Sunday, April 22, 2012

Touching Base! Part 162

Rigorous Faith in Turbulent Times, Part 1 
Appearances Can Be Deceiving – Revelation 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.

Ever tricked someone? Ever made someone believe that everything was ok, but meanwhile everything was not okay? Inside you were dying, falling apart, blowing apart in slow motion? At times we can do a pretty good job at living duplicitous lives.

We are now embarking on a series that will take us through the book of Ephesians. However, as we come to this book, this city and this church, I thought we would fast forward to Revelation 2:1-8 first. This is where John, through the Holy Spirit, confronts this church with its duplicitous living. On the outside they look great, but on the inside… well, you know don’t you? We have all been there at one time or the other.


The question we answered on Sunday was, what does death look like? This may seem like a strange question especially as you read v.2 and 3. It seems like anything but death, but v.4 clues us into a problem - appearances can be deceiving. Note the words that describe this church in v.2, 3.

Deeds – What was very visible was that this church was busy. People could tell that a lot was going on just by reading the bulletin.

Hard Work – Notice in v.2b that their hard work resulted in doctrinal purity. Forty years after Paul admonished them to remain doctrinally pure, they are doing just that (check out Acts 20:25-31). Notice that in v.6 they are commended for hating the work of the Nicolaitans. Nicolaitans, possibly, a group in the early church who sought to work out a compromise with paganism, to enable Christians to take part without embarrassment in some of the social and religious activities of the close-knit society in which they found themselves. This was a politically-correct kind of faith. No doubt guarding doctrinal purity and doing that for a church is hard work.

Perseverance – During this time in history the Roman Emperor was lighting Christians on fire as torches for his dinner parties… Christians were also being kicked out of Rome. It was, to say the least, not the best of times to be wearing a cross as part of your jewelry.

What church would not be honoured to be described as Ephesus is in v.2, 3?

But now, as a group read v.4 and 5. What is the problem and what are the steps to restoration?

Perhaps what was happening in this church was that they ended up falling in love with the tools and initiatives and programs and pats on the back - falling in love with deeds, hard work and perseverance, but not with Jesus. Perhaps the mission became the end, not the means to loving Christ more. It’s the same with worship - we can fall in love with how good it sounds etc. but miss out on where it is suppose to lead us. This church was not growing in intimacy with God but growing in intimacy with work!

Note - it is not until Jesus walks amongst this Church and speaks that any one is saying anything. This problem that John is speaking about can slip in by the back door of any church, hide in the shadows and go undetected… until Jesus shows up and walks amongst us.

What perpetuates us to keep going, if it is not coming from the heart any longer?
What is it about how we live our lives that can lead to this?
What is it about the atmosphere of the church that can accommodate and produce this duplicitous state?

Talk about how easy it is for churches to do the work of God minus the presence of God.

When we accommodate a cooling heart, how is this manifested in our personal lives? Below are some of my answers.
  • We don’t allow conversations to go anywhere near the heart - out of bounds!
  • Sometimes those closest to us may not know a thing. We are well protected.
  • The discipline of prayer and being in God’s word has dried up
  • We become more guarded and private
  • We are not approachable on “soulish” issues
  • We may do the right things in many cases but not with passion but more from “muscle memory”
  • We depend on patterns to guide us, not much spontaneous, impromptu acts of loving God
  • We may struggle with guilt, shame or sadness 
  • We are often lonely because we are too embarrassed to talk about it.
  • The path of least resistance is to do nothing

But Jesus walks amongst us!!

What is the way back to a healthier place? Note some clues in the text…

Jesus walks amongst us - He seeks out relationship, he seeks out connecting and intimacy. I think Jesus feels ignored in Ephesus. Like standing by a highway with vehicles speeding by you at 100 miles an hour- people are speeding by Jesus. His footsteps in our presence reveal a God who desires relationship and restoration. Remember in the garden the same picture is painted. God walking amongst his creation whose hearts have wandered.

V.5 Remember the height… I think this is referring to the “good old days” of their walk with Christ. Remember the days when your heart was on fire, passionate? I think this church could sit around and talk about “Remember the good old days…” but the conversation was brief when talking about the heart. That is the kiss of death - how about “these are the great days!”, how about “the great days are ahead!” When you start living out of the rearview mirror you know you are in trouble. Jesus says remember the height, so that the days ahead can be better than ever.

V.5 Repent and do the things you did at first. Based on v.2 and 3, they are doing a lot of things. Do they need to add more? I think what John may be getting at is doing things that one needs to do to nurture our heart for God. Sometimes we can get doing so many things that we don’t do the things we need to do to stay tight with God. Agree? What are the things you did or experiences you had that kept your heart on fire for God?

V.7 He who has an ear let him hear (relationship vs. rules). Ears are for relationships, not just rules. Perhaps they have been so busy doing, that they have not spent enough time listening.

“A rule I have had for years is: to treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere doctrine, but it is He Himself we have.” Dwight L. Moody

The reason Jesus walked amongst the churches then, and still does today, is because He wants us to love Him! He wants to be the main thing in our lives. Note in v.7 that He believes that we can overcome and that the promise of restoration and healing is very real and possible.

This series of messages is entitled, Rigorous Faith in Turbulent Times. Only a heart on fire will push back the cold chill that our world wishes would consume our hearts.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Touching Base! Part 161

Serve On!

(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.

