20. Any observations about this partnership?

Do you know anyone who rejects Christ because they reject the teaching of the virgin birth? Virgin birth, meaning “conceived of God in Mary’s womb minus an earthly father”. This kind of partnership troubles some. We understand partnership when we read about God inspiring Solomon to build a temple and then Solomon using his resources to put it into play. But this kind of partnership is harder to understand. But a virgin birth reminds us that our salvation is from God and that Jesus was sinless (Luke 1:35 - “called holy”: He did not inherit a sinful nature) - thus it was a once and for all sacrifice. We will see this in just a minute.

B. The material/substance is different

Earthly temple - What do we know about temples? Rubble was their trouble – their destiny! They had a starting point and an ending point.

Jesus the temple - read John 1:1-18 and make your observations on the substance difference. There are at least 7 passages in the NT that point to Christ’s deity. Rubble was not Jesus’ trouble.

The claim of Christianity isn’t that Jesus was a good man but the God-Man, God in the flesh. We don’t worship a good man because that will always disappoint. We worship the God-Man!

C. The beauty is different

Earthly temple - Check out what the disciples said about Herod’s temple in Mark 13:1.

Jesus the temple - What kind of beauty does Jesus display? Read the article by Phillip Yancey at the end of this article for discussion.

What kind of beauty?
- His beauty was not in his physicality but in his nature, character and his work - God in flesh

The Beauty of Christ can be seen in,

- His Nature - Colossians 1:19 “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him...”

Thus -
• No corruption was found on his lips- as was found on some of the priests who had served in temples past
• No greed was found in his heart- as was found at the commercialized gates of Herod’s temple
• No grave holding his decomposed remains- as other temples- rubble was their destiny
- His Character - "Character is supreme in life, hence Jesus stood supreme in the supreme thing - so supreme that, when we think of the ideal, we do not add virtue to virtue, but think of Jesus Christ, so that the standard of human life is no longer a code but a character." E. Stanley Jones

- His Work - Luke 4:18,19
Does the beauty of Christ (nature, character and work) breathe life into your faith and shape your faith?

Beauty does make a difference - I remember when we lived in Jakarta the pollution was so heavy you couldn’t see the blue sky. It could get you down - day after day in the smog, traffic and noise. But then the rainy season would come and wash out the air and when the rain stopped, the sky would be a rich blue and you could actually see the mountain range around Jakarta. It was almost like you could just walk to them. It made living in Jakarta for those few clear sky days feel so different because of beauty. When we understand the real beauty of Christ, how will it affect our relationship with Him, and with His Church the Bride?

D. The work is better

Earthly temple- in all three temples, blood was spilled time and time again. Check out 2 Chron. 7- read to v.5.
Imagine the Passover in Jesus’ day when Jews would pilgrim from afar and sacrifice at the temple in Jerusalem. Remember this temple could hold thousands and thousands of people.

Jesus- the temple - Read Hebrews 9 and 10 - just sections - what do you note? Note how the earthly temple was always pointing to a better day and a better way. Jesus is the temple and priest and the sacrifice - once for all. Three in one!

I think many still live in the “OT temple” mindset. When they come to God they feel they need to have something in hand. Probably not a bull, goat, pigeon or lamb but how about works, works and more works? But the NT makes it pretty clear that when we come to this temple, the sacrifice has been paid-. Thus we can come in faith, worship and adoration. See Rev. 5:12-14 and Philippians 2:6-11, Matthew 28:16,17 (personally I love the Matthew text because it illustrates the tension we often can live with or work through).

This Christmas season we celebrate a temple that cannot be destroyed! Rubble is not Jesus’ trouble! He is to be the centerpiece of our lives, in which we put all else into perspective. May it be so!

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact us at

“We know nothing about Jesus' shape or stature or eye color, and thus, as a writer, I could not begin where I normally begin in reporting on a person—by describing what he looked like. The first semi realistic portraits of Jesus did not come until the fifth century, and these were pure speculation; until then, the Greeks had portrayed him as a young, beardless figure resembling the god Apollo.

I once showed to a class several dozen art slides portraying Jesus in a variety of forms—African, Korean, Chinese—and then asked the class to describe what they thought Jesus looked like. Virtually everyone suggested he was tall (unlikely for a first-century Jew), most said handsome, and no one said overweight. I showed a BBC film on the life of Christ that featured a fat actor in the title role, and some in the class found it offensive. We prefer a tall, handsome, and above all, slender Jesus.

One tradition dating back to the second century suggested Jesus was a hunchback, and in the Middle Ages, Christians widely believed that Jesus had suffered from leprosy. Most Christians today would find such notions repulsive and perhaps heretical.

Yet in all the Bible I can find only one physical description of sorts, a prophecy written hundreds of years before Christ's birth. Here is Isaiah's portrayal, in the midst of a passage that the New Testament applies to the life of Jesus:
Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness… . He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Evidently our glamorized representations of Jesus say more about us than about him.”


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Touching Base! Part 149

Wherever you are, someone’s been there.
Part 5 - Hosea

(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.

An interesting question to consider as we start this TB is, “Do you relate to God out of your head more or out of your heart?” Another way to get at the answer is, “do you think your way through a situation or tend to lean more towards feeling your way through a situation?”

Of course in the Christian life God wants us to love Him with our hearts and our minds. He wants us to love all of Him with all of ourselves, in all the complex and wonderful ways that He has made us. This TB is focused on discussing how God might be shaping your heart these days. Yes, God wants us to have big heads (sound doctrine), but He also wants us to have big hearts - hearts that reflect the heart of God, as we engage with the world in which He has placed us.

