How to compete in a Stand-up Comedy Competition

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The Origin of Chet’s Comedy

I have been listening to comedy for years. I love comedians. I love how comedy disarms an audience and allows people to set aside their lives for a short while. I’ve used jokes or humorous stories in all of my sermons.  In August of 2013 I attended a comedy show at a local comedy club. At the end of the night my friends and I were talking about how, I should try this. That night I went home and emailed every club in Edmonton. I asked for information on their open mic nights. I wanted to at least try it.

The only club to reply was The Comedy Factory. Bob Angelli, the manager of the club told me to show up on September 12 at 8:30 pm and I could have my 5 minutes. Then the fear started… How would I do 5 minutes of StandUp? What if I’m not funny? I had a month to prepare, I wrote jokes, I tried jokes on people. I got generally over prepared and grew confident that I would have a good 5 minute set.

Through a subsequent series of emails Bob informed me that he had actually placed me in an amateur Comedy competition called “So You Think You’re Funny.” Over the course of 5 weeks my set would be competing against 30 other comics. Suddenly, it was real.

I still wasn’t too freaked out because I knew I was up against guys just like me. That is until I sat down in the green room of the Comedy Factory on the night of September 12. I arrived early and was wandering around meeting new people and trying to adjust to these new surroundings. I had never been to this club before. I had never done comedy before. Everything was new to me. As I sat down in the room I was looking around at my competitors. Most people seemed to be around my age… except for this young kid named Ryan. He was in his early 20’s. He looks me right in the eye and says,”I know her” and points at the lady in the room. “I know him,” points at another guy. “I took a comedy class with them.” Pointing to more guys in the room. “and… I’ve seen his act. I haven’t seen you here before, who are you?”

Ryan then went on to explain that they had all been doing amateur comedy for at least 3 years and some of them had been doing comedy for a lot longer than that. As it turns out the competition I entered is used by amateur comedians to jumpstart their professional comedy careers. I was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Up go the nerves, up goes the anxiety and I started to tell myself it will be over soon, just do your set and go home.

Chet’s Comedy Debut

I hadn’t really planned on filming it. So my wife actually filmed part of it until her phone informed her that it was full. Luckily though friends of mine had also been filming with their phones. So… I managed to piece together the entire 5 minute set.

In the end, I actually got laughs. I did my five minutes, as you can see, some jokes were great, some jokes not so great. I still have such high hopes for that jetpack joke. When it came time to announce the 3 comedians who would be moving in to the semi finals of the competition they announced 3 of my competitors and then they also said my name. They had decided to send me on to the semis because they thought they saw something in me and would like to see more.

Preparation

Winning is fun, but practice and preparation are not really my thing. Now that I was moving on to the semi finals, and I actually found the whole stand up experience fun, I wanted to do better for the next night. I wrote more jokes. What I mean by that is I actually sat down and wrote out the entire joke. The setup and the punchlines for all my jokes. Why? Because Bob told me to hone my 5 minutes. He told me it needed to be memorized so that it looks spontaneous. So that’s exactly what I did.

I then showed up on Saturday nights for the late show at the Comedy Factory and did my new material. It’s important to try jokes out in front of a real audience. Some of the jokes that I thought were definitely keepers actually turned out to be duds. Even more surprising was that some of the jokes that I liked, but wasn’t really sure about got laughs and even clapping. When you get applause at a comedy show it’s very, very good.

The Semi Finals

A month later, I find myself back at the Comedy Factory. I have more jokes and I am more prepared. I am less stressed and more confident. I honestly believe that this is my last show because I am fairly certain I won’t win the semi-finals and go on so I figure I will go out with a bang.

At the end of the night, when Bob Angelli declares the winners, he announces my name first. Suddenly I find myself in the Finals. The competitive part of me is pumped, but the rest of me is tired… Tired of writing jokes, tired of being stressed about the competition, tired of the whole thing. I was ready to be done, but I was not done.

