Category: Emergency Ministries


tireYou’ve all probably heard the expressions “when the tire meets the pavement”, “when the rubber meets the road”, and “when reality sets in”…right? If not, I probably picked them up from my childhood in rural Nova Scotia. These expressions mean that things can look great when they are ideas or plans…but they can look totally different when they become real and its time to put them into real life.

When the “tire meets the pavement” the car moves ahead. So, are you ready to move ahead with what God has done in your life at #OFLO14?

Jesus once shared a story with some religious folks about a man who was possessed by an evil spirit. The man was delivered from the evil spirit by the work and power of Jesus Christ; what a celebration that must have been! If you were to imagine the man’s life as a house, it would have been swept clean and everything put back in its rightful place. The only problem is that the house was empty; the man’s life was empty of spiritual things. Although the man was made clean by his encounter with Jesus, his life was empty of spiritual things. The evil spirit realized this and returned with seven other friends more wicked than itself to toss the place and make it disorderly again. There was no resistance. There wasn’t even a fight. The house was easily picked off and now filled with more filth than before. The final condition was worse than the first. (Matthew 12:43-45)

It is agonizing to think that after God has revealed himself to so many people at #OFLO14 we would return home swept clean but still empty spiritually.

The reality is that what God does in our lives in a moment still requires a lifetime of follow-up on our part. Right? This is called discipleship, and it is what Jesus was referring to in the story I told you. Mary Magdalene, a prominent woman in the story of Jesus’ life, was relieved of a significant burden in her life by the power of Jesus. Her response: she became an active disciple of Jesus.

The work of Jesus at #OFLO14 has set us free to make a new beginning; but if we now fail to take the road of discipleship, we are in danger of relapsing into a condition worse than before. (1)

What does it take to be a disciple? A disciple regularly interacts with other disciples for fun, food, fellowship, worship, and strength (Acts 2:42-). A disciple studies the Word of God (2 Tim 2:15). A disciple regularly leaves the chaos of the world behind to spend time alone with God (Luke 4:42-). A disciple cuts themselves off from the things that lead them into temptation and sin no matter the cost (Matt 5:29). A disciple shares their inner victories and inner struggles with other disciples (Galatians 6:1-2). A disciple actively works to ensure justice is met and those less fortunate are cared for (James 2:14-17). A disciple seeks to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit and does only what the Father [God] speaks (Ephesians 5:18, John 5:19)

I could go on…but I won’t. If you take even half of those statements seriously enough to implement them into your life, you are on the right track. Your destiny will be changed and your life will be more abundant than you can imagine.

Like I said, this one will take work. Not work to earn God’s love and eternal favor, we already have that. The work we now do is God’s work on earth as we have now because a part of his body. We are his hands and his feet.

This is a marathon; let do it!

(1) The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Gospel of Matthew. R.T. France.

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ImageOk, so I know that this is technically “two” days after OFLO ends, but most of you probably slept all day yesterday and so that doesn’t really count. Today was your first full day back into your normal routine of school, work, family, school bus, homework, home room, teachers, parents, detention, siblings, lost homework, exams…and so on.

So, I want to ask you this: How are you doing? No, really. How are you doing?

OFLO was amazing! Sometimes regular life is not amazing. OFLO definitely was a place where God’s voice and worship were readily accessible. Sometimes regular life can mask or drown out the voice of God in our lives. OFLO makes having faith easy. Sometimes regular life crushes our dreams and steals away our faith.

When Jesus was on earth he took some of his closest people away on a prayer retreat to a certain mountain. While they were there the presence of God was so rich and so real that Jesus’ face changed its looks and his clothes shone like lightening. The friends that were with Jesus thought this was amazing and wanted to build three shelters so that they could stay there. They recognized that it was good to be there.

Jesus, however, did not comply. The friends and Jesus all returned to their regular life after this prayer retreat on a mountain. Do you know what they faced the very next day? A demon possessed child that Jesus’ disciples had prayed for but was still ill. A screaming, raging, convulsing, foaming at the mouth, display of evil in all of its limited power. (Luke 9:28-43)

What a contrast. One day they experienced the ultimate glory of God and the next they were experiencing the frustrating entanglement of evil in all of its limited but real impact.

Does this sound like what you are feeling right now? Do you wish OFLO had not ended? Would you like to have built shelters to stay in (or just booked a few extra nights at the Crowne Plazza)? Do you want to worship with the house band night after night?

It was good to be there; but now it is good to be home…right? I am sure that some of you (if not many of you) have been confronted with evil, temptations, and the ugly sludge of life already. OFLO was good…so what now?

