Saturday, April 30, 2011

Touching Base! Part 123

Christ Crucified

(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.


Galatians 3: 1-14

In this passage, a lot of detailed theology is sandwiched between two references to Christ Crucified. The chapter begins with the emphatic statement, “Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” and verse 13 ends with, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree [crucified on a cross]”.

The filling between these two slices of bread is important, but the bread itself – the Cross – is vital.

Let’s first discuss the filling.

The Galatians were trying to add circumcision and adherence to dietary laws to “the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:7). The Apostle Paul in our passage counters this with arguments from (1) the Galatians’ own experiences (verses 2-5) when he cites their receiving the Spirit, suffering, and seeing miracles; and (2) scripture (verses 6-9). In these latter verses he summons Abraham, who came before even Moses, whose law the Galatians were using to support their practices and beliefs.

Question: Read Galatians 3:2-5. How valid is argument from experience when discussing the gospel or topics in Christianity? Is it suited to the 21st century?

Read Galatians 3:6-9. Then read Genesis 12:1-4. Paul knew his Old Testament! In Genesis 12, God gives Abram instructions and a promise, and Abram obeys. In Genesis 15, God gives Abram another promise and the result is Genesis 15:6, which Paul quotes in Galatians 3:6. Circumcision wasn’t even introduced until later in Genesis 17. So God was promising things, and Abram was believing them, long before the law. Thus Paul advances his argument that it isn’t observance of the law, such as getting circumcised, that brings blessing.

Question: Some Christians think of the Old Testament as all about law and the New Testament as all about Faith and Grace. But here Paul says that Abraham was a man of faith (see also Hebrews 11:8-12) and that believing is the way he became righteous and was blessed. How does this work?

That’s the filling - complicated, theologically rich, and worth sorting out.

Now for the bread - essential, foundational, and beautiful.

Before presenting arguments from experience or from specific scriptures, Paul reminds the Galatians that he had portrayed Jesus Christ as crucified before their very eyes. This is the best technique in his toolkit – challenging, likely effective, and glorifying to God. What better way to remind them that what they were doing by insisting on circumcision or dietary laws was trying to add to Christ’s completed work? “Remember Christ crucified and all that entailed? Are you bewitched?”

Paul finishes the passage with an important explanation of the crucifixion as God punishing himself in Christ instead of us. If you don’t keep the whole law, Paul writes, you are cursed (and who could keep it all?). So Christ became a curse for us by being “hung on a tree” – an Old Testament expression that became equated with crucifixion.

Galatians 3:13 (Christ became “a curse for us”) and 2 Corinthians 5:21 (God made Jesus “to be sin for us”) are the two most shocking verses in scripture. Many theologians have expressed their shock at the seeming obscenity of Holy God becoming a curse or becoming sin.

Question: Read the following passage written 500 years ago on this topic. Martin Luther, in his commentary on Galatians, possibly just oversteps to make his case, but it is often only by seemingly overstepping that the true case can be appreciated (or perhaps his prose doesn’t go beyond scripture in the slightest). Can what he writes be true?
“Our most merciful father, seeing us to be oppressed and overwhelmed with the curse of the law, and so to be holden under the same that we could never be delivered from it by our own power, sent his only Son into the world and laid upon him all the sins of all men, saying: Be thou Peter that denier; Paul that persecutor, blasphemer and cruel oppressor; David that adulterer; that sinner which did eat the apple in Paradise; that thief which hanged upon the cross; and briefly, be thou the person which hath committed the sins of all men; see therefore that thou pay and satisfy for them.”
The legal consequences of our sin were transferred to Christ rather than our moral qualities. Luther sometimes seems to say that it was more than this. Either way, for God to be made sin and a curse and for the “iniquities of us all” (Isaiah 53:6) to be laid on him flirts with something so awesome that we may not be able to fully understand it.

Question: Like the Galatians, are you attempting to add anything to Christ’s crucifixion to justify yourself? Can you say to God, along with Luther, “You took on you what was mine; yet set on me what was yours?” If this is true, that you are no longer wrapped in sin but rather in God’s perfection, does it make you behave any differently day-to-day?

Eric Prost
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Touching Base! Part 122

Prayer for Last Week’s Baptismal Candidates

(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.

PRAYER FOR BAPTISMAL CANDIDATES - Please pray for all the candidates this week!

Lord God:

Stories of life transformation just never get old. These people stand here as living proof that You are the hope of the world….that you are the solution to sorrow, sin and death.

I am so thankful for their lives and their stories…These stories breathe life into a congregation.

They can speak to those of us who have been Christ followers for a long time and may have let our love grow cold.

They can touch the hearts of those who find themselves sitting in a church for the first time.

And for those getting baptized, their stories are like lines in the sand. They will always remember the day they publically declared their love for you.

