Tag Archive: Bible


Imagine that a little boy went to school one day and in his art class he decided to make a very special craft just for his mom. The little boys poured all kinds of energy, love and attention into this craft and finally completes his masterpiece. That night when he gave it to his mom she was overwhelmed with the amazing display of love that her son has shown to her. The little boy went to bed feeling very content with himself.

The next morning the little boy woke up and went downstairs for breakfast. When he walked into the living room his heart sank into his chest; there was his piece of artwork abandoned on the living room floor like a piece of trash. Why would his mom do this to something that was so special? Why did she not put it in a safe place?

The little boy was very sad; however, he came up with a plan. He was going to make special pieces of art for his whole family! Once his mom saw how happy these things made others she would realize how carelessly she had treated her own. Day, weeks and months went by and the little boy made many special pieces of art and gave them to his aunts, uncles and grandparents. Some days his mom noticed what he was doing but other days she seemed not to notice anything different at all.

Finally one day the little boy ran to his mom, jumped into her arms and said, “Mom, it’s your love and attention that I want, not everyone else’s. It’s because of you that I have made all these presents for everyone else. It’s you they were for!”.

The little boy’s mom finally got it; all the pieces of the puzzle came together. She hugged her little boy tightly and said, “I’m sorry I have not realized this sooner. I was so caught up in being so busy with life that I forgot that you were always right here with me. I guess I took you for granted; but I promise that I will not anymore!”.

You might be wondering what purpose this story has? The entire fall at Emergency Ministries I have been asking the students one question: What is the message of the Bible? The message of the Bible is much like the message of this story.

The history books in the Old Testament tell us that God created the world and all that was in it; he did this and gave it all to humankind as an amazing present. We, however, did not always regard our relationship with God as something to be cherished and so we often have discarded it much like the little boy’s mom discarded his artwork.

God’s plan at getting our attention was to pick one group of people and bless them beyond what they could ever imagine; once the rest of the world saw the amazing blessings given to these people they would certainly restore their relationship with God. The little boy thought that by giving presents to his family members his mom would realize how special her present was.

The prophetic books in the Old Testament show us that although God blessed Israel they did not always embrace that blessing and relationship with God. The little boy in the story found that his family members were not always that thrilled with his artwork; in the end all he wanted was his mother’s attention.

The gospel books of the New Testament show that God decided to remove the barrier between him and humanity; he came to earth as Jesus Christ. He died and miraculously rose again to demonstrate that he was God and that there was never anyone like him before. The rest of the New Testament shows how whole towns and individual people were changed by their relationship with God.

The little boy in the story finally ran into his mother’s arms and confessed the truth about what he had wanted all along.

God wants our attention. He wants our hearts. There is no sitting on the fence.

Joshua 24:15 “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Talk to a youth leader or a pastor today; give God your attention.

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!

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?

After having been involved in youth ministry for a decade now I have come to observe that as far as faith in God is concerned there are two critical moments a teenager’s life: the moment they enter the teen years and the moment they exit the teen years. Statistics have backed this up saying that an individual is most receptive to faith in Christ as they enter the teen years (I shared these statistics in MISSING PEOPLE: Where have all the Jr. High boys gone?). Statistics also say that an individual is most vulnerable for walking away from their faith as they exit the teen years more than any other time in their life. My personal observations over the years have found this to be true.

David Sawler is an author and church planter in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia who wrote a very timely book about this trend of students simultaneously exiting their teen years and shedding their faith. The book is called “Goodbye Generation” and deals with the reasons why this statistics are the way that they are. Among the many great reasons stated in the book here are three that struck me most:

1. Teens today do not understand their Bible.

Teens today can likely recount the stories of Noah, Moses, Jesus…and so on. However, they view them as simply stories. Rare have the times been when teenagers have been shown how Noah and Moses were more than just individuals living interesting lives. Unfortunately teenagers have little understanding of the themes and messages in the Bible as a whole (scholars may call this ‘literary unity’). Instead most teens emerge into young adulthood with a smattering of stories but no real overarching view of how God has been progressively working in humanity from the beginning.

2. There has been a lack of spiritual parenting within the church.

Who were your spiritual parents? Were they your biological parents? Were they family members of relatives? Were they friends? Who shaped you during your formative years in the faith? Tragically teenagers are given their own pastor, their own room, their own program, their own band, their own life…and passing the faith from generation to generation does not happen as it could.