Before we jump into the main text, check out some of the ways Jesus felt when He looked upon the broken world of the first century:

  • He wept over the death of His friend Lazarus (John 11:34–35)
  • He felt compassion for the people because they were without capable leaders (Matt. 9:36)
  • He experienced grief and wept over the city of Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37; Luke 19:41).

Do you feel your heart is fully alive when it comes to responding to the world around you?
Ever had an experience where that which breaks the world breaks your own heart as well?
How does a big head (sounds doctrine) nurture a big heart - compassion, brokenness, burden ?

Text : Hosea
Although Hosea was a “minor” prophet in the OT (i.e. his book is relatively short compared to Isaiah’s, for instance), he nevertheless had a major experience that, no doubt, connected his heart with God’s heart for the state of Israel.

• Notice the “what”...
What is the state of Israel in this time period? The best analogy to describe the state of Israel is that of a broken marriage where betrayal has happened. It’s the best of times and the worst of times. In spite of great economic and political success, Israel was sleeping around on God. If any of us have been betrayed, then we can deeply identify with the emotion of this book. Read through some of the following texts to get a feel for the strong imagery of God as the jealous husband and Israel as the adulterous wife. (e.g.,2:2; 4:10-12; 5:3-4; 6:10; 7:4; 8:4-6, 9; 9:1, 10, 15; 10:5; 11:2, 7; 12:11)
Note that Hosea’s words are primarily focused on Israel. Israel would be the first to go into captivity, followed by Judah in the south.

The “what: of this text is Israel. God wants Hosea to feel His pain and sorrow as the betrayed “husband”.
What is it that God may want you to feel more deeply about these days?
Has your heart “woken up” recently to anything it had “slept” through in previous months?
Do you ever struggle with how indifferent your heart can be to brokenness?

• Notice the “how” - read v.1:1-11

1. Draw near to brokenness
Okay, this is where this text gets really interesting. There is a lot in this text that we cannot get into right now but notice the “how”. How does God connect Hosea’s heart with His own regarding the state of the Jewish people? Notice in v.2b whose love Hosea’s love mirrors. God is shaping Hosea’s heart to mirror the heart of God. God is asking Hosea to draw near to an adulterous woman, just as He has drawn near to an adulterous nation.

Note: Obviously this is an exceptional directive by God to Hosea in terms of the specific action. At times, God asked His prophets of the OT to do some pretty bizarre things in terms of acting out the message. Prophets in that day fulfilled a unique role in that era.

Note v.2b “adulterous wife”- some see this as being a temple prostitute that Hosea is to marry. For others the words "an adulterous wife" are to be understood proleptically (i.e. the representation or assumption of a future act or development as if presently existing or accomplished) Gomer was not a harlot at the time Hosea married her. Thus this marriage mirrors God’s “marriage” to Israel: chaste at the time (Jer. 2:2-3), but later to become adulterous, a fact God would have fully known at the time of the “marriage”. Regardless of how you might interpret this, Hosea is being asked to DRAW NEAR TO BROKENNESS.

(For the sake of space this TB won`t expand on the rest of this chapter but rather will focus in on the marriage to Gomer in the opening verses)

Imagine if you could just press the pause button on this story, enter into the story and sit down with Hosea and ask him, “How do you feel?”

Let’s stand back and evaluate God: Is this fair? Anybody wrestle with what God is asking Hosea to do? Is it fair that God is asking Hosea to experience what God has experienced on the part of the Jews - unfaithfulness, betrayal, estrangement?
Do you think Hosea ever experienced some pretty dark nights of the soul?

When we come this close to the brokenness, it can turn our world upside down. What’s interesting is that you can read through this book and there is nothing personal regarding Hosea. No journaled thoughts, no statements in terms of how he was processing this.

But others have journaled when they have drawn near to brokenness. On Sunday I referred to Mother Theresa and C.S. Lewis. Perhaps you have wrestled with your heart as you have been drawn near to brokenness, such as a death, like C.S. Lewis experienced or poverty like what Mother Theresa faced.

Is your intimacy with brokenness expanding your heart to feel as God feels?

Here is a little exercise to do. Finish this sentence, “I feel more deeply when...” - below are some of my thoughts on this.
... when I see the person not just the masses
... when I hear the story not just the name or title “Sex traffic worker”
... when I can take the time to listen not just talk
... when I pray and ask God for the heart of God
... when I hang around with some people who feel deeply
... when I experience disappointment, increasing signs of mortality in my own family
... going on a mission trips, Constance Lake, overseas, smell it, see it touch it!
... when I chose to love difficult people and ask God to teach me to love.

Note that drawing near did not necessarily have to do with being drawn to the poor, even thought that can be a big part of it. The bigger issue is drawing near to brokenness which is no respecter of income, education or status.

2. Demonstrate radical love in brokenness - chapter 3
Take some time to talk about the emotion of this text. What do you think could be Hosea’s biggest complaint to God. Note who Hosea is imitating (v.1b). Don’t miss this, God wants our hearts to mirror His heart. See again 1:2b.

Drawing near to brokenness and demonstrating radical love in that brokenness - this is what God did in the OT, but in Jesus we see this theme emerge in a powerful way. Drawing near and embracing brokenness is the heart of the Gospel - at Christmas we see God drawing near to brokenness through a baby in a manger, dressed in flesh – Emmanuel, “God is with us”. At Easter we see radical love demonstrated to a broken world - a cross, nothing more radical.

Crucifixion is the ultimate obscenity
Crucifixion is the ultimate deterrent
Crucifixion involves stripping the victim in order to humiliate
Crucifixion means a body would be picked apart by birds of prey
Crucifixion states the sadistic desires of the strong
Crucifixion is reserved for the vile criminals
Crucifixion is synonymous with shame
Crucifixion is synonymous with suffocation
Crucifixion gives a lasting commentary on a person`s life
Crucifixion means a person is cursed by God
(McKnight, One.Life, page 186)

“Perhaps we forget….Jesus has entered into your suffering and into your disgraces and into your depressions and into your shames and into your pains. The cross is not just a redemptive place for the follower of Jesus. The cross is also a solidarity place where God joined us in our deepest death.” (One.Life, page 187)

Hosea is living out the heart of the Gospel. When Hosea is asked to love Gomer even after she has walked away, he mirrors God’s initiative with us (Romans 5:8).

God doesn’t just ask Hosea to walk out the heart of the Gospel, He asks all believers - the church - to walk out the heart of the Gospel. We are the body of Christ - Draw near, demonstrate radical love!

Take some time to pray as a group that God would allow your heart to mirror His heart. Pray that as you draw near to brokenness that your heart would not grow hard but soft and sensitive to how God is wanting to shape your heart. Ask God to enable you as He did Hosea to demonstrate radical love. As we do, people will see the heart of the Gospel.

“Change my heart oh God, make it ever new, change my heart oh God, may I be like you! You are the potter I am the clay, mould me and make me, this is what I pray.”

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact us at

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Touching Base! Part 148

Wherever You Are, Someone's Been there.
Part 4 - Abigail

(This article can also we found on our website
at under the tab called "Blog")

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

On Sunday we picked up on our fall series entitled, “Wherever you are, someone’s been there”. The issue we looked at was that in our relationships, there are certain kinds of people that can get under our skin. They have the ability to irritate us and possibly even to control us. The big idea on Sunday was, “the landmine of people can wreck you”. Not all people represent landmines but some of them really know how to throw us off course.

The Text: 1 Samuel 25
The context of our story is that David has been anointed by Samuel to be the future King of Israel. Saul is still on the throne and David’s relationship with Saul is anything but pleasant. In various encounters David has with Saul, he has opportunities to kill him; even his men encourage him to wipe Saul off planet earth. However, David represents incredible self-control, patience and wisdom. He realizes for now that Saul is God’s anointed King, and God is the one who will ultimately deal with Saul, not David. However, as we come to chapter 25, David encounters someone who gets under his skin. He straps on his sword and is ready to rumble! Note that on both sides of this story, chapter 24 and 26 we see David handling Saul with great patience. But chapter 25 tells another story.

As a group read the entire chapter and do the following:
  • Identify the major characters
  • What do we know about these characters?
  • What details are important in understanding this story?
  • Other observations?
On Sunday these are the points I developed in light of the big idea.

1. Your “skin dweller” likely resides under the skin of others.
Note v.17: Nabal has no doubt left a wake of angry people in his travels. How come people can become like this? So obnoxious and rude! Here are some of my answers:
a. They are acting out of their own pain - often people can be downright nasty and cantankerous because something in their past feeds such behaviour. Ugliness comes out of brokenness.
b. They are not open to honest conversations - whenever you sit down to talk about the issue they cut you off. They turn the tables. They start accusing you. THEY DON’T LISTEN. In a world where they don’t listen, and receive counsel they can become nasty because there is no accountability, no honest conversation.
2. God might be calling you to be a “game changer”.
Some of us might be in a position to be a game changer. We see what is happening between two people. We are witnesses. Abigail was that person in this story. She is not just good look’n but she is smart and enters into this story as a second-to-none peacekeeper. Notice what she does well - here are some tips from Abigail on keeping the peace:
a. She models great courage. (v.18,19) Note the issue is a hot one and no one is stepping up. She courageously steps up and does something. If she had done nothing the outcome would have been drastically different. Do you need courage these days?
b. She understands the issue vs. makes assumptions. She knows what her husband has done and she knows the injustice that David has felt. This is evidenced in v.18-19 by what she brings to David. Have you ever made assumptions about two people in disagreement and thus offered up the wrong counsel?
c. She goes face to face (v.20) - No e-mail can be a great blessing.
d. She does what can be done. Peacekeeping assignments are hardly ever clean, textbook and bloodless. Notice she can only talk to one party involved in this problem. Notice that, as far as we know, David never actually meets up with Nabal.
e. She helps David think clearly. (v.25-31) On Sunday I listed the areas that she helped him think clearly about. Can you identify those areas in these verses? She didn’t really tell him anything new. However, when some people get under our skin, we can forget the basics.
As a group discuss these peacekeeping tips. Which ones do you most identify with?

3. We may need to repent. Sure, the skin dweller has their issues but we can often find that our hearts are led astray in encountering these kinds of people.
Notice David’s response (v.32-35) - David does exactly what Nabal was known for not doing, LISTENING. This is a great picture of repentance. David’s sword is strapped to his side, and he is ready to kill Nabal. He was going down the wrong path, but repentance meant that he took the sword off and changed direction. Repentance – it’s changing your whole way of thinking and giving up your agenda.

Ever had to do a U turn in this kind of scenario?

