Friday, 7 December 2018

Christmas: UNWRAPPED! CATALYST Youth, Dec 7, 2018

This week at CATALYST, we took a look at how the first Christmas in the Bible mirrors the Christmas we celebrate today:


A big part of what makes Christmas so exciting is the ANTICIPATION—the build up! When I was a kid, it was REALLY hard to wait until Christmas. It seemed like time slowed down and the days passed by slower than ever! We were so anxious to open our gifts that we would even sneak around and see if we could find where they might be hidden!

In the Bible—leading up to Christmas—there was A HUGE level of anticipation! In fact, even in the story of Adam and Eve at the beginning of the Bible, when humanity chose to sin and ignore God’s rules for living, God spoke to Satan (the tempter) and said that there would come a day when a child would defeat sin and evil! (Actually, specifically, God said that a child would stomp on his head—but that’s what it means). Genesis 3:14-15

From the very beginning, and all through the Bible we’re given TEASES that God had a plan to make a way for us to be forgiven for our sins!

Isaiah 7:14 is probably one of the biggest teases in the Bible. It was written 700 YEARS before Jesus was born! (This is one of those examples of Prophecy that came true in Jesus that we looked at a few weeks ago. Remember, in the New Testament—the second part of the Bible, there are people who are actually READING the Book of Isaiah. They are reading the Bible in the Bible! How? Well, as we looked at, the Bible wasn’t written at one time--- it was written by many people over thousands of years.)

This is what Isaiah said---“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Think about that! 700 years before Jesus was born, God told Isaiah to deliver a message--- that there would be a virgin birth! This alone is incredibly miraculous! That kind of thing doesn’t happen everyday. AND then he says that the child will be IMMANUEL- that this baby would somehow be GOD IN THE FLESH!

In Isaiah 9:6—again, written 700 years before Jesus was born, it says, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This again, is some pretty shocking stuff--- the TEASE is that a baby would be born who would be called MIGHTY GOD, AND EVERLASTING FATHER!

All through the Old Testament people are told that a saviour would be coming to help them know and follow God. If you think waiting for Christmas is hard when it’s a few weeks away, they were waiting sometimes THOUSANDS OF YEARS to unwrap this gift---for God’s promise to come true!


As a kid, it was REALLY hard to get to sleep on Christmas Eve, but it was SO worth it--- because we knew that there would be some amazing presents under the tree! It was so exciting to unwrap a gift and find that thing that I had been wishing and hoping for! Well, in the Bible---- after a long, painful wait, the thing that the people of Israel had been wishing and hoping for, finally happened!

Some INCREDIBLE THINGS happened on this first Christmas. Mary was visited by an angel! She was told that, through her, God would save the world from their sins! She was then told that she would become SUPERNATURALLY pregnant with this saviour! (Imagine having to explain that to your parents and fiancĂ©. They probably thought she was the biggest liar in town!) In fact, it was so hard to believe that Joseph (her fiancĂ©) was going to break things off until an ANGEL visited him and confirmed everything! Then, when Jesus was born, a STAR appeared to mark the place of his birth! Angels showed up in the fields to announce to shepherds that God’s promised saviour had been born!

That’s the reason why we celebrate Christmas today. God has given us this FREE, AMAZING gift. He wants to forgive us for all of the wrong things we’ve said and done. He wants to give us a brand new start! The God of this Universe wants to have a friendship with us--- and all we have to do is unwrap the gift--- to invite Jesus into our lives! And what's really cool is that the Bible says that when we do that--- when we accept this gift God has given us, it says that ALL OF HEAVEN celebrates! (Luke 15) It’s a BIG DEAL! It’s a BIG DAY!


If you unwrap something AWESOME, you usually don’t keep it a secret! You tell your friends! You’re excited about it! In the Bible, The Shepherds had angels appear to them in the middle of the field to announce that the Saviour had been born! They then were told to go to Bethlehem to see for themselves….AND THEY DID!

Luke 2:17 says, “After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished”. These guys couldn’t keep it to themselves! 

I’m sure some people thought they were totally insane! “Yeah, right—angels talked to you and God is a baby”! But that didn’t stop them…..and God wants us to share the good news of Jesus with others too! This means actually living out our faith and living different from other people. It might mean sharing a Christian perspective in a conversation or discussion or explaining why we choose to live the way that we do. You can share the good news by inviting friends out to CATALYST--- or even just saying that you were out at CATALYST and telling your friends about it! It could be as simple as saying that you were a part of church on Sunday when they ask you what you did on the weekend! You can share good news by offering to pray for a friend who is going through something difficult!
We have REALLY good news to share with other people… and God wants us to share it!


Luke 2: 20 says that after the shepherds spread the news, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told”.

It says they worshipped God! They expressed their thanks and praise to him!

Did you ever have to write a thank you note after Christmas? It can be a real pain for some kids—a huge hassle, because we don’t want to write a note THANKING someone for the videogame, we just want to play it! Eventually, we all learn that it's really important to express appreciation to people who've given us a gift. They didn’t have to do it! They didn’t have to spend time and money on you, but they did it because they care about you and want to show it in a tangible way! I learned as a kid that, even if I unwrapped a pair of huge, ugly, hand-knitted wool socks (and I’m allergic to wool) that I could be TRULY thankful that the person cared so much about me. That, at the very least, it’s the thought that counts! Well, thankfully, God’s gift to us is WAY better than wool socks!

If you’ve experienced God’s love and forgiveness--- if you’ve invited Jesus into your life, then every day of your life can be a THANK YOU CARD to God!

That means that we can thank God by singing songs of worship that give him props! We can thank him personally through prayer! We can thank God by spending time reading the Bible and thinking about it on our own! We can thank God by coming out to CATALYST or being a part of church because it shows him that he’s important to us! We can thank God by making the right choices in life even when it’s REALLY hard! We can thank God by living our lives the way he designed them to be lived! We can thank God by giving, helping and showing kindness to others! Our lives can be one big THANK YOU card to God!

