Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Touching Base! Part 179

Jeremiah 29

(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.

“Responding to the Heart of God;
Transforming the Heart of the City, the Nation and the World.”
Bethel’s Vision Statement

Rodney Stark, a sociologist of religion, writes,
“Christianity served as a revitalization movement that arose in response to the misery, chaos, fear, and brutality of life in the urban Greco- Roman world… Christianity revitalized life in… cities by providing new norms and new kinds of social relationships able to cope with many urgent problems. To cities filled with the homelessness and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachments… To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities face with epidemics, fires and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective…services.” The Rise of Christianity (New York: Harper, 1997, page 161)

At Bethel our heart for the city is encouraged by realizing the role the church has played in the past in ministering to major city centers. However, the ultimate model and inspiration is rooted in understanding the life and message of Jesus. His heart as He walked the face of the earth was the heart of God seen in the flesh - a heart that loves people, reaches out to the least likely, empowers the few to transform the many, and invests in the overlooked to achieve great kingdom purposes. Cities matter to God because cities are made up of people. It is as simple as that!

In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah called the people of Judah who were exiled to Babylon to not neglect the city or leech off its resources but to be Incredible In The City! Note the three ways we can be incredible in the city that we highlighted on Sunday:

Be incredible in the city by contributing to its economic vitality (v.5).

The backdrop of this statement is that the Babylonians are hoping that they Jews will just be absorbed into the community and lose their distinctiveness. The false prophets of the Judah are telling the Jews that they will soon depart Babylon, so don’t invest. Just live off the city but don’t invest. Jeremiah, God’s spokesperson, tells them to invest, engage and plant roots. Move out of your bubble and get engaged.

Jesus models this when, in John 3:16, we are told that that because of love, God gave, engaged and built for Himself a house (so to speak) an earthly, fleshly dwelling to be with the people. “Emanuel” means “God with us”.

On Sunday we talked about how it is easy to live in a bubble - the Queen’s bubble, church bubble etc. Can you name some bubbles that are easy to live in and consequently ignore the city? What are symptoms (“bubblitis”) that can accompany bubble dwellers? Some answers I gave on Sunday were arrogance, indifference, misunderstanding, apathy, self-focus, simplistic answers to complex problems.

Be incredible in the city by contributing to its social vitality (v.6).

Certainly the admonition to raise families was to keep the family line intact. However, one of the spin-offs of building strong families is social vitality. You may ask, “How so?”

Well think about the answers to these questions.
  • Do you believe that healthy family units can contribute to the overall health of a city?
  • Do you think a mom and dad who love each other, not only benefits the children but might also spill over beyond the immediate family?
  • Do you think healthy family units might improve a kid’s self-esteem, school performance, freedom from addictions?
  • Do you think there is any connection between a grown adult’s mental health and the type of family they were raised in?

This text is not saying everyone needs to get married or that divorced families cannot be redeemed and result in great good. But there is a social implication stated in these verses. I believe very strongly that building strong families in the city is one way to be proactive in building healthy people that, in turn, bless the city.

Jesus modeled a priority of children in his ministry. Some may have said there were bigger and better things to do with one’s time, but Jesus valued children. He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt 19:14)

Ever thought of investing in family ministries in the city? Why not mentor a child whose father is out of the picture? How about investing in a single mom who might be finding it hard to make ends meet and stay emotionally healthy? The demands can be great. This is one of the reasons why we partner with the Salvation Army. Don’t hesitate to ask Jamie Stinson our Family Director on how you can get involved. (rstinson2@cogeco.ca)

Be incredible in the city by contributing to its spiritual vitality (v.7).

Interesting, isn’t it that the Jews were to pray for the peace of the city? No doubt there can be all kinds of issues that disturb the peace. As Christ followers we pray that one means of peace would come through understanding the full plan of God in Christ to make people right with God - peace with God.

C.S. Lewis, literary critic and professor of medieval and renaissance literature for 29 years at
Magdalene College at Oxford, wrote, “The salvation of a single soul is more important than the preservation of all the epics and tragedies in the world.” While it is important to make good culture and redeem social ill, sharing the redemptive, saving message of Jesus Christ is of utmost importance. Even the great literary critic C.S. Lewis saw the soul as more important than culture.

The Hebrew word translated “prosper” means to be healthy, to increase, to have things go well. It means growth in all its dimensions. One form of prosperity is not just material, but finding meaning, significance and belonging. Many know financial prosperity but are stricken with meaninglessness. Other forms of prosperity that we might not think about is for a city to prosper in justice, compassion, integrity, honesty, and equality. Can you identify other ways for a city to prosper?

In what specific ways can you and your group seek to serve and love Kingston? What can you and your group do to become genuinely interested in its peace and prosperity?

Cities matter to God because people matter to God. Does the city matter to you?


If interested in joining or starting a small group contact bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com

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