Discuss the following quote by Charles Swindoll:

“Be careful to test what you think to be a prompting from the Lord. ....It is true that you have living within you the Holy Spirit of Almighty God, and He always gives good guidance. But you also carry with you many pounds of carnal flesh that makes wrong seem right. A transformed mind will tell the difference, but that doesn’t take place overnight. Maturity comes with time and experience; it’s a product of a growing intimacy with the Almighty. So I urge you to put your promptings to the test. ... Refuse to act impulsively. Instead, weigh your words carefully, sleep on decisions having significant consequences, and remain open to reproof. Does Scripture affirm the wisdom and morality of your choice? Do the wise and godly people in your life have any objections? What has your past experience taught you? Have you asked the Lord to examine your heart over the matter and then prayed quietly?” (Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives, page 139)

The Land Mine Of People Can Wreck You! True, isn’t it?

Do you identify with David and need to repent?
Do you identify with Abigail and need to step up and bring some peace?
Do you identify with Nabal? Let’s face it we all can get under people’s skin on some days.

Finally read to the end of this story. Where do you see the Gospel paralleled or contrasted? Some clues:

  • David is a future king with feet of clay. The end of this story reminds us that his household is a mess and his marriage practices follow the pattern of the surrounding nations more than God’s blueprint. Check out Genesis 1,2 and Deuteronomy 17:16,17.
  • Where is the perfect King? Luke 1:32,33: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
  • Where is the perfect peacekeeper?
Abigail stood between David and Nabal and took on guilt that was not hers. Did you note that in v.24? Likewise, Jesus stood between God and man and took on guilt that was not His. So one thousand years before the ultimate sacrifice was given to make peace, Abigail prefigures Jesus Christ, the perfect King who makes perfect peace!

We are all in need of a real peacemaker and peacekeeper.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact us at

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Touching Base! Part 146

Lest We Forget

(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.

In this TB we are taking some time to remember and to give thanks for the blood spilled for our freedom. We all may share different views on the role of the military, but we have all benefited from their sacrifice over the years.

Canadian Deaths
Boer War : 267
WW I : >65 000
WW II : >45 000
Korea : 516
Afghanistan : 162
Peace-keeping : 114
TOTAL – Approx. 111 059 (+ wounded - approx 188 052)

Have you had any family members or close friends in the military? Do you know their stories?
Have you heard the stories of military personnel adjusting to civilian life once returning from the field? What are the challenges?

The Text: Luke 17:11-19

On Sunday we checked out the story of Jesus and the ten lepers. As a group use the following questions to revisit this story:

- v. 11 - What is the ethnic tension represented by the border Jesus is walking along? On Sunday I asked the question - What is uglier than leprosy? Based on what you know about Jewish and Samaritan relations how might each group answer that question? Remember John 4:9 “’You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)”

- v. 12-13 – From what we know about leprosy in Jesus’ day, it resulted in isolation and rejection. Imagine how this group of ten would feel living with this physical curse covering their body. Who might they say is the ugliest person in this story up to this point?

- v. 14 - Notice when they were cleansed. What Jesus tells them to do was in keeping with the Law. He would have offended no priest with His counsel here. What might be some words that would describe these ten as they experienced physical restoration?
But what happens next takes us to “real ugly”!

- v. 15,16 - What is wrong with this picture? Note two things: 10% said thanks, and the hero is... a zero, a Samaritan. Want to speculate at this point? Why only 10%? What was it about the Samaritan that prompted him to come to Jesus and say thanks? Got any ideas why the 90% failed to say thanks? In your experience do you find people grateful or ungrateful? What do you think are the essentials in character and experience that makes a person a grateful person?

- v. 17-19 – What is the expectation of Jesus in asking these questions? Notice what Jesus most aggressively reacts to in this story. Clue- it is not the lepers.
What is uglier than leprosy in this story? Put it in your own words as a group.

Here is a funny story about ingratitude:

“A South African man surprised nine men robbing his home. Eight of the robbers ran away, but the homeowner managed to shove one into his backyard pool. After realizing the robber couldn't swim, the homeowner jumped in to save him. The Cape Times reports that once out of the pool, the wet thief called to his friends to come back. Then he pulled a knife and threatened the man who had just rescued him.

The homeowner said ‘We were still standing near the pool and when I saw the knife I just threw him back in. But he was gasping for air and was drowning. So I rescued him again. I thought he had a cheek trying to stab me after I had just saved his life.’“
I think Luke 17:11-19 gets at a much bigger issue in the original context, the ingratitude of Jews towards Christ. Acts 2:36 tells us that instead of saying thanks, they crucified this Christ along with the Romans.

However, I also think Jesus is putting his finger on an issue that characterizes much of our North American culture. We can be lavished with much, and be grateful for little. We can live a relatively blessed life, but barely or rarely say thanks. We can be so preoccupied with what we need that we can barely see what we have. We can find ourselves amongst the 9 and when we do it is uglier than leprosy - Terminal Ingratitude.

Ever been bothered by ingratitude - in others in your own life?
Ever felt like throwing someone back in the pool?
Ever been troubled by the sense of entitlement our culture demonstrates?
Ever been guilty of just not saying thanks?
Is there anyone that you can think of that you owe a thanks to?

Take some time to reflect on what Chris talked about this morning and then spend some time in prayer thanking God for our military and praying for our military. Take some time to thank God for the ultimate sacrifice that was paid for our ultimate freedom. Before you do this, scan the story and see where you can see parallels or contrasts to the Gospel.

Some starters....
  • Like leprosy, sin will isolate us from a holy God
  • Jesus does not send us off to a priest for healing. He is the priest who heals.
  • Just like in this story we need to cry out to God for healing
  • The Gospel addresses the deeper problem of mankind - internal not external. The story illustrates the bigger issues are of the heart!
  • ... got others?
May we be a people who often say thanks!

