Thursday, 30 November 2017

There will be trouble

As an itinerant preacher with Youth For Christ, Mike Gordon says he gets to travel a lot, often with Christian bands and musicians.
Speaking Thursday morning at the fourth chapel of Spiritual Emphasis Week at Smithville Christian High School, Gordon said many people had told him that if he ever had the chance to visit Nashville, he should take it.
“Everyone said Nashville is awesome,” Gordon said. So three years ago when he had the chance, he flew down early in order to do some sightseeing.
But on the bus from the airport to his hotel, Gordon was approached by a drug dealer, and while going for a walk to buy supper, he was mugged by some knife-wielding thugs.
Gordon said he was shocked.
Everyone had said Nashville was great. No one had warned him that Nashville had a dark side.
“How come no one told me about this?” Gordon asked. “This is not what I signed up for!”
Some people say being a Christian is great, and that’s true, Gordon said, but Jesus also warns us that trouble is coming: “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33)
There are times when we fail tests, lose our jobs, or find out someone we love is very sick. People die, families break up, and we get rejected by the universities to which we’ve applied.
“Jesus does not hold back,” Gordon said. “He does not say if you go to a Christian school you won’t have trouble. He doesn’t say if you have a perfect attendance record at church you won’t have trouble. He doesn’t say if you memorize the Bible you won’t have trouble. He says we will have trouble.”
Bad things happen, everything changes. “And many of us ask ‘why?’ ” Or we ask if God doesn’t love us, or care for us, or if the Bible is not real or true.
Reading from the Book of Matthew, Gordon used the example of John the Baptist.
“When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.  Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’ ” Matthew 11: 2-6
Gordon said John was mentioned in the Old Testament, was a cousin to Jesus, and was baptized by Jesus. Those three “fun facts” mean John is “super-duper legitimate.” Yet in the Scripture passage, John has run afoul of religious leaders and is languishing in prison.
John’s question basically amounts to asking Jesus if he’s really God, Gordon said, “because if you really are God, I probably shouldn’t be in this prison right now.”
And instead of replying with a promise to get John out of prison (“P.S. John does not get out”) “Jesus is saying I want you to know that whatever your circumstance, I am still God.”
Gordon said when we find ourselves in trouble and turn to God in prayer, we often pray for God to fix the things that are going wrong. But sometimes “what we want to hear from God is different from what we need to hear,” he said. What we need to hear is that God is still God, that the Bible is still true, and, most importantly, that God still loves us.
“Just because you feel a certain way does not reflect the truth of how much God loves you. Just because you feel despair does not reflect how much God loves you.”
We often thank God for blessings, and think that the blessings are the good things in our lives.
But Gordon said real blessings are the things that draw us closer to God, and sometimes the things we think are blessings – jobs, relationships, new toys – can draw us away from him. Sometimes it’s the troubles in our lives that we can look back on and see as the things that drew us close.
And the key to this all is the realization that “there comes a time when you have to take it personally,” he said. “You are not a Christian because your Mom and Dad are Christians. You are not a Christian because you go to church.”
No matter how bad things get, because we have Jesus, we win, Gordon said. But the question is, do you have Jesus?
In Matthew 16, Jesus asked Peter “who do you think I am?”
The answer to that question is a personal choice, and it’s one only you can make.

 * * *
Student praise team Relentless led in worship with "Come as You Are," " Just Be Held," "Proof of Your Love," and "Tell the World."

Spiritual Emphasis Week also includes a prayer room, Girls Night Out, Guys Night Out, and daily discussion groups led by Grade 12 students. 
Here is the chapel message in Mandarin, courtesy of Yanyan Wu.



       马太福音 11:2-6     约翰 监里听见基督所做的事,就打发 两个 门徒去, 问他说:「那将要来的是你吗?还是我们等候别人呢?」 稣回答说:「你们去,把所听见、所看见的事告诉 约翰 就是瞎子看见,瘸子行走,长大麻风的洁净,聋子听见,死人复活,穷人有福音传给他们。 凡不因我跌倒的就有福了!


* * *

 The final chapel of Spiritual Emphasis Week 2017 will be Friday, Dec. 1, at 9 a.m. All are welcome.



Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Loving your enemies in two easy steps

So far during Spiritual Emphasis Week at Smithville Christian High School, students have considered whether they merely believe in God, or if he is LORD God of their lives. They have also been asked if they are travelling on the narrow road that leads to life or the wide road that leads to destruction. On Wednesday, chapel speaker Mike Gordon told students that if they want to be on the road that leads to life, the Bible has lots of good advice on what following Jesus looks like.

For example, in Matthew 5: 43-48, Jesus says “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Gordon told students about a job he had as a summer day-camp counsellor when he was a teenager, and the little girl named Haley whom he loved and a little boy named Daniel who annoyed him. People who work with children “don’t usually say this out loud, but we all have a favourite,” Gordon said. “Teachers, on the count of three, say the name of your favourite student out loud.”
Gordon said it’s easy to follow Jesus’ advice to love those people whom we like, who are our favourites. But what about the people we don’t like?
“Here’s the thing. Jesus is not making a suggestion. He’s giving us a command,” Gordon said.
It could be your former friend who betrayed you. It could be an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. It could be the teacher who marks too hard. It could be the person who has different theology, the person who picks on you, the coach who cut you from the team.
“Jesus’ response is, I want you to love them.”
Travellers on the wide road might be tempted to “get revenge, get even, ignore them, cut them out of your life,” Gordon said. But that approach only robs you of peace.
Gordon said there are two steps to take in order to love your enemy: remember they are human, and forgive them. He said the problem with forgiveness is that it seems like you are condoning the bad things other people have done, that you are saying it’s okay.
“But if you forgive someone, you are not letting them off the hook, you are letting yourself off the hook. If Jesus says everyone can be forgiven, who are you to say they can’t?”
Gordon said when he was studying this passage as a student in Bible college, he made a list of all his enemies, the people who had hurt him, and slowly worked his way through the list – reaching out to each of them. Finally there were only two people left. His mother, whose infidelity had destroyed their family, and his father, whose anger and alcoholism had made him unwilling to care for his teenage son and who was furious that Gordon had quit business school to go to Bible college.
Gordon didn’t want to love them – his pain was too great. But finally he wrote a letter to each one.
From his mother, he got a long missive in reply, saying it was Gordon’s own fault that she had kicked him out of the house.
But from his father, he got a two-line response: “Thank you. I’ve been holding on to this too long myself.”
The experience made Gordon realize “that how they respond does not matter. You have no control over that. Is there a name that God has put on your heart? Put it into action. Stop letting the sun go down on your anger.”
Loving your enemies is not a suggestion, it’s Jesus’ command. And the best part is that both of you will get to ”see the grace of God in action.”
* * *
Student praise team Kingdom Worship led singing with “Holy (Wedding Day),” “Through It All,” and “This Is Amazing Grace.”

* * *
During Spiritual Emphasis Week chapel is every morning at 9 a.m. All are welcome.
* * *
Here is today’s message in Mandarin, with many thanks to Yanyan Wu.
       马太福音 5:43-48 「你们听见有话说:『当爱你的邻舍,恨你的仇敌。』 只是我告诉你们,要爱你们的仇敌,为那逼迫你们的祷告。 这样 就可以作你们天父的儿子;因为他叫日头照好人,也照歹人;降雨给义人,也给不义的人。 们若 爱那爱你们的人,有什么赏赐呢?就是税吏不也是这样行吗? 们若单请你弟兄的安,比人有什么长处呢?就是外邦人不也是这样行吗? 所以,你们要完全,像你们的天父完全一样。
        经这里教导我们要爱我们的仇敌,神在这里不是一个建议乃是一个命令。也就是说既然是命令,我们就要有行动。当然不容易做到,正像昨天我们学的进窄门是小路,要付代价,但领我们到的是光明之处,对我们是有益处的。因此我们要学习如何爰仇敌: 1) 们要知道每个人都不完美,都有说错话,做错事时候。 2)  谅是对我们自己心灵的一个释放。 当我们想到以上两点时,爱仇敌就容易一些,我们也要多祷告,更加明白这是一个命令,不管要付多大的代价我们都要尽力去做,神会领我们到光明之处。

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Which road are you taking?

Chapel speaker Mike Gordon told a story during Tuesday’s Spiritual Emphasis Week chapel about the day he was walking down the street in Toronto with some friends when he came upon a small blue bird on the sidewalk. After several efforts to pick up the bird and carry it safely out of harm’s way, Gordon and his friends used a twig as a perch and carried it back to the student council office at their school.

Once in the cramped office, “this little bird decided ‘now is a good time to start flying;’ “ Gordon said, as the bird took flight and a game of “human dodgeball” ensued. In its frenzy, the bird smashed into a wall of the office and died.
“Worst. Story. Ever.” Gordon admitted.
But the bird’s struggle and death illustrate an important question, he said. Would the bird, which had obviously been someone’s pet, have been better off in the wild, or in a cage?
“What would lead to the best possible life for the bird?” Gordon asked. “To live freely, without restrictions, or to live with constraints?”