Christmas is fun and exciting---and that really mirrors what happened on that very first Christmas! It was kind of a big deal! There was a ton of anticipation! The big day arrived with all kinds of miraculous stuff going on! The shepherds went into the town and told everyone they could about the good news (even if it might have sounded crazy or weird!) AND then they worshiped God! And thousands of years later--- we’re reminded that this gift of Jesus is for us too! We can experience his love and forgiveness for ourselves! We can have a friendship with God! We can show and tell others in the things we say and do that we love and follow God! AND we can worship him with our lives--- not just through singing or talking to God personally, but by living life the way he designed it to be lived!


1. What is your favourite part of the first Christmas found in the Bible? What stands out to you? What do you find most interesting? Why?

2. How can you tell if someone is a Christian (if someone loves and follows Jesus)? How might that be evident in their life? Can people see those qualities or attributes in you? Pray that God would help you to be open and honest with other people about your faith and that it would be evident in the things you say and do.

Friday, 30 November 2018

STUFFED Part 2- CATALYST Youth- November 30, 2018

This week, for Part 2 of our STUFFED series, we talked about GENEROSITY.

Generosity is a pretty important message that we often hear at Christmas time! In fact, the whole reason why we celebrate Christmas by giving gifts to one another, is because Christmas celebrates God making a way for us to experience his love and forgiveness. In case you never thought about it, “Christmas” LITERALLY mean’s CHRIST’S MASS (Christ isn’t Jesus’ last name—it means SAVING ONE), and a mass is a service where Christians gather to remember Jesus (Roman Catholic churches still call their services masses!)….SO, the meaning of Christmas is to “GATHER TO REMEMBER THE SAVING ONE!” Christmas is all about generosity because God SENT Jesus to make a way for us to experience his love and forgiveness (even if we don’t deserve it!). THAT’S PRETTY GENEROUS!!

The dictionary describes generosity as showing kindness through giving and sharing, being un-selfish, and being open-handed! That's something we hear a lot about at Christmas. And tonight, we looked at the classic story of "A Christmas Carol" and how it's quite similar to a parable that Jesus told. A parable is a made-up story that contains some kind of lesson about life and God--- and Jesus was pretty famous for telling them! One in particular, has quite a few similarities to Scrooge's story. This makes sense since Charles Dickens was a Christian (he even wrote a book about Jesus for his kids).

In Luke 12:16-21, Jesus told the story of "The Rich Fool". It's similar to "A Christmas Carol" in these ways:

FIRST: The main character is someone who is super rich and has plenty for himself

SECOND: The rich man in Jesus' story hoards more for himself instead of showing generosity. Scrooge, of course, is known for his selfishness and greed.

THIRD: Something supernatural happens. In Scrooge’s story, he’s visited by Ghosts. In Jesus’ story—God shows up!

FOURTH: Scrooge is given a glimpse of what will happen to him if he keeps being greedy and selfish…and if you know A Christmas Carol, it gets pretty morbid at the end, where he sees his own grave. Well, Jesus’ story goes there too! He says that the guy is going to die, having never helped anyone or made a difference in anybody else’s life. He’s going to die alone—greedy and selfish!

FIFTH: Scrooge’s story ends with him realizing that he needs to change….and Jesus’ story ends with a warning to all of us--- that we should be SELF-LESS instead of SELFISH, that we should be OPEN HANDED instead of TIGHT-FISTED! Jesus tells us to be “rich towards God”- or in other words, to worship God by being GENEROUS! 

How is the story of the rich fool relevant to us today?


If you are reading this, then you are rich. You might not think so, if your family makes $24,000 a year (that’s like $500 a week- which is less than minimum wage and is pretty much impossible to live on in Canada), you are in the richest 8% of the world’s population and make 14 times the global average! ( We are super blessed! We are incredibly fortunate to have been born in Canada, to have things like a roof over our head and to have most of our needs met. We really take it for granted…but WE ARE ALL THE RICH GUY IN JESUS’ STORY!


Being rich isn’t a bad thing. In fact, the Bible never says that wealth or money is bad, it’s only when we love it too much that it’s a problem! Think about this—who is better able to sponsor a child in Africa? Someone in Africa, or someone in North America? Who is better able to provide food to people who are hungry---someone who is well fed with a fridge full of food, or someone who has empty shelves?

One of my favourite comic book characters is SPIDER-MAN. Spidey's Uncle Ben gave him some pretty famous words of advice- words that Spidey constantly reminds himself of: WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY. This reminds Spider-Man that he doesn't have powers to make himself famous, to make life more comfortable for himself, or to make money for himsef, but that he has a responsibility to use the "gift" that he's been given in a way that helps others and makes his world a better place. That’s what drives Spidey to be a hero!

Well, just like Spiderman—we have GREAT POWER. Sure, none of us (I think) have the ability to sling webs and climb up the side of buildings, but we are all SUPER RICH…and so with that, there’s a GREAT RESPONSIBILITY that rests on our shoulders!  We each have a choice to make in what to do with what we’ve been given, and when teens get older and jobs and bank accounts of their own, that responsibility is even greater for them!

We can choose to get more and more stuff for ourselves. To upgrade. To BUILD BIGGER BARNS to store all of our stuff. To live in selfish ways. Or, we can choose to be generous- to use what we have to be a blessing to others, to make a difference in the lives of people who weren’t so fortunate to be born in Canada where, for the most part, all of our needs are provided for.

While your power increases as you get older and have a job of your own, teens are still pretty powerful today. They can choose to volunteer in ways that help others. They can encourage their families to be involved in things that they are passionate about! (If my kid comes up to me because he sees a need and really wants to do something to help, I’m not just going to ignore him!). They can be involved in a school fundraiser! Every year, we take a couple of groups down to the Capital City Mission so provide food and goodies to people who drop-in--- and they can be brave enough to join us! They can even put a few bucks in our CATALYST OFFERING and VOTE on what MISSION PROJECT they would like to support!

Being RICH is not a bad thing! And I should mention again, that it’s totally ok to have a Christmas wish list and to get presents…but when you do unwrap stuff on Christmas, hopefully you’ll be overwhelmed with how blessed you are and how thankful you are that people have shown generosity to you! Hopefully it’ll inspire you to be more generous to others!


If you’ve accepted God’s love and forgiveness for yourself, then one way we can worship God is by following him—by doing what he values. And all through the Bible, we’re encouraged to love others and do what we can to help people in need.

Christians, have HISTORICALLY been known for their generosity! In the Bible, particularly in the Book of Acts, people in the early church were known for selling properties and extra stuff, making sacrifices in order to help people in need--- and that’s one reason why the church just grew and grew. People were blown away by how Christians loved other people!

That’s not just ancient history though--a recent survey by the Barna instutite (see below) discovered that practicing Christians (people who take their faith seriously and live it out) were more generous than other people! For example, a Christian is 17% more likely to provide food to a poor person or family, is 17% more likely to volunteer to help others in their community, and far more likely to help the poor in their own country AND in other countries! 

Some of the most recognized relief organizations in the world are organizations that were founded by Christians-like World Vision, Compassion International, the Red Cross, and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

If you call yourself a Jesus follower, than you’re challenged to live in a way that follows his teaching and example! And GENEROSITY is a huge part of that.

1 John 3:18-19 says, “If someone has enough money to live well and sees someone in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”


1. Think and talk about the many ways that you and your family is rich. How are you blessed? What are things that you have that others would only dream of? What's the difference between wanting things and needing things? Take some time to pray and thank God for the ways that he has blessed you.

2. As we are approaching Christmas, talk as a family about how you can show generosity to others this month, and ongoingly throughout the year. Perhaps your family is already very generous, but your teen doesn't really know of the many different ways that you give? Talk about how and why you give in the particular ways that you do. Ask God to help you and your family not be like Scrooge or the rich fool in Jesus' story, but to live lives full of generosity.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Christmas Gift Guide: Bibles/Devotionals For Your Kids and Grandkids

Christmas is just around the corner, and while I wouldn't suggest substituting a Bible for the videogame that's on your kid's or grandkid's wish list (unless you want a mutiny to happen), Christmas CAN be a pretty good opportunity to buy something for your child or grandchild that can help foster their faith. Here's a list of a few great gift ideas! These are pretty widely available in Canada (Amazon Canada, Indigo, Books For Christ), but most of the links of preview samples are at in the U.S.

Note: This post in a new update of an older post on this topic.    -Pastor Ben



The Baby Bible (by David C Cook Publishing)

We wore through this set with our kids! Each of these board books has a different theme (ABCs, 123s, Animals, Stories About Jesus...) with colourful pictures and a simplified Bible story (including actions). If you are ordering these books online, just be aware that there isn't much of a difference between the Boys and Girls versions aside from the colour of the covers.  Here's an example of the Animals book in a PDF (My personal favorite). 

Lift The Flap Bible (by Sally Lloyd Jones)

Lift the flap books are a kids favourite (The Little People series being quite awesome), but this is the Bible with flaps that my kids enjoyed the most. The artwork is great and the flaps help animate the Bible stories quite well (for example, I loved how the flaps in the story of Exodus shows the Egyptian army getting closer and the waters parting). Here's an online sample of this book. 

Little People: Noah and the Animals

I've spent quite a bit of time searching for great "lift the flaps" books, and none can compare to the Little People series. This version of "Noah and the Animals" is a lot of fun, encouraging kids to find hidden animals or objects throughout the story. The pages are colorful and huge. Of course, like most renditions of Noah's Ark, it doesn't highlight the reason why God flooded the earth in the first place, but it's a great read for babies and toddlers. Here's an online sample of this book.

Candle Bible for Toddlers or The Beginner's Bible

These are great for toddlers and kids in kindergarten. The pages are fun and colorful (the Beginner's Bible looks like animation from The Simpsons) and the Bible stories are short and simplified which I like a lot better than the Bibles that just contain excerpts direct from the NLT or NIV. I find that when I read this with my kids, we usually read a few stories at a time. Here's an online sample of the Candle Bible for Toddlers. And here's an online sample of The Beginner's Bible.

The Smartest Giant in Town (by Julia Donaldson)

Ok, so now I'm cheating a little bit. This isn't a Bible, it doesn't contain any references to the Bible, and as far as I'm aware, the author isn't a Christian, but this book is PERFECT. I don't know the names of many authors of children's books, but I know and love Julia Donaldson's stuff (Monkey Puzzle, The Gruffalo, and Stick Man are super fun!). This book, however, stands above and beyond the others. It is very much like Jesus' parable of The Good Samaritan, telling the story of a giant who gives selflessly and makes sacrifices to help others in need. Fun artwork, great rhyming and a powerful message! I would recommend getting the board book version if you've got younger kids. As kids get older, they can easily read it for themselves! You can view the entire story on Youtube here (although after reading it hundreds of times, I like my rendition of the giant's song and the character voices more).

The Bible App For Kids

This isn't really a gift idea, although you CAN purchase a physical Bible storybook based on the app, but if you are in the mood for a Bible that is more interactive and portable, I highly recommend The Bible App For Kids. It is a free download for Apple and Android devices. While I wouldn't recommend this replacing times where you sit and read with your kids, this can be a fun change of pace. Kids can use the app on their own to click through the stories, finding hidden secrets, laughing at the animation, and doing interactive activities based on the stories. Some of the animations (like Samson doing his best pro wrestler impersonation) are hilarious!  You can find out more info and get the links to download it here. 


GodTime Devotional Sheets

These also aren't devotionals that you can buy or give as gifts, but these are FREE every week at KIDZONE (our weekly Sunday morning kids program at Arlington Woods). Each GodTime sheet gives kids an opportunity to dig deeper into the themes and lessons that they learn on Sundays. The GodTime sheet for kids in grades JK-1 includes a colouring page, while the sheets for older kids often include fun puzzles! Oh, and kids can also re-watch the movie and story videos that we use at KIDZONE by visiting Studio 252!

