Here we go again!

Starting on Thursday October 29, Powerhouse Kids and Ignite, our Jr. Youth program will begin after a very long layoff. Due to the pandemic and the closure of pretty much everything, including our church building, we are finally ready to go. The setting will look a little different than it has in the past. We will be more restricted as to where we go once inside the church building. We won’t be able to provide any food or drink for the time being and we must adhere to some new rules to best ensure we can continue to meet safely. Face masks, social distancing, sanitizing and contact free activities will now be the new normal. Even with all this new stuff in place, one thing I can guarantee is that we will still have fun! More crazy games, more outdoor activities, more crafts, more chances to meet new friends and more opportunity to spend time with God. Everything you have come to expect from an evening at St. John United Church, just done a little differently!

Feel free to contact me with any questions regarding the PHK, Ignite or our Sunday morning Kids Zone program. Hit the “contact” tab on the menu bar for my contact information or to send us a message.

See you soon!!!

My Koinonia

During my school studies I often come across words that I hadn’t seen before.  I guess it’s not a huge surprise considering the Bible has been translated into English from many other languages.  It has even become part of my lessons to take these words and by using various sources, discover the meanings and then be able to correctly use these words when writing assignments.  Surprisingly, I also found this to be the case while writing a  recent lesson for Kids Zone.  The word I came across was KOINONIA (pronounced coin-o-knee-a) and although the word is used in the Bible, I had never noticed it before.   I found out that the word is Greek but what was more interesting was the fact that the word koinonia didn’t translate well into English.  Some of the sources I found defined koinonia to simply mean fellowship… getting together with others, especially those with a shared common interest.  As I looked further into this word I found that there was a little more to it than that.  Koinonia does mean fellowship, but to the extreme!  Here we’re not just talking about hanging out with your friends or people who like what you like, we’re talking about a much deeper connection. 

As we begin our study of the book of Philippians we meet up with Paul again and we soon discover that He is in prison.  Since Paul now has lots of time on his hands, he decides to write a letter to a young church that has come across some tough times.  The amazing part about the beginning of Paul’s letter is that although he is experiencing some problems of his own, he takes time to pray for, support and give thanks for the people of Philippi.  Paul becomes a cheerleader, rooting for the people of Philippi and encouraging them in their walk with God.  It is through these actions that Paul better shows us the meaning of koinonia.  By Paul putting aside his own troubles and focusing on the needs of the church in Philippi, Paul introduces us to his koinonia, his faith community, his spiritual team.  Paul has a deep connection with the people of Philippi through the work of Jesus and as a member of this partnership, Paul has a stake in the success of his spiritual team.

We also have a stake in the success of others when it comes to their walk with God and the role they play in God’s plan.  If others are successful in being who God needs them to be, we as Christians get closer to our ultimate goal.  We have been taught to pray  for ourselves, our family, and our friends and we do whatever we can to support and help them.   All of that is perfectly fine and very important, but what about the people in our koinonia.  Who are the people in your koinonia?  Who do we need to pray for, not that they do well on a math test but that they do well in the role God has given them?  Who are the people that we, like Paul need to focus on and support and pray for so that the message of God can be shared with everyone? I think we can all agree that the more people in our world praising and focusing on God, the better off everyone will be.   

Challenge:

  1. Pray asking God to reveal the people in your koinonia and list them in your prayer journal.
  2.  Get to know these people and better understand their spiritual needs. 
  3. Include your “teammates” in your prayers and focus on ways you can support them and cheer them on to success.

Trusting God

Proverbs 3:5-6

Introduction:  Obstacle course

Do you have trust issues?  Is it difficult for you to follow instructions?  Here is an exercise that will put your trust level to the test.

  • Find a partner in your house that you can team up with.  This could be a parent or a sibling, whoever is around and wants to play.  If you have enough people in your house you can even try more than one team playing at the same time.
  • Figure out a play area inside your house.  You could use just one room, like the living room or kitchen or you could use multiple rooms or even multiple floors.
  • Have one team member, while blindfolded move from one end of the play area to the other without bumping into anything.  The second partner must stay silent but should accompany the blindfolded person to prevent  damage or major injury.  The second person could even time how long it took for the blindfolded person to finish as well as count the number of “bumps” made during their journey.
  • Switch partners at this point and repeat the above steps with the second partner taking a turn.
  • After both partners have had a turn, blindfold the first person and have them try again but this time partner   # 2 can shout out instruction and warnings about upcoming hazards, which should make it faster and easier to make it to the other end.
  • Switch so that partner #2  gets to try with partner #1 shouting instructions.

