Tag Archive: teens


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!

Its been a while since my last post; however, I am now back from vacation and would like to offer congratulations to all of our EDHS graduates of 2011! Last night parents, teachers and graduates gathered together to celebrate the culmination of 14 years of public school education. In the words of the superintendent of the Greater Essex County District School Board (Mr. J. Hillman), “[parents]…you can have them back now”.

A number of students from Emergency Ministries played a role in the graduation. The ceremony began with an excellent rendition of “O Canada” by Taylor Horner, one of our graduates and Emergency Ministries worship team musicians. A poem was ready by Nichole Howson, our resident Epic Book Drive coordinator. Nichole’s thirst for community volunteer activities will be missed within our youth ministry. Also recognized last evening were Michael Sheppart (who plans to…SAVE THE WORLD!!!), Jonathan Howson who will be studying accounting at the University of Windsor and Tiffani Gill-Carew who “does not want to grow up just yet” and so will be returning for just one more year of High School. A number of other individuals who have been associated with our youth ministries over the years were recognized for their academic achievements as well.

You will remember in my Blessing for our Kids post that I encouraged parents to seize significant milestones like graduation and use these occasions to encourage and pray blessings over your children. I was honored to give the invocation at the ceremony last night and I prayed that as the students pursued further knowledge and life experience that they would also “…take time to fill their souls with the giver of abundant life”. I did not say that by accident and I truly pray this for each graduating class.

To all of the graduates in 2011, congrats!!

Many teenagers do it; many enjoy doing it. Many spend oodles of money on it and it only takes about 20 minutes three times each week. Such little work for such dramatic results that you carry around with you 24/7…so what is the drawback?

This thing that I am talking about is artificial tanning and it has become something that teenagers have become more interested in, especially as the prom season is once again upon us (in fact, Prom 2011 at my local High School is taking place as I write this post). An interesting group of students throughout Canada are using this prom season to send a message about artificial tanning; they want teenagers to abstain. Why is this? Recent studies have shown a dramatic increase in the instance of melanoma (a form of cancer) in young women who tan regularly. The World Health Organization has labeled artificial tanning beds as a type 1 carcinogen; other things in this category include tobacco and arsenic.

Though not necessarily a trendy option (that is, not to tan) it may well be a logical one. The difficulty is that popular media portrays the popular, good looking and healthy individuals as those who sport a tan.

I have to admit that when Mandy and I got married I went tanning…this was recommended because we were heading to the Caribbean for our honeymoon. Even worse, I loved tanning; it was not just about dark skin, I found the whole experience extremely relaxing and quite a nice stress relief after a long day. I guess I have learned to distress with other less harmful activities these days.

It seems so interesting that we in Canada are obsessed with making our skin darker whereas in other cultures people are obsessed with making their skin fairer. When Mandy and I did an STM in Thailand I encountered many individuals for whom dark skin was a sign of inferiority. Those with dark skin were forced to do manual labor where they were continually exposed to the elements. In these cultures it is the noble class with the fair skin.

For these folks light really is the new dark. Will this trend make it in our culture? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

(The original article concerning this can be found at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/story/2010/04/09/pei-students-tan-prom-584.html)

This morning at Essex District High School and this evening at Essex Gospel Community Church we have the opportunity to hear Brett Ullman speak about a difficult topic that is most often not talked about in our school, churches, or homes. It is talked about in popular media, music videos, movies and video games. This topic is self-harm and substance abuse.

This is what Brett’s website (www.brettullman) says about this topic and his talks:

Today, thousands of young people, under-confident and often scared, are seeking release from their personal struggles in ways many adults would prefer not to contemplate and, sadly, ignore. You probably have friends who cut, friends who are bulimic and you know self-injury is a serious problem in teen culture today. Self-injury is taking teen culture by storm and its impact is evident in movies, music lyrics and countless music videos. This talk opens up discussion, raises awareness and shows a way out of the darkness.

The school wide assembly at 12PM today was well attended (~800-900 students) and 90% of the individuals indicated to Brett that they knew someone who had struggled with cutting and/or self-harm. After the talk there were at least a dozen students who spoke with Brett about a variety of real issues that they were facing. This is the first step…talk to someone about this.

I know that there are many people within our community who struggle with self-harm and substance abuse; I know this because I have heard their stories. I also know that while some are brave enough to talk about these things, even more people do not.

If this is you or someone you know, you do need to talk about it and you can get help. The staff and volunteers at Emergency Ministries (EGCC’s Sr. High Youth Program) are more than happy to talk to you and give you the help that we can offer; we are also happy to help you find help for situations that are beyond what you can handle alone. You can reach us on facebook (Emergency Ministries) or by e-mail (youth@essexgospel.com).

Take the first step…you can do this!