My First Hands-On Bible

This is a great option for families who want to do devotions together with their kids. It's not a complete Bible, but does take excerpts from the actual NLT translation to walk through the Bible's most notable events. This isn't always a good thing, as it's not as read-able as a storybook Bible, but it has some really great pictures, and best of all, has a lot of action cues and ways to involve kids during and after each story. For example, kids are encouraged to make sounds like a storm during the story of Jesus calming the wind and the waves, and in the story of Jesus' crucifixion, you're encouraged to rip a tissue in half to explain the significance of the temple curtain being supernaturally torn! I know, right? You can check out an online example here. There is also a regular 'Hands-On Bible' for older kids.

Read With Me Bible
This Bible is a pretty decent option for early readers in SK-Grade 2 as it contains a lot of great looking artwork and a simple paraphrase of the stories for kids to read on their own. You can see an online example here.

Keys For Kids

Keys For Kids isn't a Bible, but it's a devotional magazine (think of a kids version of 'Our Daily Bread'**) that's been around for years. Each day contains a relevant story where kids learn some kind of biblical truth. It's suitable either for family story time or for kids grades 3+ to read on their own and even includes some puzzle or activity pages. As a kid, I still remember this being the main way I dug into the Bible by myself (aside from comics-- see below!) You can order a FREE subscription and have a physical book mailed to your home) here, or you can read it online or download the app. My personal preference is to read from an actual paper book. (**By the way, there is a kids version of 'Our Daily Bread' which is more of a one-year Bible format. You can view a PDF sample of that here.)

The Action Bible

As an older kid and pre-teen, I would NEVER have spent much time reading the Bible if it hadn't been given to me in comic book form. There are some great comic Bibles available today that will have your kids actually wanting to turn the pages. The action Bible was illustrated by a comic-book artist who has worked on Captain America and Batman, so it looks great! This is more for older kids (grades 3+) as they do depict scenes of violence to a greater degree than in the little-kid Bibles. It's also a pretty large book with a whopping 752 full-colour pages-- so for the price, it's an amazing deal for what you get! Check out a sample of The Action Bible here.

Manga Bible

If your kid likes a more Japanese animation style or is into shows like Pokemon, you can't go wrong with the Manga Bible series. Messiah, Messengers, Mutiny and Metamorphosis are just a few, although Messiah is a good place to start, as it highlights the whole story of Jesus. What I like most about the Manga series is that on every page, it has Bible references to see exactly where to find that part of the story in the Bible.  Check out a version of Manga Messiah here!

The Awesome Coloring Book of Bible Comics

If your kid likes comics AND colouring, this is a pretty great pick. This is most suitable for older kids (grades 2+) who prefer to take their time and colour in more intricate designs. You can see samples here.

The Adventure Bible

If you would like to give a Bible with the complete text with your kids, then The Adventure Bible (NIV) is a great choice, especially for kids ages 8+. It's pages are full-colour and there are a lot of pop-up windows that give extra insight into what's happening. You can also get The Adventure Bible For Early Readers (NIRV) that's a little more readable for younger kids (ages 6-10). To see a sample of the Book of Mark, click here!

I hope this list has given you a few great gift ideas! If your family or your kids like a different Bible or use some other great devotional, let me know in the comments! -PB

Friday, 23 November 2018

STUFFED Part 1- CATALYST YOUTH, November 23, 2018

Today is Black Friday. While we get together tonight, there are crowds of people fighting over the last Nintendo Switch and honking furiously in parking lots! Today is a great day to talk about STUFF. In this first part of our series, we're talking about CONTENTMENT, and next week we'll be focusing on GENEROSITY.

Being content means to be satisfied. To be happy with what you have. Have you ever met someone who is content? It's a pretty rare thing these days. ESPECIALLY on Black Friday! The reason why contentment is so rare, is that we live in a culture that is constantly telling us NOT TO BE CONTENT. Think about it—we’re SURROUNDED by advertising online, in magazines, at the mall, and on TV that tell us that we can’t be happy unless we have what they’re selling. 

In fact—do you know what corporations call us? They call us CONSUMERS! Have you ever thought about that word and what it implies? A consumer is a mindless machine that constantly consumes. It eats, and eats, and wants more and more, and is NEVER satisfied! Companies invest millions of dollars to market their products and brands as something that's "cool", so you'll be lining up to get their stuff. They love it when you wear their logos on your clothes! They love it when you upgrade to something newer! Why? Because they are making money off of you. Billions of dollars off of you! They don’t want you to be happy with what you have--- they want you to buy their stuff…and once you have it, they want you to buy more stuff they’re selling!

Our culture, loves stuff so much that CBC NEWS recently reported that on average, Canadians now owe $1.70 for every $1 they earn--- that means that people spend about 3/4 more than they make! So if you made $10,000, you would spend $17,000! Even kids know that this isn't a very smart thing to do. Eventually, people start owing so much and getting so far in debt, that they feel hopeless. In fact, the #1 reason why couples fight and families get broken up is because of financial stress. It happens because most people have bad spending habits and owe so much that they’re constantly worried about how they’re going to pay for essential things like food and having a roof over their head!

Our culture loves stuff so much, that UNBOXING videos get MILLIONS of views- so many views that people can earn a living off of opening packages! That sounds like a pretty cool job, but it’s totally crazy that we’re all so obsessed with watching people unwrap stuff! This kind of thing just makes us want stuff more and more. The more we look at stuff, the more we think about stuff, the more we want it! Our love for stuff can make us go a bit crazy! Have you ever been in a store with a huge sale during Black Friday? It’s like war! People will actually push and shove to get stuff--- and sometimes they don’t even really want the stuff--- they just want it because OTHER people want it! A mob mentality takes over!

While there’s nothing wrong with liking stuff and wanting stuff and there’s nothing wrong with having a Christmas wish list (I have a Christmas wish list!)---the Bible DOES warn us about becoming obsessed with stuff, it warns us about not letting our happiness depend on what we have. If you’re sad, angry or depressed because you don’t have something you want or because you want what someone else has, then that’s a problem. So tonight, we’re just going to check out a bit of wisdom from the Bible about STUFF.


Some of the Bible was written by a guy named King Solomon. King Solomon was kind of like the Donald Trump of the Bible (political views aside). He was the King of Israel, so he had fame and power, and along with that, he was SUPER RICH…but surprisingly, that’s not what he’s most famous for. He’s most famous because he asked God to give him wisdom, so that he could be the best leader for his people, and there are a few books of the Old Testament that are full of his wise sayings and advice.

In Ecclesiastes 5:10, he says, “Those who love money (or what money can buy) WILL NEVER HAVE ENOUGH. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness.”

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “money can’t buy happiness”--- well that came from King Solomon, the richest guy on the planet!

Have you ever WANTED something REALLY BAD--- where you felt that you just WOULDN’T be happy without it? Where all you could do was think about getting that thing? How many of those things are gathering dust on your shelf today, or ended up getting tossed in the garbage, or donated? Probably a fair bit. People grow tired of toys. That electronic device that you so desperately want will be out-dated next year and you'll be wanting the next upgrade. The clothing or brand you want now will wear out or go out of style. The video game you want now will be sitting in a stack of unplayed games in a few weeks.

Areally good tip to remember is that where there’s something that you REALLY want—remind yourself that it’s just stuff--- and that it won’t actually make you content. That you might be a happy for a bit, but eventually that happiness will wear off, and you’ll be looking for something else to make you happy!
Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “Watch out! Be on your guard against wanting to have more and more things. Life is not made up of how much a person has.”

Jesus says that we should BE ON OUR GUARD against wanting more and more things. We need to make sure we don’t get sucked into believing that stuff will make us truly happy--- that if we finally get_________ we’ll be done wanting anything else. That’s just not reality. We are, kind of, naturally, CONSUMERS—but Jesus is reminding us that there’s more to life than just consuming more and more for yourself.


Would you say that you and your family are RICH? You might not think so, but we are considered to be some of the richest people in the world! In fact, if you make $24,000 a year (that’s like $500 a week- which is less than minimum wage and is pretty much impossible to live on in Canada), you are in the richest 8% of the world’s population and make 14 times the global average! ( 

My wife and I try to live pretty simply. We're been debt-free for 12 years, and we want to keep it that way. We rent a two-bedroom apartment, so with two kids and two adults, it can get a bit cramped, but we live simply because we don't want to spend more than we make and we want to have a parent at home while the kids are still little. We are kind of odd-balls in our culture. Most of my kids’ friends have parents who both work all day and might spend an hour or two with their kids before putting them to bed every day.  Tanya and I aren't like the average Canadians. We rarely meet anybody who doesn't have any debt.

There are days when we think about UPGRADING from our apartment into a house--- but whenever we think about how nice it would be to have more space, we think about how it would cost more. We would have to deal with repairs and upkeep, we would both have to be working and would spend less time with the kids. We also think about how our sponsored child in Africa lives in a hut with no windows---how a grocery store is like something out of her dreams---and that in comparison--- my little 2-bedroom apartment is a PALACE to most people in the world! My fridge full of food is a huge luxury!

When I think about how rich I actually am, how blessed I am to have what I have, it changes my perspective. I find that it helps me not to want something just because others have it. It reminds me to be thankful and content with what I have instead of always wishing for more!

Remember our wise guy, Solomon? Well, in Ecclesiastes 6:9 he wrote, “Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind.”  The richest guy in the world said that dreaming about nice things is like chasing the wind! You’ll never be happy! You’ll never be satisfied! You’ll never be able to catch it! He reminds us to ENJOY WHAT WE HAVE INSTEAD OF DESIRING WHAT WE DON’T HAVE! That’s a really challenging lesson to learn!


Sometimes, people look to things or circumstances to make them happy, sometimes they even look to a relationship to make them happy!

There was this famous French mathematician named Blaise Paschal in the 1600’s--- and he famously said that in every person there is a GOD-SHAPED hole. So basically, we all have a need to know and follow God--- and when we try to fill that hole with other things, it’ll never be satisfied! Our spiritual need won’t be satisfied with stuff, it won’t be satisfied with a girlfriend or boyfriend, it won’t be satisfied with money or fame… it’ll only be satisfied in God!

In the Bible, Paul wrote a lot about contentment--- and his life wasn’t all that great. He had been beaten up and thrown in prison for telling people about Jesus--- but in a letter he wrote, he had this to say, “I have learned to be content no matter what happens to me. I know what it’s like not to have what I need. I also know what it’s like to have more than I need. I have learned the secret of being content no matter what happens. I am content whether I am well fed or hungry. I am content whether I have more than enough or not enough. I can do all this by the power of Christ. He gives me strength”.- Phillipians 4:11-13

Paul needed God’s help and strength to be content—to be thankful—to be happy, even when things weren’t going all that great for him! In the same way, because we live in a culture that’s obsessed with stuff and treats us like CONSUMERS, we need God’s help so that we don’t end up becoming greedy people who just want more and more and never find any satisfaction.

When we know and follow Jesus, he can help us to make wise choices in life, he can help change our priorities so that we’re not as selfish as we used to be, he can help us find contentment and happiness in a world that constantly tells us not to be happy and content.


1. Have your kids look around their room at stuff that they used to really want but never play or use anymore. Why do we keep it? Why are we attached to it? Why do you think we love possessions so much? Our culture is obsessed with stuff. In fact, some people even run out of room and have to rent a place to store all their stuff! Think about things that could be donated or given away to someone who could use them.

2. Take a look at some commercials on TV or online. What is the message that all of those ads give us? (That we can't live without their stuff, that it'll make us happy, that we'll be popular or successful if we have it). Remind your teen that while stuff is good, it'll never actually make us happy. It'll always leave us wanting for more.

3. Take the time to pray together and ask God to help you and your family not to obsess over stuff and getting more stuff. Thank God for all that you have and how blessed you are! 

Friday, 9 November 2018


Last week we started our two-part series called ANGER MANAGEMENT by talking about a guy who's super power is to turn into a monster whenever he get's angry. The Incredible Hulk is the only superhero I'm aware of who HATES his power and is constantly looking for a cure. Why? He doesn't like losing control? He doesn't like hurting people. He doesn't like becoming a monster. All of us can relate a bit to the Hulk, because we've all lost our tempers and said and done things that have got us into trouble or said something that we really regret when we were angry.

While last week we looked at the DARK SIDE of anger and the importance of controlling our tempers, this week, we focused on the GOOD SIDE of anger. Ephesians 4:26 reminds us "In your anger, do not sin". Did you know that anger isn't a bad thing? It's really what we say or do WITH our anger that matters. In fact, anger can actually be a REALLY good thing!


There are some people who have this picture of God ALWAYS being angry with people, but that's not true. The Bible does tell us, however, that God HATES evil. He's angry when he sees people making choices that hurt or mistreat others. Anytime we see cases where God brings judgement on people in the Bible, it's a response to serious depravity and evil, not because he likes to punish people for fun.

In Matthew 21:12-13 we read about how Jesus made a whip out of cords, overturned tables, and threw a bunch of people out of the temple. While some think this is a moment where Jesus lost control and "Hulked out", Jesus wasn't beating or abusing people here. In reality, the people he drove out of the temple were ripping people off and taking advantage of the poor. Jesus was standing up against injustice. He told them, "My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers!"

In Matthew 18:6, Jesus had some pretty harsh words for people who hurt, mislead, or abuse children. He told the crowd, "It would be better for that person to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea". This reminds us that God is angry when children are being mistreated and abused! God hates bullying!

Those kinds of things should make US angry too. When we see terrorism or violence on the news, that should make us angry. When we see someone being bullied or made fun of, that should make us angry. When we learn about people who don't have access to clean water or have enough food to feed their families, that should make us angry! It's ok to be angry about the things that God is angry about.


If you're attacking someone else in your anger, then you're doing it wrong. Even if you think they might deserve it. Our culture today has a real problem with anger and mean-ness. Just hop on social media and you'll see what I mean. There are people receiving vile messages and death threats just because they made a movie that someone didn't like! The popular thing to do these days is to hate Donald Trump. I hear kids and teens every week saying things like they wish Trump would drop dead. And I'm in Canada. Despite what someone has done or how much you feel they deserve it, our anger should NEVER lead us to ridicule others. It should never lead us to get revenge. It should never lead us to sin. By the way, revenge is different than justice. It's ok to want (and help) a bully get punished for what they've done (and hopefully stop bullying because of it). It's quite another thing to gossip about that person or want to hurt them back.

In Matthew 5:22 Jesus says, "But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell".

This reminds us that God takes the way we treat others REALLY seriously.


Psalm 82:3-4 says, "Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

Anger should inspire us to help people or to bring about some kind of positive change in our world! If you see someone being bullied or mistreated, you should stand up for them and help ensure that it doesn't keep happening! If you're passionate about animals being abused or mistreated, you might give money towards an organization that rescues animals and finds them a home! If homelessness makes you angry, you might prepare a meal or bake cookies to give to a shelter. One of the reasons why we have an offering at CATALYST is so that we can respond to our anger in a way that helps others! Last year, our teens were most passionate about providing emergency water to families in need.

I shared with the teens about Bob Goff. (That's him taking the selfie above). Bob wrote a book called "EVERYBODY, ALWAYS." that I HIGHLY recommend. Bob is like Indiana Jones! God uses him to do some AMAZING things. I won't spoil anything-- but Bob was angry about some evil and injustice that was happening in Uganda...and his anger led him to save HUNDREDS of lives and to bring evil people to justice. We can't all be Bob Goffs. Some of our teens don't have the money or resources to give in the ways that they would like to, but ALL of us can take our anger over evil, injustice, poverty, bullying etc... and use it to make a positive difference. One example is when we go to the Capital City Mission every year to serve cookies and sandwiches to people who don't have family or are homeless. Another example would be to donate a few cans of food to FAMSAC or to bring a couple of bucks for our youth offering. When you practice doing positive things with your anger NOW, you'll find that when you're older and have money and a career, you'll be doing the same kind of thing on a much LARGER scale! Anger should propel us to do good.


1. Talk about some things that are happening in our world that makes your teen (or your family) GOOD AND ANGRY? What are some needs that you're passionate about?

2. This Christmas, challenges yourselves to do something to make a difference as a response to your anger. One thing our family does is that every year, we let our kids choose a gift in the World Vision Gift Catalogue. We'll get those gifts (everything from providing a family with a stove to buying chickens for someone to start a farm) and even make Christmas ornaments on our tree that represent those gifts. If you don't have the money to give, think about how you can volunteer as a family.

3. Pray that God would help us when we're angry-- that we would respond in ways that are wise and in ways that don't hurt others. Pray that God would help us to be people who take our anger and do something positive with it.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018


In all of our CONNECT groups this month, we looked at Luke 19:1-10. In this passage, we're introduced to a man named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a tax collector who had become very rich. He was also someone who wanted to get a glimpse of Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowds that were surrounding him. So, Zacchaeus decided to climb a tree and wait for Jesus to pass his way. The Bible tells us that when Jesus came by, he looked up and called Zacchaeus by name, inviting himself over to his house (I love the brashness of this!). 

Verse 6 says, "Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy", however some people grumbled and complained because Jesus was hanging out with someone who was considered a "notorious sinner". The thing that happened next is quite surprising. Zacchaeus told Jesus that he would give half of his wealth to the poor and for those he had cheated on their taxes, he would pay them back four times the amount he had taken! Jesus then announces that salvation had come to Zacchaeus' house!

Jesus does something incredible simple here. He called Zacchaeus by name and he expressed a desire to hang out with him. That's it. Because of something so simple, Zacchaeus accepted God's love and forgiveness and was inspired to change his whole life! 

We all want to be accepted. Most of us will choose a church community based on how welcome we feel and how positive the experience is. While Jesus did something very simple in this passage, for a lot of us, extending friendship to others is a lot easier said than done. It's not something that comes naturally to everyone. In fact, there are a number of reasons why we naturally DON'T want to help our church be more welcoming (even if we might not admit it). There are a number of things that dissuade us from being friendly and welcoming to those we don't know (or don't know that well):
  • You're an introvert. It's hard for you to talk to others.
  • You've got social anxiety, so it creates a lot of stress and discomfort.
  • You're not a great conversationalist. The idea of making small talk might be terrifying. What do you do if there's a lull in the conversation?
  • It's safer to stick to your own circle of friends. Because it's easier to talk to people you already know, you tend to naturally gravitate towards those same people. The downside to this is you might form a clique where people outside your group don't feel welcome or accepted.
  • You just don't want to.
  • You've met the person before but can't remember their name.
  • You're selfish. You don't care if others get connected or feel welcome.
  • Fear of rejection. How might they respond?
  • Low self-esteem or other insecurities. You might feel that nobody would want to talk to you.
  • Fear of the unknown.
  • You assume that somebody else will do it. The problem with this is that others might be thinking the same thing and the person ends up falling through the cracks.
  • The person seems to want to keep to themselves or appears antisocial.
  • You're super popular. You might have a lot of people gathering around you to talk to you and you don't want to be rude and leave them to say hi to someone else.
  • You always sit in the same spot at church or you're at the opposite end of the room, so there's no opportunity.
  • You don't want to scare people away from church because of an awkward/bad conversation.
  • You're too busy. Sometimes you just want to get from point A to point B and so you never allow an opportunity to stop and engage with someone else. You can even be busy doing really good or important things.
  • They might look strange/odd. Perhaps they even have a disability and you're not sure how to talk to someone who is different?
There are a lot of reasons why we might not be as friendly and welcoming to others as we could be. In this Bible passage, Jesus was the popular one. He was surrounded by huge crowds who wanted his attention. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus was on the outside, and was a little odd. After all, he was a grown man sitting in a tree. Nowadays, you might call 911 or cross to the other side of the street if you noticed a businessman sitting in a tree! Zacchaeus was also hated by a lot of the Jewish people because he would take taxes from them and give it to the Roman government (their oppressors). He was also regarded as a thief because tax collectors would often over-charge people to take some of their money for themselves. Because of these things, Zacchaeus was considered a big-time sinner, and even the religious leaders told people to stay away from people like him. 

There were a lot of reasons why Jesus COULD have passed Zacchaeus by without noticing or acknowledging him. Jesus was surrounded by other people who wanted his time and attention, and Jesus was busy healing the sick and teaching people about God. But here, we find Jesus noticing the person who was on the outside and taking a simple step of friendship that ended up changing this guy's life and heart!

This passage really challenges us to get over our legit fears, to get over that feeling of discomfort we all feel for a variety of reasons, and to do what we can to be friendly and welcoming to people who might be new to our church or feel like they're on the outside.

None of us want to see people fall through the cracks. We don't want anyone to leave our church feeling that it's full of cliques or that nobody would miss them if they never returned. Taking that step to extend friendship might make somebody feel welcomed and at home in our church! It might open up an opportunity for them to learn and grow deeper in their faith! It might contribute to a greater feeling of community and belonging!


Here are just a few tips that can spur us on towards being Jesus to the Zacchaeus' around us.


Jesus noticed Zacchaeus WHEN HE WAS IN A TREE! He probably would have been awesome at games like ‘Where’s Waldo’! When you’re at church or at a church event, look for people you don’t know, watch for people who might be alone, keep your eyes open for people who might be new. Jesus was surrounded by crowds who wanted his attention, and yet Jesus noticed the man who was sitting in a tree.


I know this is sometimes easier said than done, but you can try to find ways to make this easier for you. Try jotting down people's names when you meet them so that you can remember them. Think ahead of some conversation starters/ice-breakers. Take someone else along with you to say hi to someone. Serve in an area of the church that creates opportunities for you to be friendly and welcoming to new people. If you've met someone a couple of times and see them again, invite them to sit with you! Instead of having to carry the conversation on your own, bring that person and introduce them to others you know!


Tell God that you’re WILLING to be friendly and welcoming to others and ask God to open up doors of opportunity for you to do that! Praying this way means that you're being strategic and intentional. You're telling God that you've made yourself available and you'll be more focused on looking for new people to welcome.


When you’re tempted to chicken out, think about what it’s like when you're in a new place and don’t really know anybody. How much you would love for someone to say hi and introduce you to their circle of friends? How much would you love for someone to ask you to sit with them? Think about how because Jesus simply noticed and extending friendship to Zacchaeus, his whole life was changed! You never know how God could use you! On the other hand, if someone is ignored and leaves feeling that nobody would miss them, then we're falling short in our mission to love God and others.

Friday, 2 November 2018


This week at CATALYST we kicked off a new two-part series called ANGER MANAGEMENT.

We talked about Bruce Banner (aka The Incredible Hulk). Unlike most superheroes, Bruce hates becoming the Hulk and is always actively trying to find a way for him to be cured and to get rid of his abilities. The reason for this isn't because his annual clothing bill is so huge (because of all the ripped pants), but because when he becomes the Hulk, he loses control and does a lot of things that he regrets later. The Hulk hurts people. The Hulk scares people. For Bruce, the Hulk really is a monster! So, until Bruce finds a cure, he is constantly looking for ways to prevent the Hulk from showing up. He even moves away from everybody he loves and lives in solitude, because he doesn't want anybody to get hurt!

I think that EVERY SINGLE PERSON on the planet can relate to the Incredible Hulk a little bit. Everybody can relate to saying or doing something in the heat of the moment and looking back with regret…recognizing that you said or did something wrong, or that you hurt somebody in some way. This week in our series, we're looking at why ANGER is such a bad thing. (Next week, we'll look at how ANGER can be a GOOD thing!). Whether Anger is good or bad depends on what we do with it. And usually, when we get angry, we naturally burst out and say and do things that God wouldn't be very proud of. It’s kind of tough to control our anger because our natural response is that if someone says or does something mean to us, it’s all about REVENGE, getting payback, hurting them in the same way they hurt us.


