Thursday, 27 June 2013

Giving Dignity

Last night I sat with a friend eating some gelato in an area called Gastown. Which is only a couple blocks from East Hastings street on the Downtown East side of Vancouver. An area infamous world wide for being an awful place. As we sat we discussed everything from childhood memories to poverty. As we discussed poverty we got down to causes, issues and the nature of poverty in our city. 

Sitting there a woman named Sharon came up and asked if she could talk to us. I welcomed her to our table and shook her hand introducing myself, and my friend did the same.

As we began talking she explained the hardships she was facing, and what her night most certainly looked like. She asked for some financial relief of her situation. It is a place I have found myself often, and a place where I do not feel comfortable helping.

But I have two ways in which I will help:

1) I'd be happy to help them find resources to help them out (to which she had already explained she had exhausted) 

2) I would be more than happy to chat with them over a meal. My way to provide brief companionship and some nourishment. 

Sharon was not interested in what I had to offer so she moved on. 

As we sat there I thought to myself, Sharon is a hurting person. Sharon likely had an illness, addiction or a social situation which lent aid to put her in the place she is. But none of those things prevents us from giving dignity to her. 

Jesus Christ constantly reminds his disciples and us through these words that it is important to love others as He loves us. And I believe a place where we need to start is out of a place of giving dignity and respect to those who don't have it.

It is in these moments that we can share the love and heart of Christ. 

I will be honest, there are times when I am frustrated by the number of people asking me for money. There are times when the thought that the individual probably put themselves there crosses my mind. 

But  have to remember that I never deserved the love of Christ. I have done nothing to deserve dignity and respect of others in many cases outside of being a creation of God. And people no matter who they are, whether Sharon on the streets or the Queen of England deserve 2 things. 

1) To know that Jesus loves them
2) To know that they are created in the image of God and because of that; they have worth and deserve dignity and respect.

So when you meet someone this week who is needing some dignity and love, would you open up your heart and give them a moment. And I guarantee if you look for them, you will find them. 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

How Superman is like Jesus

If you have not had the chance to see the new movie "MAN OF STEEL" you may not want to continue reading this blog post. If you don't care about spoilers you have been forewarned.

********SPOILER ALERT******************

This past weekend I went with my wife's side of the family to see Man of Steel for my Brother-in laws birthday and for Fathers day. I thought the movie was overall pretty good outside of a little too much fast action with special effects. But I loved the relational context they put Superman in for this film.

They made Superman like Jesus. Without saying it they threw in a whole bunch of allegorical and visual references.

Let me give you a little of the rundown.

1) He is not from this world but was sent by his father to bring hope and salvation for humanity.

2) He grows in Strength and wisdom, even though it was always inherently within him

3) The symbol on Superman's chest is not an 'S' rather it means hope. How about the wounds Jesus carries as a symbol of hope.

4) Superman wins over the bad guy because of his love for humanity. God defeats Satan as a show of power and love.

5) Just watch the movie and look in the background as Superman is in a church posing just like Jesus, or how about when he stretches his arms out like Christ on a cross. This movie has some many visuals that bring that to the forefront of our minds.

I really loved how they did this. It wasn't overt and in your face, but it was subtle and can send a powerful image. I love when you can take pieces of Hollywood and use them for teaching people about Christ!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Building Social Credit

This week I read a blog post to do with building "social credit". I wish I remembered which blog roll it was on so I could share it but I am afraid I do not. I am assuming it is morethandodgeball because I spend a lot of time there, both writing and learning.

Anyways, the idea of social credit is that students listen and understand what you talk about when you build up a reputation with them. The only way to build that reputation is through spending time with them in a meaningful and social way.

I believe this dynamic works for youth workers, high school teachers and even parents. By putting in time with students in a neutral setting where you can be yourselves together, you build a positive relationship. And well, you earn a credit.

I am not saying the only reason we spend time with students is to earn credit, but it is a byproduct of doing so.

Tonight I brought a group of girls to play a game at a local coffee shop (JJ bean), in order to meet a new potential student. It was a lot of fun and was a good introduction for the new student. Afterwards I also headed out to a soccer game 3 students were playing in. It was an awesome experience because I got to cheer on the girls, and socialize with their parents at the same time.

I was reminded while driving home; by a gentle nudge at my spirit; that it was the right thing to do and I need to keep on doing it.

I hope that if you are a youth worker, teacher or parent reading this that you are encouraged to spend some time with a student or your kid, just being together. It will make you feel great, and have a positive impact on that persons life.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Church is bleeding out

I just finished reading a study done in Canada called Hemorrhaging faith. The hope of the study was to understand "why & when Canadian young adults are leaving, staying and returning to the Church."
Now my assumption is that the information contained within the study could be fairly accurate in the US as well (perhaps different percentages but our teens are very similar).

The study in my mind has no unknown information, but it packages it quite well and helps us extrapolate some thoughts that may have been blurry.

It seems evident when we talk about young people and church, that we need to talk about the church getting smaller. But what we forget to talk about is not why or how we can control the bleeding, but rather how can we increase the numbers not keep them from leaving.

As a Church (universal) we have tackled issues such as "church is too feminine", "what type of music should we play", "church is to masculine". But what about the issue that church is not a place where young people feel connected.

Sure kids and students go because their families go but would they go if it was just themselves. Some would and I know two students who have no family affiliation with church and are passionate about going and being part of the body. But the majority of my students find it hard to engage and feel part of the body.

