#12BlogsOfChristmas : Looking Back And Looking Forward

Hey Senior Camp! It’s Karol again, from Vancouver. If you remember me, I’m the speaker from 2 years ago.  hope you I’m excited to be given the chance to post here again for the 12 Blogs of Christmas!

I wanted to share something with you all, and I hope it is a Christmas feast for your soul. This time of year, if we hang around Christians and churches, we will probably hear a lot of people talk about “the true meaning of Christmas”. Christmas isn’t about presents and trees and lights, they’ll say; all those things are nice, but what it’s really about is Jesus! Two thousand years ago, God the World-Maker came to Earth as a little baby to open the way for us to be with Him, and nothing has ever been the same. Now, this is true! If we don’t use Christmas to look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus, we are missing a huge opportunity to bask in the glory of God, and to be changed by Him.

But that’s not quite all there is to celebrate at Christmas. For many years, Christians have used Christmas and Advent (the time before Christmas) not just to look back to the first coming of Jesus, but to look forward to His second coming!

As we look around at the world, even during Christmas, we see sadness and suffering everywhere. For many people with painful situations at home, this is one of the hardest times of year, where family problems are amplified and made impossible to ignore. For the homeless here in Canada, Christmas is a time not of warmth and feasting, but of long, cold, and lonely winter nights. All is not right in the world. If we’re honest with ourselves, all is not right in our hearts either. During this time where we are supposed to be celebrating God’s generous gift to us, we are filled with greed, selfishness, and disregard for others (and yes – I am talking about you!).

The Bible sings with the promise that Jesus will one day come again, and it is all these things that will be destroyed when he comes again in glory. Listen to the apostle John as he tells us what he saw when God showed him a vision of the second coming:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away… But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:1-4, 27)

When I spoke at Senior Camp, this is the last passage that I spoke on – it’s one that it’s pretty much impossible to read too many times. No more mourning! No more death! Such closeness to God that he wipes the very tears off our faces! I’ve included that last verse as well, because even though it is uncomfortable, it assures us that our sin, which causes so much suffering, will have no place when Jesus comes again. Everyone in that “book of life” was once a sinner, forgiven by Jesus. When we come face to face with the God of Heaven, source of every pleasure and joy, it is such an encouragement to know that our selfishness, anger, and hatred will not come with us.

This is our great hope. Not just our own personal forgiveness and a trip to clouds-and-harps heaven! We are promised a world remade, filled with sinners redeemed into saints, with King Jesus on the throne. This is the fuel for life filled with the joy of God. Without it, we will lose ourselves in the small sins and petty struggles of everyday life. This Christmas, remember that King Jesus is coming back, and pray with Christians throughout history: Come soon, Lord Jesus! Come soon.

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#countdowntocamp! – Meet Your 2014 Speaker!

Hey friends! It’s Karol from Vancouver again, your speaker from last year! I’m writing to you today to introduce your speaker for this coming summer – and wouldn’t you believe it, he’s another Vancouverite! I know you probably thought that nothing good could come from that warm, beautiful, seaside west coast city, and I’m sure meeting me just confirmed your suspicions. I mean, the temperatures never go below -10, there are sandy beaches, and there are skiing and sailing both within a half-hour drive! Doesn’t it sound horrible?! If I didn’t already live there, I’d probably run as fast as I could in the other direction; right towards Montreal! But I promise, you guys are moving up in the speaker department – my friend Genis might just be able to convince you that Vancouver can produce something good.

So, what can I tell you about Genis to get you excited? Well, I searched facebook to find a ridiculous picture of him to put up and embarrass him, but despite some seriously deep searching, I found absolutely nothing incriminating. So you’ll have to settle for an adorable picture of him with a cute small child. I have no idea who the kid is, but it’s a nice picture!

genis

And yes, in case you were wondering, he’s the one on the bottom.

What? Of course the mustache is real! Can’t you tell? No editing involved.

Anyways, as you can see, Genis is always fashionable, and put together (but seriously – it’s true.) He’s also hilarious, really smart, and a genuinely fun dude – for real, that’s not the kind of stuff you can photoshop on like a cheap mustache! According to him, his hobbies include karaoke, country music, and musicals. I’ve never seen it, but I really hope sometimes his idea of a good time includes all those things at once! Now that would be a party! Finally, he’s also been a pastor of some kind, involved at his church, for at least 6 years.

I’m really excited for Genis to meet you, and for you to meet him. I’m sure God will bless you through him and his talks! So treat him nicely! No Doors Of Doom!