Back I went to writing jokes, to pulling out jokes that didn’t work, throwing in new ones that might work. Back to the late shows at the Comedy Factory to test out my material. Writing 5 minutes of comedy is, in my opinion, harder then anything I’ve ever done. I can write sermons, songs, seminars… nothing is as difficult as coming up with 5 solid minutes of engaging, funny material.

The Finals

A month after the Semi finals I find myself back at the Comedy Factory. Lots of familiar comedians now. Honestly, I’m not looking to win, I’m just hoping to be worthy of the competition. If these are Edmonton’s best amateur comics then I really have no business being on the same stage as they are.

Ultimately, I didn’t win, but I did get to the final 6 out of 30 comedians. According to Bob Angelli I did very well. He says I have great stage presence and good delivery. I need to work on my timing, and… I need to work on my pauses.

Here is what I mean by that… when the audience laughs or claps… it’s important to let the joke hang in the air… allow the audience to get it, to relate to it. Sometimes the laughs, or applause will grow and then die down. If we jump too quickly into the next joke, it’s called “Stepping on your audience.”

One more thing that I learned… Every comedian in the finals, except for me, brought their best jokes. Every one of them did the same routine for each round of the competition. They have a 5 minute routine that they have crafted over the years and they use that one to compete with. Writing new jokes is important for comedy but delivery is KING, when you are in a comedy competition use your best material every time.

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What is a Next Gen Team Leader?

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I have a new position here at Beulah Alliance Church. I am now the Next Gen Team Leader. Recently, we have been using my new title in communications documents and in my weekend announcements etc. so that people can start to become used to the new title but…

I was asked this weekend by one of our students if I was still his youth pastor. That question kind of stung me because I didn’t realize that my new job title might be confusing for some of our students so I thought I should take a moment to try to clarify my new position here at Beulah.

I am officially the Next Gen Team Leader. This new position was created to bring Children, youth and Young adult ministries together. Ultimately, the point of Next Gen is to build bridges. As we look at the trends present in churches across North America there are clearly some places where our churches are suffering when it comes to bridges from one age based ministry to the next.

One of the places we definitely need to build a bridge is between Youth Ministry and Young adults ministry. According to a Canadian study called Hemorrhaging Faith, “only one in three young people, who attended church as children, still do so today.” Books like Goodbye Generation are pointing to a drop off between Grade 12 and University age students. Clearly, we need a bridge.

The Next Gen team is working on that bridge by building a more focused Young Adults ministry. We limited the span of Young Adults ministry from 18-24 years of age. This way we can target our message and ministry to a very specific age group. Furthermore, we are building a program that has easy entry points and a weekly ministry so that students can join at any time in the year. As we move forward we will also look for ways to allow grade 11 and 12 students to join the young adults ministry periodically so that when it comes time to make the transition there will not be any hesitation because of a lack of knowledge or familiarity with the program.

Another disturbing quote from Hemorrhaging faith says that, “More young people leave the church between childhood and adolescence than between adolescence and young adult years.” This means more and more students are leaving the church before they even step into our youth ministry. There are probably a number of factors involved in this process but as the Next Gen Team analyzes this situation we are considering some new strategies for the future of Beulah. One thing we have seen is that our older elementary kids “feel” too old for our elementary programming but are clearly not ready to participate fully in our weekend services.  Going forward we will be building a more targeted older elementary program for our grades 4 – 6 students. We are also building a specific grade 6 track that allows our students to have both feet in children’s ministry while testing the waters of our Jr Hi youth ministry periodically throughout the year.

The Next Gen Team is all about building bridges. Back to the original question, Yes, I am still a youth pastor here at Beulah Alliance Church and we will still be building a strong youth ministry with Denise Lang, Shari Letts and our incredible staff of volunteer leaders who truly make this ministry what it is today.

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Get your copies of the Youth Alpha Film series NOW!

