Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fire and Brimstone!

Have you ever been to a large youth rally? You know the type, big-name speaker, loud music, and thousands of screaming, emotional teens. I never liked youth conferences like that, because to me, they were characterized by empassioned speakers that were full of large guilt trips to teens that wanted only to be on an emotional high. A month later, they were no different than before they fell on their knees to change their life completely. Life change starts with a consistent, honest approach to ministry, beginning with the pastor's own integrity.

This past Sunday, I had an opportunity to take into action some decisions that we youth leaders decided while on our retreat. You'll remember it from my post about the disagreement and heading to Red Deer. Well, that disagreement was on how we deal with the problems that come up in our youth group. Do we use subtle nudgings in order to provoke life change, or do we use a little of the American's shock and awe?

It's an interesting view on the world when you're the one who is speaking into the kids' lives. It's extremely hard to read what they are thinking, and especially how your message is being received. I spoke, as you read in my previous post all about the need for definitive life change in a person's life. Naturally, when I speak, it's not going to be exactly as the message, but that's the general jist of it.

Today I went out with one of our youth for lunch and had a chance to get some feedback from my message, as well as speak into his life. I can say that it was one of the most worthwhile talks I've had in a long time. God took my words and used them to really speak into his life, and ask questions about what needs to change in his life.

I think this is really how God wanted it to all play out. Not just your mega life-busting events, but challenges that are geared to where they are at, and more specifically followed up by more intimate talks that really delve into the depths of the situation. I can honestly say that I learned a lot about this youth that I never knew before.

Now to see what God will do in the coming weeks! It's exciting times.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Have You Changed?

Here's my sermon that I'm preaching tonight. Sorry for the lack of updates... it's been a crazy week between the retreat, all-nighter, and Futsal.... This is one of the many things I've been working on!

Have you Changed?
A look into the depths of the Christian faith

Purpose: Understanding the reality of the Christian faith in relation to their everyday lives.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live your life completely free? To throw off the chains of oppression, of homework and money and just do whatever you pleased? Perhaps that is to be done with school, and just be grown up, finished and able to do whatever you wanted? The glorious ability to come and go as you please, sleep when you want to sleep, eat what you want to eat. Life would be grand if only this were true. Let’s not forget, however, that in the midst of this, there are responsibilities that suddenly seem to pile up… rent, food, phone, internet bills. You’ve got to worry about work, so that you have the money to pay off all of these awful bills. Sleep suddenly takes on a different view when you’re the only one who is going to earn the money so that you can eat. Money means work, and work means showing up on time; showing up on time means getting to bed at a decent time. You’ve got neighbours to work with, and Mrs. Johnson always wants you to take out that garbage, because when you leave it for over a month it starts to stink. It’s a tough life. Oh to be a child again.

Story of my Father

There was a time when I thought like a child, acted as a child. Oh boy did I think like a child… I remember a specific instance when I was young yelling at my dad because I felt that he didn’t spend enough time with me. My friend’s dad always played hockey with him, and bought him things, why couldn’t my dad? I don’t think he’d disagree with me now that what I had to say was true in certain respects, but I hurt him deeply. When I looked at it from that point of view, my worldview told me that he wasn’t meeting my needs, and I should have been most important. He spent most of his time at work, and when he wasn’t at work, he was usually too exhausted to really spend that extra-curricular time with us kids. So I lashed out, I got angry and started yelling at him… in a public place. I acted as a child, but now I am a man, I think like a man, and I act like a man, for the most part. I look back at the situation and see the love of a father recognizing that he needed to support us, and so he worked hard; harder than he wanted to. I wanted his time and love, and he was giving it to me through means that I wasn’t expecting… work. His love was being poured out on me by spending 12+ hours a day at the office calling people he didn’t know to try to sell his house, and I was too immature to recognize it. The pain I caused because of my immaturity.


There are many transformations that you will go through in your lives. Some will be evident, others will just be a memory of having a memory … one day you’ll wake up and the whole transformation will be finished. Physically, you are all going through transformations. Mentally, you’re starting to grow up and are reasoning like adults and starting to discover what you really believe. Emotionally, you are discovering what it is like to love, to hate, to hurt. Spiritually, you have begun a journey that starts to guide the ship down the river that it will flow the rest of your life. This is the transformation of a person who is bound and chained by sin, who merely has to bend a knee to be freed by the grace of Christ.

That wonderful, overflowing grace of God, that quenches our every thirst, completes every aspect of our beings, and gives us hope when others only see desolation. It’s an experience unlike any other, unmatched in this world. You live a life where you are bound by what other people think about you, grades, and expectations of the world. You attempt to meet those expectations, and your every actions is hung on a weight in order to try to find out if you are worthy.