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact us at

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Touching Base! Part 144

Wherever you are, someone’s been there, Part 3

(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 threw the hot dog toward Tiger Woods because I was inspired by the movie ‘Drive.’ As soon as the movie ended, I thought to myself, ‘I have to do something courageous and epic. I have to throw a hot dog on the green in front of Tiger.’” This was the quote from the guy who threw the hot dog at Tiger Woods. Is this really epic and courageous? What do you equate with epic? Have any examples of epic either in your own life or in the lives of others?

In the walk of faith, our faithful God asks us to walk by faith. Sometimes the step He asks us to take can feel epic-like. It can demand a lot of courage. In fact it may seem so epic-like, that we are not sure we can or want to move in the direction in which God is calling us to go.

Why is it that we might feel that what God is calling us to do is so epic-like? What is it about the call, the act of obedience, that prompting from God that can be so challenging? Let’s look at our story to uncover some answers. We will get to the answers once we unpack the story.

Text – Read Joshua 2
The context is that Joshua has taken the helm from Moses. What Moses was denied - the Promised Land - Joshua is going to embrace. God is going to come good on His promise (1:3). God is a promise keeper, and Jericho is the first city in their sights as they move on from Shittim.

SCENE 1 (V.1-8)
Who are the characters? Where is the tension? What catches your attention in this scene? How are the characters feeling?

Notice that Rahab lies. Many have debated the ethics of this. My point is not to get sidetracked with this issue, but it might be worth stopping here with your group and asking - Would you lie? If caught in the same situation would you deceive? Think she was right? Wrong?

Don’t make enemies in your group if you are on opposite sides of this. Even Corrie Ten Boom found herself living with this tension.

During World War II, Corrie Ten Boom was working on watches and enjoying life. As Germany invades and ultimately occupies Holland, we discover that her family’s faith in Christ as Saviour and Lord of all, regardless of race or gender, drives them to aid the Jews, who are being persecuted. It is quite amazing to note that the Ten Boom family practically fell into their smuggling operations. It is also interesting to note that they disagreed on how to handle certain ethical issues such as lying to the police (some members would and some would not) based upon their faith.

Well, about a year before the end of the war, the Ten Boom family was betrayed and sent off to prison and concentration camps. It is here that we really see what a life of faith and obedience to God means. In the end, Corrie survived the camp and set out to assist those who were impacted by the tragedy that was World War II.

Now the next scene in Rahab’s story, I think, will reveal Rahab’s true motive for protecting these spies. But I also think possibly something else is going on here. We know that Rahab was a prostitute. Not a temple prostitute, but a lowlife prostitute who was marginalized, abused and probably forced into prostitution because of financial need. I think part of the motivation to lie was that she saw these men as her ticket out... out of an oppressive lifestyle, deliverance from a culture that marginalized her. Freedom from the abuse, hurt and pain.

Look at some hard facts about sex workers today (a study that interviewed 854 women currently, or recently, involved in prostitution):

• 73% were beaten or hit by a caregiver as a child
• 84% were sexually abused as children
• 91% were physically assaulted
• 76% were raped
• 95% want to leave prostitution

Who can identify with the plight and pain of sex workers today, or even the pain in Rahab’s heart?

SCENE 2 (V.9-13)
What do you notice about Rahab’s heart? I think this scene identifies the most powerful motive for her to cover for the spies. She is convinced of the supremacy of Israel’s God. Note v.11b. She wants to be on the winning team. How do you think the spies felt when they heard how God had obviously entered Jericho before they did? God was at work behind the wall, in an unknown place. For me this is an amazing verse, demonstrating the incredible grace of God and the mysterious ways of God. We may, at times, wrestle with God’s harsh judgment in the OT, but a text like this reminds me of God’s big heart for lost people.

Ever been surprised to see where God is working? Got any walls you wish He would penetrate?

SCENE 3 (V.14-24)
Read to the end. Comments?
Back to our question, Why is it that we might feel that what God is calling us to do is so epic-like? This story provides some answers. Our faithful God asks us to walk by faith. That walk of faith at times will.......

Move us into the unknown
Think about the spies. Imagine them in Shittim being told by Joshua to go spy on Jericho. At this point in the story, what is unknown to them? Finish this sentence, “They have no idea that...” Scan the story for your answers.

Think of Rahab. Perhaps the greatest unknown is whether she can actually trust these men. Who else had she let down from her window, late at night so no one could see? Not just spies but perhaps husbands, fathers, politicians, businessmen who had come to her for sexual service. Men that she had learned not to trust, men who had willingly lied to others about their sexual escapades with a prostitute living on the wall, men who had stared their wives in the face and denied unfaithfulness, men who had said one thing in private but something completely different in public. MEN! And now she was betting the farm on these two men that they would be men of their word, men of honour, men she could trust would keep their promise, and when they saw that scarlet cord, would show grace.

When God calls us, and leads us as Christians, sometimes that calling will make us face up with some of our greatest challenges like trust, fear, vulnerability, risk, and maybe trusting the opposite sex. God sometimes calls us to move from the known to the unknown. What we have is the promise of God, but beyond that we have no idea how things will unfold. Ever been there? That is exactly where the spies and Rahab are.

Secondly, the walk of faith at times will...

