Friday, March 20, 2009

Student Devotions - We Have A Problem

Good morningg students,

I hope everyone survived the week. We are going to have to have a little chat about honesty and deception when I get back. It appears that some of you were abusing the privilege of your computers and others stole candy from the Merit Store.

My conern is that some of our youth do not truly understand the difference between right and wrong. For some of them wrong is only when you get caught so that if you do not get caught there is no guilt associated with doing wrong. It is like the mentality of most Quebec drivers. They are willing to go 10, 20 or 30 km/h over the speed limit without feeling guilty as long as no police are around. However, as soon as the police are there to enforce the law these drivers slow down to the speed limit. If not then the police will provide the guilt in the form of a ticket.

It works this same way with some of our youth. They know the rules, as in what is right and what is wrong but a lot of these rules are not followed when the parents are absent. They feel no guilt in ignoring the rules. However, when parents are around they back off of their behaviour and follow the rules. If not then the parents will provide the guilt in the form of some sort of punishment. This is not obedience. This is conformity.

The problem with conformity is that it does not change the heart and it is from the heart that we find true obedience. With conformity the behaviour is only modified in the presence of authority but authority is never always present. As soon as that authority leaves the restraints are thrown off and people do whatever they feel like doing. This leads to all kinds of depravities such as stealing, bullying, various violent acts, sexual immoralities, and so on. A person who is not governed by a morality of the heart will do whatever he wants to whomever he wants.

The problem for these people is that Yahweh is always present. Whether they want to recognize it or not he is the authority and everyone will answer to him.

Yahweh is like a dad who hopes the very best for his kids. He has raised them in the knowledge of right and wrong, he is there to help them with making the right decisions, he has taught them to love by his example and he is hoping they will choose the path he has helped them understand. He longs for the best for all of us. But he is also a dad who will make the tough decisions when he has to. The worse thing a dad has to do is remove a child from the family because of his or her behaviour and thus endangering the rest of the family, but he will make that decision. Remember:

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:5)

Scripture also warns us:

For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:30-31)

This authority is real and is always present. This authority is the Father and he wants our obedience to come from a heart of love. Anything else is just conformity and conformity will never protect us from offending the Father. When we love our teachers we obey them to please them. When we love our parents we obey them to please them. When we love Jesus we obey him to please him. It does not get any plainer than that.

Please, do not be conformed but instead transformed. It is the only thing that will change your unwanted behaviour. Ask yourself right now if you are proud of what you do in secret. Would you want it revealed to everyone in your life? If not then know your need for Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can change you so that you no longer do what you do not want to do. Trust him.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Student Devotions - Making Sense Of It All

Good morning students,

I do not want to hear any complaints from Montreal about your temperature today. It is currently -17 with an expected high of - 15 in Mistissini. I am looking at Montreal with a current temperature of 3 and an expect high of 6. I forgot my winter gloves.

We are continuing with Luke 9 today, looking specifically at the last few verses. There is a bit of confusion from some people concerning what Jesus says here about being his follower. To one man he says that he has nothing to offer him in the way of physical comfort and to two others he tells not to allow traditions to get in the way of making that decision to follow.

So the first one is straight forward and we can accept it although we may not like the thought of it. We hear a lot of preachers preaching riches and fame but the fact is Jesus never promised "a rose garden" to those who chose to follow him. In fact he did the opposite. He warned that following him would divide some families and invite a lot of opposition. What Jesus promised us is of greater value than "creature comforts". You may look around and think you have it pretty good but we have all lived in a time where Christian values have been the majority. Although we are still the majority we are less so, and the number keeps falling. Soon we will be in the minority as we are in Quebec and then we will have a very difficult time to stand according to our beliefs. It will begin to cost us to be a follower.

