Monday, 10 February 2020

On A Rooftop: What We Can Learn From David's Greatest Moment of Moral Failure (Re-post, Updated January 2020)


Does the Bible say anything about pornography, the necessity of accountability, and the importance of safeguarding Internet access for ourselves, our kids, and teens? I believe it does.

“On one lazy afternoon, when David had nothing to do, he hopped onto the Internet and got himself into a bit of trouble”.


That’s not a direct quote from the Bible, but it could have been. 2 Samuel 11 records David’s greatest moment of moral failure, a moment where he found himself on the biblical equivalent of the Internet: a rooftop.

You see, David could have looked anywhere from the rooftop of his palace. He could have watched some chariot racing. If the wind was blowing just right, he could have caught some kind of philosophical debate on the street or overheard what was being taught at Jerusalem University. He could have focused his attention on a jam session featuring some of the top harpists in the city. But instead, his eyes fell upon a woman taking a bath...and rather than looking away or retreating back inside his home, he kept watching.

Does David’s predicament sound familiar? It should. David was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was alone. He was supposed to be on the battlefield, but he ended up calling in sick. He was bored. So, he decided to “surf the rooftop” where one click of the mouse led to another.

What do you do when nobody else is around? When you have extra time on your hands? What do you do late at night when the family is asleep? Are you browsing the net? If so, David’s story reminds us that it can be a recipe for disaster.
Pornography has never been more accessible than it is today. It’s just one click away. It’s so pervasive that it can be viewed just as easily by accident as it can on purpose. So, what’s a Christian to do? How can we appropriately navigate this minefield of media? How can we guard our integrity and safeguard ourselves against temptation when we’re online?

Ecclesiastes 4:12-13 says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken”. (NLT)

One wonders how David’s story might have played out if he had gone up on that rooftop with a close friend--someone who had his back-- someone he could have been accountable to?



 How does a Christian keep one’s head above the waters in our over-sexualized culture? By being accountable. By refusing to battle temptation alone.

One of the best ways you can do this is through the use of accountability software. There are a number of programs and mobile apps available (mostly for PC, chromebook, or Android devices) which ensure that you’re never on a “rooftop” alone. They work rather simply: You choose one or two friends that you can be accountable to and they’ll receive a notification if you visit a questionable website or if you attempt to disengage the software. Best of all, installing an accountability app on a mobile device means that a friend has your back wherever you go! Not only is the temptation greatly reduced when you know that all of your Internet activity is an open book, but if you stumble, you have friends who can challenge you, pray for you and encourage you to honour God when you’re online. If you're using an Apple Device, you can also have an accountability partner set up the Screen Time Passcode to enable the free, built-in content and privacy restrictions.

While that kind of openness and honesty might sound uncomfortable, it’s very biblical.

James 5:16a says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (NLT).


We need to foster relationships built on openness and honesty with other Jesus-followers, relationships where we can confess our sins and pray for one another without judgment. While, for many, this might sound a lot like ‘Big Brother’, accountability isn’t something being forced upon you, but it’s an act of your own volition. It’s choosing to never be on the “rooftop” alone. It means allowing a friend to, metaphorically, look over your shoulder.

If you’re someone who struggles with pornography or simply wishes to safeguard your “rooftop” from even the promise of temptation, allowing yourself to be accountable to someone else for your online behaviour is one of the best ways to protect yourself from the pervasiveness and bondage of sexual imagery. Simply tell a friend that you’ve made a commitment to being a person of online integrity, and ask that person to have your back and help ensure that your online activity honours God by helping you set up an accountabilty app or some form of content restriction.

If you’re a parent, it’s also important to safeguard the “rooftop” in order to protect the innocence of your children. No good parent would ever let their child play on a balcony without supervision. No good parent would allow their child to run and play on a rooftop that had no guardrails or safety barriers. Why? Because we know that all it takes is one misstep for that child to fall. They would be just one step, one "click", away from disaster. Safeguarding and monitoring your child’s use of the Internet isn’t paranoid parenting, it’s good parenting. Many parents opt to only allow computers to be used in common-areas of the household, but that alone is often not a very reliable solution, especially when kids and teens often carry unfettered access to the Internet in their pockets.