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:46)

There is a new movement concerning Canadian education attempting to get off the ground: Teach for Canada. The premise is this: while Canadian schools have some of the best track records worldwide, there are also some striking inequalities within the school system. For example, Aboriginal students are significantly less likely to complete High School than other Canadians. Low income and rural students are also disadvantaged within our school systems which leads to an unfortunate waste of potential talent that could emerge if it were given the opportunity to be shaped in more constructive ways.

Kyle Hill (my brother), Oxford graduate and current Sauvé Scholar (www.sauvescholars.org) residing in Montreal, QC, is one of the individuals driving this cause. He and Adam Goldenberg are applying for a Pepsi refresh grant of $100,000 to establish Teach for Canada which will then carry on to ensure that high quality educators find their way into the disadvantaged schools within Canada.

This is truly a noble dream and a great effort on the part of the organizers. It will only become a reality, however, should they be successful in acquiring a Pepsi Refresh grant…and they will only acquire this grant if we vote for them.

You can visit the website for this grant application at http://www.refresheverything.ca/teachforcanada. You can also follow Teach for Canada on Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/TeachForCanada). If after you read the contents you find as I do that this is a great cause, take 15 seconds and vote; you can continue to vote once each day until the end of June. The project is currently ranked at #22 nationally and must reach #1 if it is to be successful. With your votes Teach for Canada has the potential to impact Aboriginal, rural, and low-income students for a lifetime.

Stay tuned for updates!

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?

Lets take a poll….

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

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

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

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

James 2:19

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

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

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

The Qu’ran says:

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

The Bible says:

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

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

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

The Qu’ran says:

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

The Bible says:

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

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

The Qu’ran says:

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

The Bible says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 10:27

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

I have been noticing a peculiar trend over this past few months and I have now been inspired to write about it. I have noticed that our Monkey Barrel program has an overwhelming number of girls in attendance but is lacking on the boys side of things. This is odd to me…we throw balls around in a gym often times hitting each other in the head, we play competitive games and award prizes and we even launch diapers filled with baked beans out of a sing shot at summer camp. What Jr. High aged boy can resist all of this!!! Nevertheless, they are missing.

 

One of my former classmates in seminary said that his strategy for youth ministry was to get as many girls as he could to attend; he would do whatever it took to get girls to come to you his youth group (like maybe hang Justin Beiber posters from the ceiling…or actually have Justin Beiber come as a guest speaker!!). In our case maybe we should have Big Time Rush come in and give a shout out to K.P., one of our loyal Monkey Barrel girls! (I still plan to review their music on my blog at the request of K.P.)

 

Anyhow, my classmate’s theory was that if he had enough Jr. High aged girls in one place at one time that would be incentive enough for all the Jr. High aged boys to flock to his youth group as well. Maybe we just have to get the word out that Monkey Barrel is packed with girls who like to throw balls around and catch baked bean filled diapers…but then maybe if the boys were there the girls would cease to engage in these activities?

 

Its quite confusing trying to get inside the mind of Jr. High aged students. Just ask them what is going on in their head and half of the time they are not sure. What I do know is this: the present success of our Jr. High program is the future success of our Sr. High program. This is how we do discipleship in our youth ministry: students are more prone to come for the first time when they are in Jr. High…once they transition to High School they have already built relationships and we are not labeled un-cool because they already know better. So, this shortage of Jr. High boys is not something to be taken lightly.

George Barna is a guy that studies people and numbers. Relating this to Jr. High aged people, Barna says that a person’s perspective on faith and God becomes somewhat set and largely unchanged after the age of 13. Barna is not citing psychological support for this, he is showing that this is just the way things seem to be. “…the probability of someone embracing Jesus as his or her Savior [is] 32% for those between the ages of 5 and 12; 4% for those in the 13- to 18-age range; and 6% for people 19 older”. (You can read his whole book on this topic. It is called “Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions” and was published by Regal Books in 2003.)

 

So, not only are Jr. High boys missing, the likelihood that they will remain missing increases with each week, month, and year that they remain missing. For those who work with teenagers, parent teenagers, or care about teenagers, this is tragic!

 

I have spent part of my day today writing Facebook messaging a number of guys that I once knew from Monkey Barrel…how about you do the same. Maybe not Facebook, but maybe you see some Jr. High guys at school, at the park, at swimming lessons. Maybe you even know some guys who once came to Monkey Barrel but no longer do.

 

Whatever you do, just do something! We need to train up some decent and spiritual young men to someday make a good match for all the decent and spiritual young women that we seem to be turning out! When one part suffers we all have the potential to suffer, so lets split up and find these missing guys!

It seems that Facebook has been the topic of some interesting media coverage lately. It is not surprising that Facebook is in the media for some reason; there are over 500 million users worldwide! Certainly this must be an administrative nightmare at the best of times.

