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