Questions:

  1. Which way was easier, with or without instructions? Why?
  2. Did you feel comfortable being blindfolded and taking instructions from your partner?
  3. Did you actually listen to your partner’s instructions or did you try to make it on your own?
  4. Did your partner do a good job at giving instructions?
  5. Is there something your partner could have done to make this activity easier for you?

What does the Bible say?:

Look up and read Proverbs 3:5-6 and discuss together what this passage is telling us about trusting in God.

Wrap up:

This verse very simply tells us that we can and should trust God and we need to listen to Him when He shouts out instructions to us.  When remembering our game from earlier, God has taken on the role of our partner. He is always shouting out instructions and directions, trying to guide us away from all the things that we could bump into and get hurt by.  Just like in our game, listening to the instructions from our partner will make our journey much easier, faster, and much less painful than if we decide not to listen, and go our own way.

Prayer:

Dear God,

Sometimes trusting you is so difficult, even though we know we should.  Forgive me for not trusting you and not following the instructions you’ve shouted out for me to follow.  Help me Lord and show me again that I am safe with you and that I can trust you to keep me on the smooth and straight path.

Amen.

Anxiety, Trust & God

Anxiety, according to Google is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear about what’s to come.

It’s easy to understand why people are feeling some anxiety these days. With the effects of the pandemic seen everywhere in our society, I’m surprised anxiety isn’t more of an issue. Look at what you guys have had to endure over the last six or seven months. You had the longest March break in the history of education, followed by a very unusual summer break. Now September comes and it’s back to school…kind of. Going back to school under normal circumstances is already stressful; new teacher, new courses, new people and in some cases, new schools. Now we need to add masks, social distancing, dipping ourselves in sanitizer and the elimination of any of the things that actually make school “fun”. All this is assuming that you returned to school in the first place. I know some of you are learning from home and since this is a new situation for many, it brings its own stress, anxiety and fear of the unknown.

Have you ever wondered what God thinks about the fact that everyone is so anxious and stressed out? We know God didn’t create us to be these wound up balls of stress, He created us in His own image. How do we know that stress and anxiety isn’t God’s plan for us? Because the Bible tells us not to be anxious and if/when we are, we can take that stress to God. If we check out Philippians 4:6 in our Bible, Paul says:

Don’t worry about anything. No matter what happens, tell God about everything. Ask and pray, and give thanks to him.

or, how about Isaiah 41:10?

10 So do not be afraid. I am with you.  Do not be terrified. I am your God. I will make you strong and help you. I will hold you safe in my hands.  I always do what is right.

So this is great news! We don’t need to worry about anything because the Bible clearly says that God will build us up and help us out! So then why don’t we feel any better? We still have new teachers, We still have no idea how online gym class is going to work and we still have a pandemic to worry about! So, is the question we need to ask ourselves: “Why are we so stressed?” or is the question “Why don’t we trust God?”

We discussed the topic of trust in class on Sunday and we decided that it’s almost impossible to trust someone you don’t know, someone you don’t have a history with, a relationship with. We quickly learn who we can and can’t trust through our experiences in life. We learn (hopefully) that our parent(s) will feed us and take care of us because they do, repletely, day after day. We can trust them to do it again in the future because they have taken care of us in the past. We may also learn that there are people we can’t trust, but we learn these things through experience, because we get to know people, for good and for bad. If we learn whether or not we can trust someone based on our knowledge of that person, that’s our answer to trusting God! As with our other experiences, the better we know God, the more we will realize that we can actually trust Him.

So, how do you get to know God? We discussed on Sunday (and above) that we need to develop a relationship with Him, the same way we would with the other people in our lives. Just like with others we need to talk to God and we do that through prayer. We need to listen to Him and those who know Him and we can do that by reading the Bible. Finally, we need to be around Him and spend time with Him and we can do that by attending Church, either on Sunday or on Thursday night (or both) once our midweek programs begin.

If school is getting you down, the pandemic is stressing you out and the anxiety that life brings is keep you up at night, get to know God. Don’t worry…it’s painless! It took me some time before I could trust God too, but now that I’ve made that leap of faith, I’m sleeping like a baby!

WE ARE OPEN!

Starting Sunday September 13th, at 10 am we are opening for Sunday Services that include Kid’s Zone, our Sunday children’s ministry program.

Wear a mask, and bring your Bible! (for everyone’s safety, Bible’s will not be available for use at Kid’s Zone)

Hope to see you there!

August 30, 2020

I Am

God

John 8:56-59

            Do you remember the story about Moses and the burning bush?  It’s a story that many of us learn about in Sunday School.  I remember a few years ago spending the summer at St. John teaching lessons about Moses. Each week we would cover a different “event” in the life of Moses and one of those lessons was about Moses and his interaction with God.  What we may not realize when first reading this story is that this is where God makes His first “I am” statement.   Moses has just been given a task by God and he’s not exactly excited about it.  God has told Moses to travel to Egypt and convince Pharaoh, the most powerful person on earth to let the Israelites go free.  Now without retelling the entire story of Moses, we need to remember that Moses had a bit of history with both the Egyptians and the Israelites.  Moses kind of ticked off both groups of people and he knew he could have some trouble if he just showed up saying he was sent by God.  Moses thought that he would have more luck convincing people if he could tell them what God’s name was.  The answer God gave to Moses is very interesting considering the topic we’ve covered over the last number of weeks.

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the people of Israel. Suppose I say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ And suppose they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”  14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. Here is what you must say to the Israelites. Tell them, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”  15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord is the God of your fathers. He has sent me to you. He is the God of Abraham. He is the God of Isaac. And he is the God of Jacob.’ My name will always be The Lord. Call me this name for all time to come.  Exodus 3:13-15.

            Many years later, Jesus decided to use the name “I am” for Himself.  Jesus tried to explain that He pre-existed Abraham, which confused those listening to Jesus at the time.  The Jewish people couldn’t understand how a seemingly “normal” man could have lived long enough ago to have known Abraham.  This claim was disputed when the Jews pointed out that at His age, He couldn’t have known Abraham.  It was the answer that Jesus gave that caused all the commotion.

  56 Your father Abraham was filled with joy at the thought of seeing my day. He saw it and was glad.”  57 “You are not even 50 years old,” they said to Jesus. “And you have seen Abraham?”  58 “What I’m about to tell you is true,” Jesus answered. “Before Abraham was born, I am!”      .John 8:56-58

            There it is!!  Jesus just referred to Himself by the same name as God used when talking with Moses and everyone listening heard this.  This crowd would have had a very clear understanding of (what now is) the Old Testament and calling yourself God in Bible times was a death sentence.  Due to the fact that they either didn’t believe or didn’t understand who Jesus was, they got very angry and wanted to kill Jesus. 

59 When Jesus said this, they picked up stones to kill him. But Jesus hid himself. He slipped away from the temple area. John 8:59.

What the Jews didn’t believe or didn’t understand was that Jesus is God!  Jesus could use the name that God instructed the Israelites to call Him because He is God!  Some people, even today will tell you that Jesus never actually called Himself God and I believe them to be wrong.  By Jesus naming Himself “I am”, He is naming Himself God!  At the beginning of the summer I told you that the easiest way to get to know someone is to listen to them.  Hearing how a person describes themselves will often tell you everything you need to know about them and their character.  By listening to Jesus, we learned that He loves us and that He is our guide and our protector.  Throughout the summer we saw firsthand the importance of God, the father as well as the importance of having a strong relationship with Him.  Perhaps most importantly we learned that Jesus is in fact God, in the flesh and if we tell Him that we’re sorry for our mistakes and we truly believe in who He is, we will live with Him forever in Heaven.  

WORSHIP SONGS

WEEKLY CHALLENGE

Now that we have completed our summer long study on who Jesus is, take some time to answer the question “Who is Jesus to me?”. Has your view of who Jesus is changed, did you learn something about Jesus that you didn’t know before?

What is your personal “I am” statement? Has that changed from week 1?

Take some time to thank God for the growth and knowledge you have gained over the summer!

August 23, 2020

I Am

The Vine

John 15:5-7 NIRV

“I am the vine. You are the branches. If you remain joined to me, and I to you, you will bear a lot of fruit. You can’t do anything without me. If you don’t remain joined to me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and dries up. Branches like those are picked up. They are thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain joined to me and my words remain in you, ask for anything you wish. And it will be done for you.”

We are lucky to have great neighbours living next to us.  They are an older couple, which is great when it comes to neighbours.  They are quiet, friendly and they always look after their property.  They spend their weekends puttering around the garden, pulling weeds, cutting grass, and trimming hedges.  In their backyard, right on the property line that separates them from us is a huge apple tree.  Now, there are good and bad points to having an apple tree so close to your property; the apple blossoms are beautiful, the smell is amazing and there are apples EVERYWHERE!  Each year, like clockwork our neighbours come over to our house to pick up the apples that have fallen into our yard.  They borrow their friends green bins and they spend hours, between their yard and ours, picking up and rolling away bin after bin of apples.  On garbage day they wheel out 6, 7, 8 bins filled with apples for the truck to take away, ending this long standing tradition for another year.

If there is a downside to this process it’s got to be the incredible waste of all of those apples.  Hundreds (maybe thousands…I’ve never counted) of apples left to fall from the tree and left to rot on the ground until my neighbours come to collect them. These apples, I’m sure once had a purpose but instead of serving that purpose are left to rot, wither and die.  This is the message that Jesus had for His followers.  By explaining that He is the vine, Jesus is likening Himself to that huge apple tree in my neighbours backyard.  Jesus is the trunk of that apple tree.  He, like the trunk provides everything that we need to not only survive but to excel.  Where the trunk provides food for the apples so they can take shape, grow, and evolve, Jesus provides nutrients for His believers so that we can grow spiritually.  Jesus also warned His followers the importance of them staying connected to Him, the vine.  When a branch becomes separated from the trunk, the branch is removed from its source of life.  When the apples from my neighbours’ tree drop into my backyard they are also removed from its source of life.  The apples that have fallen are left to rot and die, never having served their intended purpose. 

God has a purpose for all of us and He has sent Jesus to reveal His plan to us.  If we stay connected to Jesus, we will be nurtured, and our spirit will be fed.  The Holy Spirit will show us our God given purpose and work within us to ensure we serve that purpose.  Believers will have the opportunity to bear fruit and spread the word of God and when our work is done we will live in heaven with God forever.  If we instead chose to fall away from God or never know Him in the first place, we will live, for a short time.  We will grow, we will live but eventually we will fall and when we do we will be left, separated from God, our purpose unfulfilled.  

WORSHIP SONGS

WEEKLY CHALLENGE

Let’s get creative! Use your creativity to find a way to remind yourself that we need to stay connected to Jesus, our Vine. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • draw a picture in your journal
  • use some clay and create a sculpture
  • paint a picture on a canvas or paper
  • take a picture outside of something that inspires you that you can refer back to on your phone!
  • Use your creativity. Let us know what you did!

August 16, 2020

I am

The way the truth and the life

John 14:6

Have you ever been lost before?  Walking or driving around in circles, passing that same house again and again?  The good news these days is that we have cell phones, most of which have GPS systems installed.  If you know the address of where your going, it’s very difficult to get lost.  All you need to do is tell your phone the address of where you want to go, and the GPS lady will help you find your way.  She’ll even correct you when you go wrong.

Get lost eh!

Next time you’re out for a drive, purposely set your set your GPS for the wrong location.  This will also work while walking in some cases.  Listen to the GPS lady trying over and over to get you back on the right path.  She will try anything from changing routes to offering all sorts of suggestions.  Anything and everything to get you to your final destination.

Get lost 2

Take out your cell phone and hit the GPS app.  When it asks for the destination, say or type “Heaven”.  What happened?  Did your phone come up with directions to get you to Heaven?  Did you get directions to a store that uses Heaven in their name?  Did the GPS lady start freaking out?