3. There has been a lack of family emphasis in youth ministry.

Families shape people, not ministries. Parents shape people most, not pastors. Quality youth ministries must engage parents and families as a whole. I must admit that I am not sure how this paradigm will work within many churches; youth pastors tend to be 19-22 years old when they begin…and what 40+ year old would seek parenting advice from them? I can’t say I blame them. As I approach 30 and now have a family of my own I feel like I am just beginning to be able to speak to this aspect of youth ministry. Prior to now I have largely left it untapped. Nevertheless, it remains an important theme of successful youth ministries.

There is much great food for thought in this book; I would recommend it to both parents and teenagers alike. David’s second book on this topic, Before They Say Goodbye, has just been released this year and appears to be as promising as his first!

www.goodbyegeneration.com
www.beforetheysaygoodbye.com

Lets take a poll….

If I asked you how many Canadians would say that they believe in a God that is different than we are and has the ability to  control things that we cannot, how many do you think would indicate that they do? In 2003 a Harris poll of American adults and found that 90% of them believe in God. However, simply believing in God is not the point of the message of Jesus Christ.

If the question from the Harris poll was changed to ask how many American adults believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…the God of the Old Testament of the Scriptures, the same God we call Jesus Christ in the New Testament…I think that number would likely drop considerably.

You see, simply believing in God is not the same as putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Acknowledging that Christ’s death (which we celebrated last Friday) and resurrection (which we celebrated last Sunday) are the very things that guarantee that Jesus Christ truly can save us from the destructive choices and patterns of life that we see on earth today. Jesus can provide a life beyond all that we can see because he has power over death.

So, simply believing in God, belief in someone or something out there, is just not the point because that does not bring someone into a faith relationship with Jesus Christ.

James 2:19

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

It makes you wonder sometimes about the difference between faith in Jesus Christ and all the other gods and faith systems that surround us. Undoubtedly you are going to come up against people who feel that there is no difference between faith groups so long as you are sincere…after all there are some common practices that everyone adheres to, right?

Yes, there are some common practices and we are going to take a look at them. But is there something deeper that distinguishes faith in Christ? We’ll take a look at that too.

The Qu’ran says:

“Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah is aware of all things” (Koran 33:40)

The Bible says:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

Muhammad is proclaimed to be the messenger of Allah; Allah is aware of what Mohammed is up to.

Jesus is also proclaimed to be the messenger of God; but Jesus is also a part of the living essence of God (the trinity is a whole other blog post!). God sent himself (Jesus) to interact with us personally as people.

The Qu’ran says:

“The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled…a duty imposed by Allah.” (Koran 9:60)

The Bible says:

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4)

Both Islam and Christianity require that their adherents give to a common collection so that it can be distributed to those who need it. Both are concerned with the common good of the people around them.

The Qu’ran says:

“…pilgrimage to [Mecca] is a duty unto Allah for mankind, for him who can find a way thither.” (Koran 3:97)

The Bible says:

“…[lets] not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

Islam asks its followers to gather together in Mecca for worship at least once in their life. Christians ask that we gather together in church and follow a process of discipleship together as we learn and experience Christ together.

There are certainly some things that we all do the same. Does that mean that we all accomplish the same goal so long as we believe in a God somewhere? Not really….

When the Apostle Paul was travelling throughout the world and preaching the message of Jesus Christ he came to Athens (yes, in Greece) and noticed that the people were very religious (they believe in God…). If that was the whole point he would have just left them alone there.

However, Paul did not. Instead, he stood up and said this:

Acts 17:22-2People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

Paul preached the message of Jesus Christ to them. Believing in a god is not the point…having a faith relationship with Jesus Christ IS the point.

Keeping that in mind, we should not get too excited that 90% of American adults believe in God. We should not get too excited if even 50% of our school would acknowledge belief in God and we should not get that excited that 100% of students present at Emergency Ministries raised their hands confessing belief in God (and 100% of you did…).

What is more important than simply believing in God is having a faith relationship with Jesus Christ. The different between this faith relationship and all other spiritual pursuits in our culture comes down to motivation:

We do not follow Jesus Christ because good things (law) is what he requires.

We do not follow Jesus Christ because our family or our country requires it (or even endorses it!)

We do not follow Jesus Christ just because we like the people who do or because Christian always have the best food.

Our motivation is this: we feel a deep sense and longing to love God and to love our neighbor. This sums up the basic message of faith in God. This is an internal motivation that will be demonstrated in the way that we live our lives. Sooner or later the fruit of our life (what is on the inside) will be shown on the outside in the way that we live.

Simply believing in God does not affect this fruit; having a faith relationship with Jesus Christ does!

Luke 10:27

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.