Thankfully, there are a number of options available to provide more comprehensive protection for the sake of your kids. One option is to install blocking software that restricts Internet access. Another option is to utilize a service that filters your Internet at the point of entry (DNS filter), ensuring that every device in your home is safeguarded. Of course, it would also be wise to install an accountability app or Apple Screen Time on the cell phone your child uses, not secretly, but by explaining to your child the importance and necessity of accountability.

For David, wandering the rooftop by himself led to his greatest moment of moral failure. By our taking a friend along with us and safeguarding the “rooftop” for the people we love, we can learn from David’s mistake and it can help us live as people of integrity in a world jam-packed with opportunity for sexual sin.

A Safer Internet On Apple Devices (Update 2020)


Do you have a kid or teen who uses an iPad, iPhone or iPod? Would you like to set up your own Apple device so that it makes accessing pornography a lot more difficult for you? This post will highlight how you can set up your device using Apple's Screen Time. 

Porn is pervasive and can be freely viewed either on purpose or by accident with just one click. While it, sadly, might be foolish to believe that we can sanitize the Internet and completely prevent our kids or teens from viewing pornographic content, as parents, we need to do everything we can to protect the innocence of our kids and have an accountability relationship with them. You can read more about the importance of accountability from a biblical perspective (both as kids and adults) in this article I wrote.

But porn isn't just a kid problem. There are many adults who also want to safeguard their own iPhones or iPads to ensure that they don't have easy access to pornography. Even if you don't have a problem viewing pornography, it makes good sense to remove the temptation and make it difficult to access. It used to be that this kind of thing was really difficult to do if you had an iPad or iPhone because there were no accountablity apps (apps that share your online usage with a trusted individual) available on the Apple App Store and the safe browsers that were available were nowhere near as good as the built in Safari browser. 

Thankfully, Apple's new Screen Time function (originally introduced on iOS 7 as "Restrictions") does an amazing job at restricting inappropriate content. Follow the below steps to set up your Apple Device with Screen Time.

STEP 1: FIND AN ACCOUNTABLITY PARTNER

To set up Screen Time on your Apple Device, you need to choose an accountability partner to set up a Screen Time Passcode on your device. This is a pretty important step, because if you know the Screen Time Passcode, you can easily disable it. The Screen Time Passcode is a completely different passcode than the screen lock you use on your device, so it won't affect how you access your device.

Choosing an accountability partner is as easy as approaching a friend (or spouse) and telling them that you've made a commitment to be accountable for all of your online viewing and asking if they would set up your Screen Time Passcode and to store it in a safe place in case you ever need to access it. I've had Screen Time set up for over 5 years now (my wife has the passcode) and it works really well. There is the odd time when it restricts access to a webpage that doesn't contain inappropriate content (for example, I've found that it sometimes restricts pages when shopping for kids clothing online or when viewing blog posts about teens and youth ministry), but this doesn't happen very often and you won't find that your device is on constant lockdown.



STEP 2: SET UP SCREEN TIME
With your accountability partner close by, go to Settings > Screen Time on your Apple device.

Here, under "Content and Privacy Restrictions" you should set up your device to "Block Inappropriate Content". If you have kids/teens, you can also prevent movies, tv shows, or apps with specific ratings from being used/downloaded. For an adult, I would suggest restricting apps rated 17+, but even if you try downloading and using another browser, Screen Time will still block inappropriate content. 

Have your accountability partner input a new Screen Time Passcode. If you already have a Screen Time Passcode you can select "Change Screen Time Passcode" and have your accountability partner input a new one that you don't know. Once that's done, your device is now set up to block inappropriate content.

Obviously, this won't make access to inappropriate content impossible. You might also want to have an accountability partner set up the restrictions and passwords for your Youtube and Netflix apps and think twice before allowing your teen to use a social media app like Tik Tok, but Screen Time is an excellent and effective start to help you (and your kids) honour God (and others) with your online viewing habits.

Friday, 29 November 2019

STRESS TEST PART 2: CATALYST YOUTH- November 29, 2019


This week, we continued our STRESS TEST series by talking about bad news! The Internet and social media keeps us constantly connected! If something happens in the world, we can all hear about it instantly! And while it’s pretty cool how connected we all are, it also comes with a downside because we are constantly BEATEN UP by bad news. We can’t escape it! If a tragedy happens at the other end of the world, we can know about it (and see pictures and videos of it) minutes later! A study by the American Psychological Foundation found that more than half of people experience anxiety, fatigue, and sleep loss BECAUSE OF BAD NEWS! HALF OF PEOPLE!