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The first two episodes of the Youth Alpha film series are available for your viewing and download. I just spent the last hour wandering through the site and previewing the material and I am very excited to introduce our students to this new format for alpha. For those of you who are not sure how to access these videos the process is simple. You start by going to www.alphacanada.org. Once you are there you will need to click on the Alpha for Youth tab. Once you are there you will need to click on the orange button that says register a course.

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Why is this necessary? The youth alpha film series is completely free for you to download, materials, promotions, everything on the site is free. All Alpha Canada needs from you is your course info… Take a few seconds, fill in the info, get the videos. Really simple. At the end of all of the questions is another button that says “I’m done, register my course.”

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Click that and you are done. Now, check your email. Alpha Canada will send you your login info and password. Use those to login again to the Youth Alpha website.

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Once you are in you will see four blue bars… Get ready, get trained, get the talks and get promoting.

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Click on Get the Talks. The bars will move apart revealing a series of 12 thumbnails. One for each episode of the series. At this point only the Life and Jesus episodes are available.

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Click an episode and it will bring up a video player. You can play the movie in the viewer, full screen or you can download the video to your hard drive for viewing later.

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I hope this short tutorial helps you to get access to the new Youth Alpha Film Series videos and I pray that God blesses your ministry as you use this incredible resource in your church and student ministries.

While you are getting that all set up why not check out the first episode…

 

 

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God Qualifies the Disqualified

I recently preached on Ehud the left handed judge. It’s too long for a blog post but I thought it might work if I split it in two. So here is Part 1 of God Qualifies the Disqualified.

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God qualifies the Disqualified.
(Part 1 – History and Context)

Judges 3:12-30 NIV

The struggle that I have in just jumping into this passage is that there is so much history and context contained in this one specific event that if we don’t stop to understand the history and understand the context we miss the beauty contained in what God is doing in the book of Judges.

Let’s take a moment to understand where we’ve been and possibly even where Israel is going. Now, I do not want to go through all of the history but I would like to bring up some of the major events so that we can kind of establish a timeline for this chapter in Israel’s history.

In Genesis 12, we have Abraham. God calls Abraham out of the land of his forefathers to go to the land of Canaan, the promised land, Israel. Here we see God’s desire to give this land to his people. If you move from Genesis 12 you have Isaac, you have Jacob, you have Joseph and his brothers…

Now Joseph, is the one who God establishes in the land of Egypt and through God’s placement of Joseph in Egypt he saves His people, the Israelites, from famine and certain death because they then come to live in the land of Egypt. Now, they live in the land of Egypt for 400 years and become a great nation. A nation of slaves, but a great nation, none the less.

Moving forward into the book of Exodus we have Moses who leads the nation of Israel through the desert to the promised land but… they disobey God and so he sends them back into the desert to wander for 40 years.

As we move to the book of Joshua we see that God has passed the mantle of leadership to Joshua who leads the Israellites into the promised land where they begin a military campaign to establish the land of Canaan as their home.

So Joshua leads these people and they see some success in battle and some defeat but ultimately they do succeed in conquering much of the land of Canaan. In the book of Joshua we see a nation of people who follow God for a time but ultimately they do get tired of fighting, tired of struggling and tired of following God. In the end, they go to Joshua and ask to just be allowed to establish the lands they have already conquered rather then finish the entire campaign.

So we come to this beautiful moment in Joshua 24. Joshua stands before the people and gives them this grand history lesson of all that God has done for them. He challenges them to choose who they will serve and ultimately he makes this dire prediction in Joshua 24:20. He says, “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

A stern warning and a foreshadow of things to come. Which brings us to the book of Judges.

So if we if we look in Judges chapter 1 which is really the conclusion of the book of Joshua, there are a few more descriptions of epic battles and lands being established but the real story shows up in Judges chapter 1:27. This begins a long line of did nots…

Manasseh did not drive out…
Nor did Ephraim drive out…
Neither did Zebulun…
It goes on and on…

So what does God have to say about all this. In chapter 2 the Angel of the Lord declares, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, “I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars. Yet you have disobeyed me… and the angel of the Lord ends with this declaration. “They will become traps for you and their gods will becomes snares  to you.”

The most important thing you need to know about the context of the book of Judges as explained in Joshua chapter 2 is this cycle of obedience and disobedience that happens continually throughout the book. When the people are following God his hand is upon them, but when they turn from him and follow their own ways he raises up another nation to defeat them and they become subject to that nation until God sends a deliverer.

Enter the Judges.

What is a judge?

What is a judge? A judge is neither prophet, priest or king. But he is a leader of the people.

Technically, a Prophet, generally speaks to the people FOR God. He is Gods voice to the people. In Lord of the Rings terminology a prophet is kind of like the Gandalf character. Kind of crazy, got cool powers, kind of wanders around proclaiming things and selling fireworks.

A priest in a way kind of represents the people to God. Similar to a prophet and yet very different.

A King is someone appointed by God to rule over the people.

Whereas a Judge is more like the Aragorn/ Strider character in the Lord of the Rings. Epic warrior meets competent leader. He does not necessarily have the authority of the king per se but the people will still follow him for a time..

and that brings us to Judges chapter 3 and the story of Ehud the Left Handed Judge.

Why read the rest when you can watch it…

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How we are using the Youth Alpha Film Series in our Youth Ministry.

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Some of you may be wondering about our Youth Alpha film series rollout this Fall. If you have been watching my instagram (http://instagram.com/ch3tk) or facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Ch3tk) posts you will see that I am pretty excited about Alpha and especially the Youth Alpha film series (http://www.alphacanada.org/blog-2/film-series/) which is launching this fall.

Some of you will remember that we brought Jason Ballard in to speak at our Vicissitude fall retreat last year.

20130723-154431.jpg At the time he was just starting to work on this whole epic project. I’m convinced that as we partner with Jason, Ben and the Youth Alpha Film series that God will bless this ministry in many ways.

Our curriculum this fall will be the Youth Alpha Film series. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfHgJSxtIzo) My original idea was to go much smaller, to use the film in our restaurant alpha or as a part of our school prayer groups, but, when I spoke to Ben and Jason at the Alpha Conference earlier this year God began to change my plans. Personally, I think the best part was when I rolled out this fantastic idea to Denise and some of our other leaders, they told me that they had already thought about that and were just waiting for me to come around to the idea. LOL.

It is our goal to expose as many of our students and leaders as possible to the Youth Alpha Film series this fall. Easiest way to do that is to simply use the series like we would our regular curriculum. So… we will be rolling it out from September through to November, in Resonate Jr, in our Gravitate houses and through our Illuminate nights. It’s going to be bigger than anything we have ever done before. That means we will have over 200 students participating in an Alpha course this fall. But… It gets better.

In February we will ask our students and leaders to get on board and run their own Youth Alphas, in their own settings, in their own contexts. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc2D08gFHKA)

We want to run Youth Alpha in schools, in Coffee shops, in an A&W and in as many other restaurants as possible. We want students to run Youth Alpha in their own homes, or in their back yards. It’s going to be an epic rollout that will be monumental in its scope. We would like to start 20 Alpha groups through this process. After the groups have run their course we will evaluate them, tweak them and find more ways to run Youth Alpha in the next year.

If you are excited and want to find out more here is the the First Official Youth Alpha Trailer. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcr4XSIPKwY&feature=c4-overview&list=UUskgr0UectL84iILPkRmrsQ)

Bottom line: We are running Youth Alpha this year and we want you to bring your non-churched friends to come check it out. The best is yet to come.

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Skipping Stones: An analogy of Confession

I wrote this story a few years ago to help my students understand confession. I was noticing more and more students in my office who were dealing the burden of unconfessed sin. They were holding on to sin and trying to find ways to still follow God while carrying these burdens. No matter how many times I explained the concept of grace ad forgiveness it was not sinking in, so I wrote skipping stones…

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One day a young boy named Billy found himself in a dream, he wasn’t asleep, at least it didn’t seem that way, instead everything just seemed more real then regular things sometimes do.

In this dream Billy found himself walking on an enormous sandy beach. A beach like Billy had never, ever seen before or had even heard of. The sand was very small, so much so that it felt almost like dust and if you were to pick it up it would fly away in the breeze, yet still it was soft, yet firm beneath his feet and felt gritty between his toes. The sand was white, but not like paint, or even paper, it was pale like your skin when you are cold.

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The beach stretched out for miles before him, as far as he could see. The sky was blue, sort of. like a pale non-commital kind of blue with no sun at all. And yet there was light and Billy could see quite far into the distance without having to squint because the light, or whatever it was, did not hurt his eyes.

Billy walked towards the water…

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As he approached, he could make out the figure of a man, standing by the water. Billy did not know who this man was but in every way he seemed familiar to Billy, as if he somehow knew him. As Billy got closer he realized that he was comfortable with this man. It seemed as though he was Billy’s grandpa, or Uncle, close family friend or even possibly his own Dad. But Billy knew this man was not any one of those men and yet he knew in his heart that this man was closer to him than all of those.

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“Billy” said the man, “come look at the water.”

Billy walked to where the man stood on the shore and looked out into the ocean. The water stretched on and on, far into the horizon, and seemed to blend into the sky. For at the horizon the water was darkest, not dark, that’s not a good word for it, the water was black, and when it hit the horizon the blackness bled into the sky, forcing the almost colourless sky to retreat in the face of the dark presence. At the water’s edge it was a murky sort of grey, see through, but not really transparent. But as Billy gazed further into the depths of this water it seemed to take on the texture and substance of tar, a liquid darkness that kind of scared Billy, but not really.

The water was calm, no wind, no waves, no… no anything really, just that strange sense of peace that seemed quite out of place in this desolate world.

“wanna skip some rocks?” the man asked, “the water’s perfect for it today.”

“yeah sure,” said Billy all excited and ready to go. He looked around and realized there was not a rock in sight, just sand, sky and water.

“but where are we going to get some rocks?” Billy asked.

“Umm, how about we use those ones you’ve been carrying around all this time?” Said the man. And his eyes moved down to Billy’s hands which were hanging down at his sides.

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“What rocks have I been…” Billy stammered as his eyes looked down at his own hands. “Oh,” he said, as he saw that in each hand he was holding a large metal bucket full of black stones. “Oh those.” Billy said in confusion. He hadn’t realized they were there but now that he knew they suddenly became very heavy and Billy had to drop the buckets for the weight of them had become unbearable.

As the buckets landed and spilled out onto the ground the man reached down and picked one up. “These are perfect,” he said. “Perfect for skipping.”

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The stones were very smooth, flat and round. Billy thought they must have been the best skipping rocks he had ever seen. Each one was exactly the same. Billy had never seen a colour like them, it was like a black, like a cold dark black, like the colour of midnight, the colour of guilt, and yet they were almost see through… you could look into them and just about see the blackness move, like a whisper of a cloud or smoke from a flame. Billy was beginning to think there was something special, or precious about these stones.

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In an instant the man stood up and whipped that first stone out onto the water. It flew through the air, singing as it went, spinning like a top and it hit the water… In the instant it hit the water Billy noticed two things, first it bounced, a glorious bounce, an amazing bounce, almost astonishing, as though on its collision with the surface it actually picked up speed.

The second was that the impact on the water caused the surface to react. Not like water would react, regular water splashes and ripples and throws up water because it is full of life, and grace and gravity. This water shuddered on impact and broke like skin on gravy, it rippled slowly like thick maple syrup, black tar or molasses, but man, did that rock fly. It bounced and bounced clear on into the horizon until Billy could see it no more.

“Wow, mister can I try?” asked Billy, eyes wide with excitement.

“They’re your rocks, let er rip.” Said the man as he kneeled down to Billy’s level and handed him a rock.

