Thursday, 27 November 2014

How much does God love you?

Q. How much does God love you?

A. Jesus.

You might be having a bad day, and, when your mother tells you that she loves you, not even that helps, said Smithville Christian High School's spiritual life director, Gord Park.

"Because that's her job," you might retort.

That's true, Park told students at the Thursday chapel of Spiritual Emphasis Week. But there is one friend who loves you because it was his choice: Jesus.

Park quoted Jesus from John 15:15: "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends."  

Park told a story of an 11-year-old boy who was undergoing chemotherapy, and whose classmates all shaved their heads to match his.

"They identified with their friend, they chose to be with their friend," Park said. In the same way, Jesus becoming human was God identifying with you, choosing to be with you, he said,

"He didn't have to do it, but he chose to take on my sins and my shame. Why? So we could have atonement, so we could be at one with God."

Jesus atoned for all our shortcomings so we can stand in perfection before God for all eternity, Park said, but it's not just about what happens after we die. It's about who sits enthroned in your life right now.

"We don't become Christians to go to heaven, we become Christians to bring heaven to earth," he said.

The point of Jesus' resurrection is to change your life right now, "so you can live in the resurrection power today, to experience all that joy today. He wants us to know his joy, to live with creativity, whatever you do.

"You were created to live and love this life, to drink deep and seize the day."

But there's more, he said.

"Love Jesus in such a way that you are empowered to love others."

Park read 2 Cor. 13: 4-7.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Park said he doesn't get very high marks for succeeding at that kind of love, "and most of us are not going to get a gold star." But the point is Jesus loves like that, and when we have Jesus in us, we can love like that, he said.

"My goal to is to be committed to Christ in such a way so that I can live out his commandments.

"How great is our God? He chooses you to take it all on the cross and he chooses you to live in love. Receive all the benefits of his marvelous grace and then share."

In friendships, in dating relationships, in family relationships "don't just give your love, give His love."

"How great is our God? He chooses you, he loves you, he identifies with you.

"Believe it.
"Receive it.
"Share it."

A student praise team led in worship with "Not Ashamed," "The Stand," "Holy Spirit" and "Build Your Kingdom Here."

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The enormity of God

As creator of the universe God is beyond our comprehension, said spiritual life director Gord Park at Wednesday's chapel, but he's for you.

Park said he has always been fascinated by space and inspired by its immensity — from the Star Trek television show, to Star Wars movies, to laying in the backyard with his son and looking at a night sky full of stars.

"Stars have always inspired me," Park said, "the infinite nature of stars."

Park shared some amazing facts and figures about stars, such as:
The sun travels 220 km/second.

It takes the sun 225-250 million years to complete an orbit of the centre of the Milky Way.

The sun is 149,600,000 km away.

The star Betelgeuse is 427 light years away and the star Canis Majoris is 2,500 light years away. The Whirlpool Galaxy, with its 300 billion stars, is 31 million light years away. "And it is only one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the known universe," Park said. "The more you know, the more you are blown away. It staggers the imagination."

Park compares a golf ball sized earth to the enormity of the sun.
And God made it all, Park said, quoting Nehemiah 9:6

You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

And quoting  Psalm 33:6

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
    their starry host by the breath of his mouth.

Yet God, the creator of the universe, did it for you, Park told students, quoting Psalm 8.

When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is humankind that you are mindful of them,
    a son of man that you care for him?

He did it for you, Park said, quoting Psalm 139.

13For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

"You are created in the image of God," Park said. "You are created to be creative," and whatever form that creativity takes, whether it's repairing an engine, writing a song, acting in  a play or nurturing a friendship, "do it so that your creativity worships him."

Park challenged students to live lives that worship God, that worship creatively, and that take care of God's creation — both of the earth and of themselves.

He also told students to look for God: "When you pay attention, you won't miss him, and when you take care of yourself, you honour God."

A student praise team led worship with "Whom Shall I Fear God of Angel Armies," "How Great is Our God/How Great Thou Art," and "Build Your Kingdom Here."

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The glory of God

God is glorious but he lives in you, spiritual life director Gord Park told students at the second chapel of Smithville Christian High School's spiritual emphasis week.

Park began Tuesday's chapel message by reading an account of Isaiah's vision of God, taken from Isaiah 6:1-8.

1"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Park said Isaiah's vision comes at a time in the history of the people of Israel when their king has just died and the nation is in disarray. But the vision begins with the certainty that God is still on the throne, that the real king is still the king.

The name of the Lord, "Adonai," which is translated as LORD, indicates that Isaiah saw God as the "suffering servant," Park said. "God has always been enthroned and when he chooses to reveal himself, it is as Jesus."

The "train of his robe (that) filled the temple" indicates the majesty and glory of God, just as the 
train of a wedding gown brings honour to a bride, or the length of the tassles on a prayer shawl signifies righteousness, Park said, using a prayer shawl to demonstrate.

"You are the temple of the Lord," Park told students, "and if God is in you, his glory fills you.
The symbolism of the train of God's robe filling the temple "is hugely important. The glory of God is so overwhelming that the train of his robe fills the temple. When you are in the presence of God, there is nothing else.

"And if you allow God to sit enthroned in your life, there will be nothing in life that he will not be victorious over, " Park said, "even death." Bad stuff may still happen, but as Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

Isaiah's vision emphasizes the holiness of God, but the hot coal taken from the altar fire — where the sacrificial blood of atonement is poured — indicates that Isaiah is cleansed from his sin and is now also holy.

And so are we, Park said, if we accept the forgiveness God offers.

"The challenge for each of us today is to recognize that you are a temple of God, and you can be the one standing at the altar in communion with him, thanking him and praising him," he said.

And at the end of the vision, God asks for a volunteer, and Isaiah steps up.

"Who has God called you to be?" Park asked the students. "What is God calling you to do?"

"We know who sits enthroned in heaven, but who sits enthroned in your life?" he asked. "You are the temple of the Lord but you have a choice to make: who sits enthroned in your life?"  

A student praise team led in worship with "Mountaintop," "Dare you to move," "Oceans" and "Great I Am/Our God is Greater."

Chapel is every morning at 9 a.m. and everyone is invited.

Here's the praise team with "Great I Am/Our God is Greater."

Monday, 24 November 2014

How big is your God?

What do you think of God?

How do you picture him?

Smithville Christian High School's spiritual life director Gord Park started this year's Spiritual Emphasis Week by telling students that when we picture God, we tend to reduce him, to make him smaller than he really is.

Sometimes we see God as a kindly old man with a flowing beard, or as having a voice like Morgan Freeman, Park said. Some people, like Albert Einstein, say they don't believe in a personal God, or like Paul McCartney, who said. "If God is out there, he's hiding someplace."

But it's not God who is hiding, Park said, it's humans who are the ones who hide from God, just as Adam and Eve did when they sinned and felt they had something to hide. The truth is, it's God who comes looking for us, Park said, but many people want to hide from God.

Like a child hiding behind a tree, we think we can successfully hide from him, or we hide because God doesn't fit the version of reality that we find comfortable.

But as it says is Psalm 139: 7, 8, there is no place we can hide from God's spirit, no place we can go where God is not present.

And God revealed himself most tangibly to us in the person of Jesus who embodies the infinite God in a finite human, Park said.

Jesus invites us to look at him and to see God, just as Peter did when he said "You are the Christ, the son of the living God," or as Paul does in the letter to the Colossians, revealing Jesus as a man, our Saviour, the creator and the reason the world was created.

"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Col. 1:15-20)

But it's not easy, Park said. Just like the six blind men who encountered an elephant and reached different conclusions about what an elephant is like, we can form our opinions about God based on what we've read, or heard, or experienced.

"But wait," Park said, "there's so much more! Whatever you think about God, there's so much more."

God invites us to grow in the knowledge of him, Park said, through his Word, creation, people, service, devotion and obedience. And while it might be scary, it's also freeing, because God's loving kindness envelopes us. And the God we worship is "the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God," who deserves our "honour and glory forever and ever." (I Timothy 1:17)

In fact, we can never stop growing in the knowledge of God because if we can ever figure God out "he's not worth worshipping," Park said.

A student praise team led in worship with "I Will Follow," "Holy," and "One Thing Remains."

Chapel will be held every day this week at 9 a.m. Everyone is welcome.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Praise and worship

Today's chapel was a warm-up for next week's Spiritual Emphasis Week, with a student praise team leading an extended time of worship, including two new songs: "Breathe," by Michael W. Smith and "Lead Me to the Cross," by Hillsong.

They also read a poem called "Entering the Story" which was written by Spiritual Life Director Gord Park for October's Edifide Teachers' Convention.

Entering the Story

                                                  Promise Made, Story Unfolds                                               
                                                  Promise Made, Story Unfolds                                               
                                                  Promise Made, Story Unfolds
                                                  Promise Made, Story Unfolds
                                                  Promise Made, Story Unfolds
                                                  Micah too
                                                  "For Unto you  ....
is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord          
                                                  Promise Made, Story Unfolds
                                                                      The list goes on
                                                  Men and women
                                                  Through the years
                                                  Following Christ
                                                                      His Spirit here
                                                  Now it's me
                                                                      Now it's you
                                                  And this we know
                                                  Will never get old.
                                                  Promise made. Story unfolds.

Park read Isaiah 40, which proclaims the greatness of God. Next week's spiritual emphasis week theme is "How Great is Our God!" and will feature chapel every day plus a time for small-group discussions after lunch. We will also be heading down to Grimsby for Guys Night Out on Wednesday and Girls Night Out on Thursday. Parents, alumni, friends and guests are always welcome to join us for daily chapel, which starts at 9 a.m.

Whether you are able to come or not, pray that we will let the Holy Spirit work in all of our hearts.

Chapel also featured an opportunity to pray a blessing over the members of our Senior Boys Volleyball Team, who are heading to OFSAA this week as the defending champions.

Gina VandenDool, the staff sponsor for the volleyball team, shared the following season stats:

221 —  inches combined height of the Senior Boys Volleyball team 2014.  Height helps!
33 — hours of intense practice  
116 —sets played 
85  — sets won, 31 losses
2,811 —points earned
30,000  — estimated total of passes, digs and lasers practiced and executed during games
4 — first place finishes/gold medals including zone (and hopefully a 5th this weekend)
0  — number of games lost at OCSSAA.  Incredible!
3 — number of passionate coaches who have invested in the STORM over the past 4 years. Which so happens to also be the # of years that Mitchell regrets not playing high school volleyball)
1 — the ranking going into this OFSAA tournament that no other team in Smithville's history has ever earned
6 — the number of letters in the answer to the questions "What all day?"  BOMBAY!!

The OFSAA tournament schedule this week is four games for pool play: three on Thursday and one on Friday.

The Thursday games are at 9 a.m. and 12 noon at Niagara Sport and Social Complex on Rice Road in Welland and at 3 p.m. at Jean Vanier High School in Welland. The Friday game is at 8:30 a.m. at Niagara Sport and Social.

Then, hopefully, it's on to the quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Niagara Sport and Social.
Tournament passes are $20 for adults, $12 for students. Day passes are $10 for adults and $5 for students.
It would be great to have lots of fans: parents, students, alumni and friends.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

We remember

Smithville Christian High School's Remembrance Day chapel was a reminder that we have much for which we are thankful. We are grateful for the freedoms we enjoy — both freedom in our country and freedom in Christ.

Selected students took turns telling the stories of soldiers who lost their lives as they served our country and fought for freedom.

Owen Ricker told the story of Arthur-Joseph Lapointe from the village of Rivière Blanche in the Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec.  Lapointe joined the Quebec 22nd Regiment (the VanDoos) in France during the First World War and fought at the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium. Lapointe described the aftermath:  “Everywhere was an air of desolation. Not a house was to be seen . . . only the bare, terribly scarred plain, over which a cataclysm seemed to have passed. In a flooded trench, corpses of Germans, their stomachs grotesquely bloated, floated in slushy water. Bodies buried in the mud with only an arm or a leg showing above the surface; macabre faces appeared, blackened by their long stay on the ground. Everywhere I looked, all I could see was corpses covered in a shroud of mud."

Adam Riddell told the story of Edward LaCombe, who served in World War Two with the Royal Regiment of Canada. LaCombe participated in the August 1942 raid on Dieppe, where he was wounded and captured. He made several unsuccessful escape attempts and was imprisoned for almost three years. While imprisoned he was in chains, forced to work in a stone quarry, a wood factory and a salt mine. He was liberated by American soldiers in April 1945.

 Sam Hong told the story of the 516 Canadians who died in various battles during the Korean War, many of them at Hill 355, north of Seoul. Canada’s first battle at this location was on November 22, 1951, where Canadian soldiers encountered an intense bombardment from the Chinese. It was desperate fighting in the snow, cold and mud, but they held their ground until the Americans retook Hill 355 for good on November 25.

Caleb Boerefyn told the story of Captain Nichola Goddard the first Canadian female soldier killed in combat. She was killed on May 17, 2006, during a firefight in Afghanistan. It was part of a two-day operation to secure Kandahar's outskirts after a rumor of Taliban preparations to launch an assault on the city. As troops were moving into a mosque to capture 15 alleged Taliban members, several dozen hidden militants began firing from neighbouring houses. As a crew commander, Goddard was standing half-exposed in her light armoured vehicle, which was hit by two rocket-propelled grenades early in the battle.

Kaitlin Lunshof told the story of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who served this nation on bases and ships over a 28-year career. He had volunteered to help another officer with some administrative tasks  when he was deliberately run down in a parking lot in St Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec on October 20, 2014.

Shannon Mellema told the story of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, the 24-year-old Canadian soldier who was gunned down October 22, 2014 while performing ceremonial guard duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial  in Ottawa. He was a Class-A reservist of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada from Hamilton. He, along with fellow reservist, Branden Stevenson, were chosen for the honour of guarding the War Memorial because they were among the regiment’s top soldiers.  

Mr. Neale Robb then quoted Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who delivered the eulogy at Cirillo's funeral, and spoke about the war memorial which Cirillo had been guarding.

"These monuments remind us that freedom is never free. It has been earned by the soldier and then donated to us all,”  Harper said.

 As Canadians, the sacrifices made by generations of soldiers mean we enjoy freedom of conscience and of religion, Robb said. "We enjoy freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication. We have freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association."

But we also have the possibility of ultimate freedom, earned for us by another person who gave his life to earn it, Robb said. Quoting Hebrews 2:14-16, Robb said the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ mean we can be free from worry and have peace.

"Christ gives freedom from hatred so we can love, he grants freedom to forgive, he gives freedom of purity so that our lives are no longer plagued by the shame of sin and impurity," Robb said. He also frees us from the fear of death, "the greatest fear we have."

Robb said Canadian MPs gave sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers a standing ovation when he returned to the House of Commons the day after Cirillo was killed, because Vickers had risked his own life to take down the gunman who was threatening Parliament.

"But Jesus has taken out the gunman who threatens us — the devil," Robb said. "Because of what Christ has done, when we put our faith in him we don’t need to be afraid of death – nor do we need to fear anything else in life.

"Jesus has earned our freedom and donated it to us."

After the chapel, Grade 10 Civics students went to the Legion where they participated in Remembrance Day observances there, including the laying of a school wreath.

Meanwhile at school, at 11 a.m., Chantelle Minor read a poem over the public address system that she had written a number of years ago for Remembrance Day. The entire school then observed two minutes of silence.

Then John Boerefyn played The Last Post on his trumpet.

We also have this splendid flag hanging in the lounge, thanks to Mr. Antonides who made it with his students at a former school.

Here is Chantelle's poem:

Be still and hear the lonely cry
Of those who fought this war
Bow your head and say a prayer
For peace forevermore.

Remember those who died so brave
And all those that survived.
They sacrificed their very souls

For our freedom and our lives.