The ancient Egyptians believed something very similar to this. When a person died, their soul was lead to Duat, to the hall of Judgment. There Anubis awaits the person, to judge their soul. They would put the deceased’s heart, the symbol of the soul’s morality, on a scale against a feather. If their heart was lighter than a feather, they would proceed to Osiris, the god of the Afterlife, in Aaru. But if not, the heart would be eaten by the demon Ammit, leaving the soul stranded in Duat for the remainder of all time.

All your deeds weighed against a single feather. Would you pass? I know that I wouldn’t. I’d fail miserably, because I’m only human, a work in progress, and far from perfect. I sin, I’m still growing, and those expectations weigh heavily in my heart, mind and soul. I’m not worthy. But God never asked me to be worthy, only willing.

The Change

But as I’m sure we all know here, that journey doesn’t end there. It carries on for the rest of our life. It starts to manifest itself immediately. People see a recognizable difference. We talk differently, act differently. There is no gossip, no lying, no hateful words against another person. A Christian will share their belongings with another person who needs it, willingly giving up their own well-being so that others can be comfortable. We think differently, choosing not to fill our minds with pornography, gossip, and hatred.

The real question I want you to ask yourself tonight is not whether or not you are a Christian. I don’t want you to ask if you’ve prayed that prayer, and bought yourself fire insurance. I want you to ask yourself if you can relate more with a person who doesn’t have Christ than with a person who does. Can you look at those characteristics I just stated for you and honestly say that you’re striving to be more than what you are? Or do you look at them and say they can never be attained? Are you satisfied with a stagnant faith?

A Challenge

This goes much deeper than asking you if you hang out with Christian friends, I’m asking you if you are living your life as though you were that Christian friend. Jesus taught us to look at the fruits of those around us, and by their fruits we will know their faith. Where are your fruits? Where are the results of what Christ is doing in you? If others are looking into your life, are you characterized as someone who gossips, lies, hates others, is selfish, or looks at pornography? Or are you a person that others feel safe around? Do you radiate God’s love? These fruits… good or bad are what really tell us you are a Christian, not whether or not you have prayed for forgiveness. This is the change that God enacts in your life. Has He?

Revelation 3:15-20 15 "I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! 17 You say, 'I am rich. I have everything I want. I don't need a thing!' And you don't realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. 18 So I advise you to buy gold from me-- gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. 19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. 20 "Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Watching...and learning

Stephen has been doing great.
We've talked about sincerity as one of the keys to NOT being perceived as flattering so I'd best explain. The other day we were both stressed - not caused by each other mind you, just both of us in a stressful spot. Some of the conversation was curt - not rude, just curt. I opened my email to read an apology - which prompted an apology of my own too. We spend a lot of time in each other's space - that's a necessity for what we're attempting but it can also create some tensions of its own. I was so blessed by his initiative apology that I thought I'd better record the feeling for posterity. I got an email the other day that suggested we tend to be more patient with strangers than with kin, more undersatnding of people we know less than those we know better. In our situation it's important that we communicate clearly (I'm afraid I don't always) and that we keep short accounts. Those things are tough but I think that we are bvoth growing. That is to say I know that I am and pray that somehow Stephen is too.

On another note (cuz it'll take me another 6 weeks to get to posting again)...
I am delighted at the way I see people responding to Stephen. At our staff retreat the last couple of days he has had some great ideas, and everyone recognized them and appreciates him. The kid has a lot to offer and I'm excited to see where the Lord will take him when this phase of training is over. It's a great privilege to pray for direction in his life, knowing that his Master has great things in store for Stephen.

Sure having fun at this retreat...

- Kevin

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Where I'm Going

Well, it's been a busy week. A rewarding one, but definetely busy. Filled with all kinds of different challenges, it was good to just head to a friend's last night and chill. Tomorrow it's off to Vancouver. It'll be a good weekend!

I've been wondering over the past few weeks about where God is going to take me come July. Where am I going to end up? What is this building towards. And I've come to the firm conclusion that I have no clue! Most notibly, that I need to take one day at a time, and just enjoy my life.

However, there are a few options that are beginning to present themselves. Quebec is one of the foremost options. And there are a variety of attractive options that really bring it to the forefront. There is a huge need there, teens that want to know about God, but don't have the resources to do it. A need for people to go and work with them, challenge them, and really just to show them what living a Christian life looks like. That kind of a role model has been missing. That's hits home with where I want to go with ministry. Helping people who want to know more about God not only do that... but go beyond that to where they are being an example to others around them!

Some others are working with the EMC for a few years in youth ministry, and getting some experience under my belt that way. That's very much up in the air, because I'd start looking for a church in June, and go from there. Regardless of where God puts me, I'll be going through my credentialling process with the EMC in the next few months... it's an exciting time!

