LWAYG: “We Believe: In One God”

This past week we started a new series, “We Believe,” which will explore the question: “What do you absolutely need to know in order to be a Christian?” Christianity is a fairly diverse religion: some baptize babies, others only baptize adults; some go to confession, others only confess directly to God through prayer; some say we believe in Christ because we chose to, other say we believe only because God caused us to believe.  I don’t want to get into all those issues, although some of them are VERY important.  I want to really focus on what’s absolutely essential to believe in order to be saved.  We’ll be spending the next few weeks looking at the Nicene Creed (a “Creed” is simply a formal statement of religious belief).

I believe the the Nicene Creed (or, more accurately, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, but that’s a mouthful…) is a great foundation for this series.  The Nicene Creed was written in 325AD by 250-320 Christian leaders of the day during the Council of Nicaea in Turkey (the exact number of actual attendees was never accurately recorded, but most figures fall within this range).  The Nicene Creed was later refined during the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 381AD.  The first 300 years of the Christian Church’s life was mostly spent trying to survive and spread the faith.  Christians were often killed and ridiculed and persecuted, so there wasn’t much emphasis on formal theological precision until Emperor Constantine protected Christians and called the Council of Nicaea to bring about Christian unity.

Here is the Nicene Creed (slightly modernized):

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father.  And he shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

  1. I love that the Nicene Creed starts off “WE believe.”  Our American culture is so individualistic and filled with “Have it your way”-thinking that I find the Nicene Creed incredibly refreshing.  When I read and agree with this creed I am identifying with all Christians throughout history.  I am a part of something much bigger than myself.  My faith is deeply personal, but it is not individualistic or private.
  2. As Christians, we believe in only one God.  We are not polytheistic.  We believe in only one God, but that God exists in three equal and distinct Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  The Creed is even divided up according to the three Persons of the Trinity.  I’ve already written a fairly extensive post about the Trinity, so take a look at that if you want more biblical teaching on the Trinity.

How much have you truly thought about your faith lately?  Our love for Christ is not all about being filled up with theological knowledge, but we do need to know what we believe (and we should be able to clearly and confidently explain what we believe… that’s Evangelism 101).

We’re Going to Toronto!

It’s been a long two weeks since we canceled our planned-for missions trip to Tijuana, Mexico.  Many of us have been praying diligently for God to clearly show where He wants our team to serve.  I (Pastor Mike) have knocked on many doors, sent many emails and made a number of phone calls – but none of them seemed to go anywhere.

Center for Student Missions is a wonderful ministry whose mission is “to provide an effective urban ministry experience that transforms lives, influences churches and communities, and honors Christ.”   I am really impressed by CSM’s desire to plug Christians in to serve through local ministries in diverse, multicultural urban settings.  CSM comes very highly recommended to my by Youth-Pastor friends of mine, I’m very excited for us to be partnering with them in ministry this summer!

Check out the following two videos: the first is about CSM (in general) while the second is specifically about their work in Toronto (where we’ll be serving!)

What are the basic trip trip details?

  • Dates: August 1-7, 2010 (same as planned before)
  • Cost: $800-900… I’m still working on this, but it will be no more than $900
  • Where: Toronto, Ontario Canada

Are we flying or driving?

  • We’ll be driving out to Toronto in minivans.  Google Maps says it should take 9:19 to drive there, so we’ll make it a roadtrip!  Driving will help keep the costs down, and even if we flew we’d still have to pay to rent vans to use as transportation.

I signed up for the Tijuana trip, do I need to sign up for this trip too?

  • I have reserved spaces for all 12 people who originally signed up for the Tijuana trip.  If you’re not interested in this trip to Toronto you need to let me know ASAP.

I didn’t sign up for the Tijuana trip… can I sign up to be on the Toronto Team?

  • Yes!  Absolutely!  However… right now there are only TWO openings.
  • CSM accepts teams in groups of 7-14 people or 20-28 people.  If we have between 15-19 people then we’ll be too big to serve in only one location, but too small to serve in two locations effectively.  By letting us bring an extra 1-5 people they would basically be refusing a team of 7-14 from coming.
  • The first two people who are not currently “on the team” who get a $50 deposit to P.Mike will be registered.
  • Please download the Toronto Mission Team Application & Release Forms and submit them to P.Mike completely filled out.