They will remember it in victory and good times… and know that there is nothing they can do that will make you love them more.

And they will remember this day when they fail… and they will hopefully be reminded that there is nothing they can do that will make you love them less.

For some of them, it’s been a long journey to this day… full of brokenness and heartache, for others it’s been a gradual understanding and longing for their lives to count for something more.
So Lord, we want to lift them up to you today.

9:00 Service

Thank you for Madison, Lord…she grew up in a Christian home with godly parents and I know that the older she gets, the more grateful she will be for her heritage. I pray that you continue to lead her and surround her with mentors. Give her wisdom beyond her years and continue to transform her into a woman after your heart.

And I know many of us could probably relate to Michelle’s story, a product of the Jesus movement, and a life of self-professed disobedience. But you never let her go, you continued to love her and give her a friendship with Phyllis, a woman who refused to see her stray too far from Your love. And today as she deals with cancer, we pray healing into her life…both physically, emotionally and spiritually.

And the dramatic and powerful story from Fraser, Lord, his heart longs to serve you the rest of his days. He has broken free from chains that were determined to bind him… His hands are spread, his knees are bent, and His heart is open. He has so much to offer to those who are hurting. There is so much more in store for him that he can’t even imagine right now. Help him to continue to rise above his brokenness, and continue to heal him emotionally in such a powerful way that You are able to use his story of hope, to instill hope in others.

And for many of us, Sara’s story really resonated, as many of us struggle with issues of control and stress. Thank you Lord that you did not leave her in her misery, but you used a godly friend to help her break those chains of control and once she gave her life over to you, the chains fell away like feathers. Sara’s testimony is a wonderful example of how your yoke is easy and your burden is light. As Sara reaches out to others on the Queen’s campus with your message of beauty, I pray that you would use her in ways that are both surprising and unimaginable to her. Help her to always look to you to find her worth as a woman of God.

For Lexy…she too comes from a godly family. I pray that her spiritual roots continue to grow as deep as her spiritual heritage and that you would continue to lead and guide her into a deeper relationship with you. A relationship that continues to fill her so much that it spills out in ways that touches many lives.

Dale’s story was another story of a prodigal come home proving it’s never too late for any of us to return to God, and that we are never too messed up and broken to be loved by you. You have powerfully pulled him out of a life of addiction, may he never look back. I pray that as his life continues to unfold in times of joy and sorrow that he is able to hold on the peace and joy that is so evident in him. He talks about how Harbor Light was a place he saw the light…I pray that as he reaches out to others, he would be a light. I pray that people would say, “God used to Dale to help me see the light.”

And for Carmen, Lord….she is an ‘iron sharpens iron’ kind of friend to many of us and a passionate Christ follower…She has a gift that helps others understand what they believe and why they believe it. I pray that you continue to use her to help others understand the intellectual side of faith. I’m thankful that she also understands it needs to be combined with a healthy dose of community because life change happens in circles where relationships are strong.

11:00 Service

I pray for Ketsia this morning…she was raised to know you from a young age….and she wants to be a moral rebel for you. She has such an Esther spirit Lord….so willing to take a stand and do what is right no matter what the cost. So I pray that as Ketsia has drawn her line in the sand today that she will know down the road in every situation that she was made for ‘such a time as this.’

And for Jeff I pray that you would continue to push him in his faith and in his walk with you. Thank you for his Christian upbringing and the people that have mentored him and I pray that he would go and do likewise and be a mentor to others. Give him guidance and direction as he steps out into his next phase of life after high school. Grow him into a man of heart who remains hungry for you and serves you with all his heart, all his mind and all his strength.

Thank you for Brent Lord…he grew up in a Christian home with godly parents and I know that he will continue to look back on his spiritual heritage as a real gift from You. We so need strong godly men in our culture…help him keep his eyes on You. Lord, I pray Ephesians 6 into his life…I pray Brent that you will put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the enemy.

Julia is another example how much our family members can influence our spiritual lives and how important our campus ministries are to help students navigate their life in Christ. Lord, I thank you for them. And I pray that as Julia heads to Edmonton this summer for her missions trip that you would continue to open her eyes and heart to the direction you are taking her.

Ib’s story reminds us that sometimes we find ourselves swept up in God’s story because of the outpouring of love from God’s people. Because a group of people loved Ib… Ib fell in love with Jesus. How beautiful is that? I pray for Ib’s continued growth and commitment and that she would truly experience how wide and high and deep is your love.

And Lord I pray for Nick… another man after God’s heart with deep spiritual roots that he is extremely thankful for. He is a man with many gifts, and I pray that you would continue to develop those gifts, because they will equip him for what you have called him to do. As he graduates this year, I pray that you would make the path of the future more clear. As many people have heard me say, “Your plans always include a larger purpose, but You rarely make things simple,” so even though the road ahead might not be simple, I pray that Nick would have peace in the transition and a spirit of adventure in the journey.