Why is there so much bad news? Why doesn’t God put an end to all of it? Why does God let this kind of thing happen? If you’re someone who has asked those questions, then I think you could really relate to a guy in the Bible named Habakkuk.

Habakkuk was a prophet in the Old Testament (a prophet was someone who delivered messages from God to the people)…and Habakkuk was TOTALLY sick and tired of bad news…so in his anger and frustration, he turned to God!

 “How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:1-2)

It's almost as if Habakkuk was describing the evening news in 2019! “Violence is everywhere!”, “People are doing evil things!”, “Everywhere I turn is destruction and violence!”, “People love to argue and fight!”, “There is tons of injustice!”

Well, God responds to Habakkuk with some good news...but also some bad news... Habakkuk 1:5-6 says, “The LORD replied, “Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe, even if someone told you about it.”

Ok, so far so good... but then in the next verse God tells Habakkuk, 

“I am raising up the Babylonians, a cruel and violent people. They will march across the world and conquer other lands”.

WHAT??? Basically, God tells Habakkuk that Israel is going to experience some bad times because of their sin and evil…that he’s going to raise up a nation (the Babylonians) to conquer them…and that hopefully through this process, the Israelites would turn back to God and change the way they were living.  But the really bad news was that He was going to use a nation that was EVEN MORE EVIL and CORRUPT and VIOLENT than the Israelites to do it!

This led Habakkuk to question God further. In Habakkuk 1:12-13 he said "How can you be silent? How can you allow evil people do have success?" Habakkuk was so angry that in 2:1 he basically says that he's going to go on a hunger strike until he gets some answers from God.

In Chapter 2, God answers Habakkuk and tells him, "You need to have faith". In other words, "You need to trust me. You need to trust that despite the bad news, I'm in control. You need to trust that evil won't go unpunished. You need to trust that I will fix everything that's wrong with the world."

Well, that kind of happened—the Babylonians don’t even EXIST today while Israel still does…so, they didn’t get away with evil…and the Israelites DID turn from their sin and start following God again for awhile…but a lot of those same problems with the world that Habakkuk complained about are still happening today. The world isn’t perfect! People make terribly wrong choices which hurt other people! There is still A LOT of bad news! 

You might wonder—why doesn’t God just stop it? Why doesn’t he just solve this problem once and for all if he loves us and wants the best for us?


Well, first of all, God doesn’t want to remove our ability to make choices. He didn’t want to make robots that were programmed to do the right thing and love him….he created us with the freedom to do good and evil! And unfortunately, most people on this planet make TERRIBLE choices that hurt themselves and others. God isn’t the one who has made a mess of our world… we’re the ones who’ve done that!

That said, God DOES plan on one day making everything wrong with this world right again… he PROMISES that the day is coming…that there will be an end to bad news…and 2 Peter 3:9 gives us the reason why he hasn’t done it yet…

“The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent”.

This verse gives us the reason why God hasn't yet become so fed up with the evil and injustice in the world that he puts an end to it all.  While we can look at the news and wonder why God isn’t doing it right now, this verse tells us that it’s because God is being PATIENT hoping that more and more people will come to follow him. It tells us that God doesn’t want anyone to be destroyed! He wants everyone to repent! He’s giving people the chance to know and follow him! But one day, the time will run out and we’re going to have to answer to God for the way we’ve lived our lives and the choices we’ve made. God reminds Habakkuk that even if an evil nation seems to be succeeding for awhile, NOBODY is going to get away with evil. EVERYBODY is going to have to answer to Him!

Habakkuk’s story reminds us of two important things we can do when we’re stressed out because of bad news and all of the problems in our world…

1. RUN TO GOD!

Last week we looked at how Jesus wants us to run to him to experience peace, help and strength when we’re stressed out. That He is bigger than our problems and actually WANTS to help us like a mother hen wraps its wings around her baby chicks.

