Tag Archive: God


Would you believe in an addictions councilor who was arrested for drug trafficking? Would you believe in a marriage councilor who was getting divorced? Would you believe in a fireman whose house burned down or farmer who never harvested a crop?

Would you believe in a God who does not always do what you would expect him to do? Would you believe in a God who allows some people to choose eternal separation and torment (i.e. hell)?

Would you believe in a God who created some people destined for destruction…all so that he could demonstrate to you and I the blessing of a relationship with him and the peril of lacking that relationship? The apostle Paul asks this question of the church in Rome.

This line of questioning has become quite popular these days especially within the writing of Rob Bell and others and I think that it is having a damaging and confusing impact on our faith. These questions play on our natural sense of morality as they cause us to question what WE think is good and loving…which leads us into dangerous grounds.

I once thought that our natural sense of morality was evidence of God’s fingerprints on our lives. I think we can all agree that things like violence toward children is one of the most depraved things a human being could engage in…God would agree. But I now see how cursed even this seemingly good moral sense is for it tricks us into being sympathetic for the things that WE deem moral with no regard for whether God has said it is moral or not.

I dare say there are many in the church today, even good God fearing people, that when pressed on some areas of morality in our society today would find it very conflicting in their spirit to uphold God’s morality when our own morality seems to just make more sense.

Some Christians and other well meaning people wonder why we are so down on same-sex marriage and abortion; can we not just go with the flow on these issues? What is so wrong with loving whom you want to and choosing to have a baby (or not to) when you want? Is not the right to personal choice and unique personal expression a fundamental aspect of human freedom?

The problem with this line of questioning is that it puts us in God’s place and makes us the supreme judge of what creation was made to be and what potential it has to become. Do we really think that we know enough about love and enough about God to fill in for him from time to time?

Paul says to the Roman church, “But who are you, a mere human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who form it, ‘why did you make me like this”. (Romans 9:20) God speaks through Moses in the Old Testament when he says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Ex 33:19)

God did not say we would always understand everything about this world and everything about Him. However, he did say that he would always be good and in that we can have faith.

Romans 8:28 “And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

If you are ever confronted with the “how can you believe in a God who…” line of questioning you can tell them that your faith in God does not mean that you can always understand all of God’s ways. Having faith in God does not always mean that what seems logical and good to you is what is best for creation.

Instead, our faith is such that we trust that God’s ways are still good even when we cannot understand them!


Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death”.

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!

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

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.

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

Have you ever heard that great song “End of the World” done by Great Big Sea? I was amazed at how many students today have never heard of the band Great Big Sea…where has musical taste gone these days! Great Big Sea was a staple band when I was in university just 10 years ago; they even played at my wife’s high school prom and THAT was a BIG deal!

All of this to say that our culture today is really quite interested with how we all got here on earth (i.e. the beginning of the world) and also with how we are going to leave here (i.e. the end of the world). There have been so many predictions about the end of the world over the past 2000 years that if it was possible, I am sure that God would have succumbed to the peer pressure of it all and just ended everything already!

But then, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised about this apocalyptic obsession that we have today; Jesus told us to be waiting and be watching for the end to come. Jesus didn’t tell us to become obsessed however and he most certainly didn’t tell us that a few really smart people would figure it out someday and sound the alarm. If history has taught us anything it is that statistically, 100% of the entire end of the world predictions thus far have been inaccurate. I think that is a pretty solid trend that we can be confident about.

We currently are facing the most recent ‘end of the world’ prediction by Harold Camping of Family Radio; a California based broadcasting organization. Camping uses a number of biblical genealogies to determine the age of the earth and subsequently the ‘end of the world’ which will begin with the rapture of ~3% of the earth’s population on May 21, 2011 and the subsequent destruction of the earth on October 21st, 2011. Camping is no newcomer to this ‘date setting’ group; he also predicted the ‘end of the world’ in 1994…and obviously lived to tell about it.

I think the author of the Peanuts comic strip had the most interesting thing to say about predicting the ‘end of the world’:

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.” Charles Schultz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip.

There is some truth to what Camping is saying (i.e. that there will be great changes to us and to the world around us some day); however, there is a lot of myth associated with what he is teaching too (i.e. that we can know the time and the date). Here are a few facts to help set the record straight.

1. This “end of the world” will take place at some point.
Scripture is clear that Jesus Christ will come back at some point in the world; when he does come back a number of great things will take place. Those who are faithful and accept Christ in this life will have an inheritance of honor and rule with him in the life that comes next (Col 1:10-12). Those who are not faithful and reject Christ will be confronted with the reality that they were misguided and they will answer to God for this (Rev 20:12-13). Those who have previously died will be returned to life to either rule with Christ or answer to God depending on how they lived their life (1 Thess 4:13-14). Finally, there will be a new earth and a new heaven that will be void of all sickness, death and disease. It will be like restoration of the Garden of Eden from the book of Genesis; our bodies will also be restored to that Garden of Eden state (Rev 22:1-3, 21:1).

2. No one knows when this will take place.
For as many of the Scriptures that we have that describe what will take place at “the end of the world” there are those that tell us that we will not know the time…and that no one will. In fact, the bible teaches that the end will come like a ‘thief in the night’. Never have I known a thief to book an appointment ahead of time!

3. What should we do? We must be ready.
Each of us must ensure that we are living in such a spiritual state that we are prepared to meet Jesus when he returns. This is a serious and somewhat fearful thought, yet it must be considered. Remember that you do not have to be perfect; what is required is humble submission to Jesus Christ within which there is no condemnation (Romans 7:1).

Also, we should continue preaching the words of God to all those around us. This is what Jesus asked us to do when he left us.

So, don’t worry about these doomsday predictions: statistically you have nothing to worry about. However, pay close attention to the fact that while these recent predictions are based on shaky ground there is truth in the fact that Christ will return and he hopes to find his people ready.