Some people are confused by Jesus' response to the other two people. One asks to go bury his father and the other to go say goodbye to his family. On the surface it sounds strange that Jesus would have a problem with that. It is only when you study and discover that these things had to do with traditions at that time. The man's father was not dead. He was telling Jesus that he would follow him after his father dies which could be twenty years from then. Jesus was saying that we cannot allow traditions to be an excuse not to be obedient to our calling. He was also saying that following him requires complete dedication so there is no time to look backwards and long for former times as the Israelites had done in the desert. He either has all of our heart or he has none of it.

This should not surprise us considering the other things Jesus taught on this subject. When his family came to rescue him from what they thought was his lunacy he stated that those who followed him were his brothers, sisters and mother. When he was speaking of dedication he stated that if our love for him did not make all other love seem like hate then we were not worthy to follow. We should understand this considering the greatest commandment is to love God with that very same passion.

I am not sure that we see very much of that passion in the followers of Jesus any more. Could it be that we are too busy looking for fancy pillows to lay down on? It seems we do a lot of chasing after wealth in the current times. A lot of people are worried about money, all the time. It certainly robs us of our passion. In fact we can become passionate about things that we shouldn't. But it is not just about money. We can transfer our passion to any number of things that rob us of that single-mindedness for Jesus.

Your generation inparticular has a major challenge ahead of you. There has been no generation before you that has so much. You have all the comforts, all the opportunities, all the abilities, all the toys, all the equipment, all the information and knowledge. Yet, it all seems to confuse you. You are like little children in a candy store just turning around in circles because you do not know what to pick first. You lack direction, which is exactly where the enemy wants you.

Let me encourage you to start with Jesus. After you make that decision then the priorities will start falling into place. You will begin to understand what is important and what is simply trivial. Direction will start to form and you will stop your spinning in the middle of the room. Until you make that decision some of you will continue with the "everything is pointless" attitude and will not make any sense of the future. Please, trust us on this; it all starts with Jesus because it is all about Jesus.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Student Devotions -Warning To The Privileged

Good morning students,

I hope you are enjoying the warm weather in the South. For a little while yesterday our temperature up here was actually 3 degrees warmer tahn it was in Montreal. The streets became rivers. There is a lot of snow up here to melt, although winter hasn't lost its grip yet. It will be a high of -12 tomorrow and they are having a snow storm next week. Fun.

We are considering a passage from Luke 9 this morning. The first six verses tell us how Jesus prepared and then sent his disciples out to minister to various towns. This was a mission of faith as they were not allowed to take anything with them. But that is not what I want us to consider this morning. What I want us to consider is found in verses 7 to 9.

Jesus was many things to many people. Let me qualify. Jesus appeared to be many things to many people according to their perspective of the man. To the common folk he was a man of great wisdom and tremendous power. To his followers he was the Son of Yahweh, the messiah from prophecy. To the religious authorities he was a dangerous heretic and a powerful enemy. Yet others could not make up their mind who or what he was. King Herod was one of those people.

Herod had been raised on scripture like everyone else but he chose to bend it to suit his purposes. Yet he respected it enough to fear certain things. One of those things had been John. He had John arrested for preaching against him but he would not kill him. Only through his wife's scheming was the king tricked into beheading John. Now he was tormented by guilt and fear, yet truth illuded him. This is why the stories of Jesus bothered him and threw him into confusion.

He tried to see Jesus but never managed to, until the end. Why did he fail in this desire? It is not like Jesus was hard to find. The pharisees found him. The people found him. Why not Herord? Could it be that Jesus did not want to waste his time on people like Herord and the Pharisees? Remember what he had said to them? "The healthy do not need a doctor." Perhaps we would not consider Herod healthy but the fact of the matter is that Herord was privileged. So were the Pharisees. They had access to the best teachers and the scriptures. They had the intelligence and the wealth to study and learn. They were spoiled and twisted but that did not take away the fact that they had privileges that the common person did not have.