Much love from Vancouver,

Karol Boschung

…..

PS: But seriously, he needs to get the Doors! That would be hilarious.

Love one another – Why?

Hi guys! Hello from Vancouver! It’s Karol Boschung, your speaker from last summer.

Today, we’re starting a blog series on acts of service.

The Bible is full of verses commanding us to love others, to give generously, to serve those who cannot repay us. To pick just a few:

“If a brother or a sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16)

“But I saw to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you , bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you… Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Luke 6:27,30-31)

So yes – as Christians we’re called to serve one another. We’re called to love people that are hard to love. We’re called to give generously of our money and our things. We’re called to make ourselves servants, even (especially?) towards those who can’t or won’t serve us in return. There’s no way around these things. But believe it or not, that’s not the main point of this post. We need to know the reason for these commands. If we try to do these things without knowing the reason, we will end up burnt out and bitter or, even worse, self-righteous and full of ourselves. If we become burnt out and bitter, we will stop serving others, and fail to live out the beautiful life God would have for us. If we become self-righteous and full of ourselves, constantly patting ourselves on the back for how loving we are, all our so-called service and love is not service and love at all. Then it’s all about us, when it’s supposed to be serving them. We can only avoid this by knowing the reason we are called to serve others. So, if you remember nothing else from this post, remember this:

God commands us to love and serve one another only after he has already loved and served us more deeply than we could ever do for each other.

To see this clearly, read one of my favourite Bible passages, Philippians 2:3-11:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

The first two verses are similar to what we saw before – love others, serve them, put them first. But the biggest part of the passage (the second paragraph above) isn’t about what we are supposed to do! It’s about why we do it – what Jesus has already done!

This is the heart of the gospel – God became man in Jesus to die on the cross and pay for our sins! You can’t find a bigger act of service than this one! The God of all the universe, who created it all and holds it all together, became a poor peasant carpenter and died alone and abandoned, slowly suffocating and nailed to a piece of wood. And he expected no repayment. He did it for those very people who crucified him, and us rebellious sinners, in order that he could save us and we could be with Him forever. Nothing could repay this, and yet he did it anyways.

This is why we serve others. This is how we love others. If we ever find ourselves selfish and self-centered, refusing to serve others, and making our lives all about us, we remember that the God who saved us is the servant God. When we remember the death of Jesus, we will be driven to serve others. If we ever find ourselves getting self-righteous about how loving we are, and how great we are at serving others, we remember that it took the death of the Son of God to forgive our sins and bring us back into God’s family. When we remember the death of Jesus, we will remember our sin and be driven to humility and thankfulness. If we ever find ourselves getting bitter and burnt out, we can remember that in Jesus, God did more for us than we could ever do for others. When we remember the death of Jesus, we will be encouraged and empowered by the servant love of God.

I hope this encourages you this week, as you try to love those that God has brought into your life.

Peace!

-KB

The Eighth Blog of Christmas! (feat. The Baby Jesus)

Hey Senior Camp homies! Vancouver calling again. First things first – Merry Christmas! I hope you guys are well, having a great time, and enjoying these “12 blogs of Christmas.” Christmas is so incredible, we should really think about it for more than 12 days, but it’s a start, right?

Today, I want to write about my undisputed favourite person ever: Jesus. Especially, I want to think with you about Jesus when he was just a little baby. If you remember my fourth talk from Senior Camp, you might remember that I love this idea of the Son of God coming down to earth to become one of us. If you really think about it, it’s one of the most incredible things you could ever imagine – and it actually happened! So let’s look a little closer at this wonderful, fantastic thing.

All God’s promises to his people in the Old Testament find their final and ultimate answer in Jesus – this little, vulnerable, poor and hungry baby in a small town in a backwater corner of the Roman Empire! How incredible!

In Luke’s Gospel, we see that an angel comes to visit Mary, and tells her that she’s going to have a son, and that his name is going to be Jesus.  The angel then tells her that “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33) We see that this baby that Mary is going to have is going to sit on “The Throne of David” and reign over “the house of Jacob.” This means that Jesus is the answer to all the promises God was making all through the Old Testament! Jesus wasn’t God’s Plan B when his first idea didn’t work. From the very beginning, he had this beautiful idea of becoming a man and dying for the sins of his people. All God’s promises to his people in the Old Testament find their final and ultimate answer in Jesus – this little, vulnerable, poor and hungry baby in a small town in a backwater corner of the Roman Empire! How incredible!

 All God’s promises, tied up in one little ball of flesh and blood.