I have some great ideas for how each of you can carry on what God has revealed to your heart. As your pastor, I have been thinking and praying about each of you and the things that God has done in your heart. And I do have some ideas.

For now, however, I want you to rest comfortable in the fact that feeling a sense of loss and disorientation after OFLO is a real and normal thing to be experiencing. Nevertheless, the answer is not to constantly look back to what was. Rather, look forward to what will be and how God will continue to be with you in the meantime.

I have another idea for you too…and this one will require work. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

I think that everyone knows what a coincidence is. A technical definition would be that a coincidence occurs when any number of random and unrelated events occur together in such a way that something great and unexpected emerges. Implied in the understanding of a coincidence is that they are ‘accidental’ or ‘arbitrary’.

I am not sure if I believe that coincidences are purely accidental or arbitrary; I tend to believe that there may be a driving force behind some, if not all, instances of coincidence.

Let me go all Sheldon Cooper on your for a moment (if you do not know who he is, do not worry about it): it is a scientifically accepted fact that when natural processes are left on their own without any outside interference they tend to progress from a state of order to a state of disorder. In plain terms, a three year old boy left alone in his bedroom will always turn the bedroom from a state of ‘order’ into a state of ‘disorder’ unless impacted by an outside force (i.e. his parents). This basic premise forms the basis for the second law of thermodynamics and is known as the concept of entropy. This is why Sheldon Cooper describes Penny’s filthy apartment as a massive demonstration of entropy (again, if you do not know who these people are, its ok)

So, if we accept the idea that nature will tend to progress towards greater disorder rather than greater order when left on its own, how then do we explain a series of random events that actually produce something orderly, something productive or something great? How do we explain a coincidence?

I have been teaching on prayer at Emergency Ministries over the past month. I have challenged the students to begin to delve deeper in a life of prayer that pushes beyond simply pray for our meals and into the realm of praying for others and for us. I have challenged the students to expect to see answers to their prayers. To the skeptic an answer to prayer might be called a coincidence; however, when we pray we tend to see coincidences happen more often. Hmm…

Mandy and I experienced a prayerfully initiated coincidence this past week. Last Friday we were given a somewhat bad report at the doctor’s office; the baby seemed to be making signs like it was coming early and for that Mandy was placed on more strict bed rest. We prayed all weekend along with many others that this would be a full term birth without complications. At our follow-up appointment on Wednesday we discovered that the bad report from last Friday was misread by the nurse and things were much better than we had thought. In fact, Mandy’s order of strict bed rest was lifted and she is now back on reduced activities.

Was this a coincidence? If you have read this far you probably know how I feel about that.

Prayer moves the hand of God. Prayer reverses things in the natural even when it seems logically impossible. Prayer draws us closer to God and answers to prayer build our faith to pray for even greater things.

 

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (James 5:16)

Lyrics from a song that I just heard recently say this: “…if you want it then go and get it…”. This is a song called “I Love Your Presence” that one of the music team members from Emergency Ministries shared with me a few weeks ago. It’s a shame that we didn’t use that song this past week because it summed up quite well what our guest speaker, Pastor Mark Colwell, shared with the students.

The Gospel of Mark records the story of a man named Jairus and an unnamed woman that was ill (commonly referred to as the woman with the issue of blood). Jairus was a well-respected man in the community and was a natural leader or trendsetter because of his position. The ill woman was an outcast because of her issue with blood; to bleed continually was to be unclean and this woman had been bleeding for 12 years. Enough said about that.

Jesus was a threat to Jairus’ authority because Jesus seemed to be presenting a spiritual message that overturned much of the Jewish legalism of the day. Therefore, when Jesus visited town Jairus would not pay much attention. Consequently, neither did the woman who had been bleeding for 12 year.

Something different happened one day; Jairus’ daughter was sick and dying and he had exhausted all the avenues that he knew of to make her well. And then Jesus came to town…there were rumors about the miracles that Jesus had done and Jairus thought that perhaps Jesus could help his daughter. In desperation he ran out to meet Jesus and plead with him to come heal his daughter. This was quite a statement because on Jesus’ other visits Jairus had likely seen him as a threat and not as an ally.

Jairus’ boldness in approaching Jesus inspired something else; the woman that had been bleeding for 12 years snuck up and touched Jesus’ clothes. Immediately she was healed from her issue of blood! Jesus turned around and said, “Who touched me?”. It was not enough that this woman had been healed by Jesus…what was most important is that she knew Jesus and had a relationship with him.

And all of this was possible simply because one man saw something he wanted and went after it.

