MVS – MATTHEW

How do you choose just one verse from Matthew to memorize or reflect over???

Answer: You don’t! This is only a taste of the Gospel of Matthew, just like the other verses were only a taste of their respective books. I encourage you to go back and read more of the Bible whenever you can!

Matthew 28:18-20

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

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Allo! Urbana Challenge 2016

For our 12th and final blog of Christmas, we have Joshua Castillo writing to us post-Urbana!

Allo! Joshua (o.O)/ Castillo here!

So, I just came back from Urbana 15 (best christian conference ever, hands down). It’s the first christian conference I’ve ever attended. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I was afraid to get too excited, because I feared that it wouldn’t meet my high expectations. So, I did my best to not agitate too much. Yup, nope, I got too excited and didn’t get much rest on my way there (also, our bus broke down). 5 days later, I’m on my way home trying to process everything that happened. What I got from it, I would like to share with you.

Are you familiar with the song: read your bible, pray everyday, and you’ll grow grow grow? I remember watching my mum teaching that to the little kids in our church, and after Urbana, it made me question how often I opened my bible and how often I prayed for others (more than for myself).

And to be honest, not that much, I would only open my bible in church, and maybe during those occasional free-time. I would read a lot about topics of the bible (such as different doctrines, controversial passages, apologetics) but several books would remain untouched.

Same with prayer! I noticed my more serious prayers would hover around my potential “girlfriend”, my future, my grades (for mercy from my teachers). People outside of my circle wouldn’t concern me too much.

In Urbana 15, God revealed to me the persecuted church. And man do they need our support and prayers. Our brothers and sisters willingly risk their lives to share the awesome news about God’s love to places where possessing a bible is illegal (they’re legit sent to jail). It’s crazy just to think that, in their context, following Christ would mean abandoning family (because the family disowns them) and abandoning personal possessions. It kills me to know that our brothers and sisters are being tortured for information regarding the whereabouts of other fellow Christians. Just imagine if that were your brother or sister out there being persecuted for their faith. Thinking about it destroys me. I love my sister, and would never let anyone mistreat her, but torture… I would feel nothing but hatred for those people. But you know what?

The one prayer the persecuted people ask for… is to pray for the persecutors. Not to punish them, but to love them.

Yup. They bring “loving your enemies” to the next level. Their selflessness is clearly displayed through their prayers: for others… for their persecutors. Incredible!

So about reading, praying, and growing. Let us be one with them. One with our brothers and sisters in the mission field. Prayer for the persecuted and the persecutors. We’re so privileged to live in peace with the freedom to practice our faith, to READ our bible, to be a church and to have a safe place to worship.

God made me realize that, indeed, it is difficult to commit to reading the bible by yourself everyday. The bible is a difficult book, making sense out of it alone might even be dangerous at times. However, it doesn’t have to be that way! Having a friend or two reading/studying the bible with you allows the text to be alive. It becomes more than a physical copy, it becomes interactive and more meaningful. Never be afraid to ask questions when studying the bible.

Read something difficult and hard to swallow? Acknowledge its controversy, discuss about it, and give it more attention instead of sweeping it under the rug. Ask the Holy Spirit for help! Also, having someone else allows accountability. It’ll be difficult, I know the feels. But I believe in us.

So I challenge you! Let’s read our bible everyday, pray everyday, and grow grow grow!

From Ya boy, Joshua Castillo

#countdowntocamp!: What does Camp mean to Tim Blais?

Today’s post was written by Tim Blais, an all around good guy. Here is his post about “what does camp mean to me”

I am a Senior Camp staff member because Katrina Richards doesn’t play the guitar.

Let me explain. As a thirteen-year-old Hudsonite Christian, I’d had a few experiences with Christian day camps. As a kid I’d gone to the ones at the Hudson Community Baptist Church, of which my memories are now basically nonexistant although they prominently feature a chipmunk mascot. I’d been peripherally involved in one called “Jungle Journey,” which proclaimed “In the Jungle of Life, God’s Truth will win!” but by then I thought I was getting a bit old for cutesy animal analogies and Christian children’s CDs featuring obnoxiously over-the-top “kiddy” voices. So when Crosstalk Daycamps set up shop in Hudson’s St. James Church, I paid little attention. My mom, who has a finger in three-quarters of Hudson’s Christian activities, was involved of course, but I was content to stay home. I didn’t care much for people at the time.

But I was a musician. A church musician. And those of you who are church musicians know that we are ALWAYS in demand. So my mom comes home after the first day and says: “They need a guitarist! Come down for just an hour. You don’t have to deal with kids, you just need to play some super simple songs and then you can go home.” So that’s what I did. The first day. But the second day someone invited me to sit in on the Pathfinders’ discussion group. And the third day I got dragged into the Water Day activities. By the end of the week, not only was I a full-fledged Daycamps helper, but I’d had a taste of the MISSION that the daycamps team was on. Their desire to love these little kids and introduce them to Jesus was real, and their desire to include and love seemed to spill over to me as well. I don’t know how much Kat and the other team members (Cara and Nikki, I think, although I may be getting my years confused) realized the effect this had on me, but I was used to feeling completely uncomfortable in any setting involving people the same age as me, and this was so different. Long story short, they invited me to Senior Camp, I went.

Community. I know it’s a word that’s tossed around a lot, but that’s the best way to describe what Senior Camp meant to me. The only previous week-long camp I’d been to was a Cub Camp; very similar on the surface but very different where it counted. I’d felt extremely alone there; the kids had been cliquish and alienating and told jokes I didn’t understand, there was no systematic effort by the leaders to build community among people, and we had no greater purpose for why we were actually there. I’d been so homesick I was physically sick. Senior Camp was so different. The tent discussions (yes, tent, I’m old), the small group time, even things I didn’t realize at the time like the way the staff encourage inclusive conversation during mealtimes; everything about Senior Camp pointed—points—us toward genuinely empathizing with our fellow campers, getting to know them in a meaningful way and using that as the basis to get at the things that are really important in our lives. We’re able to trust each other with our struggles, our fears, our dreams and our walk with God because of the intentionally loving community that Senior Camp sets up.

I didn’t keep in touch with many people the first year. I was an introverted 14-year-old who hated telephones, and while Senior Camp had deeply affected me I still knew very little about keeping up friendships; especially with people who were inconvenient to see. But halfway through the year, I got a call from Phil, my tent leader. Wanting to know how I was doing, that I knew I was still part of the community, and to make sure that I came the next year. I did. And the year after. And the year after that. And I think it was Senior Camp, and the deep friendships that came out of it, that really broke down my resistance to relationships, that countered my school-inspired fear of people and allowed me to see them instead as beautiful, loving, messy creations of God, worth committing to and, imperfect as they are, worth loving with all you’ve got.

Beyond Hollywood!

So for today- we are going to take a small break from our usual posts. The Missions series has been completed- i pray that it was helpful and thought provoking. Next week we will begin a new series where we will be hearing from friends of Senior Youth Camp about “What Camp Means to Me?”, also in Addition to our weekly MVM, this past week saw the beginning of a new weekly series which we are calling #countdowntocamp! which will be coming to you every Saturday between now and August 10th, when the fun begins again!

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A few months ago, in one of my random thoughts posts, I made reference to this movie :Son_of_God_film_poster

As it turns out, this movie has recently been released on DVD and other various in home platforms. One of the concerns that I raised as the time was if this movie would play down to typical Hollywood stereotypes and sensationalize the story of Jesus. As it turns out, our friend Jeff Alexander has seen it and was gracious enough to have written up a review of it- enjoy!

Son of God a Worthy Addition to the Life of Jesus in Film

For most movie studios, the idea of yet another movie of the life of Jesus would be a non-starter, given how well worn that film path is. The production team and real-life couple of producer Mark Burnett and actress , however, have the benefit of great momentum from their recent mini-series The Bible for the History Channel. Son of God is a natural and entertaining outgrowth of this surprise ratings success series that benefits from the same high level of cinematography, writing, special effects and scenery.
Son of God is told as a reflection by John, living out his days in a cave on the Isle of Patmos. The familiar story moves at a quick pace; we zoom through the preface of Old Testament scenes to a brief nod to Jesus’ birth in the stable and visitation by the Magi, then quickly shift to Jesus beginning His ministry with His encounter with Simon Peter at the Sea of Galilee. Diogo Morgado reprises his reflective, soulful portrayal of Jesus from The Bible. The script emphasizes Jesus’ one-on-one interactions, such as His compassionate call to Matthew to get up from his tax collector’s table in the midst of a crowd of unhappy taxpayers and to join the apostles. Also underlined is Jesus’ humanity: He doesn’t automatically know others’ thoughts but receives on-the-spot revelation about elements such as Judas’ impending betrayal. There is beauty in the simplicity of actions, such as the view from underwater of Jesus casually running His hand through the water while Simon casts the fishing net.
Son of God benefits from strong portrayals of the other major players in the Gospel stories. The apostles argue convincingly among themselves about Jesus’ words and actions. Nicodemus (Simon Kunz) gradually turns from the face of the antagonistic Pharisees to a believer in Jesus as the Christ. Even Barabbas (Fraser Ayres) gets steady screen time as a leader of a more violent type of revolution. This theme of unrest and the interplay between the high priest Caiaphas (Adrian Schiller) and Pontius Pilate (Greg Hicks, whose granite-like sneer makes him look like he walked out of the pages of an Astérix book) is a particular strength of Son of God, and a point of distinction from many of the other films about Jesus. The Pharisees are depicted as unwilling servants to Rome who decide that the death of Jesus is necessary to prevent full-scale military action against the Jews in Jerusalem. This tension gives meat to the religious authorities, who are too often shown as shallow bad-guy caricatures.
The pace is good for a 138-minute movie, and the scenes of Jesus’ torture, while giving the necessary gravity of His suffering, are appropriate for all but the youngest viewer. Overall, Son of God offers an uplifting and masterfully-produced feature film of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, richly deserving of believers’ movie budgets and space on home and church video shelves.

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Happy Summer!

PS: Camp begins in 45 days, 20 and a half hours!

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The Dangerous Gospel

The book of Acts tells us of the Early Christians and those who didn’t like them. There was once a guy named Saul who was a devout Jew who believed that Christians were abominations of the Jewish faith and should be taught a lesson. He beat, tortured, and killed Christians. He busted into home churches and dragged out families of Christians to be executed in front of the whole town.

One day a man named Stephen, who was one of Jesus’ best missionaries, was caught by Saul and was forced to go on trial for the “horrible lies” he was telling about Jesus. Stephen, full of the holy spirit, gave a really compelling speech reminding the Jews that in their long history with God they would always rebel and didn’t listen to God when they should have. Stephen basically told them that when they killed Jesus Christ, who was sent by God, they had done it again: they betrayed and murdered the gift that came from God.

The Jewish leaders who had put Stephen on trial (including Saul) freaked out and in a rage threw rocks at Stephen until he was dead.

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Now, we could focus on the horrible things that happened to Stephen and the people that Saul killed in his efforts to cleanse Israel of Christians. But instead I suggest we focus on what happened after Stephen was killed:

Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. (Acts 8:2-5) Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phonecia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to Hellenists [Greeks] also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:19-21)

Did you notice what I noticed? The Christians just buried one of the most loved leaders in the church, and Saul was out to get every single Christian he could find and throw them in jail. But those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Persecution wasn’t going to stop Jesus’ followers from spreading the good news. In fact, studies have shown that persecution is the reason that the Gospel spread so far and wide! (You can find out more about it here). Because these brave men and women were chased out of their hometowns and forced to run to far away lands the Good News of Jesus Christ spread like wildfire. A great number who believed turned to the Lord.

Right now, as modern Christians living in North America, we don’t experience persecution in the same way Early Christians did then. I firmly believe that this is why modern North American Christians are complacent about Missions. It’s easy to go to church in the mornings, sing worship songs at the top of your lungs, and have open conversations about faith in public areas.

But consider this: What if you were considered an outsider for being a Christian? What if you would get fired for being a Christian? What if you would get beaten and tortured for being a Christian? Would you want to give the Gospel to your friends and invite them to share the same fate as you? 

Here are some stories of men, women, and kids who have answered YES:

Kids of Courage tells stories of kids and youth who are persecuted for their decisions to follow Jesus

Kim Jung Wook, imprisoned in North Korea Monica, Fatu and Esther, Nigerian women whose Christian husbands were killed.

Paez Christians, a Columbian group of people who defied their tribal leaders.

Shafia, a Pakistani woman who loves Jesus.

You can learn more at Voice of the Martyrs, where these video clips were published. You can also click here for a map of countries where sharing the gospel is dangerous.

It might be interesting to know that Saul, the biggest persecutor of Christians, had a vision from God in Acts 9 and becomes a Christian.God changes his name to Paul and he goes on to write thirteen books in the New Testament, including Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, etc… just to name a few!

The Jesus we know and love offers salvation to all, and because of it the Gospel we bring to the world is a dangerous one. When the Holy Spirit calls you to share the Good News, no matter how dangerous it is, answer the call! The rewards that come from preaching about Jesus are infinitely more than the temporary discomforts of this world.

-Joanne 🙂