What I think is really cool about Habakkuk is that he was pretty open and honest with God. He was full of questions, anger, and frustration! He even accused God of abandoning them, of taking his sweet time to do something about the world’s problems! Habakkuk actually says to God, “Why won’t you save us?”

This reminds us something important. God can handle our questions, our doubts, our frustrations and anger. He wants us to be REAL with him. He wants us to express ourselves to him! In fact, the Bible is full of verses that are very REAL and RAW prayers to God. 

For example in Psalm 44:23-24, it says,“Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Get up! Do not reject us forever. Why do you look the other way? Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression?”

God wants us to turn to him with our anger, our doubts, and our frustration! 

2. HAVE FAITH

When we don’t understand why God allows bad things to happen, God wants us to have faith--- to TRUST Him. To trust that even if something doesn’t make sense, he’s in control and he will ultimately FIX all of the problems with our world.

The Book of Habakkuk ends with Habakkuk singing a worship song to God where he’s full of joy and saying that God is his strength and help! That’s pretty cool. He started out all angry and frustrated with God, and ends up singing praises to God! Why the change? Because he knew that God hadn’t left him alone and he trusted that God was in control, even in the midst of really bad news.

When you’re stressed, when you’re overwhelmed by bad news, when you're feeling hopeless. Run to God! Talk to him about how you’re feeling! Express your worries, doubts, and fears to him! He wants to have that kind of relationship with us! And then, he wants us to simply trust him. Trust that he’s in control. Trust that he’ll bring good out of the bad. Trust that He’ll be with us on the bad days. And when we run to him and trust him with all of the problems in our lives and in this world, the Bible says that He will give us peace and help…we’ll find that, like Habakkuk, we won’t be as stressed out as when we started!

DISCUSSION FOR HOME

1. Talk to your teens about the news or world events. What are things that stress them out or worry them? What are some things that stress you out or worry you?

2. For the last two weeks, we've been looking at the importance of running to God when we're worried, stressed, or feeling overwhelmed. Ask your teen, "What does it mean to run to God? What are some practical things that they could do that would draw them close to God when they are stressed?" What are some things that YOU do?

Friday, 22 November 2019

STRESS TEST PART 1: CATALYST YOUTH- November 22, 2019



This week we launched a new series called STRESS TEST where we're focusing on how our faith can help us when we're stressed, worried, or feeling hopeless or overwhelmed.

There are A LOT of things that cause people to stress or worry: school grades/marks, tests/exams, doing something you’re uncomfortable doing, drama at school, friendships, bullying, future job/career, money, problems at work, problems at school, problems at home, debt, going on an interview, doing something new for the first time, sickness, death of a loved one, divorce or breakup, loss of a job, having to move, a traumatic event, deadlines, poor time management (leaving things to the last minute), noise, having to do something with no notice.

Sadly, it’s impossible to live a stress-free life! There are no magical stress fairies that can take all of your worries and concerns away. 

That said, there ARE things that we can do to help reduce stress and anxiety.  For example, if you don’t leave your school work to the last minute, you’ll experience less stress. If you surround yourselves with good friends and people who are really supportive and encouraging, you’ll experience less stress. Doctors recommend stuff like eating right, getting enough sleep, getting exercise, not using drugs, alcohol, or smoking, avoiding caffeine, medication, or not using electronic devices before bed (or not bringing them to bed with you) as things that will really help your emotional health. 

Those are all some really great tips. Some people also really recommend meditation—which is a practice in Eastern religions where you’re supposed to empty your mind, chant, or contemplate questions that you can never find the answer to- looking inward. But that’s not a model we’re ever given in the Bible. The Bible actually encourages us to seek God when we’re stressed, to look to Him instead of inside ourselves--- and that He will give us strength and help!

Psalm 46:1-3 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

The first part of that verse describes God as our REFUGE that we can run to. The dictionary defines a refuge as “a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble”. When we’re experiencing fear, worry, or trouble, it says that we can run to the God who loves us and can help us through! He can be our SHELTER!

The verse also says that God will be our strength when we are feeling weak, tired, or burned out!

The final cool thing this verse reminds us is that GOD IS AN EVER-PRESENT HELP. It reminds us that He promises to be with us and he can do something about our situation!