The touch of Jesus is present and waiting for everyone. There is no one too ill, too bad, too stubborn, too prideful or too poor and depressed that Jesus cannot reach them. The challenge is this: if you want it, go and get it. It’s that simple.

Many people underestimate their influence on those around them. Many people think that if they choose to ignore God or refuse to open their lives to God it is only them that miss out. Imagine if Jairus had remained stubborn despite his daughter’s illness. Imagine if he had not acknowledged Jesus. Not only would his daughter have died and been buried…but the unnamed woman with the issue of blood would never have been inspired to reach out and touch Jesus to receive her healing and ultimately her relationship with Jesus.

If you want it, just go and get it. If you want to impact your friends and your school for Christ…go and get him in your life. The way you live for Christ will give permission and inspiration for those around you to live that way too!

My wife and I had a unique first experience just before Christmas last year: we experienced Black Friday shopping in Michigan for the first time in our lives. It was exhilarating, it was intense, it was LOUD, it was late…(we had to line up)…it was crazy…and at the same time I had so much fun. We picked up some really great deals on Christmas presents for our kids, presents for other people and a few things for us.

There were people present at WalMart that evening, however, who did not handle this shopping trip in the same light hearted nature that Mandy and I approached it with. There was swearing, pushing, light punching, diving on top of merchandise, evictions from the store by security and shopping carts EVERYWHERE.

Lets fast forward to Christmas morning: our kids got up and were amazed at the number of wrapped packages that filled the living room! We skyped with some family and then began to open presents. It went something like this: rip paper, look, set aside…rip paper, look, set aside…cry and scream because you want to play with a toy you just opened (me included)…but instead get another wrapped package placed into your lap to open.

As Mandy and I reflected on this first Christmas in our own home with our children we realized that it did not play out quite like we had wanted. We envisioned a quiet and peaceful time opening presents, making organized piles of everything and then playing with toys later in the day in an organized fashion. We were naïve…and quite wrong!

Recently I ran into the photo that I included at the beginning of the blog post. I was immediately reminded of my Black Friday shopping experience and subsequent Christmas morning chaos. There is a poignant truth conveyed by this photo that is quite impossible to relate in words. I guess a photo really is worth 1000 words.

I am not writing so as to condemn us for enjoying the blessings of life in Canada. I too enjoy a warm bed, more food than I need and many toys and gadgets that make life easier. I even enjoyed Black Friday shopping…and the 40” television in my living room that came as a result.

However…I also enjoy being a good steward of the blessings God has given me. I enjoy receiving our charitable donations receipts at the end of each year to see that with what God has given us we have been able to return a tithe and then some. I enjoy speaking with Phil and Donna Williams of Servant Heart Ministries; our church supports their medical and relief work in the Dominican Republic. I enjoy visiting the Dominican Republic and hanging out with people like Sandra Torino; though she has nothing she gives evenything back to those in her village of Auga Negra. She is a modern day Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42). I enjoyed taking Sandra out for ice cream one afternoon with our youth missions team and hearing her describe how special this was for her.

I enjoy the talk of giving a young girl in our community a baby shower to show her that we still care deeply no matter the choices she has made. I enjoy having friends over when part of their family is out of town and I enjoy hanging out with Benjamin’s friends for an evening while their family attends to a medical emergency.

These are the things that are necessary in life.

When we define necessity with greater depth than what can be found in a department store we suddenly find many more things to enjoy in this life and much more fulfillment in the way that we live.

When we become aware of the blessings that we can pass on to others we suddenly realize that in so many ways we can bring much joy and fulfillment to those that live around us.

Luke 12:48 “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

In the spirit of Valentine’s week we of course talked about love and dating that Emergency Ministries. While the younger students focused more on loving one another as Christ would have us love, we dove into relationships with the older students.

Inspired by a book written by Kris Vallotton entitled “Purity”, the main challenge of the night was this: anyone can get sometime expensive, but it takes sacrifice to get something valuable. To put it more poignantly, anyone can have sex, but it takes sacrifice (and many other things) to experience love and a healthy relationship.

Think of it this way: if I REALLY REALLY wanted an iPad, I could just save up and buy one. Now, I do really want an iPad…but just not bad enough to bump my other priorities. So, in essence, I am sacrificing my iPad to attain other things more valuable (like a new house for my growing familyJ).

When a sports team fights their way to the finale and eventually earn the title of champion it is not really the trophy that they are after, is it? I was informed this week by a student that the Vince Lombardi Trophy is actually made of platinum whereas the Stanley Cup is only made of silver; even still I doubt the excitement over the Super Bowl is all about platinum versus sterling silver. Instead, a sports team is fighting for the right to say that they had worked hard, achieved their best, beat their enemies and emerged on the top. That is valuable to them; and it took sacrifice to earn it.