When I look at an organisation such as Young Life, they draw students in like crazy. Students want to be a part of the body of Young Life. My criticism for young life is they don't plug students in enough and there is little discipleship in most of the regions I know. But they know how to draw in students and help them find Jesus.

Or take a non-christian cause look at the Occupy Wall Street protests or the Kony campaign. People wanted to be a part of a movement. People wanted to belong to something.

What are some ways that we could learn from organisations like Young Life? How can we glean ideas from Occupy Wall Street or the Kony Campaign?

How can we as a church become a place where we aren't concerned about young people leaving, rather we are concerned we need to find ways to be a part of all the lives pouring in?

Monday, 11 February 2013

Doing what is right

In case you have been living under a rock, you may not have heard that Pope Benedict XVI has resigned from his position. He is the first to do so since 1415, that is a long time! 
While I am not part of the Catholic Church, I am a part of the catholic church. I believe that God uses different sects and denominations to accomplish his will. And while if you asked me down to the gritty details where I sit on some theological issues I would disagree with some things the Catholic Church believes. But I do believe that as long as a priest is teaching that the only way to God is through Jesus Christ and his sacrifice and that we need to strive to live a life holy and pleasing to God, I support them. 

Anyways enough of that soap box, This post is about doing what is right and I believe the pope did the right thing. Too often we see people with power failing to relinquish it when they should. They will hold onto it often until death. I am not one to judge who God or man has put in an appointed church position, but I do believe it is up to the individual to seek God's calling in their lives. What I love about Pope Benedict XVI is that he has decided to step down because of failing health, but his plan is to live the rest of his life out in a monastery praying for the church and its appointed leaders. 

Wow what an example! A person who will give up their power and spend time praying for their successor and the church. We need more people like this in every area of the church. We need it in the evangelicals, the catholics and the mainline churches. 

I think their are too many problems with the church! We fight and argue, we grapple for power, we put each other down and are often too quick to judge. I would love to see more people spending time in prayer (and I need to be the first to change this in my life). If we in the church didn't fight to be the best known leader, or the most recognized church in our community we could probably work together a lot more. And image the kingdom impact it would have if we could work together to heal the hurt caused by the fighting within the church.

I believe a little move like this; if dealt with positively by other churches; could really create healing and make a huge impact for Christ in our world.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Speaking to Seniors

Now you may think that because I am youth pastor this blog post will be about graduating students. But it is not. While I love speaking with high school students, they aren't always the most encouraging group. The group I spoke with this morning is however, I spoke with a group of individuals 65+.

Every wednesday morning from 1030-noon we have a group of seniors which come together to sing some hymns and hear a message. All the pastors on staff take turns preaching to this group throughout the year. I am always happy to preach but this group really makes it fun.

The first time I got up to preach I was blown away by the fact that the nearest person to my age that week was 50 years older than myself. I didn't know what to say, I thought I should be the one to be sitting and learning from the wisdom of those older than myself. But I got up shared my testimony and then began to preach from it. When I was done, I thought to myself how bad it went. Then everyone started sharing how that impacted them and what they learned from my story. I didn't bomb in their mind, they hadn't heard it all before but they really enjoyed it.

Over the few times I have spoken at Wednesday worship I have been corrected (by a guy who knows more about the Bible than me) I have been encouraged and I have had some good jokes pointed in my direction. But the best part is it is all from love.

By spending an hour every few months with my more mature friends I have begun to learn a lot about christian living, and I have got to hone my craft of preaching more. I never feel nervous in front of this group because even when I preach and things don't go as well as I hoped, the seniors always have a kind word of encouragement, a lot of insight and sometimes they even help me fine tune my thinking for when I teach a similar message in the future.

So I would encourage you, if you ever have the opportunity to speak at your 'Wednesday worship', take the chance and get to know these older people. They will love you, encourage you, pray for you, pray with you and will be good teachers and listeners. And it might surprise you but they will learn from you to (and as a preacher that always feels good).

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

How Hungry are you?

I was flipping through the Book "The Pursuit of God" by A.W. Tozer and was struck by a simple couple of sentences.

" The man is 'saved' but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God. In fact, he is specifically taught to be satisfied and is encouraged to be content with little."

Does that summarise you? It certainly summarises me a little here and there, and often for longer periods than I would care to admit.

I think one of the signs we are failing as Christians is by not being hungry. We live in a culture that says eat until your stomach is full, consume until you cannot take anymore. But when it comes to faith we are happy with just skimming the surface. Oh I took the little bit of cream off the top that I wanted and now I'm content.

With consumerism in the world we need to stop, the more we are taking for ourselves the more we are harming others. The opposite is true when it comes to our faith. The more we take for ourselves the more we have to give to others. If you aren't filling yourself up with God, his word and his life giving bread, you are running out of anything you can possibly give.

If you truly want to connect with God, you need to increase your hunger. And as easy as that sounds for eating food here on earth, it is harder with our spiritual diet. It probably means that you need to eat as much as you can to expand your spiritual stomach. Once your Spiritual stomach has been expanded you will grow a deeper sense of hunger.

So what are you doing to do today to increase your hunger for God? For me, I am going to crack open the word and read more than I planned on reading today. Because I want to not be satisfied with a little but to always be hungry for more of God.