Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Touching Base - Part 285

25 Oct 15
Series: Living in the Margins
Part 5 - Faithful Presence
1 Peter 2:18-25

During our series, Living in the Margins, based on the book of 1 Peter, we are going to be turning our Touching Base into a prayer guide. This aligns with how we want people to be growing at Bethel. Being prayerfully engaged is one of the marks of a disciple, it characterized Jesus’ life and ministry and is essential as we learn to walk with Jesus. We encourage you to use this prayer tool in your Life Groups, and in your personal prayer time.

Like the recent TBs, this one is also a prayer guide. And while the sermon isn’t about prayer, the Big Idea does fit well with the theme of prayer.

Consciousness counts. That’s the Big Idea.

Of course consciousness matters. To be unconscious is a decidedly unproductive state. We can hardly imagine what a state of unconsciousness might be like because, by its very nature, we are not aware when we are lying on the street after falling off a bike. But consciousness is a continuum. Sleep is not as profound as a coma: you’re hopefully rousable, and can often remember some events of the night.

Consciousness in the sense of being aware and mindful of something – like being conscious of your appearance – is also a continuum. In our text this Sunday, 1 Peter 2:18-25, Jesus’ most headstrong and impulsive disciple calls us to be “mindful of God” (something he probably had to learn), to be conscious of Him and His attributes and claims even as we go about the day-to-day activities of being employees.

While not a substitute for clearly expressing our thoughts to God verbally, is not the state of being mindful of God minute-to-minute a form of prayer? What does the term “contemplative prayer” mean?

Like many passages in 1 Peter, the chunk from 2:18-25 starts with practical instruction and then goes into the big theological reasoning backing it up. Practical: Servants (employees) respect your bosses even if they are crooked, since enduring unjust suffering is valuable (v. 18-20). Transition: Do this since it’s your calling and Christ is your example of this kind of behaviour (v. 21). Theological reasoning: Christ is sinless, didn’t engage in crookedness even when up against it, and didn’t threaten when under extreme pressure. He died, was wounded, and is now your Overseer (v. 22-25).

This passage not only tells us how to act as employees, but also completely how to live as exiles on the margins. And this is the very same thing as telling us how to live as Christians in the world. The two are the same: we’re not expected to be at the center, not asked to change the world per se, and shouldn’t anticipate wielding power in the traditional sense. Actually, what we can expect is suffering. And then Peter tells us how to conduct ourselves when that inevitably happens.

Pray for your boss. And not only for “the good and gentle, but also [for] the unjust” or crooked (from the Greek scolios, meaning crooked, like scoliosis of the spine).

The consciousness of the Christian matters. The key to verse 19, which tells us to endure unjust suffering, is the little phrase, “being mindful of God” or “because you are conscious of God”. That’s the only way enduring sorrow can be sweet and seemly to God. The verse is nothing without that little bit; without it, the verse would be merely masochistic or about encouraging martyrdom in the distasteful sense. Consciousness counts.

Now here is where it gets interesting. This is where it gets really practical.

A book (a bit dry) by a sociology professor at the University of Virginia, James Davison Hunter, overhauled my personal view of this. Rooted in scripture, he says the 21st-century Christian should not be simply “defending against” the world’s culture, or trying to be “relevant to” it, or even striving for “purity from” it. Instead, we should practice “faithful presence within” it. This is a stance that can be exercised best by sojourners and exiles, just like Peter’s audience. And this is exactly what Peter is suggesting. It is a consciousness that is both glorifying to God and intensely practical. The servants/employees of 1 Peter 2:18 were surely being instructed to practice Faithful Presence as they worked for crooked bosses. This theology is “an acknowledgement of God’s faithful presence to us and that his call upon us is that we be faithfully present to him in return”.

“When Christ was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (v.23) This state of consciousness was practiced by the Son of God Himself.

Did Peter know what he was talking about? The above verse is likely based on his actually witnessing Jesus’s behaviour before the High Priest, even as Peter was thrice denying he knew Jesus.

Practicing faithful presence while conscious of God’s faithful presence to us – entrusting yourself to him who judges justly – is a stance that should pervade all our prayer.

Eric Prost

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Touching Base - Part 284

18 Oct 15
Series: Living in the Margins
Part 4 - Squish Squash
(1 Peter 2:1-22)

During our series, Living in the Margins, based on the book of 1 Peter, we are going to be turning our Touching Base into a prayer guide. This aligns with how we want people to be growing at Bethel. Being prayerfully engaged is one of the marks of a disciple, it characterized Jesus’ life and ministry and is essential as we learn to walk with Jesus. We encourage you to use this prayer tool in your Life Groups, and in your personal prayer time.

I think one of the biggest issues for believers is to truly live out of the identity that we have in Christ. Think about it, if we saw ourselves and others as God sees us, how would that change how we live and act in human relationships?

This past Sunday we continued our series in 1 Peter, by looking at chapter 2:1-12. The big idea was, our God-given identity needs to be the truth that shapes us. The tension is that the squish (pressure of culture) and the squash (shape we are formed into) can cause us to live out of the wrong identity. This was happening in the community of faith Peter was addressing. On your own or in a group walk through this text and use it to direct not only your discussion, but also your prayer time.

The result of living out of the wrong identity (v.1)

How I am with people tells me a lot about what identity I am living out of. We speak, act and live in ways that reflect how we answer the question, “Who am I?” I will embrace a lifestyle consistent with who I truly believe myself to be. What were some of the toxic ways they were hurting each other? What are other toxic ways we hurt each other when we live out of the wrong identity? This verse shows that they have experienced the squish squash of culture!
Pray into this as God leads your group. Perhaps repentance and forgiveness are key issues here.

Note that in v.2 Peter contrasts the passions of the world (v.1) with what should be our true passion - the word. Now Peter demonstrates in Christ what being shaped by the word of God looks like.

Our example of living out of the right identity (v.4-8)

According to v.4 how is Jesus described?
How do men view him? V.4a
Scan this text (v.4-8) and look for other words or phrases that would describe how men viewed Jesus. I developed this on Sunday, so this might be a test of your memory.

Now note the opposite in this text. What does v.4b say? Do you see how opposite this is?
Chosen - selected versus rejected
Precious - seen of great value as opposed to an offense that is rejected - literally meaning to throw away.
What else in v.4-8 develops how Jesus is seen in the sight of God the Father?

Now here is the big question - What identity did Jesus live out of? Did his God-given identity shape him and speak into his spirit or did the voice of culture shape him?
Pray into this at this time if it is appropriate. Take some time to thank God for Christ’s example of being faithful to his true identity. Praise Christ for his obedience, focus and surrender to the voice of the Father, not the voice of the crowd.

I think this whole tension is seen in the contrast of what the Father said of Jesus at His baptism and what the crowd said of Jesus during His public ministry.

The Father said“This is my beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased.”
The crowd said “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Our challenge to live out of the right identity (v.4-11)

So why would Peter say what he says about Jesus? V.5 tells us. We are like living stones who experience this tension – the voice of the Father versus the voice of the crowd.

Voice of the Father - Note the key statements that demonstrate how much the Father values his children.
Living stones, spiritual house, holy priesthood, chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation. These are Old Testament truths now being applied to the Jewish and gentile Christ followers.
Note the adjectives - they all speak of value and importance. They all reinforce how precious this group of Jews and Gentiles are in the sight of God.
Note the nouns - Note that they refer to community, relationships!

Identity is not just how I see myself but how I see others in the church. And that affects how I relate. Would I be malicious, deceitful, hypocritical, envious, slandering if I understood corporate identity?

Would I be indifferent, mean, segregating if I understood that the person I was talking to is considered part of the holy nation, royal priesthood, spiritual house?

Voice of the crowd - The voice of the crowd in Peter’s context was mean, marginalizing, cruel, demeaning and defeating. Peter is reminding them that just like Jesus we can experience rejection, but it is possible to live out of the identity God has given us. Our God-given identity needs to be the truth that shapes us!

How might these statements about identity shape how you can pray for each other, Bethel and the big C Church in Kingston?

Some examples
Spiritual House - the word spiritual reminds us of the great work God has done in our hearts - born again, received mercy, have a living hope.
Royal Priesthood - Royal speaks of being a king - special. Priesthood references servants, people who serve.

Are you living out of your God-given identity? Does it shape you?
Two tests from the text. This might give you and your group lots to pray into.

Test of relationships
Check out v.1 - If malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander reflected test scores then I would suggest they get a big fat F! What do your relationships with other believers indicate about what identity you are living out of?

Test of mission
Note v.10-12.
Those living out of their God given-identity burn brightly.
Jesus served with excellence not because he listened to the crowd, but because of the voice of the Father.

Keep your head up this week. Culture may want to squish and squash you into an identity that is very contrary to what the Father has spoken into your life. May God’s identity with which He has blessed you, shape you in all you do think and speak!

Mark Kotchapaw

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Touching Base - Part 283

11 Oct 15
Series: Living in the Margins
Part 3 -
When the Who Makes a Difference in My How!
1 Peter 1:13-25

During our series, Living in the Margins, based on the book of 1 Peter, we are going to be turning our Touching Base into a prayer guide. This aligns with how we want people to be growing at Bethel. Being prayerfully engaged is one of the marks of a disciple, it characterized Jesus’ life and ministry and is essential as we learn to walk with Jesus. We encourage you to use this prayer tool in your Life Groups, and in your personal prayer time.

Perhaps you used last week’s TB as a prayer tool in your Life Group or in your personal prayer time. Well, this week’s TB might help you walk out some of what you prayed into last week. Peter moves into the next section with, “therefore”, in other words now that I have said what I have said, here are some of the “so what’s”! Here are some ways you can flesh this out. In other words the WHO, referring to God and all He has done (v.3-12) needs to make a big difference in HOW you and I live. FAITH HAS FEET, and Peter is about to get somewhat specific in what that can look like. Use Peter’s instruction to help shape your prayer time and discussion time this week.

Anticipate (v.13) - Therefore, preparing your minds for action….

To prepare is to plan in advance. We all prepare at the simplest level, i.e. packing my daily lunch, to the more complex level, planning for a strategic meeting. Note that the mind is to be prepared, not for just pie-in-the- sky, up-in-the-clouds thinking but boots on the ground - FOR ACTION. In other words we ANTICIPATE, we look ahead (with a keen mind) to the path we are setting out on. One way we can do that each and every day is through prayer. Note v.17 where Peter talks about calling on the Father.

Principle - It is what you do before the moment that helps prepare you for that moment!
Think of a situation coming up this week - How will you respond differently if you anticipate? What do you need to be aware of, how can you best “pack” for that meeting, altercation, project? How can you pray about that right now?

Differentiate-…. and being sober minded….

Sober means to not be drunk. Peter is using this idea figuratively, referring to intoxicating thoughts, inebriating thinking patterns. Faith that has feet not only anticipates, but differentiates and distinguishes between Drink’n Think’n and Godly Thinking! Note the references to Drink’n Think’n in v.1:14b, 18; 2:1,11; 4:1-5. Anticipate a situation coming up this week. How will you respond differently if you differentiate between Drink’n Think’n and Godly Thinking? How might this inform you on how to pray?

Concentrate - … set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Set means to stand in a specified place or position. Note where we are to stand? You cannot read this without noting context. Our footing needs to be on what God has done (see v.3 these people have been born again and received mercy), is doing (v.2 we are recipients of grace and mercy, v.3, living hope is something that God fills our hearts with today) and will do (v.4-9 and v.13 speak of what we look forward to). In other words we need to concentrate, set our hope fully on all that God has, is and will do! For our faith to have feet we need to stay focused, concentrate, be fully committed to keeping God’s truth in clear view. Note in the text that it is clearly the word of God that defines for us what God has, is and will do for us. (v.22-25) How can you pray for each other in this area of focus? How challenging is it to set your hope FULLY on all God has, is and will do?

Appreciate- v14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,…

Note the statement “passions of your former ignorance.”. I think we would agree that not all passions are equally tempting. Sometimes the passion might have the most power over us is our history with that passion. Unless we appreciate and understand where we are most vulnerable, we may be prone to fail.

Anything we have history with, a past with, may represent an issue we need to be extra cautious of. “Conform” literally means to give the same shape, to comply with. With this understanding would it be fair to say that previous passions have a mold, a shape that they often want to entice us to go back into, a certain mold when it comes to thinking, acting, relating? Agree? We need to appreciate our areas of vulnerability that are unique to us. Faith that has feet is not naive to how old “lovers” may try to seduce us.

Think of a situation coming up in the next few weeks. How will you respond differently if you appreciate your area of vulnerability? How can your prayers be shaped by this point that Peter is making?

Saturate (v.15-16) - …but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy.

“In all your conduct” is a pretty all inclusive statement. Faith that has feet realizes that God’s truth impacts every area - total saturation in terms of practically living it out, even with those old “lovers” that may want a pass on being reigned in. Jesus certainly was the example of holiness, where holiness impacted all areas of His life and where holiness was a result of being empowered by the Spirit. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 4:18? “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,…”
Read Matthew 4:1-11 and see Jesus’ holiness in action. Satan’s temptation did not reveal an area in Jesus life that was unyielding. Note his use of the word of God. Take some time to thank Jesus for his example of living a holy life - 100% yielded to the Father!

Congregate (v.22) - Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,…

Often when we think of walking out our faith we think of one set of feet, the (un)holy trinity - me, myself and I . However in order to walk out our faith we need other feet, other sets of eyes and ears and voices in our lives. Peter is addressing a community, people walking out faith issues together in a pretty hostile world. If you are in a group setting, discuss how your community (congregate) helps you walk out your faith. Take some time to thank God for people in your group or outside your group who have been instrumental in helping you put feet to your faith.

Faith has feet. As we anticipate, differentiate, concentrate, appreciate, saturate and congregate, we can live out of the account (v.3-12) that God has asked us to draw from.

Mark Kotchapaw

Friday, October 2, 2015

Touching Base - Part 282

4 Oct 15
Series: Living in the Margins
Part 2 -
Lucy’s Dilemma
1 Peter 1:3-12

During our series, Living in the Margins, based on the book of 1 Peter, we are going to be turning our Touching Base into a prayer guide. This aligns with how we want people to be growing at Bethel. Being prayerfully engaged is one of the marks of a disciple, it characterized Jesus’ life and ministry and is essential as we learn to walk with Jesus. We encourage you to use this prayer tool in your Life Groups, and in your personal prayer time.

What would you say to a person (on Sunday we called her Lucy) whose expectations have been crushed by the weight of reality? Do we say, “Pray and God will turn it all around?” “You deserve better so expect better.” “Suck it up Lucy and live with the bitter pill of your reality.” What does Peter say to a group of believers who might say “we did not sign up for this!” Peter’s audience are not living where they want to live, they are Jews scattered across the Roman Empire. Their RBC account might be floating belly up, but there is another account that Peter reminds them of, an account that speaks of their true wealth. This account reminds them of their true riches regardless of life circumstances. Let’s pray together into this all important issue for ourselves and those around us. As you pray think about this question, what account are you living out of?

Text: 1 Peter 1:3-12

V.3—12 Note that Peter starts right off with telling them WHO, not what, is praiseworthy. We live in a WHAT-focused world, but this is a WHO-focused account. He does not tell them things will turn around, although they might, but that is not his point. His point is to remind them of their wealth. As a group or alone, take some time to review v.3-12 and discuss key terms that describe this account that Peter is talking about. How would you describe it? How is the WHO described? What is our response to be? What did the prophets think of the WHO? Also think about how this account is so different than the account our culture lives out of, which is focused in on the WHAT! For example, where the original audience was concerned, their world did not extend to them a lot of mercy, their identities were beaten down and their hope was, for the most part, dead. That account amounted to pennies. Once you have discussed, pray back v3-12 with words of thanks and praise. Here are some definitions of some of the key words:

Mercy -- mercy refers to God’s unmerited favor toward sinners in their hopeless condition. One of the big differences in this account is that what is in it, is what God has put in it. The other account often represents what I have earned, worked for, think I deserve etc.

Born Again -- this can be a politicized phrase in our current day, but biblically it means a radical change of state, referencing a change of spiritual state reminding them of their new identity. Their first birth brought them into a world of chaos and injustice. Their second birth brought them into the Kingdom of God. Their first birth reminds them that the world has crushed them and circumstances have demoralized them, but their second birth reminds them of their new spiritual identity - something Peter will touch on later.

Living Hope -- note that this is rooted in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Contrast this with their dead hope. For many today, what represents a dead hope?

Inheritance that does get moldy (my words) -- note the cumulative emphasis Peter gives to this by using three key adjectives to describe this inheritance.

Guarded -- The word guarded is a military word. Another exciting aspect about this account and our future inheritance is that God is guarding us for it. As you could imagine, many of these persecuted Christians were kept from their earthly inheritance because of the “scattering” (1 Pet 1:1) or because it had been taken by the Romans. Some had even died for the faith, and therefore, could not receive the earthly inheritance of their fathers or grandfathers. However, the believer’s inheritance is different. God is guarding us for it.


On Sunday we talked about Lucy. Lucy represents people who have put all of their hope in the wrong account and experienced huge disappointment. Her expectations were for a full account but her reality is that it is loose change. Take some time to brainstorm on her dilemma. What does she feel, think, how does she act? How radically would her heart change if she was able to live out of the account that Peter is talking about? Got any Lucys in your life? Take some time as a group to pray for these folks. These may be believers or non believers who are living out of the wrong account.

Be blessed by God, not stuff! Live out of the right account.

Mark Kotchapaw