As you read this TB I really want to challenge you to think about your service. We call this growing in acts of service at Bethel. Here are some questions to get your started:

Passion- What are you passionate about, love to do? Passion determines your area of ministry, the kinds of people you work with or place you may serve. For example in the gathered church, Jamie Stinson is known for her passion for children, Fred Grendel is known for his passion for youth.

Gifts- What are your gifts? While passion determines where we minister, gifts determine what we do in that area of passion.

We can apply these questions to both the gathered and scattered church.

This past Sunday we concluded our six-part series entitled, Touched by the Cross. As we study the cross which represents Christ’s life, death and resurrection, we learn about service. Our big idea on Sunday was that the cross mentors us in service.

What does the cross teach us about service?


Jesus did not end up on a cross because he lived a life of “do as one pleases” or consumerism or a life of “what’s in it for me” mentality. Jesus died on a cross, and the cross is so central to the Christian faith because Jesus the Son of God, was focused, committed, and resolute to do and accomplish what He had come to do.

Read John 17:1-4- How did Jesus bring the Father glory?

Read Luke 24:25-27- What did the Scripture reveal?

In both of these examples we see Jesus highly cognizant of his mission.

If you go to the beginning of Jesus earthly life we discover descriptions of Jesus that identify He was a man on a mission from His very birth.

Read Matt 1:21 and Luke2:25-32- How was Jesus “hard wired” from the very beginning of His earthly life?

What I find interesting is that from the very beginning to the very end Jesus stayed the course. In fact we read in Luke 4 that staying the course was not always easy. He demonstrates the Spirit filled life as he refuses to give in to the great temptation (Luke 4:1-13) that would have taken Him off course. In fact what is so interesting about this is what follows- the great declaration- Luke 4:14-19. Jesus stands up and declares the very thing that was attempted to be stolen from Him. He stood His ground!

How does this help us understand our life of service? As we look at Scripture we discover that we have also been hard wired from the very beginning- Read Ephesians 2:10. We are His what?

Check out 1 Cor. 12:27- What are we according to Paul? What part are you? We have been formed and created for a purpose, with gifts and passion. If we are ever going to pursue that passion and use our gifts in the scattered or gathered church we are first of all going to need to know what they are – passion and gifts, and then secondly stay focused when the great temptation comes to lose focus and become a useless body part.

What can cause people to lose focus and not follow through on passion and gifts? (fear, pride, hard heart, business, indifference)

How many local churches have missed out on the blessings, ministries that could have flourished because people didn’t take responsibility?

How many towns and cities have been left untouched because people did not take responsibility to pursue their calling?

The cross mentors us in service because it demonstrates a focus and resolute determination to not allow anything or anyone take away the agenda and plan that God has for all of us to do our part in the body of Christ. Focus and commitment is key if we are ever going to contribute as God intended.


There are three key issues to point out here:

1. Humility
In Jim Collins' book, Good to Great, he found that some of the most impressive corporate leaders had what he described as a paradoxical blend of professional will and personal humility. But where did this value come from? Listen to what John Dickson says....

“Ten years ago I was involved in a post-doctoral research project looking at the origins of humility in a secular ancient history department. The finding is pretty clear that humility came to be valued in the Western tradition because of Jesus and the early Christians. For an ancient person, to pursue honor was a great good; to experience shame was the greatest of all possible harms. Christians had to reflect ethically and socially on the death of Jesus. The most shameful, honor-less place in the empire was a cross. So they had to ask themselves, What does this mean? The greatest man we've ever known died on a cross. Was he not as great as we thought?

How did they resolve the seeming contradiction? The early Christians decided that greatness had to be redefined to include this word that had, up to that point, been associated with servitude...

I love the line- “greatness had to be redefined...” Jesus certainly redefined a lot of things, one namely being service, and how we serve. Read Phil 2:5-11 for a fresh reminder of this important aspect of service.

In your group discuss why humility is so important in service.
2. Excellence
Read John 19:28-30. Do you see the statement of excellence? “It Is Finished!” This statement declares that what Jesus offered up in fulfilling the Father’s agenda were not leftovers or some kind of second rate sacrifice. Excellence was written all over the cross. In the original Greek this statement is in the perfect tense. It speaks of a past action that still is having impact today. For instance: “I have closed the door,” speaks of a past completed action. But the implication is that, as a result, the door is still closed. Thus, the entire meaning is, “I have closed the door and it is closed at present.” “It is finished” is Jesus’ way of saying this past action stands for all of time. Christ’s work on the cross was completely sufficient, absolutely fulfilling the justice of the Father. The entire sense is, “It was finished and as a result it is forever done.” “It stands finished” would be a good translation. Read Heb 10:11,12 to see the excellence of what Jesus did.

In your group, discuss what excellence looks like in using your gifts?
3. Empowerment
Read Ephesians 1:18-23

I don’t know about you, but whenever I am working in my area of gifting and passion I sense increasingly the need for empowerment. The empty cross and tomb remind us of the power available to us as we serve. This is a must or else our service is purely our own efforts, done in our own strength. Where is it that you sense your greatest need for power in service these days? What is the context - family, work, gathered church? On Sunday I listed several examples of why we need His strength in service. List or journal your own thoughts on this.
Our prayer at Bethel is that the Cross would continue to mentor us in our service to the city, nation and world. Serve on with focus, staying the course and working out your passion and using your gifts for His glory. May you serve in humility, with excellence and under the anointing of the Holy Spirit!

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact