Thursday, March 22, 2012

Touching Base! Part 160

What’s Your Meter Reading?

(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 message is part 3 of our series entitled, Touched By The Cross. This series is focusing in on how the reality of what Jesus did on the cross impacts our lives today. In week 1, we looked at how God is in the restoration business. He desires to regenerate our lives, give us a new heart and set our lives on a new trajectory. The death and resurrection of Jesus makes that possible. In week 2, we looked at how our daily death is our daily bread. Just as Jesus modeled victory through death so too it is as we die to self and live for God that we truly experience the fullness of all that God has for us.

Today we are looking at how our greatest battle with God can be in living with open hands. The cross is the ultimate example of generosity, the ultimate act of obedience and sacrifice that brings great glory to God and huge blessings to the believer. However, even though Jesus demonstrated “open hands”, ultimate generosity, we sometimes fail in this area.

Big Idea: Our greatest battle with God can be in living with open hands.
Question: How do I win this battle?

If you are discussing this TB in a small group, take some time to share about how you are doing in being a faithful steward. Are you living a generous lifestyle? Do you give regularly to Bethel Church? What ministries do you support and why?

How can we win in this area?

Our text is 2 Corinthians 8:1-15. We are specifically talking about finances, even though stewardship can be applied to all that God has given us, i.e. our time, talents and possessions.

1. Commit Yourself First To God (v1-5)

Read these verses and note, the two groups Paul is comparing, and the unusual example of the Macedonians.

Notice that it is very clear that God is at work in the hearts of the Macedonians. Check out v.1-5.

V.1 - Grace is good-will, favour toward someone. Note it is the grace of God. God is at work in their hearts.

V.5 - Who did they commit themselves to first?

The Macedonians are the stellar example of generosity. But the Corinthians are another story. In fact it is Paul’s references to the Corinthians that helps us see why this area of living with open hands can be so difficult and why we need God to help us in this area.

a. Start, Stop

The Corinthians had started down the path of living generously but for a number of reasons had stopped. Note v6, 10, 11, 9:1-5

Have you ever had this experience in either the area of giving or other areas where God wants you to walk in obedience? How did you get on track in an area of your “Christ walk”? What was it that got you off track?

Note Paul sent people to intervene (v.6,16-24) These are not hit men or mobsters, but brothers coming to hold Corinth accountable. A kick start, as it were!

How many of us have needed a kick start to restart in an area (possibly giving) in which we stopped being obedient?
Who has been the Paul in your life?
Who has challenged you to get back on track?

Someone once said “give until it hurts,” and the response was “but for me, it hurts just to think about giving!” That seems to describe the Corinthians, doesn’t it? Living with open hands over the long haul is one of the toughest disciplines to practice. There are so many excuses that can get us off track.

b. The Locked Door (v.7)

Another reason we need God to do a deep work in our hearts in this area of giving is because of the number of locks that can be on this particular door of our lives. Read v.7.

Where are the Corinthians excelling? Where are they failing? What might this tell us about this area of giving?

Ok, I know you are dying to hear my answer. I think it demonstrates that one of the most challenging doors to unlock in the Christian life: this area of our financial stewardship. Have you ever found that in following Christ there can be issues that you just seem to really battle with? Financial stewardship can be one of those areas. We can be doing great in so many areas BUT this one particular area.

Why can this be such a hard door to unlock?
  1. We’ve never learned to be stewards
  2. We had parents that never modeled open hands
  3. We are narcissistic
  4. We think we are the accumulation of our possessions
  5. We think our wants are our needs
  6. We think we are owners not stewards
  7. …???
2. Embrace the powerful example of the cross v9

This is our second answer to our question, “how do I win this battle?”

While Paul wanted to inspire and encourage the Corinthians to restart in giving by showing them the Macedonian model, (by the way note that Paul is not comparing amounts but giving in proportion to resources.v3,8,11),the ultimate model of generosity was Christ. One of the ways we demonstrate a life touched by the cross is that we live like the One who hung on that cross. Check out 2 Cor 5:21 and Phil 2:6,7,8 to more deeply understand the rich/poor contrast of v9. Note who the beneficiary is – YOU!

I find it interesting that Paul takes the Corinthians back to the Gospel to help them understand their need to give and to help them examine their hearts on just how open their hands are. I love what Tim Keller says about the role of the Gospel in our lives in his essay:

“ …. the Gospel isn’t simply the ABC’s of Christianity, but the A through Z. The gospel doesn’t just ignite the Christian life; it’s the fuel that keeps Christians going and growing every day. Once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel but to move them more deeply into it.” (Don’t Call It A Comeback, p.221)

How does a deeper understanding of the Gospel challenge you in this area of giving?
How do you know when you have given enough?
What are other examples beyond money that demonstrate generous giving?
Has the gospel impacted your pocket book?
Have all of your resources been touched by the cross?
Are your hands open or closed?

Take some time to pray for each other in this area. Our greatest battle can become an area for God to do His deepest work in our lives!