Jonathan is another man whose journey has been complex. His relationship with you has been on and off, and now he’s ready more then ever to do life with Christ. While he spends the next 5 years in Kingston, I pray that you would continue to bring people into his life that will sharpen him, and that he in turn would begin to sharpen others. Equip him for his calling, and give him endurance for the journey. Help him to know that his house does not have to be spotless for you to be at the centre.

And God for the part that we as brothers and sisters in Christ play in the lives of these people, whether it be a big role or a small one, may we be more faithful than a brother. Hold us all firmly in the grip of your grace.

We look forward to what You are going to do in us and through us in the power name of Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Touching Base! Part 121

Old Habits Die Hard - Galatians 2:11-21

(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.

How many of us know the key verse in our text this week? Galatians 2:20:
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
For those of you who grew up in Sunday school, I imagine this verse was one you had to memorize. But because of that, some of us have never considered the context - it was just one verse we extrapolated from the text.


On Sunday we talked about how Old Habits Die Hard! What Paul is saying in v.20 is that he no longer lives in accordance with the old way - namely the “works” plan: Paul had, at one time, tried to use the law to impress and earn points with God. But Paul got turned around on the Damascus road and now he lives according to the “grace” plan (Eph. 2:8, 9). The new operating principle is faith in Christ’s work on the cross for Paul and all who come to Jesus. This, specifically, is what he has been crucified to. He no longer tries to earn it!

William Barclay defines faith well:
“[F]aith is complete trust and complete surrender to Jesus Christ. It is the total acceptance of all that He said, of all that He offered, and of all that He is.” (The NIV Application Commentary, p.121)
Paul is talking about a very specific issue – the “works” plan vs. the “grace” plan, in this context. This is the way he used to live, but no longer. What is an old “habit” that you have laid aside as you have surrendered your life to Christ? Remember “crucify” and “faith” refer to an ongoing process in the believer’s life, so think of issues that have surfaced in your journey with Him. Are any of them harder to lay down than others? Have you ever been tempted to pick up something that you at one time did lay down?

I believe the reason Paul says what he does in v.20 is because his friend Peter is experiencing that Old Habits Die Hard.

v. 11-12 - What is at issue? Simply put, Peter, a Jew, is celebrating his freedom in Christ to eat, drink and dance with Gentiles. He is living like Jesus! But when certain men showed up (these were Judaizers, saying you had to be circumcised and follow certain food laws to follow Jesus) Peter drew back. When you look into the background, you discover they weren’t really representing James, but rather said that they were.
“[T]he words (draw back) describe forcibly the cautious withdrawal of a timid person who shrinks from observation.” (The Message of Galatians, p.51)
Peter had yielded himself to Christ, he could say exactly what Paul says in v.20. BUT when the pressure came, the circumstances changed, the fear of man drove Peter to pick something back up, that he had laid down. What he picked back up was living according to Jewish customs and essentially denying Jesus’ Lordship in his life. He was in fact reverting back to an old way of living. Now before you jump all over Peter… realize we have all done the same. We have all been guilty of falling back into old patterns, picking back up bad attitudes, wrong ways of thinking… the list is endless. Old Habits Die Hard!

Notice what the driver is in Peter’s life. The text tells us in v.12 – fear. Think of whatever your issue is that you are tempted to pick back up - what is the driver? I personally think that sometimes it is easier to go back to an old way because the ruts in the road are so deeply worn that way. We have lived a certain way for so long, that to live a new way is going against the ruts!

I like this quote, “we can never forget that being crucified with Christ means sharing the way of life that led Jesus to the Cross, living by His purposes and being impelled by His motives.” This is exactly what Peter failed to do in this moment. It has happened to all of us, yes even pastors!

Notice Paul’s commentary in v.13. Peter’s blunder caused others to stumble. What eyes watch you as you follow Christ? Who would be most deeply impacted if you trip up?

For some of us this truth, Old Habits Die Hard, resonates deeply because we know of our own struggles. However, another reason it resonates could be because we ourselves have been hurt because we looked up to, fell. Their actions may have directly impacted our lives. How do you think the Gentiles felt when, one day, Peter is their best friend, and the next day, he is pulling away and in fact forcing them to adhere to old ways of thinking and living?

Finally, notice v.14. Much could be said about Paul here, but suffice to say that great teams have these kinds of conversations. Great teams and great friendships allow for hard words to be said that are meant for a person’s betterment.

Ever had anyone kick your butt, box your ears, or rattle your cage… because of how stupidly you were behaving? We won’t take time in this TB like we did on Sunday, but notice vs.15-21. Paul is reasoning with Peter and showing him how insane his behaviour is. It is so inconsistent with what Peter knows to be the truth. As Paul says, Peter is not acting in line with the truth… the truth that Peter knows!