Have you ever been in the middle of a stressful situation but just the presence of someone else was a HUGE help? My kids can sometimes be scared or nervous to do something on their own, but if they know that I’ll be with them, it reassures them and takes away a lot of the fear and stress. They know they’re not alone. They trust me and depend on me to be their help because I love them! We can have that same kind of child-like trust and dependence on God! 

But in the end, it’s your choice whether or not you run to God for help.

In Matthew 25:37, Jesus told the people of Jerusalem that they kept making bad choices and walking away from God, and he used a strange metaphor to describe his desire to protect and help us: “ I have wanted to be like a hen who gathers her chicks under her wings. And you would not let me!”

That's a pretty cool picture. Jesus wants us to run to him for protection like baby chicks run to their mom! God doesn't force us to run to him, we have to make the choice.

What does that look like? 

  • You can do that by reading what the Bible says or using a devotional book. 
  • You can do that by praying and talking to God about what you’re going through. 
  • You can do that by being a part of church and youth group on a regular basis to be reminded about what God’s word says and be encouraged.
  • You can do that by worshipping God—where we focus on the person who is BIGGER than our problems! 
  • You can do that by surrounding yourselves with Christian friends who you can talk to. (I can’t tell you the number of times someone encouraged me about what the Bible said when I was going through a tough time).


DISCUSSION FOR HOME

1. Talk to your teen about the things that might stress them out. Are they feeling overwhelmed or burnt out? Discuss possible things that they could do to help them.

2. Take the time to pray together and ask God to be your teen's refuge and strength, their ever-present help in times of trouble.

Friday, 25 October 2019

WHO CARES? PART 5- CARING FOR CREATION, CATALYST Youth- October 25, 2019


This week we wrapped up our “WHO CARES?” series by talking about the importance of caring for creation. Environmental issues have been BIG in the news lately. It was a main issue throughout the recent election and most of us have also probably seen Greta Thunberg in the news—she’s a 16-year-old environmental activist who is passionately demanding that we all change our lifestyles in order to save the planet from disaster! It's good that we're talking about caring for our environment.

But, it there’s been a downside to all of this talk about the environment, it's that it’s a constant stream of horror stories about what will happen if we don’t make drastic changes! There are some people who claim that IT’S ALREADY TOO LATE! That our kids or grandkids are doomed! How’s that for an encouraging word? A recent study by Barna Research and World Vision polled 15,369 18- to 35-year-olds across 25 countries and found that only 34% of them were optimistic about the future. 2/3 of young people are terrified of the future. They say that it looks bleak and hopeless. They don’t feel that there’s anything to look forward to. They are without hope! Is there a reason to hope? Are there any reasons not to fear? Tonight we looked at what the Bible has to say.

1. GOD MADE THIS WORLD FOR US

Right on page one of the Bible we’re reminded that WE aren’t here because of some weird cosmic accident that somehow created a world that perfectly sustains life and created plants, animals and people from NOTHING! Believing that it's all a result of an accident takes A LOT of faith.

Genesis 1:1, 31 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…God saw all that He had made, and it was very good”.

John 1:3 says, "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

These verses remind us that our world has been CUSTOM-DESIGNED by a CREATOR. That God enabled this world to sustain life and to be an enjoyable place for us to live! The Bible says that observing our world and how it works naturally points us to a Creator.

Job 12:7-11 says, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind”.

This isn’t saying that animals will LITERALLY take us to school and teach us stuff or that the earth has a mouth--- but it’s saying that by scientifically examining animals, the earth, plant life and all of the things we find in nature, the intricacy of those things lets us know that they couldn't have all appeared out of nothing by complete accident, but rather, “the hand of the LORD has done this.” All of science points us to God! We can understand and see his signature in EVERYTHING that he’s made!

2. GOD WANTS US TO CARE FOR CREATION

Genesis 1:26-28 says that God made human beings and told us to be fruitful and multiply- to fill the earth and GOVERN it. To REIGN over the fish, birds, and animals.

