Friday, 16 November 2012

Stop flexing your muscles, they are not that impressive to me

The final chapel of Smithville Christian High School's Spiritual Emphasis Week began with Susan Dunk, wife of Paul Dunk, saying that she was praying that students would see that following a movement only leads to emptiness.

Susan Dunk told students that theirs is a generation seeking a cause.

"But when you are looking for a movement to secure your value, meaning or significance, it will fail," she said. "God wants our movement to cease so we can find our rest in him," she said. Instead of us moving towards God, "it is God who is moving towards us."
"Most of our Christian experience focuses on works, on labour, on the things we need to do," she said. But if we move to secure something for ourselves, it will come up empty every time.

My prayer for you is that you will have a revelation of Jesus, she said, and when you have a revelation of Jesus "it will be like the Bible is decoded."

Paul Dunk then reminded students that their journey during spiritual Emphasis Week was one of putting God first, and of seeing the Bible as the greatest love story ever written with Jesus as the main hero. Dunk said Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) featured instructions for making Christian life even more difficult.

Our response to Jesus' teachings is "I can't do this," he said. "And Jesus says, 'Exactly. I will do it for you.'"

Dunk described himself as "a Superman freak" with a large collection of Superman T-shirts. But, he admitted, he not really at all like Superman.

"If there was a superhero that I am most like, it would not be Superman," he said. "Superman is always a good guy, and even Clark Kent is always a good guy."

Dunk said he is more like Tony Stark -- or Ironman -- a character who is self-absorbed, egotistical, arrogant and narcissistic, "only thinking about himself and only trying to bring pleasure to himself."

Dunk used the example of Jacob, who duped his brother and tricked his father into obtaining a birthright for himself.

"He was on a mission to mean something, and we do the same thing," Dunk said. "We all have our ways to mean something. It's us striving so someone will tell us that we are important."

After their father's death, Esau announces his intention to get revenge on his devious younger brother and vows to kill him (Genesis 27). That prompts Jacob to flee for his life.

Jacob marries and has children and many years pass, but he is still living in fear of his brother's revenge, Dunk said. As their reunion approaches, he cries out to God for help (Genesis 32).

"You would think God would say 'sorry, you made your bed, now lie in it,' but that's not God's answer, Dunk said. Instead God wrestles with Jacob, and at first it looks like Jacob is successfully holding his own.
But God shows Jacob "you are not as strong as you think," and reaches out to touch Jacob on the hip, and "poink," Jacob is crippled. "God says 'stop flexing your muscles, they are not that impressive to me,'" Dunk said. "And Jacob recognizes in an instant that it is God who is powerful and it is God who is in control."

The central message of that midnight battle is that Jacob starts out fighting God and ends up clinging to God, Dunk said. Just as Jacob fought for his birthright and fought for his life, we fight for Twitter followers or Facebook friends, he said. But we have to stop fighting for success, and start embracing God.

Dunk asked students to pray with him, inviting Jesus to do a deep work in them. "I need you more than I need the approval of the person sitting next to me," Dunk and the students prayed. "My future is bright because it's in you."



Thursday, 15 November 2012

The biggest problem

When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, he wasn't giving his audience a list of helpful hints about the benefits of being meek, humble and peaceful, said Paul Dunk at Smithville Christian High School's Thursday chapel during Spiritual Emphasis Week.
"The Beatitudes is not a list of things to do, it is a list of things that we CANNOT do," he said. "Jesus is not saying 'try your best, it's good enough.' Jesus has given us a list that is a glorious impossibility."
Similarly, with his references to the 10 Commandments, Jesus made it clear we would not measure up.
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment,’ " said Dunk, reading excerpts from Matthew 5. "' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Jesus went on to say that if your eye is causing you to sin, you should pluck it out, or if your hand is causing you to sin, you should cut it off, Dunk said. But Jesus knows it's not our eyes or our hands that cause us to sin. "It's your heart that causes you to sin, and Jesus knows that," he said.

"Jesus is saying 'guys, this is deeper than you think,' " Dunk said. "The Pharisees think they are pulling it off, but they're not. We think we are pulling it off, but we're not."

