Tag Archive: monkey barrel


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.”

In the spirit of Valentine’s week we of course talked about love and dating that Emergency Ministries. While the younger students focused more on loving one another as Christ would have us love, we dove into relationships with the older students.

Inspired by a book written by Kris Vallotton entitled “Purity”, the main challenge of the night was this: anyone can get sometime expensive, but it takes sacrifice to get something valuable. To put it more poignantly, anyone can have sex, but it takes sacrifice (and many other things) to experience love and a healthy relationship.

Think of it this way: if I REALLY REALLY wanted an iPad, I could just save up and buy one. Now, I do really want an iPad…but just not bad enough to bump my other priorities. So, in essence, I am sacrificing my iPad to attain other things more valuable (like a new house for my growing familyJ).

When a sports team fights their way to the finale and eventually earn the title of champion it is not really the trophy that they are after, is it? I was informed this week by a student that the Vince Lombardi Trophy is actually made of platinum whereas the Stanley Cup is only made of silver; even still I doubt the excitement over the Super Bowl is all about platinum versus sterling silver. Instead, a sports team is fighting for the right to say that they had worked hard, achieved their best, beat their enemies and emerged on the top. That is valuable to them; and it took sacrifice to earn it.

Anyone can get something expensive, but it takes sacrifice to get something valuable.

I gave the students several challenges this Valentine’s week 2012. The first was that they would beat the odds of our culture and achieve relationships that last. I challenged them not to give into immediate satisfaction of their emotional desires but instead to sacrifice that in pursuit of ultimate love. I challenged them to define love less as a feeling in their stomach and more as a decision to make with their heads.

I reminded the students that everyone drops their trophy sometimes; everyone makes mistakes. It takes bravery to pick the trophy back up, dust it off, and carry on in the direction that God has intended for us. If it was easy everyone would do it…but because it takes sacrifice only the brave step up. In the end, however, it is worth it because….anyone can get something expensive, but it takes sacrifice to get something valuable.

 

Song of Songs 2:7 “…Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”

 

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.”

This week at Monkey Barrel and Emergency Ministries we discussed two separate topics: Monkey Barrel students explored fear and Emergency Ministries students explored depression. I will tell you a little about our depression talk in this blog post and next week I will write about our fear talk.

The slogan of the talk was this: depression…it does happen. I was at a meeting of the board of our local Youth Centre just this past week and heard a young lady talk about her experience of teen depression when she was in grade 8. What she said went something like this (I’ll paraphrase):

I don’t know why I started feeling that way. I was not a high-risk teen and my family did not display terrible dysfunction as you might expect of teens with depression. It just happened.

Thankfully this young lady was able to find the support she needed from our local Youth Centre. With this talk my aim was to instill hope in the students present that they and their friends can get through prolonged periods of depression and they can always talk to trusted people in their lives about this.

The reality of the situation is that we all get sad sometimes. There are things that get us down. Most times these feelings go away; however, sometimes we begin to think that we deserve to be sad because of some terrible thing that we have done. Sometimes we believe that the situations will never change. Sometimes we put our head down and stop looking around at all the beauty of life around us. When it gets to this point we likely need help finding our way back.

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus tells a story about a tower that fell on 18 people and killed them. The question Jesus asks is whether these 18 people in the wrong place at the wrong time somehow deserved to be there. Were they bad people? Is this why they died? Was it Karma? The answer Jesus gave was a resounding “NO”.

Bad stuff happens and that is just a part of life. The law of Karma states that what comes around goes around; if you dish out something bad you cannot escape the bad that will come back to you. The reality is that if you are a thief you will likely go to jail and if you are a jerk you will likely have no friends.

Even though we joke about Karma all that time…this is NOT some natural law of the universe. What comes around does not always have to go around; Jesus came to the world to break the cycle of sin, death and destruction. The Apostle Paul reminds us in his book to the Romans that “…the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. Moreover, the Gospel writer John said, “…the thief comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. Jesus comes to give abundant life!”.

Jesus gives hope that tomorrow can be better than today….no matter how bad today was and no matter how many mistakes we made today. Jesus asks us to lift up our heads and look at all the wonderful beauty of life around us. There is more to life then things that bring us down. Once we break free from cultural misinformation like the supposed law of Karma and the message that for some people things can never change we can begin the journey back from a life of depression.

If you have felt sad, down, or blue for several weeks and nothing seems to bring you out of this you might be stuck. Faith in Jesus can help bring you back…and Jesus often times uses people to bring his hope. Talk with your youth leaders, youth pastor, school councilor or other trusted people and start the journey back!

 

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me.  (Psalm 31:5-6)

 

NOTE: Wednesday February 8th 2012 is national “Let’s Talk” day about depression and other mental illness. On this day numerous high profile individuals will open up about their battle with depression.

 

Make sure you talk that day as well.

This past week at Emergency Ministries and Monkey Barrel we talked about how to handle…anger. When channeled properly anger can motivate us to cure injustice and accomplish great things. When left to its own devices anger can tear us apart from the inside out. That is the difference between controlled anger and controlling anger.

There is a story in the Bible that goes something like this…

Once upon a time there was a guy named David. He and his men were out working and they ran out of food and provisions. So…they sent some people to ask a friendly neighbor if he could provide them with what they needed. The friendly neighbor turned out not to be so friendly after all. Nabal turned away the messengers and sent them back empty handed.

David was angry…and he decided to kill Nabal and all of his family. Not the best course of action but that is what he decided to do. Abagain was Nabal’s wife and she was a little more generous than her husband. Although she was angry that her husband was bringing David’s anger upon their family she decided not to take it out on her husband but rather to make the situation right. She loaded provisions on her donkey and rode them out to meet David…while he was on the war to murder her family.

David received Abagail and her provisions with happiness; his anger was subsided. Thanks to God, said David, his anger would not longer cause him to murder an entire family.

The moral of the story is this: Abagail controlled her anger, David allowed his anger to control him. Abagail did what was best with her anger, David was on the verge of murder.

There are going to be many things that anger you throughout your life. Anger is not a sin but rather it is a natural reaction to situations that are not pleasing to us. The way he handle anger is where the problems lie. Anger that controls you grows inside of you like mold on last week’s lunch leftovers. It spreads to other areas of your life and makes you angry at those things too. Though your anger might start with a teacher is can end with you angry at friends, school, studying, exams…all the way to the crossing guard on the way home.

Control you anger… “…in your anger do not sin”. If you find yourself in an angry situation take a moment to read what the book of Proverbs says about anger and then, like David, allow God to redirect your anger in a positive direction.

 

A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted (Prov. 12:16)

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!

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 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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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