Anyone can get something expensive, but it takes sacrifice to get something valuable.

I gave the students several challenges this Valentine’s week 2012. The first was that they would beat the odds of our culture and achieve relationships that last. I challenged them not to give into immediate satisfaction of their emotional desires but instead to sacrifice that in pursuit of ultimate love. I challenged them to define love less as a feeling in their stomach and more as a decision to make with their heads.

I reminded the students that everyone drops their trophy sometimes; everyone makes mistakes. It takes bravery to pick the trophy back up, dust it off, and carry on in the direction that God has intended for us. If it was easy everyone would do it…but because it takes sacrifice only the brave step up. In the end, however, it is worth it because….anyone can get something expensive, but it takes sacrifice to get something valuable.

 

Song of Songs 2:7 “…Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”

 

Are you afraid? You probably are; or at least you should be. If you say you are not afraid you are probably lying. Everyone is afraid of something.

For me, I am not the biggest fan of flying in an airplane. You can ask my wife what it is like…I get antsy, sweaty, thirsty, cold, cranky, hot…and that is while we are sitting at the gate. Once we take off my fear subsides a little and I settle back into my semi-comfortable chair (Air Canada really does have the most comfortable chairs!) and I wait until we can land. If we happen to hit turbulence I tend to get a little ‘excited’ all over again.

Does fear control me sometimes…maybe. Should I allow it to…probably not since my faith in God tells me that he has not given me a spirit of fear (or timidity is you use the NIV) but a spirit of love, peace and of a sound mind. That is easier said than experienced however.

In the book of Matthew Jesus preached what has become known of as the “Sermon on the Mount”. In the middle of this sermon he reminds the listeners that we need not worry about anything; today, tomorrow, our clothes, our food, our life, our future. The rationale is this: we see how the birds of the air and animals on the ground have their needs cared for; how much more will God care for our needs then? Instead of worrying or being fearful we ought to simply “seek first the kingdom of God”. We ought to have the confidence that what we do not see is still yet able to become reality. We need to realize that God our creator does love us more than we can imagine and is walking right there beside us during our fears.

Some fears are huge and some are small. Some fears are more difficult to overcome than others. Sometimes we allow fear to control our lives…and other times we realize that we can overcome not by our strength alone but with the strength of God within us.

If fear is controlling you to the point of anxiety and/or panic it has gone too far. Talk to people you trust and start the journey back to peace and joy.

Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”

This week at Monkey Barrel and Emergency Ministries we discussed two separate topics: Monkey Barrel students explored fear and Emergency Ministries students explored depression. I will tell you a little about our depression talk in this blog post and next week I will write about our fear talk.

The slogan of the talk was this: depression…it does happen. I was at a meeting of the board of our local Youth Centre just this past week and heard a young lady talk about her experience of teen depression when she was in grade 8. What she said went something like this (I’ll paraphrase):

I don’t know why I started feeling that way. I was not a high-risk teen and my family did not display terrible dysfunction as you might expect of teens with depression. It just happened.

Thankfully this young lady was able to find the support she needed from our local Youth Centre. With this talk my aim was to instill hope in the students present that they and their friends can get through prolonged periods of depression and they can always talk to trusted people in their lives about this.

The reality of the situation is that we all get sad sometimes. There are things that get us down. Most times these feelings go away; however, sometimes we begin to think that we deserve to be sad because of some terrible thing that we have done. Sometimes we believe that the situations will never change. Sometimes we put our head down and stop looking around at all the beauty of life around us. When it gets to this point we likely need help finding our way back.

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus tells a story about a tower that fell on 18 people and killed them. The question Jesus asks is whether these 18 people in the wrong place at the wrong time somehow deserved to be there. Were they bad people? Is this why they died? Was it Karma? The answer Jesus gave was a resounding “NO”.

Bad stuff happens and that is just a part of life. The law of Karma states that what comes around goes around; if you dish out something bad you cannot escape the bad that will come back to you. The reality is that if you are a thief you will likely go to jail and if you are a jerk you will likely have no friends.

Even though we joke about Karma all that time…this is NOT some natural law of the universe. What comes around does not always have to go around; Jesus came to the world to break the cycle of sin, death and destruction. The Apostle Paul reminds us in his book to the Romans that “…the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. Moreover, the Gospel writer John said, “…the thief comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. Jesus comes to give abundant life!”.

Jesus gives hope that tomorrow can be better than today….no matter how bad today was and no matter how many mistakes we made today. Jesus asks us to lift up our heads and look at all the wonderful beauty of life around us. There is more to life then things that bring us down. Once we break free from cultural misinformation like the supposed law of Karma and the message that for some people things can never change we can begin the journey back from a life of depression.

If you have felt sad, down, or blue for several weeks and nothing seems to bring you out of this you might be stuck. Faith in Jesus can help bring you back…and Jesus often times uses people to bring his hope. Talk with your youth leaders, youth pastor, school councilor or other trusted people and start the journey back!

 

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me.  (Psalm 31:5-6)

 

NOTE: Wednesday February 8th 2012 is national “Let’s Talk” day about depression and other mental illness. On this day numerous high profile individuals will open up about their battle with depression.

 

Make sure you talk that day as well.

This past week at Emergency Ministries and Monkey Barrel we talked about how to handle…anger. When channeled properly anger can motivate us to cure injustice and accomplish great things. When left to its own devices anger can tear us apart from the inside out. That is the difference between controlled anger and controlling anger.

There is a story in the Bible that goes something like this…

Once upon a time there was a guy named David. He and his men were out working and they ran out of food and provisions. So…they sent some people to ask a friendly neighbor if he could provide them with what they needed. The friendly neighbor turned out not to be so friendly after all. Nabal turned away the messengers and sent them back empty handed.

David was angry…and he decided to kill Nabal and all of his family. Not the best course of action but that is what he decided to do. Abagain was Nabal’s wife and she was a little more generous than her husband. Although she was angry that her husband was bringing David’s anger upon their family she decided not to take it out on her husband but rather to make the situation right. She loaded provisions on her donkey and rode them out to meet David…while he was on the war to murder her family.

David received Abagail and her provisions with happiness; his anger was subsided. Thanks to God, said David, his anger would not longer cause him to murder an entire family.

The moral of the story is this: Abagail controlled her anger, David allowed his anger to control him. Abagail did what was best with her anger, David was on the verge of murder.

There are going to be many things that anger you throughout your life. Anger is not a sin but rather it is a natural reaction to situations that are not pleasing to us. The way he handle anger is where the problems lie. Anger that controls you grows inside of you like mold on last week’s lunch leftovers. It spreads to other areas of your life and makes you angry at those things too. Though your anger might start with a teacher is can end with you angry at friends, school, studying, exams…all the way to the crossing guard on the way home.

Control you anger… “…in your anger do not sin”. If you find yourself in an angry situation take a moment to read what the book of Proverbs says about anger and then, like David, allow God to redirect your anger in a positive direction.

 

A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted (Prov. 12:16)

Happy New Year! It has been a while since I have posted…however, Emergency Ministries and Monkey Barrel are now back up and running!

In true New Year’s fashion I shared with the students several New Year’s Resolutions that I have concerning our youth ministries. I know that many times such resolution are just a verbal attempt to make a positive change and tend to last about as long candy at Christmas; however, my hope is that these resolutions will define our ministry efforts well into 2012

Here are my resolutions:

1. We will get to know each other’s stories.

Too many times we life we ‘know’ people simply as a name, a face, a co-worker, a barber, a bank teller…but do we really know them? Do we know their greatest fears in life? Do we know what is going on in their heart and head? Would you be on the list of people they would celebrate the joys of life with or share devastation with? If not you probably do not know their story.

The book of Revelation 12:11 gives us a glimpse at the power of someone’s story. Read it, you’ll see. When we get to know each other’s stories – the deepest parts of our heart – then we will really get down to ministry as God uses us to encourage and to be encouraged.

2. Take our knowledge of God and turn it into action.

There is much that can be known about God and faith…we also know that too much fast food is not good for our bodies. However, if we do nothing with this knowledge we are no better off (or worse!). The Bible states that when we come to Christ we become a new creation; the old is gone and the new is here! We are changed, washed, renewed…that sort of thing! In 2012 I want the students of Emergency Ministries and Monkey Barrel to raise the bar and turn their faith into action! If you’re not convinced then just read James 2.

3. Hear from God.

Finally, in 2012 I want students to take a proactive approach in hearing from God. Yes, I want them to pray. I want to them to pray at home. I want them to pray at school. I want them to pray when they are walking to and from class. I want them to hear from God themselves. It can be tempting to let the pastors and leaders do the praying and the spiritual stuff on your behalf. Many people in our culture allow the religious professionals to take care of spiritual things and only visit once a week for a light snack. This is not what I want our students to do in 2012!

Now that we know what I want we need to know how…and I have some ideas about how we are going to make this work. But that is another blog post; looks like I’m off to a great start in 2012!