Tag Archive: Jesus Christ


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.”

Good morning readers! I have a bunch of things on my mind today and so I thought that I would let them all out for you to see and hear about. Here we go!

1. If you were in Monkey Barrel this past week we talked about VAMPIRES! No, we are not setting the Bible aside and now preaching from popular media. What we are doing is taking popular media and demonstrating how lines up or does not line up with a Biblical worldview.

Now that you are done having a heart attack about us talking of Vampires in Monkey Barrel, let me tell you what we talked about. First, we discussed the various occult-like beliefs and behaviors associated with the whole world of vampires and its somewhat close association with Wicca. These are things that our Biblical worldview tells us are very real and certainly not good, pure and noble pursuits. Secondly, we saw that there are a variety of other practices associated with Vampires that are perhaps not spiritually-related but nevertheless contradictory to our Biblical worldview. Finally, we noted that those who engage in a lifestyle of fantasy and use that as a mask to avoid the pain of real life here and now are not doing themselves any good whatsoever. We need to pursue life with Jesus Christ, not fantasy.

A full discussion about this will be posted next week once I present this material to the Emergency Ministries group.

2. The second thing on my mind today is the Royal Wedding! Not the dress, not the hats, not the people, not the ring, not the weather, not the kiss, not anything like that…..come on now, what about the Royal Wedding do you think I would deem worthy for including in this blog post? ……..the sermon by the Bishop of London! I encourage you to review a few excerpts from the wedding sermon delivered earlier this morning at Westminster Abby as I was quite impressed with the truth about love and marriage presented to millions of viewers today. You can see some excerpts at http://www.officialroyalwedding2011.org/blog/2011/April/29/The-Bishop-of-London-s-Sermon

3. The third and final thing on my mind this morning is a new blog series that I have been thinking about and will begin to write shortly. I want to put the idea out there now to increase your expectation and whet your appetite. I plan to write a series entitled “The Top 10 Threats to a Teenager’s Faith”. In this series I will draw from my experience of 10 years working with teenagers to highlight some common pitfalls I have seen over and over again with the anticipation that perhaps it may assist some teenagers and parents from repeating the mistakes that others before them have already made.

That’s all for this morning!

p.s. I have noticed that my Katy Perry post from well over a month ago is STILL getting many hits every day and is currently my most popular post. Perhaps you’d like me to review more artists in the near future?

I’m back on track: here is what I mean to say last night!

Remember that really unfair trick I pulled on all of you last night? Remember when I got you all to take a piece of paper out of a hat and two of you lucky people got gold stars? That meant that you and a friend could sit wherever you wanted to last night (like even on a comfy couch). It was just downright unfair!

Life can be like this sometimes, eh? School can be like this, church can feel like this…and I am sure that Emergency Ministries can feel like this sometimes. It can kind of feel like life is all about what special privilege you have or who you know.

I want to encourage you, however, that the message of Jesus has nothing to do with what you have or who you know. There is no special privilege that exists for just certain people (even for me!) and it does not matter who you know so long as you know Jesus Christ.

 

Romans 3:22-23

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

 

Different religious traditions have disagreed with this very basic notion and have stated that they way to advance in their ranks is to have something great (wisdom, intelligence, money, birthright) or to know someone who does.

The Hindu belief system organizes its people into a “caste system”. There are four classes: priests, nobles, peasants and manual laborers. Then there are those who are outside of the caste system and they are called out-casts.

Those who are born into a higher caste system have access to more spiritual and practical privilege and are believed to have lived better in their previous life to merit this great life now. (This notion of reincarnation is, by the way, completely outside of our Christian worldview. There is only one life here and now; we will move beyond this life but never return in this way again).

Moreover, the Hindu faith follows the law of Dharma, which states that if something has been a certain way it should continue to be that way. To move from one caste to another violates some sort of natural law of reincarnation (which, once again, is bogus).

The message of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with this oppression of some and privilege of others. There is no human being better than us and there is no human being below us. There are no castes. There is no hierarchy, there is no privilege, and there is no birthright. Jesus does not care who your parents are, what house you live in, what part of town you live in, whether crazy guys walk by your house with crowbars (inside joke…ask me about it), or anything else. Everyone comes to God on equal footing.

There are two other popular groups around us today that sometimes invoke (or use) the name of Jesus Christ but do so in a distorted way that does not reflect the truth about God.

Jehovah Witness:

Their belief system states that only a choice number of people will actually make it into the presence of God after this life: 144,000 to be exact. (This number is arrived upon by a misinterpretation of Rev 14:1) Others who follow the JW group but are not quite good enough to make into the 144,000 will get to live in a new Earth, but everything else will be destroyed.

So, everyone is striving to be within the elite 144,000 club. This is not equality before God but instead a competition to make it close to God. Unfortunately they tie this message in with the name of Jesus Christ.