Gordon said Jesus posed a similar question in Matthew 7:13-14, as he was concluding what has come to be known as The Sermon on the Mount. Speaking to an audience of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences, Jesus knew that every one of his listeners, just like the students at Smithville Christian High School, are searching for something. “Everyone has a different story, but we are all searching for truth, we are all searching for life,” Gordon said.
Jesus told his listeners that there are two ways to live: the broad way and the narrow way.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it,” the students read out loud.
The broad way is a life without rules or constraints, and fits well with our post-Christian, post-modern culture, Gordon said. “Live whatever way you want. There is no truth, so there are no consequences, do what you want, it’s all good.”
It’s epitomized in the acronym YOLO: you only live once.
“On the surface, it looks easy, it looks popular, it looks attractive. It’s tempting.”
Meanwhile the other road – submitting your life to God – is not as easy to follow and there don't seem to be as many people on it.
Travelling that road, “you might get made fun of, you might feel like you are the only one.”
But many of us don’t look at where the path we are on is going to lead, Gordon said.
“This Scripture is not talking about where we go when we die. It’s not talking about the end of life, it’s talking about lack of life.”
Gordon said when he was a teenager his parents’ marriage fell apart and he got kicked out of the house his mother shared with her new boyfriend. He moved in with his father, who didn’t care where he was, who he was with, or what he was doing.
“So I got involved with what looked good at the time,” Gordon said. Soon he was living on the street, using drugs and alcohol, committing crimes.
“At the moment, it seemed fulfilling, easy. Everyone was doing it.”
But in truth, he was experiencing hopelessness, “a lack of life.”
Gordon said he hoped that the students at Smithville Christian High School realize that Jesus is not lying about where the road leads.
“When you are at that party, in that relationship, at work, with this group of people – what road are you on?” he asked.
If it’s the narrow road, “keep going. This is the road that leads to the best possible life you could have.”
Even if you see things on the other road that seem tempting, fix your eyes on Christ, know the truth. What you are searching for is on this road.”
But it could also be that you are on the wide road, or that some aspect of your life is not being submitted to the LORD God, Gordon said. If that’s true, you need to know that eventually “it’s not going to fulfill you the way that you think it will.” It may seem fun in the moment, but it’s temporary. “If you are on this road, it’s not going to lead where you think it is.”
Gordon said some students may know the hopelessness, emptiness and brokenness that he’s talking about.
“But no matter how far you’ve gone down that road. No matter what you said, or what you did, Jesus is standing there with his arms wide open. He is still loving you. So what do you want: life or destruction?”
* * *

Members of student praise team Elucidate led in worship with “I Am Free,” “Great Are You Lord,” and “Multiplied.”

* * *
During Spiritual Emphasis Week, chapel is held every morning at 9 a.m. All are welcome to attend.
* * *
Here is a summary of the message in Mandarin.
 同学们,你们好! 这是今天信息的主要内容。
      马太福音 7:13-14 们要进窄门。因为引到灭亡,那门是宽的,路是大的,进去的人也多; 引到 生,那门是窄的,路是小的,找着的人也少。
       这里指的是两种人,一种要进窄门的人,一种要进宽门的人。进窄门的,路是小的,当然就不容易,要付上一定的代价。进宽门的,路是大的,当然就容易些。目的地也是两个完全不同,进窄门的,付了一定代价去的是有益处的; 宽门,大路去的却是无益处的。就向人生中你与别人同样聪明但你比别人更努力,当然你的结果就要别人好一样的道理。


Monday, 27 November 2017

Do you have God in your life?

Do you have God in your life? Or do you have God as Lord of your life?
During the first chapel of Spiritual Emphasis Week 2017, students at Smithville Christian High School were asked to consider the role of God in their lives.
Speaker Michael Gordon told students that he always likes to take trends one step further and make them ridiculous.

For example, Gordon took the ugly Christmas sweater tradition and turned it into his own ugly Christmas fur coat tradition. Every fall, he combs the women’s section of a local thrift store looking for “a new animal to adopt” which he then wears to parties and special events all season long.
“But once Christmas is over, I take my fur coat off and lay it aside,” Gordon said. “For how many of us, is that what we do with Jesus?”
Gordon, who is an ordained pastor with an itinerant preaching ministry with Youth for Christ, said the English translation of the creation account in the book of Genesis contains 11 references to the Creator as “Lord God,” signifying God’s Lordship over everything.

Genesis 2: 4-25
LORD God created the heavens and the earth
LORD God had not sent rain on the earth
LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground
LORD God had planted a garden in the east
LORD God made all kinds of trees grow
LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden
LORD God commanded the man
LORD God said “It is not good for the man to be alone. . .”
LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals
LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep
LORD God made a woman from the rib

But in Genesis 3, the serpent refers to God as simply “God.” Gordon said that distinction – between the Lord God and simply God – is the difference between “Lord God of your life” and “God in your life.”
Is God “just God’ who you believe exists, and who is, “like this coat, something you can put on and take off?” Gordon asked the students. “Maybe we say we are Christians, but is he Lord? Am I submitting to him in every aspect of my life? Is he Lord, or is he just God?”
And if he is “just God, the next question you have to ask is, ‘What did you make Lord in your life instead?’ ”
Gordon said when he was a teenager and started attending a church youth group, he enjoyed hanging out with the youth pastor and the Christian teens on a Saturday night. “I knew how to put the coat on, in fact I was quite good at it.”
But once the event was over, “what everyone didn’t see was what I did when I left at 10 o’clock, when I went to hang out with a group of friends. He wasn’t Lord of my life then.”
Gordon asked students to examine their own lives. “When you look at all the areas of your life, especially when you step out of this school, is he Lord God, or just God?”

Gordon concluded with a prayer asking God to remind us to ask ourselves the question every day: “Are you Number One or have I made someone else Number One?”
Members of the student praise team, Kingdom Worship, led the students in worship with “Awake My Soul,” “Heroes,” and “Indescribable.”

* * *
Spiritual Emphasis Week 2017 at Smithville Christian High School continues with chapel every morning at 9 a.m. Everyone is invited to attend. Michael Gordon will be continuing with a series of messages and student praise teams will lead in worship.

* * *
And, just in case you prefer to read the message in Mandarin, here's what Mike Gordon had to say:

同学们,你们好!  以下是今天信息大概内容。盼望同学们可以花一点时间来思考。



创世记 1:1 起初, 神创造天地。

创世记 2:4-25  创造天地的来历,在(耶和华 神)造天地的日子,乃是这样, 野地还没有草木,田间的菜蔬还没有长起来;因为〈耶和华 神)还没有降雨在地上,也没有人耕地, 但有雾气从地上腾,滋润遍地。(耶和华 神)用地上的尘土造人,将生气吹在他鼻孔里,他就成了有灵的活人, 名叫 亚当 (耶和华 神)东方的 伊甸 立了一个园子,把所造的人安置在那里。 (耶和华 神)使各样的树从地里长出来,可以悦人的眼目, 其上的果子 好作食物。园子当中又有生命树和分别善恶的树。  有河从 伊甸 流出来,滋润那园子,从那里分为四道: 第一道名叫 ,就是环绕 哈腓拉 全地的。在那里有金子, 并且那地的金子是好的;在那里又有珍珠和红玛瑙。 第二道河名叫 ,就是环绕 全地的。 第三道河名叫 底格里斯 ,流在 亚述 东边。第四道河就是 发拉底河 ( 耶和华 神)将那人安置在 伊甸园 ,使他修理,看守。 (耶和华 神)吩咐他说:「园中各样树上的果子,你可以随意吃, 只是分别善恶树上的果子,你不可吃,因为你吃的日子必定死!」  (耶和华 神)说:「那人独居不好,我要为他造一个配偶帮助他。」 (耶和华 神)用土所造成的野地各样走兽和空中各样飞鸟都带到那人面前,看他叫什么。那人怎样叫各样的活物,那就是它的名字。 那人便给一切牲畜和空中飞鸟、野地走兽都起了名;只是那人没有遇见配偶帮助他。 (耶和华 神)使他沉睡,他就睡了;于是取下他的一条肋骨,又把肉合起来。 (耶和华 神)就用那人身上所取的肋骨造成一个女人,领她到那人跟前。 那人说: 这是我骨中的骨, 肉中的肉, 可以称她「女人」, 为她是从「男人」身上取出来的。  因此,人要离开父母,与妻子连合,二人成为一体。 时夫妻二人赤身露体,并不羞耻。

创世记 3:1  (耶和华 神)所造的,惟有蛇比田野一切的活物更狡猾。蛇对女人说:「 []岂是真说不许你们吃园中所有树上的果子吗?」 

在二章里出现十一次(耶和 ) 但到第三章蛇对女人说时蛇省略了耶和华,只有神字。为什么呢?我们可以思考一下,当我们自己的私欲牵引之时,我们是否也会给自已各样的借口? 疑惑?以至于我们大胆做那些不讨神喜悦的事呢?或父母亲,老师不喜悦的事?

     许你们还没有认识这位神,可以花些时间来思考为什么有这么多人信耶稣? 祂真是创造宇宙万物的神吗?祂与我有关系吗?