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This is somewhat of a frustrating question for me personally as of late; the question of how do you get the heaven. It is not that I have adopted some gross heresy of the faith we have in Christ and no longer ascribe to that fact that Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but through him. Neither is this a result of my appreciation and subsequent disappointment with Rob Bell. But that is another story.

This is the question that we dealt with at Monkey Barrel this week. Of course we affirmed that only those who profess faith in God and continue in (walk in) that relationship would attain the hope of ‘heaven’. However, we were careful to remind students that life is not all about dying to go to heaven. Life in Christ is actually much more than dying and going to heaven; it is about living abundantly right here and now!

Heaven the ultimate restoration of creation and creator; it is the final reconciliation between God and you and I. It is a place where, according to the book of Revelation, the streets appear as though they are paved with gold and a place where there will be no suffering, pain and tears. It is a place where the curse of humanity will be removed and all that we will have to do it enjoy abundant life in the presence of God and the others around us. There will be no sun in heaven the bible tells us; God’s glory will shine bright enough to illuminate the place.

I cannot say for sure what heaven will be like; I’ve never been and if I had I wouldn’t be back to talk about it. (Oddly enough the apostle Paul had a vision of the heavens and wrote about it in 2 Corinthians).

So, while I do know that heaven is important and that one’s final resting place depends on where they put their faith in this life, I also know that the life of faith is not just a giant waiting room until we die and go to heaven. There is much enjoyment and life to be had here on earth; there are many spiritual gifts to explore that God has given for exercise here and now!

I guess that is why I am not so much a fan of the statement “this world is not our home” any longer. In fact, God created this work and deemed it good. This is my home and your home right now and God does not hold that against us. In fact, he has actually expressed great concern over this world and would want us to share in that.

How do I get to heaven? Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. What do you do until you reach heaven…God knows, and I am sure it is fantastic!

So…what is the deal with this guy Abraham anyways? That was the question that we tackled on Wednesday at youth. We have been attempting to figure out what the whole story of the Bible is and we determined that it is this: God’s attempt to restore a broken relationship between you and I. It’s actually quite dramatic and “chick-flick” like romantic; a desperate lover moves heaven and earth to reconcile himself to his bride. If you think I am overstating this just read Song of Songs in your Bible.

God decided to use Abraham to get the attention of the world. This old man who had no sons was given a son whose descendants would form a great nation: the nation of Israel. This nation was given great blessings as well as the promise of divine protection (…I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you…).

God’s intention was that these blessings would not just remain with Israel but that they would get the attention of the whole world….and that through Israel the whole world would be blessed and realize that God Almighty is THE God!

We tried an experiment: I dumped a ton of candy on a random group’s table in the youth room and watched what happened (Alisha, Kaitlin, Chris & Stephanie were the luck ones!). Those at the candy table were thrilled to be there and those who were not there were paying close attention to the candy table and even attempted to snuggle up to them and get to know them…hoping that they would get a share of the candy.

This was exactly God’s plan! Israel would be blessed and others would be attracted to that blessing. In turn they would hear about Israel’s faith in God and that God was the source of all of their blessings.

It didn’t always work out as planned. If it had of there would be no need for such a big bible. The fact of the matter is that Israel didn’t always live up to the blessing that they were given….and so the story continues.

More on that story next week!

Submitted by Alisha Sheppart

On Thrusday, September 29, the girls of Emergency Ministries held the first Girls’ Night Out of the new school year. Alisha Sheppart organized the event, sending out emails, and creating a facebook event page to promote it. The girls were also encouraged to bring their school friends.

The girls gathered at Pastor Nathan and Mandy’s house right after school. There was about 10 girls in attendance, with Mandy Hill and Cindy Morrone there as leaders. The girls ate snacks, baked and decorated cupcakes, and played a few games, such as charades. They also chatted about school, church, and any thing that was going on in they’re lives. They enjoyed each other company, and everyone said that they had a great time.

The next Girls’ Night out will be held at the beginning of November and will be a manicure party!! If you have any questions about the Girls’ Night Out, be sure to ask Alisha Sheppart! 🙂

It appears that the plot has thickened with respect to the Iranian pastor who is on death row for what was initially his conversation from Islam to Christianity and his subsequent request for his children to be exempt from state operated teaching on the Qur’an. Fox News and the New York Daily News are now reporting that the crime for which he has been handed the death penalty for was rape and not apostasy.

I have been following all online news reports of this event since it began to transpire last week and I have not seen Fox News or the New York Daily News chime in yet; until the plot seemed more scandalous and damaging. What would an Iranian Christian pastor be doing raping people? This seems like it would get far better ratings than a simple ‘death for apostasy’ charge.

I cannot say 100% for sure what exactly is going on in this situation. Is Iran angered because of the pastor’s rejection of Islam? Are they now attempting to backdoor his neck into a noose with a bogus rape charge? Or did the pastor actually rape someone (that is possible I suppose)?  Was the apostasy story simply a bogus plea where the pastor attempted to get international notice and save his neck…literally!

Unfortunately it is this type of media bantering and political double talk that has many Canadians apathetic to stories like this. People who are way more in the know than I (Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister and President Barak Obama) both issued statements condemning the death penalty for this man’s apostasy; obviously the apostasy story circulated amongst the higher echelons prior to the rape charge or else both governments would not have spoken out about this. In this light the recent rape twist seems to suggest that Iran is attempting to justify actions they have already determined they will do; they are going to kill the man, they just need to find a way to justify this to the rest of the civilized world.

I am sure there will be more developments to this story as the week unfolds. There is supposed to be a final verdict on the appeal this week and so we can all stay tuned for that and see what else might emerge from the woodwork of this fiasco!

p.s. CBC and CTV have still not acknowledged that this is actually taking place…

At Monkey Barrel this week we tacked the topic of heaven in our small groups. Actually, it might be difficult to call these small groups because they were actually quite large groups; we had 14 girls! Way to go Monkey Barrel students!

We often talk a lot about heaven in our regular speech. How many people can remember saying at one time or another that a particular situation would be ‘heaven’! I have said that about going on a cruise, winning a lot of money, or even having a week’s vacation. That would be heaven!

When we look at what God said about heaven in the Bible however we come to realize that heaven is about much more than our hopes and desires; heaven is a real place where God’s faithful will dwell together. The Bible states that in heaven the perfect relationship that God had with his creation in the beginning will be restored. There will be no pain and tears. The curse of humanity will be removed. In a poetic sense the Bible says that in heaven there will be no need for a sun or a moon because the glory of God will be enough to illuminate everything for all of eternity.

It’s important not to loose our focus on reality by gazing into heaven though. Jesus said in the gospel of John that he comes to bring abundant life (John 10:10). It is not as if heaven is good and life on earth right now is completely bad. There are some great aspects of life on earth that God has given us to enjoy right now: friends, food, sunsets, family, love, kindness, music…and the list can go on.

Next week we will continue this talk about heaven and also what God has to say about our role on earth here and now as we journey together towards heaven someday.

See you next week!

p.s. Don’t forget about the pizza party and games night on Wed Oct 12th!

This week at Emergency Ministries we spent some time talking about a very important story…the story found in the Bible. I heard the Bible described this way by a youth pastor this week: letters from dead people. The Bible is the inspired word of God…written by people as they shared their journey of faith with us.

Many of us go to church and youth group and heard little snippets of the Bible here and other verses and stories there. Many people are familiar with Noah and the flood, Moses, Joseph, Jesus, Adam & Eve and so on. However, just knowing a piece here and there makes it really hard to get what the Bible is all about…what is the one story that the Bible is telling? What is God’s one message to us?

Can you imagine if I told you I was going to read you a story but only pages 5, 10, 15, 20…and so on? You would not have a great sense of what the story is about, would you?

Bearing all this in mind, we started with at the beginning and we started to discuss our way through all the major events or milestones of the Bible.

#1: Creation. God created everything that there is. Before creation was God because he always was around. Everything lived in perfect relationship with God.

#2: Disobedience: Eve was enticed by the serpent to disobey God and she enticed her husband Adam to do the same. The perfect relationship between God and his creation was broken.

#3: Hmmm…..we had a lot of discussion about this one. Some suggested Noah…others Moses…others Jesus. While these people are important they do not described the next major turning point in the story of the Bible.

The question is something like this: God made everything in perfect relationship with him but it got broken. What do you think his next move is?

Finally one student, TH, came up with the right answer although we did not dig into explaining why this was the right answer. I look forward to continuing this conversation next week.

p.s. Do you know what the answer is?

Hold on a moment…are we still living in the middle ages where people actually were put to death because of their religious convictions? Is this still the first century where Roman Emperors like Nero would take bundles of Christian people and light them on fire to illuminate the streets at night?

No, the last time I checked the calendar we were living in the 21st century, 60 years after the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 of this declaration states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Why then has Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Islamic convert to Christianity living within Iran, been sentenced to death THIS VERY WEEK by Iranian courts?

Nadarkhani is a 34 year old married man and the father of two young boys. He attracted legal attention when he opposed having the Qu’ran taught to his boys in school and instead requested Christian teaching in its place. Three separate days THIS WEEK he was offered to have all charges dropped if he would renounce his faith in God before an Iranian council; he has declined and they have said that he must die for his infidelity to Islam. Lawyers are attempting to stall his execution but it could take place at any time.

Even more disturbing for me is why people do not seem to care about this. I only discovered this because I have a google alert set to scan the news media for occurrences of “Sharia Law”. When I investigated further I found that the only new agencies in Canada reporting this story were the National Post (on their blog, not their print publication), Canada Free Press, and the Gospel Herald. What about more mainline and prominent national broadcasters like CBC and CTV?

Am I missing something here?

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has issued a statement that rebukes Iran for this action. But that seems to be the extent of the public outcry.

Please, spread the word and certainly pray that this young family does not have to endure this tragedy. Pray for Christians in Iran…the expressions of faith that we take for granted in Canada are not available to many in other countries all over the world.