 

Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints):

Faithful Mormon men will be exalted to godhood. The only hope for women is to be sealed in marriage to a Mormon man. It must be nice to be a man, not so much to be a woman. Again, a gross misinterpretation of a number of passages of Scripture is taking place…too many to get into here but stop by and we can chat about it.

Once again, this faith group does not promote equality but rather privilege and getting ahead by who you know (or in this case who you are married to).

Need I say it again: within the message of Jesus Christ there is no privilege, there is no hierarchy that you are placed in because of who your parents are, how old you are, how long you have been coming to church, how long you have devoted your life to Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 4:12

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

 

Galatians 3:28

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

This reality comes with great freedom but also great responsibility. There is nothing that can separate you from the love of Jesus Christ….but there are no automatic acceptance tickets offered just because your family is Christian or because you come to church.

Everyone stands before God as an individual and needs to make that choice to devote their lives to Christ or not. Everyone is actually making that decision continually in his or her life…you are both saying yes to Christ and growing daily in that relationship as you continue to say yes or you are saying no to Christ and are continually rejecting the growth that you could have in a relationship with Christ.

We closed the night last night praying for Jesus Christ to become the leader of our lives; some of us may have prayed that for the first time and others perhaps as a rededication. If you prayed that last night or if the reality of Jesus Christ has really been on your mind lately I want to hear from you!!! Send me an email, a facebook, a comment on this blog, a phone call…anything!

Have a great week! I look forward to the conversations that I will be having with many of you.

Sorry all my Emergency Ministries folks that it has taken me so long to get this post together an online; we had a special event on Friday night (which rocked!) and some other things got in the way. However, I have not abandoned you…here is “what I mean to say” this past week at Emergency Ministries.

There are just some things that are meant to be together, right? PB & J, babies and diapers, old people and handkerchiefs…those sorts of things. There is another pair of things that are absolutely necessary to be together; the message of God and Jesus Christ. You can’t have one without the other and if you try you will have a deficient message.

In his new book, Rob Bell sums up Christianity as this: “For God so loved the world…”. This, however, completely ignores Jesus Christ and his time on earth. It ignores the fact that Christ died and was resurrected (which is what we are celebrating at Easter). Basically, Rob Bell has decided that the message of God can go forth without Jesus (in some times and in some cases) and to that I must fundamentally disagree. Jesus Christ IS the message of God and it cannot be separated.

John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

So why would you want to remove or replace Jesus? Maybe people do not want to admit that they need someone, that they cannot always have everything together all by themselves. Some people have failed to realize that they are messed up just like everyone else; I guess being messed up is pretty normal. Some people just like church and how it makes you feel; they like the treats, the music, the friendly faces…but they are not interested in Jesus. Church is their social outing. Others reject the violence inherent in the story of Jesus and still more people think that the whole notion of Jesus is just a cute little kid’s story that is not real (just like Barney and the Wiggles…and thank goodness for that!).

Nothing, however, can ever replace Jesus Christ in the message of God. Why you ask? I’m glad you asked. Lets take a look at Jesus’ resume….

Jesus claimed to be sinless.

John 8:46 “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?”

2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

This is a central hallmark of Jesus: he lived as we did but did not sin. Jesus was born to a virgin (Mary) and was distinctly different in that while he was human he was not subjected to the brokenness of humanity. Jesus was tested in every way that we are; this should be encouraging for us because he gets it! He gets us! It could have something to do with the fact that he is…GOD. Which leads us to line number two on Jesus’ resume…

 

Jesus said that he is God.

Many other faith groups provide answers to questions that in some cases actually work. Muslims have ways to resolve conflict within their people groups; it is called Sharia Law and has proved to be successful in the governance of their own people.

Sharia deals with many topics addressed by secular law, including crime, politics and economics, as well as personal matters such as sexuality, hygiene, diet, prayer, and fasting. Where it enjoys official status, Sharia is applied by Islamic judges. (Wikipedia)

What Sharia lacks and what other worldviews lack is something greater than themselves for those times when things get too escalated and go beyond what they can handle as human beings.  When you have a conflict with another student at school, who does it go to? It goes to the Vice Principal, someone with a greater position, authority, age, and direction.

So, what happens when the greatest, oldest, most authoritative person on the earth encounters things that he/she cannot resolve on their own?  What happens when even Buddha and Mohammed do not have it all together? (Mohammed had to repent of several sins committed against the words of the Qur’an) What hope is there then?

The message of God says that there is hope in something greater than us…and that hope is in Jesus Christ.

John 8:19 “Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.””

John 14:9 “Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

Because Jesus is God and is greater than us, he can therefore do things that no human could ever do…like this:

 

Jesus can save us from sin and death.

We read the bible that sin leads to death. Imagine if God was the life giver and turning away from him was death. Imagine Rapunzel in the recently released movie TANGLED…her hair was the life giver and so losing access to it was tragic.

Jesus not only pointed out the fact that life apart from God is death, he showed us that God had the ability to overcome death! Jesus returned to the living after three days dead!