Later on, when Mary is already pregnant with Jesus, months before he was born, she goes to visit her aunt Elizabeth, who is also pregnant with Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. When Mary arrives and says hi, John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb! He knows his Lord is nearby. Elizabeth then cries out: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:42-44) John recognized his Lord! Even inside Mary’s womb, Jesus was God-come-down-to-us, the Lord-become-man, the Word-become-flesh! What an incredible thing. The Son of God was gestated! In that little baby, before he was even born, was contained the fullness of God, coming into the world to save sinners like you and me. The King who sits on the Throne of David and will rule the world forever was right there, being carried in Mary’s womb. All God’s promises, tied up in one little ball of flesh and blood. Think about that for a while – it will blow your mind!

O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Prayer for Christmas Day, Book of Common Prayer)

Vancouver Calling!

Monkey-speaker!

Surprise – It’s Karol, your speaker! I’m all the way back in Vancouver and still can’t get away from you guys.  Like we talked about, Canada is a long way across, and I would’ve thought that one Canada-length would’ve been far enough away! But actually, I can’t get enough of you guys! I think of you guys and the great time we had at Senior Camp a lot – and am super thankful for all the good stuff God did there and is still doing in your hearts and lives. Victoria, one of Senior Camp’s awesome directors, asked me to write a little something for the cool blog you guys have got going, and I jumped at the opportunity. “What should I write about? How long should it be?” I asked. “Anything you want. 500 words.” she said. That’s given me a chance to think about what would be the best thing for me to read, if I were a few weeks out of Senior Camp, getting ready to go back to school, or whatever you have going in the fall. While there were a variety of close contenders for my topic (Star Wars, Power Rangers, the necessity of regular showering, or how awesome the Vancouver Canucks are), after much thought, I decided to write about something way cooler and more important: prayer! Remember that verse from Acts that we talked about? “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.”

In trying to decide what to write about, I turned to a book in the Bible that I’ve been reading a lot lately: Philippians. Philippians, and a bunch of the other books in the New Testament, are written by a guy named Paul. As I looked at Philippians, I noticed something: it starts with a prayer that Paul has written out. He’s telling the people he’s writing to that he’s praying for them! And then I realized that in pretty much everything that Paul wrote, there’s prayers scattered all throughout. There’s almost always one at the beginning of his letters, and there’s a bunch of them in the middle and at the end of the different letters he wrote too. Everything he wrote is soaked in prayer. In one letter, he even tells his friends to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This is really interesting, because Paul himself was such an interesting dude. He didn’t start off as the kind of guy who’d pray to Jesus at all – in fact, he started off by murdering and attacking Jesus’ first followers! But God has a sense of humour, and so he sent Paul (who was named Saul at the time) a vision which convinced him to become a Christian. Saul changed his name to Paul and become, instead of a Christian-hater, one of the most dedicated missionaries ever! He lived through beatings and shipwrecks and near-death several times because he simply would not stop telling people God’s Big Story about what he did for them in Jesus. There’s just two things I want you to notice here:

First, Paul knew he was forgiven, and he didn’t let his sins against the King of the Universe stop him from praying to that King all the time! He didn’t run away from God when he failed. He asked for forgiveness in Jesus’ name, received it, and kept on praying. His sin didn’t keep him from praying to the God of the Universe.

Second, his prayer was the source of his strength. He survived really tough stuff and lived a solid life for Jesus because he was always plugged in – with prayer.

Prayer is a huge privilege – talking to God! – and a huge source of strength and peace.

If you don’t know how to pray – don’t worry. God won’t look down on you or turn you away. There are only two things to remember: first, bring everything before God: especially the stuff you think he doesn’t want to hear – your worries about whoever you’re crushing on, how angry you are at your parents, questions you have. Don’t just bring requests; be sure to thank God for all the things he’s given you – even the little things! Thanksgiving is just as important as requests – don’t forget it!!

Second, do it regularly. Did you have a good coffee? Thank God! Did you just have a fun time with your friends? Thank God! Are you worried about the upcoming test? Pray! Are you in the middle of a conversation that you don’t know what to do about? Pray! When you wake up, pray. When you sleep, pray. It doesn’t have to be long or elaborate. “Thank you God for that delicious meal.” “Lord, I have no idea what to do here. Help me!” “God – what are you doing?” There probably won’t be an incredible rush of feeling like there is at camp sometimes, but as it becomes more and more regular over time, you will have a quiet strength which will sustain you throughout your day. This is crucial for living a steady Christian life.

Well – that was longer than 500 words, so I should probably shut up now. Peace to you all – you rock!

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7)