Next entry: Vancouver.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Catching Up

So it's been awhile. You'll have to excuse my tardiness in posting, it'd been a busy week. On Friday, Kevin and I took all the youth leaders into Red Deer for a short getaway. We spent some time bonding and having a good time over food and conversation. It was a great time just to get to know each other outside of the normal bounds of a youth event.

That night, we stayed up until two in the morning just chatting and playing various games. It's crazy what kind of sentences you can come up with when each person contributes one word. My favourite words for the night... Krista, Hypothetically. It was a lot of fun, and we all had good time!

Saturday morning, we spent equipping and learning. Leora filled us in on youth culture in Three Hills and the different influences that we obviously are going to have in our minstries, so that we are all aware. After that, Kevin ran through the seven checkpoints that we want to instill in the kids, and finally we ended on small group tools. I talked about how to lead a discussion, and how to use body language to convey different messages. It was useful because we had a disagreement on ministry before that, so it gave me a great object lesson to dissect what everyone was feeling and thinking during it. It also helped that I was right! ;)

Saturday night, I had a Futsal game. I felt that I played pretty well, and when it was all said and done, the score was Prairie 6, United 4! All of our hard work paid off and we came out victorious. It was a lot of fun, and I certainly enjoyed it.

Sunday morning I preached in Big Valley. This was my first message in front of a congregation that I'd never met before, so that was a very different experience. It was neat to see how a small town church does things differently from a church that has been established long before. Big Valley E-Free has only been around for 7 years, and they have a very dynamic congregation. It was a really awesome experience.

Tommorrow, you can expect a post on some places where I think God might be leading me!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Stephen Philps - Sermonator

Over the past day or so, I've been writing the sermon for Sunday. Not only is this insanely early for someone to write a sermon... but it's more or less done now! Those of you on my MSN have seen 'sermonating' on my display name, and to quote one of my good friends, Pam... I'm a sermonator. She took much glee in that!

I'm speaking on James 5:7-11. I thought about including verse 12, but in the end opted not to, just because of theme, time, and it would require another change in speed and thought. Didn't work with where I was wanting to go. Now I'm only mostly busy!

Last night I had Futsal again for the first time in the year. Things are going much better than when I left, but I'm still working through some mental flinching that I'm doing. Really wierd. It was fun, and I'm looking forward to getting my cardio back in shape. For Lorelei: I've been doing my exercises! It hurts everywhere! :D Floor Hockey tonight.

Writing a sermon for people you don't know

So I'm in the process of writing a sermon for Sunday. Unfortunately, it's for a congregation I've never met, seen, and generally don't have any knowledge on whatsoever! It'll make for an interesting Sunday morning as there will no doubt be some shuffling of analogies and points here and there.

This is a new experience!

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Trip into Red Deer!

Kevin and I went into Red Deer today to pick up a 27" TV for the church, as well as do some personal errands, and some forward planning for our youth leaders retreat this Friday and Saturday. All in all, it was a good trip. I was planning on picking up a Palm TX, but Staples ended up backing out on their price-matching deal that they were going to offer me. I bought it on NCIX instead! I got more than I was planning, for the same amount of money, so that's not too bad at all!

Tomorrow, I work on the video for Blue Chip Kids, as well as finish up my James course, and finally... start work on my Sermon for Sunday. It'll be a busy week, but rewarding at the same time!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Three Hills!

Well now, I'm back in Three Hills, and back on the job! I've set up my computer, and my office still needs some serious organization, but everything has been going smoothly. This morning, I'm finishing my James commentary, so that I can write my exam sometime this weekend, and be done with the course!

From there, I've got a sermon to prepare for next Sunday, that I'll be preaching at Big Valley. I've also got a short (60 second) video clip to film and produce for the area churches about Blue Chip Kids. BCK is a inter-denominational, inter-church children's ministry that is starting up here in Three Hills with the primary goal of reaching out to the community. The video I'll be preparing is to introduce it to the churches... so I've got a bit of work to do!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Back to Three Hills

Tomorrow, I head back to Three Hills! It'll be good to be back and get back into a pattern! Hope you all had a Christmas as good as mine!


It's later on at night. I haven't posted for awhile, and I need a distraction from my reading of the James commentary. I've really been delving into some of the depths of what he's talking about, and some situations in my life are really springing up that relate to what James is referring to -- putting your faith into action.

I've been spending the past few days meeting with old friends, and talking with them, getting caught up, and seeing where they are going in the future. It's a really interesting thing when you get to talk to people you haven't seen in years. Brings the changes into perspective in their lives. Some who have changed drastically, good or bad, and others that haven't moved at all in their lives.

Makes me really look at who I'm becoming, and where I've come from. If I'm happy about that. All I can say is that I'm a work in progress, there are things that still need a lot of work. Closets that need to be cleaned out and renovated, so that nothing can move back in, and other areas where I wouldn't change a thing. It's a journey, and I'm walking it.