There is only one way to Heaven and your GPS won’t be what gets you there.  In John 14:6, Jesus says that He is the only way to get to Heaven.  That’s good and everything, but now what?  We don’t have the advantage the disciples had where we actually get to “follow” Jesus in the flesh.  Since we can’t physically be with Jesus how can we use Him to find the way to heaven? Well, lucky for us we have the Bible and the Bible is designed to act like a GPS, which will lead us to Jesus.  Once we find our way to Jesus, He will lead us to Heaven.  Simple right?  Well, we still need to worry about making those wrong turns and getting lost.  Remember the GPS lady and how she will offer all kinds of different suggestions to get you back on the right path?  Well the Bible offers that same service but without the GPS lady attitude!  The Bible is just like an actual GPS, the better you follow the instructions, the easier it is to get where you want to go!

The right path

See if your parent has an old paper map kicking around that you can look at.  If they don’t you could search Google for a map of Hamilton, Ontario, or Canada.  Pick two random locations on the map and look at all the obstacles between point 1 and point 2.  What we miss when using a GPS is we don’t always notice the obstacles that stand between here and there.  Lakes, rivers, bridges, peeks, and valleys and even construction can all make it more difficult to get where we’re going.  We will also come up against some obstacles on our journey to find Jesus.  Unlike a map that just points out the obstacles, your Bible will show you the way to overcome whatever is keeping you from your rendezvous with Jesus.

WORSHIP SONGS

WEEKLY CHALLENGE

Draw a map of your own with point 1 being where you are right now and point 2 being Heaven.  Show on your map what and where the obstacles are that you will come across on your journey to Jesus and any thoughts about how you’ll overcome these inconveniences.   Shoot me an email and let me know what you’ve discovered.  Maybe we can figure out a detour together that will make your journey a little more enjoyable!

August 9, 2020

I Am

The resurrection and the life

John 11:1-44 NIRV

Jesus was good friends with two sisters named Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. Lazarus and his sisters believed in who Jesus was and knowing that He was the Son of God, the sisters sent a message to Jesus telling Him that His friend Lazarus was very sick. They hoped that if Jesus got there soon enough, He could heal Lazarus and save his life. Jesus was only a few miles away when He received the sister’s message and He had more than enough time to save Lazarus, but He chose not to. When Jesus finely showed up in town, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Mary and Martha were upset with Jesus and a little confused as to why Jesus didn’t show up in time to save their brother and His friend. Something bad had happened and in their minds it didn’t need to. If Jesus really loved them and loved Lazarus, why would He let him die when he so easily could have saved him?

During our outdoor church service which took place a few weeks ago, Dylynne, Keith and I had a long discussion. My question to them was simple; If Jesus/God loves us why does He allow bad things to happen? All of our lives have been messed up due to the pandemic and I wanted to know why a loving God would allow this to happen. Even worse than our inconveniences are the hundreds and thousands of people that have died and the many more who have become sick around the world. We all agreed that the pandemic didn’t “sneak up” on God and that even though it doesn’t always look like it, God is in complete control. We agreed that God has a plan and much of the time we don’t have the knowledge to understand what that plan is. We also discussed that there are times when God will allow bad things to happen so that God can ultimately use the bad things for good. It’s interesting to see that all of these points are true when it comes to our story about the death of Lazarus.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “I wish you had been here! Then my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you anything you ask for. ” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again. This will happen when people are raised from the dead on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even if they die. And whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” John 11:21-26

By not showing up before Lazarus died and then raising him from the dead, Jesus had the perfect opportunity to put His plan into motion and turn what appeared to be a bad situation into something good. As a result of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, many people believed that Jesus was the Son of God and put their faith in Him. Through it, Jesus showed the disciples, and those witnessing, that He had power over death, something He would confirm when Jesus Himself would rose from the grave. Martha believed that her brother would rise again but only at the end of time. She now understood what we all need to understand; that because Jesus is the resurrection and the life, Lazarus and anyone who believes in Jesus will live forever with God in Heaven.

THE STORY OF LAZARUS

WORSHIP SONGS

WEEKLY CHALLENGE

  1. Take some time to think about some hard things that you are dealing with right now in your life. Write a thank you note or draw a picture to thank God that He is with you during these hard times.
  2. The Bible tells us that many people believed in Jesus when they witnessed Lazarus being raised from the dead. Take some time to think of a Bible story or lesson that has helped you to believe in Jesus. Say a prayer thanking Him for loving you.