Proverbs 19:19 says, “Hot tempered people must pay the penalty. If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again”.

Has anger ever gotten you in trouble? Most people who are in jail because of fighting or committing violent crimes against other people, aren't there because they were happy and chill at the time- it's usually because they did something foolish when they were angry or wanted revenge. Almost all of us have gotten in trouble with our parents because of something we said or did while angry. When we get punished during those times, it's because our parents want us to learn how to respond in healthy ways so that we don't turn out to be 30-year-olds who stomp our feet, scream at the top of our lungs, and slam doors. We usually get in trouble when we don't control our anger.


I shared a story about a guy I used to work with at Canadian Tire who would always get angry REALLY easily. During my time working there, I saw him punch walls, throw things, and even pick fights with customers. As entertaining as that was, it was also SUPER stressful. I didn't like working with him because he had such a crazy temper. He acted like a kid throwing a temper tantrum!

Proverbs 29:11 (NLT) says, “FOOLS VENT THEIR ANGER”.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 (NLT) says, “Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool”.

Did you catch the key word there? If you don’t control your anger, you’re the one who’s going to look bad. It'll affect how others think of you!


Proverbs 27:4 says, “Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood”.

I really like what the Bible says there…comparing wrath to a FLOOD. What do people do when there’s a flood? THEY EVACUATE! It makes sense that hot-tempered people have others EVACUATING from their lives. Cruel people aren’t going to be surrounded by friends. People who lash out and abuse the people around them shouldn’t be surprised when their “loved ones” have to escape the danger zone…sometimes for good! 

Hebrews 12:14-15 says, “Work at living in peace with everyone…Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many”.

Do you know what it means to be bitter or what “bitterness” is? It means that you hold a grudge against someone and refuse to let it go. I’ve met people who NEVER speak to family members because they were hurt by something that was done to them years ago. And usually those people are super grumpy and unhappy because they have so much anger in their hearts. They’re just letting it stew inside!

Almost always, people who can’t control their temper will end up hurting the people around them!



In Galatians 5:22, Paul lists what he calls “the fruit of the spirit”. These things are the RESULTS that come from being close to God and growing in your faith. So just like a tree grows fruit, if you love and follow Jesus, if you’re a part of church or CATALYST regularly, if you read the Bible and think about what it says, if you pray and ask God to help you, you’ll see these things start GROW in your life! You’re going to see yourself changing for the better! It’s pretty cool!

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: (these kinds of things grow IN US, as we grow in our faith) LOVE, joy, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, faithfulness, GENTLENESS, and SELF CONTROL”

Just look at that list—a lot of those things are the COMPLETE opposite of anger! When you’re frustrated, God will help you have more peace and patience, when you’re annoyed at someone, you’ll have more love and kindness. When you normally would explode on someone and unleash your wrath, you’ll be more self-controlled and respond with GENTLENESS.

Those things are a huge benefit when you follow Jesus with your life! God will keep fixing you up and changing you into the best version of yourself! In fact, that’s one way you can tell that you’ve got good spiritual health—when you notice those good changes more and more in your life! It's kind of like fixing up an old house. When you invite Jesus into your life, the Holy Spirit starts renovating you—he fixes stuff that’s broken, he gives things a new coat of paint, and years later, you’ll see a ton of improvements!


Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control”. 

Proverbs 12:16 says, “A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted”.

Here, the Bible is telling us to use our heads…instead of automatically BLOWING UP when something goes wrong or when somebody offends us…we should think about what the best and wisest response might be. Some people will give themselves some time to cool off so that they don't say or do something they would regret when they're angry.  I’ve heard of some people who will write a BRUTAL letter expressing all of their anger, and then hold onto it for a few days…and usually by then, their anger isn’t as intense and they’re glad they didn’t say those things to that person’s face. (Just don’t put the letter in an envelope and put a stamp on it—because I think I’ve seen movies where that kind of thing gets mailed, and then you have to break into the person’s house to try to steal it back…and that usually doesn’t go so well.)

James 1:19-20, “Take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life (right living) that God desires”.

Talk about practical advice! We’re encouraged not to have emotional outbursts and immediately react when we’re offended, but to take a breather—to be SLOW to become angry—to be SLOW to speak and say things that we’ll regret later! The Bible says that wise people are self-controlled and think before they say or do something they’ll regret


There are times when it’s too late...we blow up, we hulk out, and we’ve left a path of destruction behind us….perhaps we’ve even created some enemies? And while the easy thing to do would be to walk away, ignore the problem and not deal with our sin, the Bible tells us that in those instances we have to suck up our pride, admit our mistakes, and be quick to make things right. THAT IS SUPER HARD TO DO, but it’s also SUPER HEALTHY to do!

Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT) says, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil”.

Here, the Bible says that if we’ve let anger control us, we need to make things right BEFORE THE SUN GOES DOWN! It’s important for us to apologize when we’ve hurt people and ask them to forgive us! It’s important that we tell God that we’re sorry for the things we’ve said and done and ask him to forgive us! Have you ever been in the same room with someone you’re angry with? It can be super awkward. It almost feels like there’s a wall between you—sometimes you won’t even look at them or talk to them! Well, God wants us to work at fixing broken relationships—he wants us to tear those walls down and own our mistakes—to apologize for our part--- and when we do that, it usually is the first step in repairing the relationship and it usually removes that heavy feeling in the room.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you”. When we pray and ask God to forgive us for our sin (something wrong that we’ve done) it fixes our friendship with him. In the same way, when we forgive others (or ask other people to forgive us), it fixes our friendship with them too!


1. What is the one thing parents do that makes teenagers really angry? What is the one thing teens do that makes parents really angry? Talk about how you can prevent those situations from happening or how to respond in healthy ways. What is something that you could do to help you not respond in those ways?

2. Pray and ask God to help you to control your anger so that it doesn't hurt yourself and others.