The common folk, the ones Jesus came to be with, were too busy trying to live from day to day to be concerned about prophecies and scripture. They were lost in the busyness of survival. Their parents had not had the money to send them to the synagogue to learn. Most could not read or write. They did whatever it is they had to do to survive. It is to these people that Jesus came, casting out demons and preaching the Good News. It is because of their suffering that Jesus was moved by compassion to begin healing.

Now here is the thing; we often identify ourselves with the second group, the underpriviliged but we are not part of this group. We belong to the Pharisees and the Herods of life. We are privileged, we go to school, we are surrounded by people who love us, we are being educated and trained for great jobs with lots of money. But it's more than that. We have gone to Sunday School and learned the Word of Yahweh. We have been taught by preachers of the Word. We have been taught spiritual truths from our parents. We own at least one Bible. We have no excuses.

The fact is that if Jesus came today instead of 2000 years ago he would not have chosen to hang out with us. We are without excuse. Still, many of us are found in the same condition as the Pharisees and Herod. We know the Word enough to bend it to suit our own wants and desires. Or, we ignore it and do what we want anyway. At least Herod felt perplexed by all of this; he felt some guilt and confusion. What about us? Do we at least acknowledge when we come against the Word, the will of Yahweh?

I want this to be a good day for you. Consider what you have been taught. Consider what you know. Consider the fact that Jesus loves you and has no desire to condemn you. Consider it is an easy matter to step back into the will of Yahweh. And consider that the peace you so desire, the peace that will wash away the emptiness, the loneliness is freely yours. Just walk in the privilege that is ours as children of the light, the children of privilege. Do not waste it. Seek forgiveness, receive his pardon and walk in the freedom he has freely given to us.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Student Devotions - The Priorities Of Jesus

Good morning students,

I hope you enjoy your nice mild day today. It remains cold up here. I imagine the Spring comes much later in Mistissini and the snow would not disappear until at least May sometime. Great for the snowmobiles.

This morning we are looking at Luke 8, verses 40 to the end. Here we again come across the incident of Jairus, his dying daughter and the sick woman who interupts Jesus on his way to see Jairus' daughter.

As civilized human beings we have learned to prioritize things in our life according to importance. Mind you what we consider important differs from person to person and sometimes we get our priorities messed up. For example, homework should be one of those items near the top of your list of things to do when you get home. Yet, for most of you it would be the last thing you consider before going to bed. At the top of your list would be "grab a snack", "call a friend", "write on FaceBook", "watch a movie", "go shopping" and a number of other things.

Some priorities are forced upon us. Most moms and dads have a long list of priorities that they must attend to before they can do anything for themselves. Teachers are the same way. Most business men have the illusion that they are in charge of their agenda (the same as pastors) but often their agenda is controlling them.

If you have been to an emergency room lately you will have a better understanding of priorities. The first thing that happens in an emergency room is an assessment by a nurse. She determines where you fit in their list of priorities. Those who can wait are made to wait. Those that have something life threatening (like a missing head) are rushed in ahead of those that have been waiting for 15 hours. A bit frustrating for those that are waiting but perfectly understandable.

You would think that such a list in an Emergency Room could also be applied to the things of Jesus. Certainly he has priorities, right? Well, not as we understand priorities. His priorities have more to do with timing than they have to do with importance. Afterall, he can do everything at the same time. But what if he were to limit his power in human form? What would he do about priorities then? Would he consider dying children to be of greater priority than a sick woman? We would, wouldn't we?

Come on, we can feel bad for the woman, she has been suffering for a long time and no one had been able to help her up to now. Still, we are comparing a long term illness to a present-moment emergency; a child was dying. Sick children always come out at teh top of teh list of priorities, especially dying children. You know who would get the priority in an Emergency Room. Yet, even in human form Jesus had a better understanding of time and death than we will ever have. As Jesus referred to it, death is but to fall asleep. No one else could understand, especially the dad, so for them I am sure they were feeling frustrated and evem panicked. But because Jesus had a much better understanding he was able to give priority to the moment. In that moment the sick woman was his priority. For Jesus every moment of our today is a priority for him.

