Thirteen teenagers and three youth leaders embarked on a journey to the Belgrave Heights Convention Centre to join over 500 people for the annual Victorian Christian Youth Convention (VCYC) on 18-20 May. Whilst there we heard from Vicar Ed Surrey that Solomon was the greatest King in the Old Testament. Yet despite his successes, he had many failures. We learned that Jesus is the greater Solomon, having many successes and no failures, and is the promised Messiah! Redemption and salvation can be found in King Jesus alone.
Our teenagers survived the cold rainy weather camping in tents and bonded together as a tight community. We were all encouraged by Ed to do three things: to give their worries to Jesus, ask Him for wisdom and submit our lives to Him. All were challenged and some of us submitted our lives to King Jesus for the first time!
Over camp our teenagers were challenged to be a part of church life, but through over 10 years in youth ministry I know this is easier said than done. I wonder if you have ever thought, ‘How do we keep youth in the church’? If five people know teenagers by name and talk with them weekly, they are more likely to feel like they belong. So let me encourage you, keep getting to know our youth and pray for them constantly. It can be very difficult for teenagers coming from such an encouraging weekend only to come back to church feeling unknown. By engaging with our teenagers weekly you are building Christ’s church!
I love the Biblical image of heaven as a great wedding banquet. Wedding receptions can be great fun, especially with great food and joyful celebration combined.
There has been much attention given to who is and isn’t invited to the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. There has been some controversy about those not invited, and also some who are invited are not attending.
The last book of the Bible speaks of heaven as the wedding supper of the Lamb: Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” (Revelation 19:9)
The Lamb is of course Jesus, who died for our sins as a sacrificial lamb. The whole church is spoken of in Ephesians 5 and in Revelation as the bride of Christ. We are corporately not just attendees but actual participants in the heavenly marriage – finally uniting Christ and the redeemed people of God forever.
The wedding supper of the Lamb going to definitely be the event of the year, with great music and singing: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was giver her to wear” (Revelation 19:7-8)
Have you ever found it hard to want to do something that you know is right, or to want to not do something you know is wrong? The human heart is a difficult thing to tame! This is because our hearts have been poisoned by sin so that they no longer function as originally designed, so we naturally love ourselves more than God or other people. The wants and desires of our hearts have been turned inwards. And the result is the mess that human beings have made of the world.
As reformation scholar Ashley Null says, ‘Humanity has to discover a new, stronger ruling love – a love for God instead of a love for self’. But where does this new love for God come from? Can it come from our trying harder to love better, motivated either by guilt or fear or shame or duty or pride? Anybody who has tried this kind of self-improvement knows it is about as effective as holding back the tide at the beach with a sandcastle wall or trying to pull yourself up by the bootstraps.
However, the good news of Jesus Christ is that our hearts can be restored! ‘Only the unconditional love of God made known in free salvation can birth a selfless love for God and others in the human heart’. And this happens day by day when the Holy Spirit assures Christians of their salvation by working supernaturally through the promises of God in the bible. Your prayerful reading the scriptures will build your confidence in God’s goodwill towards you through Jesus Christ, and inflame your heart with a grateful love in return. And this love is a selfless love that will train you to want to love God and love others above yourself.
Rev. Ben Soderlund
The Bible is both a head book and a heart book. Sometimes people wrongly think the Bible is merely history or principles. However part of the evidence for the Bible as the Word of God is the way that it powerfully speaks to the heart.
God knows our predicament. He knows our pains.
When the angel speaks to Mary and says, ‘Do not be afraid’, it is because God knows she is terrified.
When Jesus tells his disciples, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’, it is because Jesus knows they are stressed and burdened.
When the apostle Paul commands the Philippians to, “Rejoice in the Lord always”, it is because he knows we need to pursue joy in God.
As we read the Bible, we may at first find it dry, a bit hard to understand. But with humble study there are great rewards for our hearts as God reveals himself in his living word.
Sometimes a Christian community can become a place where people wear ‘masks’. They hide aspects of their lives because they fear rejection from others in the BAC family. They wear a mask of pretending everything is ok on the surface, hoping they can deal with the issue in their own strength.
Some of the dangers of wearing masks:
- We walk by fear and not confidently in God’s transforming love.
- Many problems thrive in secrecy and darkness, bringing them into the light is half the battle.
- We cut ourselves off from the loving and prayerful support of others.
- We are robbed of the wisdom of others who can bring God’s Word to help.
- We become so used to wearing the mask it becomes ‘glued on’.
- Our growth only happens through repentance and faith and ‘walking in the light’.
- Our church relationships remain superficial and shallow.
I pray you are finding trustworthy spiritual friend at BAC. It can take time but it is worth it! We are all forgiven sinners, rescued by the blood of Jesus.