John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

Notice something interesting here; Jesus refers to himself and not just a group of teaching….he always say I!

 

Jesus points us to him, not just his teachings.

Jesus does not say that you need to be good people to earn his favor; we talked about that last week. Jesus does not say that there are rules that you have to do all by yourself in order to make him happy. In actual fact, he points to himself and not a list of teachings.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

John 8:12 “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus presents himself and invites people to get to know him. Jesus says that there is a spiritual part of you the needs to be fed; he wants you to feed it with him.

So, embrace and feed that spiritual part of yourself. Feed it with Jesus, the one whose resume has shown that he is greater than us and therefore can be there to do the things that we cannot.

 

p.s. Next week I will endeavor to be more prompt!

 

 

Great night last night at Emergency Ministries! I felt like some of you really ‘got it’ last night when I was talking about the unique message of Jesus Christ. Let me reiterate what I meant to say.

To start with, I need you to give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down for each of the people in the following pictures…based on whatever criteria comes to mind (smart, ugly, pretty, old, young….good, bad…).

Have you noticed a trend here? You gave thumbs up to people who you thought had done enough great things to deserve that. You gave a thumbs down to those people who you thought had not done enough good things or perhaps have done too many wrong things. This is logical human nature…is it not? We have to earn our own keep; we get repaid good things for the good we do and evil things for the evil we do.

Our culture has given a trendy name for this: it is called karma. In actual fact, this notion of karma has nothing to do with the message of Jesus Christ and is actually opposed to what Christ came to declare. Somehow our worldview has shifted…

This notion of karma comes to us from the Hindu faith, which says that we will be repaid for our life’s actions in equal measure; good for good and bad for bad. The Hindu faith also says that after this life we will be reincarnated into a new form that will depend on our actions in the previous life. This is interesting because we were created in the image of God and so what higher form could one be reincarnated into than humanity? Could we become God himself? No…scripture says that there is only one God and we will never become that.

A few other faith groups have impacted our worldview instilling this “I must be good enough” notion. Within Islam there are five pillars that devout believers must fulfill to earn the favor of Allah.

1.     Recite a profession of faith many, many times.

2.     Do the salat prayer five times each day while facing Mecca.

3.     Donate to charity.

4.     Fast during the month of Ramadan.

5.     Make one pilgrimage to Mecca.

No matter what your life’s circumstance, you MUST carry out these five pillars or else be subject to the potential wrath of Allah.

Even more interesting is the Buddhist faith. The basic tenants of this faith are these: life is suffering and suffering comes from desire for things. There is a way to make suffering end by eliminating all desire. Buddhists must always strive to have the right beliefs, say the right things, have the right motives, avoid the wrong things, make the right kind of effort, think about yourself the right way, spend time doing the right things…and you HAVE to do ALL of this ALL BY YOURSELF!

Basically being Buddhist is like being a Vulcan on Start Trek; eliminate every unique and personal shred of who you are to achieve perfect peace.

All of these faith groups appeal to our rational senses of earning our keep and getting nothing that we do not deserve. Essentially we are on this rat race of trying to hold our lives together. We have work, school, family, appearances, desires, likes, dislikes, arguments with friends and people…and at the end of the day we need to emerge unscathed and a complete person that has it all together. At the end of this we wonder why so many teenagers are silently dying inside with feelings of being alone, misunderstood be parents, feeling not good enough, easing the pain with alcohol, drugs, cutting…and some with suicide.

It’s real tough to do everything the right way all the time…right?

Let me tell you about something that just does not make logical sense but should blow your mind.

Jesus Christ says that his ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8)

Jesus Christ says that he looks on the heart.  (1 Sam 16:7)

Jesus Christ says that we’re never going to have it all together on our own…that’s normal. (Romans 3:23)

Unlike every other belief and faith system on this earth, Jesus Christ gets you and me. This is probably because Christ is the one that created us. The way out of this rat race of always trying to do things well enough on our own is to give direction and leadership of your life to Jesus Christ. This is more than just agreeing to a new set of beliefs; there is a spiritual change that takes place in the world when one person gives direction of their lives to Jesus Christ.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9)

We do not have to do everything on our own; the Spirit of God comes to live inside the spiritual part of our bodies and helps us with change. Instead of condemning us when we fall short (as is the case in the other faiths discussed here) the Spirit of God reaches out with compassion and says, “Lets do better next time”.

This is all much more refreshing than having to do everything good on our own all of the time.

So you see, being ‘good’ or ‘good enough’ has nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead it’s about being different. It’s about building something great using the blocks that you have been given. It’s about having spiritual direction from the one that knit this whole world together. It’s about falling off the path and then getting back up and carrying on further than before. It’s about going on a journey together to somewhere new instead of just spinning our wheels stuck in the same place or going around in a circle and always coming back to the same spot.

In Jesus this becomes reality.