Stay tuned for more details…

This morning at 8:05AM almost a dozen students gathered around the flagpole at Essex District High School. As I write this post students at Gosfield North Central Public School are gathering at their school. Why, you may be wondering? Because today is our annual See You At The Pole (SYATP) event. Still confused? Let me explain.

It all started with a small group of teenagers in Burleson, Texas who came together for a DiscipleNow weekend in 1990. These students wanted to spend time together praying to God and growing spiritually together. Throughout this experience they felt a real great burden to pray for their schools; they drive to three different schools that night, gathered around the flagpole, and prayed. It was as simple as that

The vision for this grew however; the students wanted to coordinate an effort where students all over Texas would be praying simultaneously for their schools. This movement quickly adopted the name See You At The Pole (every school has a flag pole) and the idea was shared with 20,000 students in June of 1990 at the Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas. That year, on September 12, 45,000 students gathered at the flagpoles of their school in four different states to pray before the start of school.

On September 11, 1991, the number quickly grew to 1,000,000 students praying at the flagpoles of their school from Boston all the way to Los Angeles. Today there is over 3,000,000 students praying in the United States as well as a vast number of students from over 20 countries around the world.

One act of faithfulness in 1990 has sparked a worldwide student prayer movement. And we have been a part of this for two years running at Essex District High School. Though we are only a very small part of this large movement, faithfulness in prayer pays off more than we can possibly imagine.

2 Chronicles 7:14  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

James 5:16  “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

For more information fee free to visit www.syatp.com

Rachel wins Big Brother 13!

So what do you think about that? The biggest target, the biggest mouth (at least for the first half of the summer) and the biggest fighter…I guess? Just a few days ago Rachel was award the top $500,000 prize in Big Brother 13.

Rachel’s Big Brother career has not always been stellar; she left the previous season she was on as one of the biggest villains.  No doubt that was why she was brought back on this season…ratings sure would benefit from it. It seemed from the beginning that her game play would be the same this year. She would be loud, obnoxious, a sore looser, catty, spiteful…and a whole list of other adjectives you would not want to be called. Its not that she didn’t realize who she was…she was told! She even commented through tears that all of America hated her and she found it tough to get a job after the last season.

I must admit that for the first half of the summer there was no part of me that did not want to see Rachel get kicked out of the Big Brother house. However, as the summer progressed (somewhere in mid August) I found myself actually changing my feelings towards Rachel. Or wait…was it me that changed or was it Rachel that changed?

I think after her fiancé Brendan was evicted for the second time (hahaha) Rachel realized that she had to make some changes. I think that process of change became complete when Jeff left the house; Rachel and Jordon now had something in common…and a lot more about Jordon started to rub off onto Rachel.

It seems that half way through the season Rachel stopped being all about her and actually started to play a more social game. It even appeared genuine…I think she actually started to care about the other people in the house. She also stopped trying to backstab the people closest to her. If I had to hear her make plans to backdoor Jeff and Jordon one more time I may have had a meltdown. In fact, the new Rachel even stopped mouthing off all the time…AND, she attempted to calm down Jordon when she had her very uncharacteristic blow up at Shelly. May I quote what I said as I watched that play out: “You know its gotten bad when RACHEL is the one attempting to calm someone down and bring peace to the house!”.

In short, Rachel changed. For the better. There are many lessons we can learn from Rachel and the way that she played Big Brother this season. In Rachel’s words, she was either HOH, on the block or winning the veto each week…there was no floating for Rachel.

Rachel, you fought hard and maybe even learned some life lessons in the process. Great job! Keep up the good work!

Somehow I don’t think this is the last we will hear of Rachel and Brendan…

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

After a long break from blogging things are back up and running! This week at Emergency Ministries and Monkey Barrel we hung out together and talked about what it is like to go through changes and transitions in life. I shared about my experience working at McDonalds while I was in High School; the only thing constant about that job was that there was constant change! The crew changed, the menu changed, the prices changed (and went up!) and the contests changed. (BTW, I cannot wait until the monopoly contest comes back this fall!)

All of the students are now going through a period of change. Teachers change, schools change, friends change, courses change, grades change, after school hang outs change…and change can be lonely, stressful & sad.

One of the great things about faith in God Almighty is that the bible records stories of His interaction with humanity in almost every situation that we can imagine. The prophet Isaiah speaks to the Israelite people around the time of their defeat and exile at the hands of the Babylonians. The Babylonians were a nation that came and destroyed the homes and cities of the Israelites and then carried all the people off to their land to work for them; talk about a changing season in their life! Nevertheless, this is what God says to the Israelites through the prophet Isaiah:

 “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
(Isaiah 43:1-3)

 

The moral of the story is this: God does not come to pass. Instead, God comes to stay. Israel was going to get through and indeed thrive in their new season of life not because they were amazing in and of themselves but because they were going to place their faith in God once again.

I urge you, both Monkey Barrel and Emergency Ministries students, to place your faith in God this semester and see how his blessings and provision make the changing seasons of life much more bearable.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”      (John 16:33)