... Call us to break with the past
Again Rahab and the spies have this in common: the spies come from a nation that, at one time, was characterized by collective stubbornness and unbelief. Read Num. 13:1-14:4. In this story we see how popular opinion sided with the pessimist, not the promises of YHWH. Perhaps this is why in v.1 Joshua commissions the spies in secrecy, not wanting to repeat the mistakes of the past. He is not interested in what the nation thinks. To be obedient to the voice of God, they are going to have to break free from a decision that had crippled their nation for the past 40 years. It would be fair to say that Israel was in rut. A rut has been defined as “nothing but a grave with both ends kicked out.” Instead of fear, they would need faith, instead of intimidation, courage, instead of human logic, trust in God’s capabilities. For some of us to take that “next step” with God, we have to break free from patterns, and a history that has shaped us

Now look at Rahab: any evidence that she broke free? Read Hebrews 11:31 and Matthew 1:1-5. What evidence is there that she got out of the rut?

Graves (ruts) have all kinds of labels. Can you think of any labels?
How has God delivered you? What do you need deliverance from ?

Finally note the imagery of the scarlet chord, symbolic of a place of grace, faith and hope. Take some time to thank God for His grace in our lives as He calls us to Himself to walk this walk of faith.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Sunday, October 16, 2011



(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 is an update on some of what is happening at Bethel. By keeping people informed of what is happening, we believe that good information can result in getting good feedback on many of the things that Bethel is up to these days.

Leadership Development
This fall we kicked off the season with our third annual Together Again event. This event saw about fifty 50 of our workers and leaders gather for a night of food, connecting and teaching on vision. We ended the evening with various ministry leaders giving updates in their areas before breaking up into prayer groups. There is some great leadership development happening at Bethel these days. Much of it happens in the context of one-on-one relationships. This November, we will be bringing together all of our ministry leaders and small group leaders for another time of prayer, training and networking.

The Team
God has been good to Bethel in that we have built some very strong teams at every level of the church. Church is not about one person but about teams of people coming together to help walk out the vision God has given us as a community. While we still have some slots to fill, we have been deeply impressed and are extremely grateful for all those who are pitching in. Teams are key as we seek to bless the city, nation and world.

The Future
One of the issues the elders will be working on this fall is doing a S.W.O.T (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of the church with our staff. Our goal is to identify some key objectives to work towards over the next 3-5 years. While it is important to do 12-month planning, it is also important to look beyond that to where God might be leading us. Once we have had that conversation with the staff, we plan on taking the conversation to a broader audience for some good and much-needed input.

“Falling into” ministry
There are some things you do in leadership that you plan for, anticipate and move toward. There are other things that just happen, that you “fall into”. Actually God orchestrates events and leads us to go places we did not expect - one of the ministries that has evolved over time has been in ministering to people who have been “roughed up” in the local church. Bethel is no exception. Because we are fallen leaders and followers, we don’t always treat people as we should. I know I have not always displayed the fruit of the Spirit in all of my leadership. That being said, it seems that God has been bringing to us some individuals and families that are recovering from being wounded. Pray for Bethel that we would be part of the restorative process God wants to use in peoples’ lives.

Building Community
This year has seen us kick off the fall with 14 small groups. We believe that community life that happens in small groups is crucial to the overall health of the church. We have a great leadership team in place and are excited with where we can go with this ministry.

As you heard back on September 18th in our Rooted series, partnerships are key at Bethel. It is when we partner with other Christian ministries in town that we can be at our best as a church. Our developing partnership with Salvation Army and Ellel Ministries are key in helping us love the city as God wants us to.

In a city church, we have many different demographics that make up the body. At Bethel, students (RMC, St Lawrence and Queen’s) are part of our identity. We are so grateful for the passion they bring, the questions they raise, the ministry heart they come with, and the leadership they provide. Our Adopt-a-Student program has gotten off to a good start this fall: for the first time an Adopt-a-Student potluck was held to help families meet their student, and 80 people attended. Also Soup-and-a-Bun was kicked off this year, providing a light meal on Sunday nights once a month just before the student-run Praise and Power service.

If you haven’t heard about our international focus this year, then be sure to pick up a brochure on the back table. this coming February and March, we are providing two missions trip opportunities to our international focus country of Honduras. Missions have always been a big part of Bethel and will remain so.

New People
We have several new people and families at Bethel this fall. We don’t view new people as customers but rather as workers that God is bringing to us to help get the job done. Customers belong in a mall, not a church. On October 23rd we will be hosting our Newcomers’ Lunch after the second service in the Upper Room. If you know new people at Bethel be sure to direct them to read more about this event in the bulletin. Connecting is so important, and this luncheon can really accelerate that process.

Take Responsibility
In order to be part of a healthy church it takes work, prayer and humility. Let me encourage you to:
a. Guard your relationships in the body of Christ. When stuff happens, don’t bury it or gossip about it but “Matthew 18” it. Relational health is so important to being a vibrant church.

b. Diligently seek God. It is not up to us or your parents or mentor to make you grow. The bottom line is that we are all responsible to seek God and make sure we are doing those things that nurture our walk with God.

c. Be a person who is prayerfully engaged. What has been so helpful in this area for me is not just praying with others but seeing my 24/7 as an opportunity to pray as God brings needs to my mind. Pray for Bethel, its leadership and ministries. Without God’s grace we are sunk!

d. Continue to see the whole gospel as the priority of Bethel. While we do want to meet physical and emotional needs of our community, we do realize that the most important need that has an eternal dimension to it as we address the spiritual needs of people. We are into good deeds in order to point people to the great deed that God did for us.

e. Build your life on the Word of God. We want to be a church that is biblically measured. That means you and me understanding God’s incredible letter and letting it transform our lives by the Holy Spirit. We are absolutely committed to the objective truth of God’s word.
Once again let me say what an honour it is to serve Bethel with so many excellent leaders and team members. God will do great things, and is doing great things. We are hungry to keep in step with His Spirit.

Got a question? Got some advice you want to give? Talk to me! Love to hear from you.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Touching Base! Part 143

Wherever you are, someone’s been there, Part 2

(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 Sunday we tackled an issue that, based on the numbers, is killing us - deception! We have all read about scandalous “white collar” crime that has padded the pockets of the rich and left the middle-class with, in some cases, a lot less. Yet deception doesn’t just happen in the boardroom but wherever you have people. I imagine we all have a tale to tell about dealing with deception. If you are in a group, take a moment to share some stories about dealing with deception.

The Text: Genesis.
Jacob is probably best known for his mastery of the art of deception. Read Genesis 25:19-26. Jacob’s life demonstrates that he was where many of us are, living a life that accommodates deception. Let’s look at some of the dark truths surrounding deception in his life.

• Deception can creep around in our family genes Chapter 27:1-17 (Gene Creeper)

Not only is life sexually transmitted but so are some of the toughest issues we may deal with. Read this chapter and discuss what you see happening in terms of deception.
  • Who is guilty of deception?
  • Who is the instigator?
Notice the conscience that Jacob has at this point in the narrative.

Deception is the easiest path for Jacob to take. It is in his genes: Isaac, his father, is attempting to deceive his wife Rebekah in giving the blessing to Esau. Rebekah wants to deceive her husband Isaac after overhearing a conversation (v.6) She is convincing her son Jacob that this is the way to go. Jacob demonstrates some guilt but is quickly convinced that the way of deception is the way to go.

What is deception robbing Jacob and Rebekah of? (My answer- faith and walking in obedience, integrity)

Notice how deception allows them to control the situation as opposed to trust God with the situation.

On Sunday I talked about a premarital exercise I have couples do. They have to identify those things they want to embrace from their parents. For example: generosity, a loving home, clearly-defined roles. They also have to identify patterns, habits and values that they do not want to inherit. For someone like Jacob, what they need not to inherit is the practice of deception. Some people have grown up in homes where the art of lying to one another, and to others outside the home, was common practice.

Did you grow up in a home where deception was part of the context?

If deception was not in your genes, what are other issues you have had to intentionally not inherit in order to build a godly home?

Side note: God’s sovereignty is demonstrated in this story. You have wrong methods being embraced as well as a very dysfunctional family but God’s purposes are accomplished. You come to the end of this chapter and God’s will is accomplished, not necessarily in God’s way, but it is accomplished. Are you not glad God is sovereign?

• Deception will flip our relationships upside down.

Deception will always bleed destructive emotions into our relationships and they will wreak havoc on our friendships, families and workplace partnerships.
Check out two examples in Jacobs’s life:

• His relationship with Esau- 27:41
Later on when Jacob has to face his crime by meeting up with Esau, he is wrestling with fear 32:1-8. Note the prayer he prays in 32:10 which indicates that his sense of conscience seen years earlier in 27:11,12 still has some kind of pulse. He is clearly aware of his unworthiness.

• His relationship with Laban (better known as Uncle Laban)
Jacob had fled to Laban’s place after he “kinda” upset Esau. Rebekah his mother encouraged him to get out of town while he was still alive. However Jacob’s relationship with Laban is complex. Read Genesis 29:14b-27. Twenty years later the relationship is still complex. Read 31:38-41.

After having read these texts regarding Esau and Laban, as a group list the complex emotions that describe these relationships that come about because of deception.

Now let’s just do a reality check… is this story far from reality? Does stuff like this go on today? Do relationships, families, friendships get sideswiped and compromised because of deception that produces this kind of reality for some?

Is there any particular emotion listed that you can identify with and is directly tied to deception? For example you may wrestle with anger because of how a colleague deceptively engaged with you this week. Or, you may have seen an example of deep grief because of deception in a relationship.

Side Note: In all this mess God is hanging on to Jacob. God is not justifying what he is doing. Jacob is getting beaten up time and time again by his mistakes but God has a grip on him. We know that by the outcome of Jacob’s life but also by his prayer in 32:9-12. Jacob realizes that it is because of the greatness of God, not the greatness of Jacob that any good thing can come from his life.

Comment on the following....

“God doesn’t love Jacob because of who he is but because of who He is. ‘It’s on the house’ is one way of saying it and ‘its by grace’ another.” Peculiar Treasures, Buechner, pg. 58

Deception can be found in some of our most treasured relationships.

For me, a really sad part of this story is to see siblings lying to parents.

It all started in the garden - Genesis 3:8,9,10 – with the” kids” lying to their Heavenly Father. Note they used a bush to attempt to deceive.

It resurfaced again in Genesis 27- but this time the technology had improved and the costume was more elaborate- from bushes to a complex wardrobe. But the issue was the same- deception.
Then in Genesis 37:31-35 Jacob is older and his boys lie to him about what happened to Joseph. Again a creative wardrobe idea, a blood-soaked robe. And again the issue is deception. Note the emotions that goes along with the deception.

Deception knows no boundaries. It can enter into the most sacred, trusted, and valued relationships.

You might want to take some time to pray for some situations where deception has compromised the relationship. Healing and restoration are always greatly needed in such situations.

Side note: Remember Jesus saying - ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ You might think “Man, couldn’t he come up with a better character than Jacob? How about Enoch, he walked with God?” If you read Abraham’s story and Isaac’s story you see they have their issues. Jesus saying what he does reminds us that God works with us in our brokenness. He pursues us in our rebellion, comes alongside us in our weakness, and speaks into our lives in our despair. He is the God of the broken! Not justifying our ways but meeting us where we are at.

Wherever you are someone’s been there – Jacob - and his life testifies to the grace of God, the patience of God and the presence of God in our weakest moments.

2 Corinthians 4:1,2
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Perhaps Jacob was where you are.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Friday, September 23, 2011

Touching Base! Part 142

Wherever You Are, Someone's Been There

(This article can also we found on our website at
http://www.bethelkingston.comunder 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 Sunday we looked at how Lordship Has Its Rivals. In other words, it may be our desire to put Christ first but we live in a world vying for that top spot. As a group, make a list of issues that either you see in your life or others that can really rival Christ being number 1.

The Text - Genesis 4:19-24
Read the entire chapter to get a sense of the context. The character we looked at was Lamech, representing the seventh generation from Adam and Eve. In the NIV, his story is only 107 words long but unfortunately his story will be repeated time and time again throughout scripture. If anyone is currently struggling with Lordship then they can be guaranteed they are not alone. Lamech has been there. “Been there, done that!” would be his comment. To say he struggled might be an understatement. It seems like he allowed the world to swallow him up.

What are the indicators showing Lamech is bowing to the rivals?

• He moved a fence (v.19) (he adjusted the truth)

G.K. Chesterton once said “If you move a fence you should pause to ask why it was put there to begin with.”
We seem to live in a world that loves moving fences and asking questions later. We pull up the posts of God’s truth and move them to where we think they should be. Anyone reading Lamech’s story should immediately notice the fence-moving that is going on here. Gen. 2 makes it very clear that marriage is not only between a man and a woman, but between one man and one woman. Lamech, for whatever reason, is the first recorded fence mover in this area.

What fences are being moved today?

What makes this particular fence interesting is that, for the most part, God does not seem to openly condemn polygamy in the Old Testament outside of Genesis 2. But the New Testament makes it pretty clear that polygamy is not part of the created order.

In the Old Testament it seems that God’s plan is to allow men and women discover by experience that his original institution of monogamy was the proper relationship. It is shown that polygamy brings trouble, and often results in sin, e.g. Abraham (Gen. 21); Gideon (Jdg. 8:29–9:57); David (2 Sam. 11; 13); Solomon (1 Ki. 11:1–8). Family jealousies arise from it, (1 Sam. 1:6; cf. Lev. 18:18).

In other words, sometimes the school of hard knocks, not another lecture, can serve as the greatest teacher. Agree?

Read what J.D. Unwin has to say about this fence post:
“Based on his extensive studies of both ancient and modern civilizations, the British anthropologist J.D. Unwin concluded that the whole of human history does not provide a single example of a society that achieved and consistently maintained a high level of culture without adopting heterosexual monogamy as the standard for marriage and family life. Societies that adopted more permissive sexual practices entered into periods of decline in art, science, religion and military power. The “track record of history” has confirmed the wisdom of the moral standards revealed not only to believers in Scripture, but to all peoples, through general revelation.” (In Evangelical Ethics, p. 12)

What fences in your estimation have been moved in our culture and are causing the greatest damage?

As a parent or friend, isn’t it tough to bite your tongue and, instead of preaching at them, let them move a fence? When have you thought it was better to shut up versus speak up? It might kill you to do this, but sometimes it’s the best thing to do. Nose bleeds are sometimes the best incentives for repentance.

Has a friend or parent ever allowed you to experience a bit of the pain of moving a fence?

Does allowing one to walk down the “fence adjustment road” always result in repentance?

Is it possible that these days, God is allowing you to move a fence and experience the consequences of doing that?

• He got intoxicated on..... (v.20-22) (ambition)

The mention of these kids and what they are known for is interesting in the development of culture: seemingly affluent, innovative, advancing, progressive, cutting edge. The Bible and archaeology point to the domestication of livestock, the development of music, and the invention of tools. BUT when you look at the bigger context of this chapter something smells.

Dr. Criswell said, “Man has learned to fly through the air like an Eagle; bore through the earth like a mole; and swim through the oceans like a fish; but has never learned to walk on the earth like the human being God intended him to be.” The image of God in us enables us to build great civilizations, but the sin in us causes us to tear it down.

Note the flow of this chapter. It starts out with a great birth announcement but things go south pretty fast. Note that the two main stories involve murder. You get to the end of the chapter and people are crying out to God. The only hope is found in another birth announcement - Seth. He would be in the genealogy of Jesus, our much-needed Saviour.

My understanding of Lamech is that he got intoxicated on ambition. Ambition is great, and societal advances as mentioned in this story are awesome as well, but they can rival Christ’s Lordship in our lives.

How does this happen?
What does it look like?
What kinds of ambitions can challenge the Lordship issue in your life?

• He wrote and sang a song (v.23, 24) (arrogance and pride)

On Sunday I gave a possible song title. Have you got any creative titles for this song?
Read through this song and make some observations. Many believe this was in song form with three couplets.

What is he getting at?
He is demanding greater leniency than whom? (See v.15)
Note that God set the law for Cain, but Lamech set the law for Lamech.
Note also that God is talking to Cain, but Lamech is singing to his wives. There is no recorded conversation between Lamech and God. Mmmmmmh… wonder why?
Most commentators, when seeing this in context, see this as an arrogant, belligerent boast.
Some believe that his name means “powerful, boaster destroyer, wild man”.

What would the title of the song be for the person you are praying for? (ie Not Now God! Running Free! – I am sure you can be more creative)
What tunes are coming from your heart?
What does the music reveal about your posture before God?

Perhaps Lamech was where you are.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact