Saturday, February 5, 2011

Touching Base! Part 113

The River

(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.

“Vision” is a picture of where we are going and defines what makes us unique, and this past Sunday I cast the vision that is developing at Bethel Church. It’s not a new vision, but truly represents the DNA of Bethel and why Bethel was founded and planted so close to the heart of the city. We believe the rearticulating of this vision will help bring increased clarity for us as we develop key initiatives in fleshing it out. We cannot do it all, but we can take responsibility for the initiatives that God lays on our hearts (please note that I’ve also included an elders’ update from our recent half-day retreat).

As you begin your discussion (or reflection, if alone) read the key text I used on Sunday, John 7:37-39:
“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
We know that this was the Feast of Tabernacles. While there were many feasts that the Jewish people celebrated, what made this feast unique is that it took place in the fall, after practically no rain had fallen on the terrain surrounding Jerusalem. The priest would take a golden pitcher and go to the Gihon spring (one of the water sources for Jerusalem), fill the pitcher with water, come back to the temple in Jerusalem and pour the water on the altar. This ritual reminded them all of the water from the rock during the wilderness wanderings (Num. 20:8-11; Ps. 78:15-16). It also spoke prophetically of the coming days of Messiah (cf. Zech. 14:8, 16-19). As the priest would pour the water out before the assembly, he would pray for rain to saturate the parched lands. So it was in this context that Jesus stood and spoke the words found in verses 37 and 38.

What a creative teaching moment Jesus stepped into. Saying such a thing created waves of reaction. See v.40-44.

V.37 introduces us to the first part of our vision statement: “Responding to the heart of God;”
What would you say is the heart of God based on Jesus’ words? Note key words like “thirst”, “come”, “me” and “drink”. What does responding look like from day to day? Give practical examples that are personal and corporate.

V.38 introduces us to the second part of our vision statement: “transforming the heart of the city.” This gets at what makes us unique. We are not a rural church but rather, having been planted in the heart of the city, we sense our need to take responsibility for various needs of the city here.

Note that “from within” translates as “womb, belly, representing the inner most part of a person”. Scientists say we have a “brain” in our gut, that is, neurons in the digestive system that produce feelings of well-being or threat deeper than we can put into words. It is in that very deepest place that Jesus says he will produce vitality. God does his work in me and it constantly flows within me as a life source. This is what I call “belly righteousness”.

What did Jews know about rivers/streams? Rivers flowed. In fact the Gihon spring that the priest went and drew from supplied water to Jerusalem in OT times. It was the Gihon that determined the original site of the city on the hill called Ophel, just west of the spring. In Biblical history, cities were built near rivers because rivers meant life and blessing to the city.

As Christ does a work in us (belly righteousness) we want to flow into the heart of the city. We want to be used by God to bring life, blessing and reconciliation with God.

When we speak of our vision we are talking about the corporate focus, since we realize that most of our people don’t live in the downtown core. Bethelites are from all over the place. It is important that we flow wherever God has placed us. However, as a Church Gathered, our corporate vision is for the heart of the city.

Take a sheet of paper and draw a river. Along the banks of the river identify the kinds of people we find in the core of Kingston that need the life and hope the river can bring.

Obviously Bethel cannot do it all. What do you feel should be some of Bethel’s major focus areas? (please pass them on to me if you like)

Now draw a river representing your workplace and neighbourhood. Who are the people that need to be impacted by the river?

Take some time to pray for people who need to come to the river. Also pray for the health of Bethel. “Rivers” can be dirtied by Christians who don’t live upright lives. Churches have been known not to bless a city, but to be indifferent or do damage. We want to be a healthy conduit for God’s living waters to flow through.

Report on the Elders’ retreat

The elders had a half-day retreat last weekend (Jan. 29th) at Ron and Tooty Dickey’s. Afterwards, spouses and kids joined us for dinner and some outdoor recreation. The following is an update about what we talked about from Ron Dickey, one of our elders.

Most of our time was spent in discussion and prayer on the first two chapters of the book ''Emotionally Healthy Spirituality". The premise of the book is that Christian spirituality without an integration of emotional health can be deadly -- to yourself, to your relationship with God and to the people around you. The iceberg model applies - 90% of what we are is invisible, with deep layers below the surface that remain untouched by Jesus Christ until there is a serious engagement with what the author calls "emotionally healthy spirituality".

Some of the symptoms of "emotionally unhealthy spirituality" (as given in the book and which we considered) are as follows:
  1. Ignoring our feelings and emotions such as anger, sadness, and fear: the author suggests that to the degree we are unable to express our emotions we remain impaired in our ability to love God, others, and ourselves.
  2. We often deny or do not understand the past impacts the present: gender roles; the handling of anger and conflict, and shame; our view of family, recreation, pleasure, sexuality, grieving; our relationship with friends… all have been shaped by our families of origin and our culture. The work of growing in Christ (sanctification) demands we look back in order to break free from unhealthy and destructive patterns that prevent us from loving ourselves and others as God designed.
  3. According to polls and sociologists: one of the greatest scandals of our day is that "evangelical Christians" are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered and sexually immoral as the world in general.
  4. Doing for God instead of being with God: work for God that is not nourished by a deeper interior life with God will eventually be contaminated by other things such as ego ,pride, power, needing approval and wrong ideas of success. The joy of Christ gradually disappears.
  5. Spiritualizing away conflict: the belief that sweeping disagreements under the rug is okay continues to be one of the most destructive myths alive in the church today. Out of a desire to bring true peace, Jesus disrupted the false peace all around him. He refused to spiritualize away conflict.
  6. Covering our brokenness, weakness, and failure: the Bible does not spin the weaknesses of its heroes. They all send the same message: that every human being on earth is weak, vulnerable, and dependent on God and others.
  7. Living without limits: burnout and despair are the common result. Any time we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.
  8. Judging other people’s spiritual journey: by failing to let others be themselves before God and move at their own pace, we end up eliminating them in our minds, trying to make others like us, abandoning them altogether or falling into a ‘who cares?’ indifference towards them.
Desiring to grow individually and as a church body, and with our vision frame and 3Gs in mind (mainly to grow in acts of service), we considered how the above points might apply to us. We asked ourselves the following questions:
  • How are we doing and how well equipped are we to handle the many messy issues that come up in peoples’ lives?
  • What outside agencies should we ask to help us?
  • Do we provide an environment where people are not ashamed to discuss openly their problems with church leadership or in small groups?
  • Are we being open in the pulpit, and with the agencies and people we invite to speak to us?
  • We all look for accolades. Do we look to hand them out when possible?
We desire to do our best for God: to do Sunday services well, to teach our children and youth well, to have healthy small groups, but we still can not be all things to all people. Pray that we may see clearly where He is leading us and in faith to follow Him.


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