"We try to soften what Jesus said to make it more do-able for us, we soften it into something we think we can do," he said, turning the Christian faith into a legalistic rulebook, and our churches into religious sweatshops. The result is that we are "driven into exhaustion" trying to achieve value, acceptance, belonging, meaning, fulfillment, purpose and peace by our own efforts.

"Your generation is chronically addicted to perform," Dunk told the students. "Why? Because your parents and grandparents were chronically addicted to perform. We are addicted to getting a gold star from heaven, from our parents, from our peers." But we're doomed to failure.
"We believe the greatest problem is outside us and the answer is inside us," he said. "We believe the greatest problem is outside us. But Jesus shows up and says the greatest problem is inside us."
"The bad news is, God is not honouring our progress, God only honours perfection," Dunk said. "The good news is, God provided perfection."
Many people believe in karma, he said, that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. But the truth is, we, and all the "heroes" of the Bible, "are bad, undeserving train wrecks, and God gives us what we don't deserve."
Our Christian lives are not about doing good works to earn God's approval, he said.
"You and I will bear fruit, and we will do good things. But all of this doing comes from being, and our being comes from Jesus Christ.
"The good news is Jesus says you will have a new heart, and when we rest in Jesus, we become like him and our lives transform. The way you get out of your sin is not by trying harder, but by looking at what Jesus did."


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The best love story

"The Bible is predominantly a love story," said chapel speaker Paul Dunk. "We have the Bible to tell us about God."
In 1 John 4:19 the apostle Paul writes that "we love because he first loved us," Dunk said. "We love God because he first loved us. He moved first and he is always moving towards us."

Dunk said after God created the world and humans sinned by trusting in ourselves, God immediately announced that he had a rescue plan.
"And this is glorious, because it sets the tone," Dunk said, reading from Genesis 3 and the crushing curse on the serpent.
The story continues in Genesis 4, when Cain kills Abel, he said. God punishes Cain, but also offers protection when the punishment "is greater than (Cain) can bear."
"The story is not 'don't be like Cain,' the story is about the love of God," Dunk said. "The story is that we ARE Cain."
But we don't think we are that bad, so we don't "embrace the cross daily," he said. We can easily see that the prisoners in a maximum security prison "need all the blood of Jesus, but we only need a sprinkle."
The result is that we think of the Bible as a checklist, and we try to live up to that list and worry about what we are going to do with our lives.
That's the way the world lives, Dunk said. But we don't need to impress God because God already loves us and saved us.
"There is no version of this where you have to clean yourself up enough so he can use you. God does not need you to clean yourself up so he can do something with your life.
"This is the beauty of the gospel. There is a God in heaven whose love for you is so deep you can wake up every morning with peace because of who he is and who he is for YOU."

The Bible reveals how much God loves us, he said. "We are called to bear fruit by waking up every day thankful for Jesus."
When we do that "watch and see how the power of Christ transforms you from the inside out."
A student praise team led us in singing "Holy, Holy, Holy,"  "The Stand" and "The Desert Song."




Tuesday, 13 November 2012

In the beginning, God....

It's not about you, students at Smithville Christian High School were told at Tuesday's chapel. It's about God.

Paul Dunk, director of ministries for Gideons International in Canada, said he is coming to be our daily chapel speaker during Spiritual Emphasis Week because he wants to preach the gospel, and the good news is the story is not about us and how we can get the most out of life. It's about Jesus.

At Tuesday's chapel Dunk said many Christians have traded the symbol of the cross for a ladder: their Christian faith is not about what Jesus did for them, but what they can do for Jesus, what they can do to achieve, to climb.

"Every morning when we wake up, it's either 'In the beginning, God,' or it's 'In the beginning, me,'" Dunk said. If we are not making our lives about God, we are making them about ourselves, and that's idolatry.


Reading from Genesis 1, Dunk said God was complete before the beginning of time.

"God didn't need anything," Dunk said. "God doesn't need us. God is the giver. God moved first. God loved first."

In Genesis 3, humans sinned by doubting that they would be fulfilled by God, he said, and tried to fill that need with something else. "The root cause of every sin you and I will ever do is doubting that God loves us and doubting that we can be fulfilled by him."