The words "GOVERN" or “REIGN” carry with them some negative connotations. They carry the meaning to "DOMINATE", to "TREAD DOWN", to "BE FORCEFUL" or they can simply mean "TO RULE OVER". This is why there are some Christians who believe that it's ok to just plunder the earth and do whatever we want- they feel that the Bible gives us the license to do it! The problem with this, however, is that those same words are used to describe God's LORDSHIP over us...and it's a REALLY positive thing. For example, in Psalm 72 it says that God will REIGN over the earth…that he will RULE over humanity and creation…and it describes what it'll be like-- that the world under God's rule will flourish, be at peace, where anyone in need will be taken care of, and where everything wrong with the world will be made right again.  "Ruling" over the earth doesn't mean abusing it, it means being GOOD rulers! Loving caretakers of it!

Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him”.

Have you ever lent something out to a friend, and when they returned it, it was broken or ruined? This verse says that the earth and EVERYTHING in it (including people) belongs to God-- so we need to make sure that we take care of it and treat this world (and everyTHING and everyONE in it) with love and respect! Sadly, over history, we’ve shown that we DON’T CARE—people have made a mess of the environment, people have mistreated animals, and human beings constantly do TERRIBLE things to other human beings! Which leads us to my next point…

3. SIN RUINS EVERYTHING

“Sin” is a fancy Bible world that refers to our choices to go our own way instead of God’s way. The Bible says we all have a SIN PROBLEM—we’ve all made choices to walk away from God and reject what He wants for us…in small ways and big ways….and it usually ends up hurting ourselves, our relationship with God, and hurts others too! But here’s the good news—God offers us love and forgiveness--- he offers to do what we can’t do—to clean us up and wipe away our sin--to make us brand new!

The Bible tells us that God created a perfect world for us…but that it’s because of our choices (our sin) that not only are WE messed up, but our WORLD is messed up! We’ve corrupted it! We’ve PHYSICALLY and SPIRITUALLY polluted it!


Romans 8:20-21 says, “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time”.

This is saying that just like we long for God to one day make everything wrong with this world right again- that we want justice and peace, the Bible is saying that CREATION ITSELF IS GROANING IN PAIN and looking forward to that too!

What's even more interesting is that there are passages in the Bible that directly suggest that part of the problems with our world and environment are a result of our rejecting God. For example, in Solomon's day, there were plagues, famines and natural disasters happening...and God said that it was because the people had turned away from Him! Thankfully, he makes a pretty amazing promise:

"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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 1 Chronicles 7:14

God promises to actually HEAL OUR LAND if we turn towards him and walk away from our sin—that THE LAND will actually experience God’s blessing if we are spiritually healthy!

4. GOD HAS FUTURE/ETERNAL PLANS FOR THE EARTH

Revelation 21:1-4 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

A lot of times we think of “heaven” as living on clouds and playing harps for all of eternity…but in reality, God promises that he will RENEW the earth and we’ll live on it FOREVER with no sin, so sadness, no death! The Bible tells us that everything that’s wrong with US and our WORLD will one day be made right BY GOD. That doesn’t mean that it’s ok for us to make a mess of this world because God will clean it up in the end-- that's a kind of irresponsible way of looking at things. How we treat creation matters, because it belongs to Him and he has entrusted it to us, but we can also trust that God is in control!

5. DON’T FEAR

When we are driven to fear about the future, when we hear horror stories about what life will be like if we don’t change, we don’t have to let fear and hopelessness overwhelm us. For people who don’t know or follow God, fear is the default. They don’t believe that there’s a God who cares about them or is looking out for them! But the Bible reminds us that GOD IS IN CONTROL, THAT HE’S IN CHARGE, and that we can TRUST HIM with our future.


-Job 12:10 says, “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind." 

-Colossians 1:17 says, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

-Psalm 46:1-2 says, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea”.

-Psalm 56:3 says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you”.

In Mark 4:39-41 it tells us about a time when Jesus was on a boat with his disciples in the middle of a huge storm that had them terrified! “Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” 

God has power over the wind and the waves! God has power over our climate! God is the LORD of all creation! We don’t need to be filled with fear and hopelessness for our future…but we can trust that God is (and will be) with us. We can have hope!

Fear shouldn’t be the thing that motivates us to care for creation…what should motivate us is that we LOVE GOD and want to care for the world he’s entrusted to us! One of the ways we can WORSHIP GOD (showing that we love him and think he’s important to us) is by CARING for His creation! (That includes our planet, animals, AND people!)

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR HOME:

1. What are some changes (perhaps even simple changes) that your family can make to show care for God's creation?

2. Ask your teen: Can you explain some reasons why caring for creation is important for Christians? How does your faith in God affect/change how you see environmental issues?

3. Take the time to thank God for everything that he's created and ask him to help your family care for what he's entrusted to us.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

WHO CARES? Part 4- CATALYST Youth, October 18, 2019


This week, we continued our series, "WHO CARES?" by talking about being generous with our money! While, for a lot of our teens, money is still pretty hard to come by…one day they’ll have some…and if no one teaches them what to do with it or how to use it responsibly NOW, they might make some bad choices when their wallets are slightly more full.

While a lot of people today have problems saving money and spend more than they make, people have an even tougher time being GENEROUS with it…because money can be used to buy so many shiny things! There’s a lot of temptation to keep it for ourselves, to spend it on own wants and needs… and it doesn’t get easier!

A 2018 study (Basic and Applied Social Psychology) tells us that the more money a person has, the LESS likely they are to be generous with it! Statistically, people who earn less give a greater percentage! WHY? Because you start to LOVE IT and want more of it and want nicer things, and want to upgrade your life…and eventually, you become SCROOGE! The Bible offers a lot of warnings about money.

Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness”!

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus said that money can easily become our God--- where we serve it and are consumed by it—where it takes over our life!

Tonight we looked at a few things the Bible says about money and generosity...

1. PLAN TO GIVE

2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “You must each decide in your heart how much to give”.

It’s really important that you plan what you’re going to do with your money. Us grownups might call that “MAKING A BUDGET”. In KIDZONE we recently talked about the importance of “GIVE, SAVE, SPEND”

You need to plan out how much you should spend, otherwise you’ll be in debt and become a SLAVE to credit card companies for spending too much! You also need to plan how much you should save! Saving is important so that you have money for big purchases, for schooling, for emergencies, and for your retirement. Here, the Bible says  that we also have to plan how much we’re going to give.

A lot of people will ask you for your money, and there’s A BILLION WORTHY CAUSES everywhere you turn—so it’s important that you decide on what things are most important to you and to plan to give regularly towards those things.

2. GIVE CHEERULLY

2 Corinthians 9:7 continues… “Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

A recent poll said this is why Canadians give:
89 % give because they have compassion for those in need
85% give because they personally believe in a cause and want to help
79% give because it makes a difference in their community
61% give because they are moved by the CAUSE. 
29%  say they give because of their faith
23% give because there’s an income tax credit 

Those are a lot of compelling reasons! When we give as people of faith, it's a way we thank God for all that He's blessed us with. Giving is a way we worship God! It tells him that He's important to us and that we value the things that He values! It shows that we trust him to take care of us and to provide for us! 

3. THE BIBLE MODELS SACRIFICIAL GIVING

Acts 2 is probably one of the coolest chapters in the Bible. It tells us about what the first group of Jesus followers (the first church) did on a regular basis and WHY the church grew from a handful of people to over 2 BILLION Christians in the world today (that’s ¼ of the world’s population).

Acts 2:44 says "All the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need"

That’s pretty counter-cultural. People usually buy property as an investment, so one day they’ll own it and be able to retire or to pass it on to their kids. People today also LOVE stuff and possessions and are never really satisfied with what they have. We always want more. Companies call us CONSUMERS—(which means we eat and eat and are never satisfied). But here, these Christians MADE PERSONAL SACRIFICES to be a help to others in need. Instead of getting more possessions, they actually sold stuff they had in order to help others! They were SELFLESS instead of SELFISH.

What does that mean practically today? It means thinking of ways that we could give something up for ourselves to be a benefit to others.

Some creative examples:

  • Instead of buying brand name clothes, get more affordable clothes and give the money you would have spent away.
  • Instead of upgrading a perfectly good tech advice, wait and give some of that money
  • Instead of eating out, decide instead to give the money you would have spent towards a charity or cause that's important to you.
  • Instead of buying a drink/coffee each day, pool that money together to sponsor a child through World Vision or Compassion Canada!