Busy teachers may move you down on their list of priorities, unless you are having an academic emergency. Busy parents may put you off until you have a crisis. Friends may get too busy for you. Yet, Jesus is guranteed to give you his full attention 24 hours a day. For those of us who want flesh and bone in our lives it may seem like a lesser thing but Jesus can touch us where friends and family can't. He can heal where others hurt. He can comfort where others do not understand.

There is a new worship song that my church has been singing recently. The line says "Jesus is more than enough for me". It is true. Guranteed, you will always remain on the top of his list of priorities. No matter what else he is dealing with he always takes the time for you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Student Devotions - An Interseting Journey

Good morning my students,

Here I am in Mistissini again. It was an interesting journey yesterday. It started off with me driving through Montreal up to Three Rivers and then to La Tuque. We left at 5:15 am and stopped for breakfast at 8:30 am. We left in the dark and stopped for breakfast under a cloudy sky. We left Montreal with hardly any snow on the ground and arrived in La Tuque with Two foot snow banks and plenty of snow for their ski hills. Other than Mont Royale, the Montreal region is pretty flat but in driving we went through beautiful hills that some people would call mountains (but I've been to the Rockies so ...). There was plenty of twists and turns and quick drop offs to keep me awake.

In La Tuque Ian took over driving and our world began to change more dramatically. Where I had clear roads he had to drive through snow. As soon as we drove out of La Tuque it started to snow. The highway became snow covered and ice. We encountered snow plows and huge snow banks. The temperature started to drop. More than once the car started sliding on Ian. The trees became more and more snow covered. We started seeing skidoos (remember no snow in Montreal).

Then we started coming out of the hills as we approached Robervale on Lac St. Jean. The skies suddenly cleared up. We arrived there under blue skies and plenty of sunshine. We went from wilderness to towns again, even traffic. We went from trees, cliffs and lakes to a wall of houses, lots of cars and people everywhere. Then, just as we were getting us to it we were out of it, back to the wilderness.

For two hours there was nothing but highway and forest. In those two hours we may have seen thirty cars, one of which was getting help because he had run out of gas. The forest had changed now; nothing more than tall thin evergreens and birch trees. The forest looked like someone had weeded it; it was thin and spread out, like a man going bald. Although it did not snow in the two hours it took to drive through this section there was plenty of snow on the ground. The snow banks were at least six feet tall. However, the sky was blue and the sun was not in our face.

Then we arrived in Chibougamau. I am telling you it is like being transported to Mars. There is no doubt it is a northern town. It almost has the flavour of a town from the old western movies but instead of horses tied up in front of the stores there are cars and trucks. It is flat, practically one street, straight and long with a wall of buildings on either side. There was actually traffic and I think it is the only town in Canada without a Tim's. It was also cold, -9.

So why am I telling you all this? I am trying to describe for you a journey that started off in one world and ended in another. We started off with certain weather and conditions but as we travelled it changed. We left behind people we knew and loved and encountered strangers along the way who did not know us and did not care to know us. I am describing life. Things change and you are at a time of your life with some of the greatest changes that will ever take place in for you. Friends will come and go. Where you live will change. People you depend on will change. Your perspective and understanding of life and the world will change. Do not make the mistake of thinking that this moment will last forever, good or bad. It is going to pass and it will become a distant memory. My question is will you learn from each moment?

I have shared this scripture with you before:

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

The question is whether you willl choose to believe it. Every step of our journey will be a good or bad choice. We will do great things in our life, but just as the dude who ran out of gas on the highway, there will be times that our choices will be foolish. Yet, even these things Yahweh is desiring to use for our good. Things are only wasted when we are not willing to learn from them.

You are going to have a diversity of experiences in your life; clear skies, storms, flat and straight roads, mountain passes, traffic jams, empty highways. Do not fear the journey. If you have Jesus then you have everything you need.