Dunk said when we care about what people think about us we will chase after the things we hope will make our lives powerful, meaningful or fulfilling.

"The iPod, golf, girls, guys, cars, fill in the blank -- it's all idolatry," he said.

God's message for you is you are already loved, you are already accepted, he said.

"Every morning, you either wake up 'from approval' or 'for approval,' either 'for acceptance' or 'from acceptance,'" he said.
If we are seeking approval or seeking acceptance, we will be living in a culture of comparison. We will want to feel good about ourselves by finding ourselves better than others.

But if we live our lives with the approval and acceptance of God, we can live with compassion, he said.

"It's either grace, strength and compassion, or it's comparison," Dunk said.

If we are trying to be great in our own strength, we will fail, he said. "God requires perfection, and even on a good day, we don't measure up."

But not only does God require perfection, he provides perfection.

"I can't clean myself up enough to impress God, but the good news is, God gave us a Saviour," Dunk said.

"The Bible is not a list of rules and ways to live and principles. It is not moralist teachings," Dunk said. "The Bible is a book about Jesus, and about how God provided perfection."

When we are deep in the gospel of Jesus "that's where the power is," he said. "That's where the transformation is."

A student praise team also led us in worship with "Centre," "You Bled," and "I Am Not Ashamed." Here's the video from I Am Not Ashamed:


Monday, 12 November 2012

Hey God, whatever you want to do with me this week, that's great with me!

Students at Smithville Christian High School began their week with a chapel Monday to kick off Spiritual Emphasis Week. "SEW Week," held every year, features daily chapels, daily small group meetings, a prayer room, and student-led praise and worship. This morning's chapel featured all three of our student praise teams, who led us in singing:
Holy, Holy, Holy,
The Desert Song ( I Will Bring Praise)
10,000 Reasons
I Will Follow
Give Me Your Eyes
and, How Great Is Our God.
Spiritual Life Director Gord Park said this year's theme is "The Power That Transforms" and he told students that the Holy Spirit is going to be at work in our school this week.
"The Spirit of God is going to move and it's up to you to decide what you are going to do with it," Park said. He said we can ignore it, we can decide to wait until later, or we can "deal with it right now." He invited students to pick option 3.
"It is our prayer that you will deal with what the Spirit of God brings to you today."
Park said sometimes the biggest barriers to the power of the Holy Spirit are the people who are the most important to us -- like the people sitting right next to us in chapel. He asked students to turn to the people around them and say: "Whatever you want to do with God this week, that's okay with me." Students then shouted the blessing to those in other grades, and then turned their faces upwards and said, "Hey God, whatever you want to do with me this week, that's great with me."

Park said the Bible is full of stories of people who have been transformed by their encounters with God: Daniel, David, Amos, Moses, Sarah, Esther, Saul, Gideon, Samson, Samuel. He said students can add their names to that list, but not because they are so perfect. "In fact, most people get in to the Bible by messing up," Park said. "The Bible is loaded with real stories of real men and women who are not perfect and who sometimes do it wrong in a big way."
But we can make it because we have a God who doesn't let go of us, Park said, just like the parent who holds our hands when we are little and gets us safely across the street. It is not the strength of our faith but the strength of our God, he said. "God has the power to transform us," he said. "The power belongs to God."
Students bowed their heads for a time of quiet prayer, in which they could pray for God to be at work in their hearts or they could pray for each other.

A video from today's chapel: Holy, Holy, Holy.



Thursday, 8 November 2012

Preparing to be transformed

Today's chapel began with spiritual life director Gord Park reading Matthew 14:22-28.

"Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat."

Imagine what the frightened and lonely disciples were thinking when Peter began climbing out of the boat, Park said.

"What are you doing?" they would have said to Peter. "Sit down! You're rocking the boat!"

But Peter recognized who Christ is "and that changes everything," Park told students.

Next week will be Spiritual Emphasis Week at Smithville Christian High School and today's chapel was an invitation to "prepare our hearts, so we can be open to the power that can transform us," Park said.

Park said when we recognize who Jesus is and we act on it, it has the power to transform our lives.

"I don't know where you are going in your life, but it is no less incredible than walking on water," Park told students.

Park asked students to pray this weekend that they will be open to what God has in store for them.