Billy fired one over his shoulder and as hard as his little arm could. It careened into the air in a grand ark and came down hard into the water, but for a moment Billy thought it wasn’t going to sink. His stone bit into the surface and sat for a moment like a sword in a stone and then dropped like lead to the bottom of that ocean never to be seen again.

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“We might have to work on your form.” Joked the man, as he threw another stone. They both laughed.

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Stone after stone, this one skipping, this one sailing, this one setting the world record for most skips beyond a number that Billy can count to. They threw and threw and threw, laughing and joking and egging each other on. Until finally they reached the last stone.

It lay in the bottom of one of the buckets and Billy felt bad. Not because he wanted to keep the stone but because their time together would soon be over and the fun would have to end. The man kneeled down beside Billy and picked up that last stone.

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“Let me tell you about this stone Billy,” said the man, “this is my favourite thing to do. When I am skipping stones, I get to spend time with you, and I get to throw away these stones. It may seem like a lot of fun but these times are very important to me and they are very important for you. I know it seems like we are out of stones but there will be more, and soon you will understand where they come from and maybe you might even be ashamed of how many you get. The truth is Billy, nothing makes me happier than skipping people’s stones. When you bring these stones to me, I can toss them away and you no longer have to carry them.”

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“It is also very important that you not carry around too many Billy. If you are willing to meet me here, we can skip stones every day, so that your buckets are never too heavy for you. But, if you don’t bring them to me, you’ll just have to carry them with you all of the time.

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I know that these stones seem small, and maybe somewhat insignificant but Billy, if you carry around too many, you are going to feel it, and it is going to hurt you. So what do you say Billy, same time tomorrow.”

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“Ok” said Billy and watched as the last stone went spinning off into the horizon and disappeared.

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Who is a God like you,

who pardons sin and forgives the transgression

of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.

You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Micah 7:18 – 19

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Is marriage biblical?

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This weekend I did a wedding for some long time Beulah attendees. I love Christian weddings because they give me a chance to speak to a sometimes non-churched congregation about marriage within the biblical context. I have spent a number of weeks journeying together with this couple and talking through their desires for a bible focussed ceremony and for a Christ centered marriage. As we moved through the ceremony I got the chance to do a little preaching. Here is a short synopsis of my thoughts on marriage as it related to this couple and their desire to have the bible front and centre in this wedding.

First and foremost the bible begins and ends in a marriage. When Adam and Eve are brought together in the second chapter of Genesis it is the first time we read these words, “that is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Jesus repeats these words again in the gospels and then we are reminded of God’s love for marriage in the book of Revelation where we are continually introduced to the metaphor of the Bride of Christ.

In the book of Exodus we see Moses leading God’s people away from Egypt. In this story we see God’s plan for the husband who takes on the role of leading his family away from bondage, sin and destruction. In the book of Joshua we see the valiant leader conquering the land of Canaan for the Israelites. In this story we see that a husband’s role is to lead his family, to make a home for them, and to establish his role as leader, even at times when the way is treacherous or uncertain. In the book of 1 Samuel we see a young man who takes on the roles of prophet, priest and king of the Israellites, and we see that God’s desire for the husband is that he be the Spiritual leader in the home.

Also in the book of 1 Samuel we see a mother Hannah dedicating her child to God. Like Hannah, it is a mother’s job to give our children to God. To bring them up in the ways of the Lord and to set them free to do the Lord’s work when the time comes. All throughout scriptures we find stories of strong females with Godly character who do the Lord’s will in their own special ways. There are daughters, mothers, warriors, widows, queens and princesses. God uses all of these women to show us how we can live as wives and mothers and honour God with our lives.

In this day and age when Marriage as an institution is being maligned and downgraded in secular society and even amongst Christians it is important for us to understand that marriage first and foremost was ordained by God and was His original design for mankind. As we work with our students in youth ministry we will continue to do the best job that we can in helping our students to develop a strong biblical view of marriage.

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