Thursday, January 30, 2014

Touching Base, Part 228

TB 228
The Body – PART 1:
Be Here, See Here!
2 Feb 14

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

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.

Be Here, See Here! Ever noticed that presence does not guarantee someone actually being present? Yes, physically they are in the room but they are anything but engaged. If you are discussing this in your small group talk about times in the day or week where you find it hard to be both physically present and attentive to what is actually unfolding in front of you. Ever been guilty of faking it? I would not recommend confessing this right now if your spouse is sitting next to you.

This past Sunday we started a series entitled The Body. We are going to be looking at a number of dynamics that relate to Body life. Be Here, See Here is the first dynamic that we are going to unpack.

Text: 1 Corinthians 8

Verse 1a tells us what the background issue was - idolatry was rampant in Corinth. The landscape was dotted with temples. Many who had come to faith in Christ had come out of deep-seated idolatry. Meat was offered to idols before being served in temples’ dining halls (often as part of worship) or being used for communal meals. Some new Christians struggled with whether or not it was okay to eat meat that had been offered to their former gods.

Note what is happening - there are some issues we wrestle with, and are more sensitive to, because of our past. Our current challenges and questions might have a historical root. What happens if I come along being insensitive to the issues you may wrestle with because of your past? I might be to you what a bull is to a china shop.

Check out how this unfolds in our text.

How do knowledge and love contrast each other?
Which one is self-focused?
Which one is other-focused?

According to Paul’s description, if you were in a room with Mr. Knowledge and Mr. Love, who would be probably asking the questions? Who might be pursuing you? Who might be attentive to other people in the room, other than themselves? Why?
How do verses 2 and 3 demonstrate the superiority of love?
Paul knows that they all possess knowledge but the problem is that they don’t all possess love, thus their challenge is to Be Here, See Here! They need to see who else is in the Body and understand where they are coming from on this issue of meat being sacrificed to idols.

This discussion is primarily about interpersonal behavior in certain contexts, not about cuisine. Paul is trying to wake them up to the fact that some in the Body are getting really beat up because of a lack of sensitivity.

The Two Groups

• V4-6 Puffed Up Grown-Ups!

What does this group know? Go through the verses and identify what they (we) know.
Notice that in v.4 Paul is drawing on his knowledge of the Old Testament (Psalm 115:4-8).
Notice in v.6 that Paul is essentially quoting the Shema: “Listen, Israel … the LORD is One” (Dt 6:4–6).
What does Paul say about Jesus that demonstrates His deity and equality with the Father?

Being part of the Body means understanding that there are people in the Body who are very different than us. Not everyone is at the same stage of growth. This is why we need to Be Here, See Here! Now check out the next group.

• V7,8 Messed Up Grown-Ups!

Notice how Paul describes these folks in v.7. “Weak” meaning that they do not possess the knowledge of v.4-6 and also of what Paul says in v.8. They get messed up because puffed up grown-ups are not being careful and acting in ways that are sensitive to the weaker brother. The stronger brothers were failing to really see their brothers in Christ, understand where they were at and thus act in accordance. They were present but not attentive, in the same room but not engaged.

What Paul says next (one Greek word, two English words) gets at the idea of Be Here, See Here!

V9 BE CAREFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Be Here, See Here!
Note the meaning of this word in the Greek. I include this just so that you get the sense of what Paul is getting at:

991 βλέπω [blepo /blep•o/] translates as “see” 90 times, “take heed” 12 times, “behold” 10 times, “beware” four times, “look on” four times, “look” three times, “beware of” three times, 1 to see, discern, of the bodily eye. 1A with the bodily eye: to be possessed of sight, have the power of seeing. 1B perceive by the use of the eyes: to see.. 1C to turn the eyes to anything: to look at, look upon, gaze at. 1D to perceive by the senses, to feel. 1E to discover by use, to know by experience. 2 metaph. to see with the mind’s eye. 2A to have (the power of) understanding. 2B to discern mentally, observe, perceive, discover, understand. 2C to turn the thoughts or direct the mind to a thing, to consider, contemplate, to look at, to weigh carefully, examine.”

Let me close by answering the question, “What does this look like?”

1. Make sure your knowledge is couched in (and coached by) love (v.9- Remember v.1)
We all possess knowledge but we don’t all possess love. Knowledge without love is like authority without integrity - ouch! Make sure that your knowledge is guided by this love ethic that Paul identifies in v.1 - love builds up, repairs, restores. Knowledge may say you can do it, but love will tune you into others and whether or not you should do it.

2. Understand the power of actions (v.10) (Dining rooms were often attached to temples.)
There is great power in what we say; however there is perhaps more power in what we do. Being careful means watching what we say and what we do. Your son, daughter, friend, team is watching. What kind of sermon are you preaching by what you are doing? Is it helping or hindering?

3. Realize who is watching you is of great value (v.11)
Who died for this brother?
If Christ loved this brother so much that He was willing to give up His exalted rights and even His life (Phil. 2:6, 8), surely the strong could give up his right to eat such meat.

In what way might the Holy Spirit be prompting you to act around your brother or sister that would be sensitive, encouraging and affirming?

4. Realize that you are sinning against Christ when you don’t “see” your brother (v.12)
If someone hurts your child, do you feel violated, enraged? Of course you do… they’re your kids! The act against your kid is an act against you. Likewise, sinning against a brother/sister, Paul says, is sinning against Christ their Savior.

V.13 Note the final verse in this section. Note the pronoun change - “I” - Paul is not asking them to do anything that he is not willing to do and is already doing.

How is your group at “seeing” each other? Is your group good at taking time to “see” each other or is your group too tied to the “agenda” too much? What does your group do to help each other understand where the other one is coming from?
Be Here, See Here!

Mark Kotchapaw
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Touching Base - Part 227

TB 227
26 Jan 14

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

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.

If you attend Bethel Church then you need to read this. Why? We believe that every person that attends Bethel needs to be “in the know”, aware of what is happening. That way you can know where to jump in, how you can prayerfully support the ministry and you can see the progress (and sometimes the lack of progress) we are making as we move forward into the emerging vision. Being part of Bethel means caring about the vision, and contributing to make it happen. My prayer is that this brief update will do just that!


As you now know, 178 willing participants (we did not have to hold anyone at gunpoint to do this) filled out the survey. We are now in the process of interpreting the data. How is this happening?
1. The Elders’ team has met and has begun to review the feedback and compile a list of observations.
2. The staff team met this past week and reviewed the feedback, adding to the elders’ observations.
3. A team of people from Bethel are in the process of being recruited to do a 2-hour round table as we review the feedback. If you would like to be on this team please contact me at

Once we have assessed the feedback, we will begin the process of asking ourselves two key questions, “ Now what?” and “So what?” The data will be used to shape our ministries, identify new priorities, and evaluate existing ministries. There is no sacred stone at Bethel that cannot be turned over and examined. Please pray for this process.

You can download and see the full survey reports by going to the Admin Page on the Bethel website.


The elders continue to meet monthly for the purpose of prayer and strategic planning that is addressing the emerging vision at Bethel. One of our key objectives this year has been to drill down deep in the area of understanding discipleship. We have done this through watching video segments at several of our Fall meetings, discussing discipleship, praying into this issue and conducting the Spiritual Life Survey at Bethel. At our January meeting we were thrilled to be able to review the data from the survey and talk about how discipleship is unfolding at Bethel, road blocks and key areas to address. Often when assessing if a church is successful, leaders fall back on the three b’s- Bucks, Bodies and Buildings. While all three are necessary they can serve as faulty means to identify if a church is really making disciples. We are delighted that as a leadership team we can see more deeply into the true health of the church.

We also have been addressing our own issues of spiritual growth. We as a team have filled out the Tracking Spiritual Growth tool and at various meetings take time to discuss our own progress as disciples.


One issue percolating at Bethel Church is the issue of a staff hire. As many of you know, Bethel needs to hire to address issues of current growth and envisioned growth. We have enlisted the skillset of Brian Marchant who has been working with us (elders) to put together a comprehensive job description. This position comes out of our Vision Pathway (see back of this document) and our S.W.O.T (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) exercise. Once we have finalized the job description we will be going to the congregating for their input and approval to post and hire. Ideally we would love to have someone in place by August 1, 2014.


This year we are engaging in our second prayer focus leading up to Easter. It starts on Sunday, March 2nd and will culminate with a Seder meal on the eve of Good Friday. Last year we called our prayer focus Move, this year we are going with the theme of Breathe, based on Acts 17:28, “For in Him we live and move, and have our being,” Our life is in God and we so desire for Him to Breathe His life into our city, nation and world! Join us. More details to come.


The colorful picture below is what we call the Vision Pathway (click on it if you'd like to see a larger version). You will note our vision statement at the center, which is based on Matthew 28:19,20. You will also note four key words that surround our vision. They answer key questions.

Strategy: How are we organized? These are the key directions that we want our people to grow in. Each ministry can be seen as facilitating one or all three of these directions.

Mission: What is important? Our mission succinctly states the simplicity of all that we are trying to do.

Marks: What does a disciple look like? These are broad statements that capture what we believe is at the heart of a disciple.

Values: What does relational integrity look like in this organization? Values help define our culture and clarify what we value in relationships.

Vision: Where are we going?

Why is it important that you know this? You need to know what matters at Bethel. There are lots of things to talk about in the church, lots that can get churches sidelined and tripped up. We want to stay focused, strategic, on our knees and moving into all God has for us.

Pray for your church and feel free to ask questions. Your insight and observations matter.

Mark Kotchapaw
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Touching Base - Part 226

TB 226
Hot Topics 2014

PART 1: Same-Sex Marriage
12 Jan 14

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

Main Hot Topics page:

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 a small group discuss the following images:



In what way do these two images contrast each other?
What adjectives come to mind to describe these two pictures?
Is it fair and balanced to only see Jesus through the filter of this scene? Why or why not?

When it comes to the gay issue in our culture has the church tended to have a servant model approach or a Rambo model approach?
What characterizes a servant model approach?
Check out 1 Peter 3:15,16. Note key words and phrases like, “set apart Christ as Lord”, “be prepared,” “ gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience”…

What are words and phrases that might characterize a “Rambo” approach?
What makes it hard to be gracious, kind and respectful on issues we may disagree on?
When it comes to the issue of same sex marriage what image best defines your response?

The same-sex marriage issue which is the focus of this Touching Base is hot for several reasons.

It is hot because at times the Church has been guilty of being hateful, armed with bible verses, locked, loaded and ready to fire. Rambo!!

However, it is also hot because those on the other side have also been guilty, at times, of using inflammatory language, stereotyping and painting all Christians with a broad brush. Rambo!!! Two Rambos make a rumble! No one is squeaky clean!

It is also hot because we have changed the definition of “tolerance”. The result is that if you disagree on this issue, you can get labeled with some pretty nasty titles - bigot, hateful, angry, narrow minded. But tolerance does not mean we agree with every idea. The classical definition of tolerance is in keeping with what Voltaire said,

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”

We tolerate people, we discriminate against ideas. What we have today is that we discriminate against people and ideas. This approach inflames the conversation.

Have you seen the discrimination (attacking, name calling) of the person in our culture because they disagree with his or her idea? When is this ever justified?

Q. So how do we approach this issue as Christ followers who want to engage with people from the LGBT community? Many of us have friends who are gay, or are who heterosexual and endorse same-sex marriage.

For the sake of this message I am assuming that we are supporting the position that the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Sometimes, however, our starting point might not always be Scripture. Now don’t get me wrong - I believe the Word of God is clear on this issue and has authority. However, what do you do when talking to someone who has no regard for the Scriptures? Like Bill Maher, comedian, television host, and political commentator, they say,
“I think that people who think God wrote a book called the Bible are just childish.”

I think the words of 1 Peter – be prepared, gentle, respectful are words and attributes that help me to think deeply about the person I am talking to. Be prepared to address… who? Be gentle towards…who? Be respectful of….who?
Perhaps as I think about them I need to do what I can to remove the perception that my view is rooted in hate, bigotry and close-mindedness. That is a major relational hurdle.
Perhaps as I think about them I need to realize that the starting point of the conversation cannot be based in Scripture - a text they might give no validity to - but on more common ground like history, science, logic and observation. I am not minimizing Scripture, but respecting the proper starting point with a particular audience.

We are not talking this morning about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of same-sex orientation. Christopher Yuan helped us address that.
We are not talking about a gay person’s right to a civil union, their rights and protections.
We are not endorsing that being gay is the worst sin in the Bible.
We are not saying that heterosexuality is the perfect model. Just check out those who are in the heterosexual community and you will see brokenness.
This is not about winning an argument, but about removing negative stereotypes - sometimes deserved by the church - in order to build bridges.

What might be your talking points? My definition of a talking point is a line of logic that is not bulletproof but gets the conversation started.

1. We hold a position that is rooted in widely-held observations made throughout all of history.

“There is simple and decisive evidence that the conjugal view is not particular to religion, or to any religious tradition. Ancient thinkers who had no contact with religions such as Judaism or Christianity - including Xenophanes, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Musonius Rufus, and Plutarch - reached remarkably similar views of marriage.” (What Is Marriage? Pg10)

In C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man, he lists moral codes of many cultures across the ages. They are strikingly similar at key points: honoring parents, being faithful in (heterosexual) marriage, not stealing, not murdering, not lying and so on – a moral awareness, an internal guidance system.

An overarching theme of history demonstrates that when the institution of marriage is compromised, societies suffer.

“British anthropologist J.D. Unwin studied eighty-six civilized and uncivilized cultures spanning five thousand years and found that the most prosperous cultures were those that maintained a strong marriage ethic. Every civilization that abandoned this ethic, including the Roman, Babylonian and Sumerian empires, experienced demise soon after liberalizing their sexual practices.” Joseph Daniel Unwin, Sex and Culture (London: Oxford University Press, 1934).

Someone might say, “but correlation doesn’t always indicate causation.” Yes, but it often does, and when you take eighty-six civilized and uncivilized cultures spanning 5000 years and see similar patterns, conclusions about causation are well founded.

“As a group, as a rule and by nature men and women produce the next generation.”

So marriage is not something that was defined, like green means go and red means stop (these are social constructs), but rather described, not a social construct but the observation of how things work.

Many governments have seen what is observable through history and set up certain protections for the institution of marriage. Marriage has been a uniquely-protected institution because of its direct connection with the health, wealth and sustainability of a culture.

So would it be bigotry to hold to a view that marriage is between a man and a woman based on observations of our history? Does this make us bigots?
Does our observation of history make this position correct? Not necessarily. Past cultures have come to a number of conclusions that were wrong – a flat earth, the role of women, racism, donuts are good for you… but past cultures have come to some astonishing sound, true conclusions.

2. What do we understand about uniqueness and thus influence in the family structure?

Are moms and dads interchangeable?
Does it matter if a child is raised by her mom and dad or two moms and two dads?
Does it matter if a child is lacking one of their biological parents?
We need to understand that believing that there are differences between a mom and a dad, and that a child benefits from both parents is not rooted in bigotry, or closed mindedness.

There is great debate these days about what the evidence is showing regarding the importance of a mom and dad. There are those that hold to the “no difference” position. They believe that two mommies or two daddies are just as good as a mom and dad. See below for the data on this research.

The American Psychological Association, in an official publication in 2005 which was intended to influence the legal debate, claimed that “the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children’s psychosocial growth.”

The issue, they say, is a loving home not sexual orientation.

However because there is a debate, that means there is data on the other side. See below for resources. You can (gently and respectfully) push back with academic integrity.

“The best available social sciences suggest that children tend to do best when reared by their married mother and father. Studies that control for other factors, including poverty and even genetics, suggest that children reared in intact homes do best on the following indices:
Educational achievement: literacy and graduation rates
Emotional health: rates of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide
Familial and sexual development: strong sense of identity, timing of onset of puberty, rates of teen and out of wedlock pregnancy, and rates of sexual abuse
Child and adult behavior: rates of aggression, attention deficit disorder, delinquency, and incarceration
(What Is Marriage? Page 42)

A mom and a dad bring something unique to the family equation. Two flesh produce one flesh and that one flesh is best nurtured by his/her biological parents.

“As absentee fathers and out-of-wedlock births become common, a train of social pathologies follows, and with it greater demand for policing and state- provided social services. Sociologists David Popenoe and Alan Wolfe’s research on Scandinavian countries shows that as a marriage culture declines, the size and scope of state power and spending grow.” (What is Marriage? Page 46)
Dr Popenoe goes on to say….
“We should disavow the notion that “mommies can make good “daddies” just as we should disavow the popular notion that “daddies can make good mommies.… The two sexes are different to the core, and each is necessary - culturally and biologically - for the optimal development of a human being.”
(When It Comes To Raising Kids, Same-Sex Marriage Isn’t the Same,” Boston Globe, January 23, 2004)

University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox finds much the same:
“Let me now conclude our review of the social scientific literature on sex and parenting by spelling out what should be obvious to all. The best psychological, sociological, and biological research to date now suggests that on average men and women bring different gifts to the parenting enterprise, that children benefit from having parents with distinct parenting styles, and that family breakdown poses a serious threat to children and to the societies in which they live.”
(What is Marriage? Page 60)

Does what I have just written win the argument? I don’t think so. What it does demonstrate is that you can hold the position that marriage is between a man and a woman and that position is not founded and rooted in bigotry and hate but science, research, observation and careful study. If I am hateful and bigoted then that is a sin I need to confess.

Is it wise and founded on unquestionable scientific data to state that there is no difference between a same sex marriage and a heterosexual marriage?
Is it wise to promote same-sex marriage as on equal footing with heterosexual marriage?
Is it bigoted, hateful to support and promote heterosexual marriage?
What about equal rights? Good question. What about the rights of a child to be raised in the best possible context for his or her wellbeing? Is it wise to promote a definition of marriage where the rights of a child to his or her biological mom and dad are, at times, ignored?

Final Thoughts
The heart of Jesus is first and foremost to take care of our own back yard (The Church). Ever noted who Jesus got really ticked off with? It was the religious leaders - it was the insiders. Perhaps if there was more integrity in the Church there would be more credibility with onlookers so we could have these difficult conversations.

I think the heart of Jesus is to build relationships with people who are very different from us. To build relationships that the establishment has long shunned. We might not agree but we can listen, learn and love. We might disagree but this topic is best addressed in the context of trust and friendship, not pulpits, bullying points and arrogance.

Lets come back to 1 Peter 3:15,16- What is our hope?
Their hope and ours is in Christ.
Jesus is the trophy of our message. In the end we want to give people Jesus. He is the foundation of faith, change, hope and transformation. There are tough issues to talk about, but there is one message that stands out above all - Jesus Christ - our hope.
Mark Kotchapaw
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Helpful books as you dig in.
The End of Sexual Identity, Jenell Williams Paris (Ph.D., American University)
What is Marriage? (Originally published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy) Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, Robert P. George
Smart Sex, Jennifer Roback Morse
Helpful websites as you dig in.
Stand To Reason – Greg Koukl –
J. Warner Wallace –
Dr William Lane Craig –
Helpful on line articles as you dig in.
A. Research that supports the “no difference” position.

B. Research that refutes the “no difference” position.