Have you ever lost sleep over being the person God wants to use to confront someone that needs a little tough love like Peter needed?

What is impressive is that this confrontation made Peter better, not bitter. Note the tone and words of 2 Peter 3:14, 15.
“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this [Christ’s second coming], make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.”
This team soared higher because they allowed each other to speak truth into each others lives.

Take some time to pray for God’s protection over leaders. Peter is a leader and he falls. When leadership falls, others fall with them. We always need to be upholding our leaders. Pray also for your group members. Everyone has that one issue in their life that reminds them of this truth - Old Habits Die Hard!

Pray that God would enable people by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) to be conformed to His image. Law is powerless to change a life. What the law could not do, God did by sending his Son!

Old Habits Die Hard, but Jesus came so that we could stand firm!


If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Friday, April 1, 2011

Touching Base! Part 120

Ovation - 1 Corinthians 15:58

(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 week we took some time to encourage our ministry workers. One of our values as a church is team. One of the things “team” means is that no one person can do it all, and no one person dominates. Now a leader may have the final say on various issues but if he/she is wise, they will invest in the collaborative process to come to the right decision. If we come to the right decision in the wrong way (i.e. no collaboration) we can end up being a very overworked and lonely leader.

All of us have been on different kinds of teams. We all know that teams will go through seasons. Think of a team you are on, either at work or in the church context. What season is your team in? How are the various players feeling about the direction and health of the team? Is the team target clear or clouded? Are the team players partners, or are they just running alongside each other in getting the job done?

All teams can go through seasons of wondering if their efforts are really producing the right kinds of results they had hoped for. Individual players can ask the following kinds of questions:
  • As a parent - ever wondered about the impact your role is having as a mother or father?
  • As an employee - ever felt like you and your department were just spinning your tires?
  • As a student - ever questioned if all that studying and all that library time is getting you anywhere?
On Sunday we talked about how what we’re doing can, at times, feel like we are just wheeling dirt from one pile to the next and then back again. Pointless… repetitive… with zero profitable results.

Teams in the gathered church context can wrestle with the same issues. We wonder if our efforts are bringing true change in people’s lives. We question whether or not we would be missed if we just dropped our piece and sat in the pew. We rarely hear stories of lives touched or receive words of encouragement. Let’s face it; at times staying committed and focused can require some self-talk and sheer determination.

That’s why this past Sunday was so important. We entitled the service “Ovation” because we wanted to stand and applaud all our teams and the individuals that make up those teams. We wanted to say thanks, do the high five, pump the fist, and give the thumbs up to all our workers. For the gathered church to happen week in and week out, up to 170 workers are required at any given time. For the most part, these workers are on teams. Some of these volunteers serve once a month or every quarter, others are up every Sunday or Friday or whatever other day of the week the church gathers.

1 Corinthians 15:58 was our key text:
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”
Paul’s point in the original context was that Jesus had risen from the dead, therefore their labour was not in vain, it was not a waste of time or purposeless. The same is true today, we serve a risen Saviour and whether we are up front or behind the scenes what we do matters. Ministry Matters because the God of the universe has created us for good works
(Ephesians 2:10) and when we do them faithfully, we don’t get weeds but transformed lives. Check out 1 Corinthians 3:5-10.

On Sunday Chris and Vera shared their stories on how the gathered Church has impacted their lives. I can’t think of any better way to encourage people who volunteer their time week after week than for them to hear stories of lives that are being ministered to. Ministry is not about gathering a crowd but about impacting lives with the gifts and resources God has given me and you.

As we pointed out on Sunday our focus for ministry is set far beyond the gathered Church. We want to impact lives in the gathered community so that when we scatter Monday to Saturday we do so with a heart calibrated to the purposes of God. We want the gathered opportunities of the church to propel people into strategic kingdom living. Anything less, and we become an embarrassment to the name of Christ.

So what can you do?

Be an encourager of those working in the gathered church. Speak up and say thanks. Tell someone how your life has been enriched because of their ministry. Write an e-mail, or go face-to-face, but just do it. I don’t think we encourage enough. Don’t worry about it going to the person’s head, pray that it will go to their heart and that they will be motivated to keep serving.

Secondly, pray for the many who “get it” when it comes to the scattered church. Many at Bethel understand that the space they occupy Monday to Saturday is their ministry. There are many who “get it” and they need our support. Also pray for those that just see their job as a job. That is not what God had in mind when he gifted them and instilled the passion He did within their hearts.

So stand and applaud! Think of someone and say thanks to them. Then next week do it again and then the next week do it again. Ovations need to be long and heartfelt. They are like oxygen for the soul!


If interested in joining or starting a small group contact