Tag Archive: faith


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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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!

I was watching the newly released movie “Contagion” this past weekend with my wife, two of our friends and a couple of dogs…why am I telling you this? There was a scene in the movie where Matt Daemon looses his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) to the deadly contagious disease that eventually infected 1 in 12 people across the world. The doctor is explaining to Daemon that his wife has just died; they did all they could to save her but her heart just could not keep up with the virus that was racing throughout her body.  Daemon’s repose to all of this was: “…when can I go talk to her?”.
While this may have been a source of comic relief in a film that had some intense moments, this was also quite an accurate portrayal of the emotions that many people feel when they are grieving. Denial is common; so is anger, and Daemon exhibited that not too long after his somewhat ridiculous request to speak with his dead wife. In fact, those who study human behavior have stated that denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually acceptance are all ways that we as humans respond to grief.

At Monkey Barrel last week the students explored the friendship between Jonathan and David from the book of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament of the Bible. Jonathan’s father (King Saul) was opposed to this friendship for a variety of reasons and eventually caused the friendship to be completely severed…or else he was going to kill David. Jonathan and David express some of the classic behaviors of grief as they journey though this difficult time. As time passed and Jonathan realized that it would not be safe for David to return to their land he discreetly sent a message to David telling him to leave forever. The two friends hugged, cried and then eventually accepted the reality of the situation and departed each in their own direction. Much later on when messengers came to tell David that Jonathan and his father Saul had been killed in battle David asked, “How do you know?” Once David realized that he could not deny his friend’s death any longer he became angry and killed the messenger that brought the bad news…(ever hear the expression, “don’t kill the messenger”?)

There are a variety of emotions that will accompany grief, especially if you are a teenager and you are experiencing a significant loss in your life for the first time. Many of these emotions are normal for a season of time and when kept in proportion to the loss experienced. (In your anger it is never right to kill or injure…David was not acting as a great example of faith in this example).

The most important thing to realize with grief is that you can express these things that you are feeling and that they will pass once you are able to accept the loss. Everyone grieves at a different rate but you can hold onto the truth that you will emerge on the other side with the help of God and the help of your friends. If you are grieving right now there is no need to grieve alone; speak with your friends, youth leaders, parents or others that you trust.

 

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Hebrews 4:15 “This High Priest of ours (Jesus) understands our weakness, for he faced all the same testing we do, yet he did not sin.”

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.”

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!

Monkey Barrel Summer Camp is now in full swing…and if you are reading this scheduled post it is because I have not yet located an internet connection in order to give you a full evaluation of how things are going.

Could you please pray that we will make it through the day and through the heat? Can you pray that as we continue to worship and share God’s word with the students that their hearts would be open? Can you pray that seeds are planted that bring the students closer in relationship to God and back to our Monkey Barrel program in the fall.

Stay tuned for a full update on our return later this week!

As I promised, here is part two. If you missed part one you can locate on my blog site.

Lets begin with a fairly easy question: do Christian groups still require women on their monthly period to be ‘unclean’ for a period of seven days as was once required by Jewish law and recorded in Leviticus 15:19? Easy answer: NO. Why is this?

Although we are not bound by the sacrificial system found in the Old Testament as a method of dealing with our sinfulness this does not render the Old Testament irrelevant to Christians; it is an error to reject the Old Testament completely. Regulations similar to what is found in Leviticus 15:19 were just as much about teaching Israel about person hygiene as they were a theological ideal. Instructions regarding rashes, discharges and other aspects of personal health were discussed in the Mosaic Law for the safety of Israel and as a demonstration to the other nations that Israel was distinctly different in their actions as a result of their covenant with God Almighty. Remember, the whole mission of Israel was that through their blessings and unique way of life all the world would find salvation.

Our culture has changed significantly since the time of Israel; we have a more fixed society (as opposed to a nomadic and travelling society) that has many social structures in place that help us to maintain our personal health and hygiene. We also understand many aspects of our own bodies in new and more complete ways; this allows us to react differently to changes in our body. Therefore, we understand the specific details of passages like Leviticus 15:19 to be culturally and contextually bound and certainly not fixed ritual law that must be carried forth today in order to appease God. Nevertheless, the principle of taking good care of the body God has given us remains.

I wonder if Muslim thinkers would be open to this sort of interpretation of such aspects of Sharia Law and/or the Qur’an?

I do not have so much of a problem with the ritual prayer that is taking place in the Toronto school as I do with the implicit gender segregation and inequality that accompanies this. Our society has an understanding of gender equality similar to the Apostle Paul when he says in Galatians 3:28, “[t]here is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. Nevertheless it seems that Muslims and sometimes Christians too hold onto contextually bound passages as if they are central to the message of God.

Why must such passages be interpreted as God ordained and essential to our faith? I affirm 1 Timothy 3:16 in that all Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, correcting and so on; however, I think we need to dig a little deeper than surface before we hang out hats on a particular passage of Scripture and making it essential to our faith. If Paul really meant in 1 Corinthians 14:34 that women were never to speak in church and always had to be silent, why then would he also to the same church and in the same letter instruct women to wear a head covering when they prophecy (1 Corinthians 11)? Now we have a conundrum: should women always be silent in church or are they permitted to prophecy? Much of our understanding of gender and faith is subject to this same conundrum.

This is by no means a complete theology of gender; rather, it only scratches the surface and raises the questions in our mind that need to be answered. We can question the practice of segregating menstruating girls in a Muslim prayer gathering but we must also question our own Christian practices of segregation and inequality. This may prove to be far more difficult of a question.

Here’s to the continuing conversation! I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

This will be somewhat of a different post as I relate to you some thoughts going through my mind that are not about exclusively about youth ministry or popular media; however, I am sure that many of you will find this discussion interesting.

First of all, let me unpack what the somewhat provocative title says. Sharia (literally meaning the ‘way’ or the ‘path’) is a code of conduct or religious law that provides Muslims with practical guidelines for behavior in a variety of circumstances. Much of Sharia Law is derived from the teachings of the Qur’an and also from the example set by the Prophet Muhammad. In a Christian sense we can understand Sharia Law as if it were a merger of Christian religious tradition though he years and Scriptural principles into one single document. Sharia Law covers a variety of aspects of life including religious practices but also matters of finances and so on.

The school where this law is in effect is Valley Park Middle School located within the city of Toronto. This school allegedly has a significant proportion of Muslim students (to be expected in the world’s most diverse city) and thus the school accommodates a required 30-minute prayer time for Muslim students each afternoon between the months of November and March.

Here is the aspect of Sharia Law that is causing question: at these prayer times the boys must sit in the front, the girls must sit behind them, and ‘unclean’ girls (those who are menstruating) must sit at the very back and are not permitted to participate in compliance with Sharia Law. The photo included with this post demonstrates just this and is attributed to John Goddard of the Toronto Star.  The question emerges then, is this somewhat archaic expression of segregation legal within Canada today? Is this example of segregation proper for our Public School System?

One blogger is outraged by this imposition of Sharia Law and states that while this has been going on each Friday in Canada’s largest city, “…over 150 Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan to…fight for the rights and dignity of young Muslim women like these”.

So what do we do about this? Is it just the segregation that should cause question or is the whole thing troubling? What about human equality and gender rights within our culture? Should religious groups be permitted to breech certain societal regulations for the sake of their traditions?

We have to remember that our Christian Old Testament states that women on their monthly period will be impure for seven days and anything that touches them will remain unclean until evening (Leviticus 15:19). We obviously do not adhere to this way of living as the early Jewish folks did; is there something here we can help Muslims to better understand?

Stay tuned for part two scheduled for release tomorrow afternoon as I continue to wrestle through some of this and let you know what I have found. In the meantime, leave a comment to let me know what you think.

The full news article on this event can be found here.

One of our youth moms follows the blog of a former Youth Pastor’s wife from North Carolina and asked me to bring a recent post to the attention of our youth students. A young girl from their youth group named Kelly was participating in a rodeo in Oklahoma when her horse threw her off; she has suffered severe injuries including damage to her spinal cord. She is not expected to be able to walk again.

The blog post (which you can link to by clicking here) is calling for prayer especially as Kelly is just learning of the extent of her injuries this week. So, right now can you offer a few words of prayer? Pray for healing, comfort, strength, determination, joy and whatever else is on you mind. When you have finished praying, please click on the survey box below as a record for Kelly’s family and friends to see that you are standing with them.

I’ll bring updates in time as we hear them.

Tuesday night was our weekly Emergency Ministries event in Essex and this week we decided to carpool to Silver City to catch some movies together. I must give credit for this idea to Michael Sheppart, one of our recent High School graduates. He commented once that all the movies we can rent and show in house are so old no one cares anymore or they are “garbage” (his word). So, in order to watch something current and something is not “garbage” we have carpooled to Silver City the past two years.

The guys (and a few brave girls) went to see Transformers. It was a busy night; we had to sit in the front row and I am not lying when I say that I am on my second extra strength Tylenol fighting the headache I got from looking up at the screen for two and a half hours. By the way…the movie would have been just as good (for me anyways) if they had cut out about 30 minutes of ‘bang bang BOOM’ at the end. I might not even have a headache if they had done that!

Aside from being a little longer than necessary at the end, I did find the plot and the storyline quite entertaining. Two positive messages emerged from the movie and are worth remembering.

1. Everyone wants their life to make a difference.
Sam really wanted to make a difference with his life. Early in the movie he sat through many job interviews and was ultimately offered a job in a mailroom; not the job a recent college graduate wanted to get. Sam’s new boss had some wise words when Sam initially rejected the job. He said, “What you want Sam is the job after this job”. The moral of this story, if you are faithful with the little things you will be faithful with the big things. If you are unfaithful or slothful with the little things, you will also be unfaithful or slothful with the big things. (I’ve read that somewhere before….hmmmm) Sam eventually got to have his big moment of significance later in the movie!

2. If you make a deal with the devil you will get burned…every time!
It was a mistake on the part of Sentinel Prime and the human race to think that they could make a deal with the Decepticons. (I can hardly believe I am having a serious conversation about Decepticons  and Autobots) No matter how alluring, how tempting, or how much of a good idea it seemed, the Decepticons showed their true colors when in the end they attempted to destroy the very people (and robots) that they made an initial agreement with. Wrong is wrong and bad is bad not matter how good it might look for a moment in time. Remember that!

All in all it was a great night. I got to know H.G. a little better and quite honestly she needs to have a reality TV show based on her life. I told her I’d give a shout out to her crazy one-liners in my blog today and so here it is. If you don’t know her yet I challenge you to have just one conversation with her and they you’ll see what I mean!

The girls (and a few brave guys) went to see Zookeeper last night and you can read my wife’s review of that movie on her blog at www.mandyhill.ca