P.S. If you or your small group want more material on what the Bible says about giving feel free to contact me. I can send you some articles.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Friday, March 16, 2012

Touching Base! Part 159

The Road to Sanctification
Guest posting by Adam Davies

(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.

We all have to start somewhere. Wherever we are going, whatever we are doing, however we want to change, there is always a clear point of departure from what was before, to what is (or will be) now. The start of something new can be difficult to find or discovered in unlikely places, and it can be difficult to follow through. Sanctification is one of these issues: on the one hand, most Christians understand that being sanctified (made holy, made like God, set apart) requires both the power of God and the effort of the person. Unlike regeneration (which Fred talked about last week), sanctification is both a work of God and a work of human effort. But where do we start? What is the first step in sanctification? Who moves first?

On Sunday, our big idea was Daily Death is my Daily Bread – that the sanctified life is characterized and exemplified by the follower’s constant and relentless pursuit of their own “death”. Yes, sanctification is still about our striving and God’s Spirit working together, but the spark that propels the newly-regenerated-and-justified life forward is found in the departed spark of death. Anyone confused yet? To understand what is going on, we looked at Jesus’ words in John 12:20-26 and drew three conclusions:

1) In the new life, Jesus calls us to death…

… every day, in every situation, because that’s the life He lived. When was the last time you asked a question and got an answer way beyond the intent of your question? You know, you ask a friend if they like the shirt you’re wearing… and they go into the history of the fabric and style of the shirt and what acceptable combinations are with those fabrics and shirts, and then get into colour and discuss contrast verses complement, etc., blah blah blah… Ever got that before?

In this story, there are a group of Greeks (most likely some converts who lived in the Diaspora – Jewish settlements or communities outside of Judea) who want to see Jesus, so they ask a man by the name of Philip if they can see Him. When Jesus eventually gets this message, He goes way beyond their question, launches into a parable, and then challenges his audience. In Jesus’ mind, there is way more to ‘seeing’ than we think. When we look at John 12:25-26a, the clear call of Jesus on those who are hearing is not to ‘see’ Him, but to follow Him. How does He characterize that following? Look at verse 25: “whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Not only that, but think about the context of this passage: when Jesus challenges the crowd to follow Him, what event is about to happen? Jesus is on His way to die – this whole section (up until the end of John 12) talks about how He is about to be “lifted up” (crucified) before all the people. In no uncertain terms, this is a call to follow Jesus to death. The words “take up your cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23) should be ringing in our ears.

But Jesus isn’t only talking about the one-time death that leads to eternal life… He’s challenging us to the daily death-before-life, death-as-daily-bread kind of life that we need to live so we might be set apart to God. Think about how Paul has understood this issue: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” (Gal. 2:20) “Put to death what is earthly in you... and put on the new self” (Col. 3:5,10). Death to self precedes life in Christ – daily death has to be our daily bread if we want to live the new, clean, holy and Jesus-mirroring life into which we are invited. Luke 9:23 says it best, in that we take up our cross “daily” to follow Jesus. It is the cross that is borne first so that we might follow. We need to ask ourselves: have I died yet today? Have I gone willingly to the cross? Do I believe that my death will be the catalyst to better life?

2) Death is the release of life giving and life changing power…

… both in God, and in us. There are animals out there who have semelparous reproduction – they must die in order to create new life. Salmon are an example of this, as they reproduce once in their lives. They through drastic physical change before spawning and when they die, they deteriorate faster and release massive amounts of corticosteroids which greatly benefit the recently laid salmon eggs.

Not only is daily death our bread because Jesus calls us to it, but it is our bread because of what it releases. Just like the seed that dies and produces a crop in verse 24, so too does death lead to an abundant harvest. What do we gain from the death of Christ? His Spirit is poured out on all flesh because He released it in death. His cleansing is available because His blood was spilled. Not only does Jesus give us the example of death for daily living, but He dies that we might have the means to live a sanctified life because of what He’s poured out on us. We will be marvelling and wondering at this truth forever: Jesus had to die, not only to show us how to live, but to give us the ability to live that life.

We too must die daily that we might experience the abundant and fruitful life. Think about this question: what is it I need to die to, that I might experience the abundant life of God today? Am I living for a career, a relationship, an identity or even a sin and leaving behind the life of God? Am I willing to die to that thing so that my life might start to produce fruit? I am often haunted by the words of the writer in Hebrews who says in chapter 12, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” The writer of Hebrews is issuing a strong challenge; are we willing to be crucified and pour out our own blood that we might be sanctified and have new life released in us? Some of us Christ followers have been unwilling to die to something for a long time and it has become a hindrance to experiencing the life that God is calling us to. Again, remember the words of Galatians 2:20 – Christ has died and has released His power to us. We must die to experience and live by that power in every struggle and every challenge.

