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 http://www.bethelkingston.com 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 bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com

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 http://www.bethelkingston.com 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 bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Touching Base! Part 146

Lest We Forget

(This article can also we found on our website
at http://www.bethelkingston.com 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 bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com