Let me tell you about three recent news reports. The first report that caught my eye this morning was on CBC.ca and was entitled “Facebook Depression raised by MDs for teens” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2011/03/28/facebook-social-media-teens-children.html). The premise of this article is that medical doctors are now starting to see a phenomenon in teenagers that is similar to depression but is caused by devastating experiences with social networking. This is how something like this might work: a teenager signs up for a Facebook account and can then sees the pictures and postings of their friends or others they might know from school who do not have strict privacy settings on their profiles. Perhaps this teenager reaches out and requests friendship with several of his/her classmates and is rejected or simply ignored. Maybe there is a group event that is initiated but this person is not included on the invite list. Or, perhaps after posting pictures of himself/herself or family events others respond with hurtful or degrading comments.

This is essentially the online equivalent of getting picked last in gym class…times a million because everyone in the school will see it in their newsfeed over and over and over again. More than just one event in time, offenses that take place on Facebook are present indefinitely and the hurt can be relived each time it is viewed or talked about.

Is this for real, you might ask? Well, let me tell you about the two other reports that have been in the news recently.

The second and third reports are both from the Chronicle Herald (Nova Scotia’s provincial newspaper published in Halifax, NS). One article was published on Friday March 25th and was entitled “Is Lower Sackville teen’s suicide a result of cyberbullying?” (http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/9020294.html). The other was published on Saturday March 26th and was entitled “Online bullying, suicide link probed” (http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/9020297.html). All of this after a 14 year old girl from Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia killed herself this past week. At some point after her suicide there was a memorial page started on Facebook and numerous comments attributed her death to cyberbullying. Now, family members and her principal are questioning these reports stating that other factors likely contributed to this death…which makes me wonder… if just days after the death we can be so certain about what contributed to it, why then did we not reach out two weeks ago to prevent it? Anyhow, I digress. The fact is that there is a perception that cyberbullying certainly contributed to this unfortunate ending of life and the RCMP in Nova Scotia are following up this lead.

Here are my thoughts on all of this: it is for good reason that Facebook has a policy that you must be 13 years old to have an account and that even those individuals who are older than 13 should still consult with their parents as they experience Facebook. I know for a fact that many teenagers somewhat embellish pictures, ages, and other features about themselves on Facebook…I know this because I know these people in real life and I also follow many (many, many…) teenagers on Facebook and see the glaring discrepancies.

Social media in itself is not to blame for the depression or suicide described above. Facebook, or the less popular (and less monitored by adults) social network found at formspring.me, are tools that can be used for much good. Mandy and I connect with family that live a great distance away using social networking tools.

Here are some beginning thoughts to keep safe while using the benefits of social media:

1. Be true to who you are! Post pictures, posts, and birthdays that are accurate! Misrepresenting yourself online can never lead  to good things. You are unique and special in your own way and you don’t have to pretend to be something that you are not.

2. Treat bullying seriously. Bullying is never ok, and just because it isn’t face to face (but on Facebook instead) it still hurts and obviously has devastating consequences. Don’t do it, don’t believe it, and don’t stay silent about it!

3. Involve parents and other people in your online activities. Don’t ever let your online habits become so secretive that you are not talking with parents and others that you trust about what is taking place online. Parents, talk to your kids about their online habits just the same as you would about the friends they see in real life and the places they go in real life. As someone said, Facebook is the new ‘corner store’ where teens go to hang out.

Lets strive to make sure these past news reports never become future headlines once again.

So, although I did not spend much time with you guys last night (blame it on the Monkey Barrel crowd) I STILL know what you guys were up to. In fact, I was talking with your small group leaders afterwards last night and they said that you were…well, fairly engaged given the topic.

So, lets briefly summarize what last night was all about (in case you were not here or not paying attention).

We watched Rob Bell in one of his first NOOMA videos called “Flame”. In this video he talks a lot about dating, relationships…and sex. He basically says that sex is something that is so special that you need to want until you are absolutely committed to one person and then allow it your life. Any deviation of this pattern leads to potential destruction…if you don’t believe Rob (or me) just look around teenage culture.

Song of Songs 2:7

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires.

The reason for this: love is a flame.

There are three Hebrew words used for love; the first is raya, the second is ahave, and the third is dode.

Raya is used to describe the relationship between friends. It is a companionship kind of love. Ahave is a willful love that you choose and decide who to give to. Rob Bells says, “…this is way more profound than fleeting romantic feelings. This is much more than temporary urges. Ahava is making a decision to join your life to the life of another. This is an emotion that leads to commitment.”

Dode is the sexual/intimate love in a relationship. Dode is like a potent flame that when unleashed out of sequence with the other aspects of love can certainly result in destruction of you and others. All three love ‘flames’ must burn at the same time and in the proper sequence.

When the three burn in complete unison you have….well….you saw it; that BIG flame. If you have never seen Rob Bell’s NOOMA video called “Flame” I urge you to locate a copy (we have them in the EGCC library) and watch it!

Think about these questions:

Why is love so complex?

Do we generally treat love as sacred, beautiful and mysterious?

Do you love tacos, or baseball, or your pet…the same way you love people?

What else is there inside you aside from your physical body? How do these invisible parts of your body love?

Have a great week! Next week we move on from this LOVE TALK and onto something else….phew!