4. GOD BLESSES THOSE WHO ARE GENEROUS WITH THEIR MONEY

“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.” (2 Corinthians 9:7-10)

This says that when we are generous, God will BLESS us…He will TAKE CARE OF US! It actually says that we will have EVERYTHING WE NEED and we’ll have left over to share with others! I should mention that this isn’t some magical formula where if we give $1000, God will give us back $10,000. When we start to give because we want the reward, it means we’re giving for the wrong reason—our hearts aren’t in the right place. This also doesn't say that God will give us EVERYTHING WE WANT...but everything we NEED. There's a big difference there. When we give cheerfully as worship to God, He will take care of us and we'll find ourselves even more able and willing to be even more generous!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR HOME:

1. Discuss with your teens ways that your family is generous with money. What are some important needs you regularly give towards? Why? Have you experienced God's blessing/provision in your life? Can you give your teens some examples?

2. Discuss some of the creative ways you might give up something for yourselves so that you can give to others. (Listed above under #3). Are one of those things something that your family could try? What should you do with that money you saved? Do you have any other creative ideas?

3. Pray together and ask God to increase your willingness and ability to be generous! Thank God for all the ways He's provided for you and pray that He will continue to bless you and your family as you practice generosity.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

WHO CARES? Part 3- CATALYST youth, September 27, 2019


This week at CATALYST, we continued our "WHO CARES?" series by talking about being generous with our skills, interests, and abilities-- all things that God has uniquely wired into us!

In Acts 9: 36-42 we learned about a woman named Dorcas.

DORCAS WAS A DISCIPLE!

She is the only woman in the Bible SPECIFICALLY referred to as a disciple (even though there were other women disciples at the time). This is pretty significant because it was a pretty male-centric society. Men were the ones who could have an education. Men were the ones who had positions of leadership. Only men would have been called disciples. This shows us how much God cares about gender equality. Jesus had women disciples who learned from him and were a part of church leadership! This was pretty counter-cultural at the time.

DORCAS WAS "ALWAYS DOING GOOD AND HELPING THE POOR"!

Because Dorcas was a person of faith who followed Jesus with her life, she naturally dedicated her life to helping others. She had an amazing legacy! She was known for helping the poorest of the poor in that society (specifically mentioning widows). Widows were among the most poor and vulnerable people because they didn't have husbands to provide for them (remember, it was a male-centric culture at the time). 

All through the Bible, it encourages followers of God to take care of the poor, refugees, widows, and orphans- to be involved in social justice issues. For example, in Deuteronomy 24:19 it encourages people to not keep all of their crops for themselves, but to leave some for foreigners, orphans and widows. This is something that the church (and Christians) are known for today. Nearly every major helping organization or emergency relief organization that is in existence today is a Christian organization or founded by Christians (Salvation Army, World Vision, Compassion International, Red Cross, Ottawa Mission, Capital City Mission, Ottawa Innercity Ministries). 1 John 3:16-17 says that we can't have God's love in us if we don't have compassion on people in need.


DORCAS USED HER SKILLS, ABILITIES & INTERESTS TO HELP OTHERS!

Acts 9:39 says, "All the widows stood around him (Peter), crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them".

Dorcas had some skills! She knew how to sew! She knew how to make clothing, and she used those skills and abilities not just for her own benefit or livelihood, but so that she could be a help to others as part of the church community.

God has given us all unique skills, interests, and abilities, and they haven't been given to us so that we hoard them for ourselves, but so that we can show CARE to others. It's important that we think about our skills, abilities, and interests and how we each might be able to use them in ways that assist with the mission of the church (to help people know Jesus and to share his love with others), or ways that help people in need.

DISCUSSION FOR HOME:

1. Dorcas was known as being someone who was always doing good and helping the poor. Talk about what your teen would like to be known for- what they would want remembered the most about them. Does any of it include generosity, kindness, or giving?

2. As a family, talk about the ways that you might use your skills/interests/abilities to help others or as a part of the church community. Help your teen think of ways that they could use what God has given them to be a help and benefit to others. Encourage them to talk to Pastor Ben or Christine about ways they could serve at Arlington Woods or at CATALYST youth.

3. Pray together, thanking God for some of the talents, abilities, or interests that he's uniquely given each one of us. Ask God to help your teens be known for their generosity-- that they would give of their time, their abilities/interests, and their money to be a help and benefit to others.