3) Daily death leads to the cross…

… and to ultimate glory. The statement Jesus makes in verse 23 is very strange indeed. One of the great mysteries of following Jesus is that our symbol of total victory and endless power is a tool that was used by rulers to put futility, shame, scorn, weakness and death onto its bearer. The cross was the worst and most horrific form of capital punishment, and with this terrible instrument Jesus proclaims that His crucifixion is the moment of God’s greatest glory. Have you ever thought about how strange this is? Jesus CELEBRATES His own death: He celebrates His completion of the work God gave Him to do; He celebrates the mercy He pours out on it; He celebrates His victory over sin and (eternal) death; but above all Jesus celebrates the GLORY OF GOD expressed and proclaimed on the cross.

Jesus (and our) chief end was to glorify God, and He does this PERFECTLY by going to the cross. Do you believe this about your life - that your ultimate humility, that your complete and utter submission, that your death is the means of bringing greatest glory (honour, praise, worship, renown, fame, etc.) to God? So not only is death the call of Jesus on our life, and not only does death release incredible power (both in Christ and in us), but it also bring the highest and most excellent glory to God. As a Christ-follower, what death could I die that would lead to a bright and beautiful display of the glory of God? What does that look like as a parent… as a teenager… as a student… as a business-person… as a leader?

Sanctification is more than holiness… it is a live lived in view of Jesus’ determined march to His own death on the cross. Sanctification starts with our own resolve to follow Him into that life-changing death to self, alive to God, GLORY-to-God life that we’ve been longing for.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Touching Base! Part 158

Baptism Q & A
Guest posting by Fred Grendel

(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 Touching Base, I will try and answer the most common baptism questions:

Why do we immerse baptism candidates at Bethel, while other churches just sprinkle people?
The word “baptism” comes from the Greek “baptisma” which means “to immerse”. Also, Romans 6:3 tells us that we are "baptized unto death", meaning that baptismal candidates need to be willing to walk away from old ways of life to the point where the old ways are dead. Going down into the water represents this, and it also represents Christ’s going down to death for us. Coming out of the water represents Christ’s resurrection for us. However, if a candidate has some physical challenge or health concern that prevents them from being immersed, Bethel is more than willing to do baptism by sprinkling.

Do I really need to get all wet in front of everyone?
I recognize that this could be a really concern for people, but the answer is “yes, you do.” It is really part of the point of baptism, as it does take humility. But baptism is a symbol and proclamation of a believer’s union with Christ, and therefore it does take commitment and courage on part of the believer.

Of course, you are welcome (and encouraged) to change and freshen up before rejoining friends and family.

I was baptized before as a believer and would like to get re-baptized, is this possible?
This is something that is between you and God, although I might say that believer’s baptism is a one-time thing, just as Christ died once for all. If you were a believer at your baptism, then there is no need for re-baptism, although you may always choose to re-dedicate yourself to God. So a good question to ask yourself if you have fallen away from God since your baptism, is “was I really a believer, or was I just going through the motions?” This may be something you want to pray about. Acts 2:38 does say “Repent and be baptized”.

I was baptized as an infant. Should I get re-baptized as an adult?
If you are someone who is wrestling with this, I would encourage you to search the Scriptures and the church’s history when it came to infant baptisms. Bethel believes that baptism is for confessing believers. This is why we do not baptize infants, but simply recognize families who have recently had a baby and ask for God’s blessing on them as they dedicate their child to Him. This is something I wrestled with personally in my early twenties. If you are interested I would love to have coffee with you and tell you my own story.

Does baptism make me a member of Bethel Church?
No. If you wish to become a member at Bethel we would love to chat about this, but Bethel does not consider baptism as entrance to church membership.

I attend here as a student, and I have another home church. Can I get baptized here?
Yes you can, and just last spring a two students in this situation from other churches choose to get baptized at Bethel! Again, it is a personal decision. If you were in this situation and would like to be baptized we strongly encourage friends from back home to come and join us so that they can come and celebrate this with you.

What are the requirements of baptism? I.E. how do I know I am ready?
Repentance means that you have made a decision to change the path of your life one hundred and eighty degrees away from sin and towards Jesus Christ. If you have done this, and it was a personal choice, then you are ready to be baptized! It could have been today, it could have been twenty-five years ago!

How do I know if my child/teenager is ready to be baptized?
Sometimes it is difficult to know if a child, pre-teen or teenager is ready for baptism. The key requirement is still repentance and a commitment to Christ. As a parent, are you seeing fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22)? Is the decision one hundred percent their own or has peer pressure (even unconsciously) intervened (i.e. a friend is being baptized)? It would also be a great idea to pray with your child about this, and see if the Holy Spirit gives you peace about your child getting baptized.

I want to study this more, what are some key texts?
Matthew 3:13-17, 28:19-20
Acts 2:38-41; 8:12; Acts 8:26-40 (the Eunuch’s baptism)
Romans 6:4
Galatians 3:27
Colossians 2:12
1 Peter 3:21

If you have more questions about baptism please come to our baptism class this Wednesday March 14th and 6:30 PM

Fred Grendel
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact