Friday, March 11, 2016

Touching Base, Part 300

This is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching in this series is discussed outside the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

I’d suggest using the following questions in two ways:

1) in your personal devotions

2) in discussion with your family, spouse, close friend or friends, LIFE group

Begin in prayer, inviting the Holy Spirit to come and show you what you need to see about yourself, your community or your church.

Read aloud the letter to the church in Sardis in Revelation 3.

The church in Sardis had the “reputation of being alive”, but was dead.

1) Suggest some practical ways in which a church may gain a good reputation within a city.

2) What would motivate a church to become involved in these various activities?

3) What can happen to people’s motivation when they gain a good reputation?

4) Brainstorm some practical suggestions as to how a church could guard against being motivated by reputation alone.

5) When we check to see if a person is alive or dead, we often check their vital signs (Airway, Breathing, and Circulation). What might some indicators be of spiritual vitality within a church body? Be specific about the behaviours that would be present or absent.

“Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.”

John Stott wrote: “The shortest road to repentance is remembrance. Let someone once recall what they used to be and reflect on what by God’s grace they could be, and they will be lead to repent, turning back from their sin to their Saviour.”

6) How will being a church (or a family or a LIFE group) of remembrance lead to being a community of repentance? List some practical ideas for how this may take place.

7) “Repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin.” Do you agree or disagree? Discuss.

8) If you are discussing this in a community setting, brainstorm some ways that you can keep each other from being a people of pretense and instead be a people of repentance.

The following questions can be used to discuss as a group or for personal reflection. The basis of these questions has been taken from “Gospel in life: Grace Changes Everything” by Tim Killer with Sam Shammas & John Lin.

1) What does Christ mean in your life on a daily basis? In what way is Christ having a significant impact? In what areas should He be having a greater impact?

2) When is the last time you were convicted by the Holy Spirit? For what did you repent? What was the impact of your repentance on your heart? How did it change the way that you lived?

3) Do you admit your limits, mistakes, sins, and weaknesses to God, others and to yourself?

4) Is your life marked by a growth in spiritual fruit? In what measurable ways have you changed over the last year? Challenging yourself to discuss this with someone who knows you well would be a great start toward growth in these areas.
a. Are you more loving?
b. Are you more joyful?
c. Are you more peaceful?
d. Are you more patient with people? With circumstances?
e. Are you kinder?
f. Do you take criticism better?
g. Are you bolder, more courageous, and more confident in following Christ?
h. Are you less angry and gentler?
i. Are you a more self-controlled person? In what areas?

It is God’s desire to be gracious to us. Isaiah 30:18 says:

18 Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.”

Lamentations 3: 22-24 says:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

Take some time in prayer to praise the steadfast, patient and loving nature of God our Father as He desire intimacy with children and His church.

Check out and be sure to come to our last Unleashed today (March 13th) at 4 pm in the Upper Room.

Amanda Van Halteren

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Touching Base, Part 299

06 Mar 16
Series - House on Fire! Part 6
"Doors, Pillars, and a Cross"
Rev. 3:7-13

This is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching in this series is discussed outside the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

We have now come to the second last church in our series, House On Fire! As we come to Philadelphia, we will discover that we have lots in common with this church. In fact, I think their issue is our issue (for many of us) - dealing with issues around the theme of rejection. We will see how this works itself out in Philadelphia, but first, as a group share, about this issue.

What are chapters in your life where you have had to deal with rejection? How has it affected how you trust, express, and communicate? What are the evidences in our culture that people crave acceptance and love?

TEXT: Revelation 3:7-13

What are the images that demonstrate that God has accepted this church?

#1 DOOR (V.7)

To understand this picture of Christ we need to look at the backstory. Check out Isaiah 22:15-25.
What does this imagery communicate about Jesus response to this church? See v.8. How much power does this church have? V.8.

V.9 - tells us why this imagery of the open door would be so powerful. The Messianic Jews in this city had experienced rejection. Christ referred to their enemies as the synagogue of Satan (cf. 2:9). They were Jews who opposed the believers’ Christian testimony. The local synagogue claimed that only those worshiping within their doors could be considered God’s true people and it appears they excommunicated Christian Jews. They have shut the door.

One writer has said that this door represents not only the authority of Christ but the open door represents presence, relationship, acceptance, and embrace. This was the exact opposite of what they experienced in the city.

Two observations:

Note that those being rejected were the ones with “little power” (v.8) - little power in relationship to God, but also in relationship to those Jews who were rejecting them. Talk about how in rejection there is often an unequal distribution of power. Talk about how the one being rejected can feel powerless, helpless and vulnerable. Talk about how the one with power can use that power to carry out the damaging act of rejection.

Note that for some, this rejection may have been from a group that they least expected it, fellow Jews with whom they shared such a rich history. Add to that they were in a city named for its brotherly love (PHILADELPHIA -- Gk. Philadelphia, Philadelphia “love[r] of brother”). They experienced brotherly rejection.

Sometimes, doesn't rejection have a little more sting because it can come from the least-expected place? Have you ever experienced rejection that completely shocked you? How did that unexpected rejection affect you?

V.10-11 - This most likely does not mean that Christ will somehow allow them to bypass trial. One writer has said that the language of this communicates that Jesus will provide a spiritual protection from the devil. The reason John says to hold fast in v.11 is because they will experience trial but they can know Christ’s protection from the enemy in the hour of trial.

#2 PILLAR (V.12)

The second image of acceptance and love in a context where the people of God were being rejected is the pillar.

For this second symbol to make sense, you need to understand the context: Philadelphia was located roughly 20 miles southwest of a volcano named Catacecaumene (modern Kula), in a region prone to seismic activity. The area was subject to frequent earthquakes, and in AD 17, one such earthquake badly damaged the city, prompting Emperor Tiberius to remit taxes for five years to many of the region’s cities, including Philadelphia, so they could be rebuilt (Tacitus, Annals 2.47). In fact as the shocks continued intermittently the people took to living outside the city (Strabo, Geography 12.8.18 [579]).

So these people are experiencing rejection from their fellow Jews… and the very ground beneath them is shaky! It is into this context that the image of the pillar speaks powerfully.

- represented strength, something that was firmly fixed.
- could be used to symbolize the people of God (Ex 24:4).
- symbolized people of importance and great value. Paul refers to James, Cephas (Peter), and John as people reputed to be pillars in the church (Gal. 2:9).

Note it is the pillar “in the temple of my God”. This illustrates presence and relationship. In the New Jerusalem, the Lord God is the temple (see Rev 21:22). And in addition you have God inscribing His name on the pillar (the people). This speaks of value, honor and relationship.

Note the pillar represented so many things that were contrary to their experience of living in Philadelphia:
- While culture communicated that they had little value, the pillar communicated importance.
- The culture kept them as outsiders, but the pillar spoke of value and belonging.
- The culture said they were fools, misguided and lost; the pillar spoke of their identity.

Here are some questions for you to ponder as you consider these two symbols.
- Do I allow my identity to be determined by what man says about me, or what God says about me?
- Do I allow my confidence to be determined by what man says about me, or what God says about me?
- Do I derive my sense of value from the city I live in, or the City that I am going to?

Check out and be sure to come to Unleashed today (March 6th ) at 4 pm in the Upper Room.

Mark Kotchapaw