What if I register after the two open spaces are already filled?

  • You will be put on a wait-list until we either: a) we have enough people to bump our group size up to meet requirements for a medium group; or b) CSM’s availability is filled by other groups before we can meet those requirements and you won’t be able to participate in this trip.

Why Toronto, and what will we do there?

  • Did you know Toronto is the world’s most diverse city?  We’ll serve in various capacities throughout the week, likely even in different cultural contexts.  Each day we’ll eat a meal at a different ethnic restaurant to experience different aspects of the many cultures that co-exist within Toronto… but that will only be one small aspect of the cultural variety we’ll experience throughout our week.
  • Check out CSM’s page on Toronto to learn more .

When’s the deadline to sign up?

  • ASAP… really!  As you discuss this opportunity with your family, remember that only the first two students who register with P.Mike are guaranteed a spot on this team.  Hopefully we can get enough students to join the team so that all who want to participate can have that opportunity, but another team may swoop in and grab up those remaining few spots before we can fill them!
  • Make your decision quickly, but keep your word… if you sign up to participate please realize that you are making a commitment to this team (don’t sign up if you only “think you can come”).

Do I need a Passport?

  • YES YES YES.  If you don’t have one go here immediately and apply for your passport ASAP!
  • You can either apply for a Passport Book (the “full” passport) or the new Passport Card (which is license-sized and is good for Canada, Mexico, and the islands).  Learn more about the Passport Card vs. Passport Book here, and apply for the Passport Card online here.

UPDATE: As of 4:00pm, 4/29 – there is only one remaining guaranteed spot on the team.

UPDATE: As of 5/1 – all guaranteed spots on the team are filled.  We are now taking names to put on the “Wait-List.”  If we get six more people interested then we can try to get our team bumped up to the next group-size.  Let P.Mike know ASAP if you’re interested and can commit to this team if space opens up!

Cell Phone vs. Bible

I got the following as a forwarded email this morning.  Typically, I have a strong dislike for forwards and find most of them super cheesy… but this one made me think:

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?
What if we flipped through it several time a day?
What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?
What if we used it to receive messages from the text?
What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?
What if we gave it to Kids as gifts?
What if we used it when we traveled?
What if we used it in case of emergency?
This is something to make you go….hmm…where is my Bible?

Oh, and one more thing.
Unlike our cell phone, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill.  And no dropped calls!

Makes you stop and think “Where are my priorities?”

Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached

When I was in seminary I spent a summer in Thailand & Burma doing research, interviews, and studies on the Shan people.  You can read more about the Shan at www.surehope.net, and you can read an interview I conducted with a young man the same age as me here.

I stumbled upon these two videos of John Piper talking about missions and felt the need to share them with you.  Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached Peoples of the world is something very near and dear to my heart.

So you might read this and watch these videos and not know what you can do.  Here are my suggestions

  1. PRAY: Prayer is the least we can do, but it’s also the most we can do.  Prayers are measured by the God they’re directed towards, so when you pray to Jesus Christ there is no such thing as a “little prayer!”
  2. Get Informed: Sign up to receive daily or weekly emails (you’re given the choice) from the Joshua Project.  Visit the Joshua Project website so you can be an informer pray’er and set it as a bookmark in your internet browser.
  3. Operation World: is another great resource to learn about people groups and how to pray intelligently for the world.
  4. Give: Support a missionary.  Gospel for Asia is a great organization that trains and equips native Christians to go to their neighbors as missionaries and evangelists.

LWAYG: T3 – Accepting the Challenge

This past Sunday we finished up our series on “T3: Talent, Treasure, Time.”  You can check out the other posts on T3 for a recap if you want (click the “Last Week in Youth Group” category on your right, or type in “T3” in the search bar).

Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves three questions if we’re going to accept the challenge of living a T3 lifestyle:

  1. Who’s my King?
  2. What’s my mission?
  3. Am I intentional?

Who’s my King?
This is huge!  If you’re living for yourself rather than living for Christ, then obviously you’re not going to use your Talents, Treasure, and Time in a way that honors Jesus Christ and demonstrates His greatness to others.  If you’re trying to partially live for Christ then you’re going to be missing out too.  You might go to church, youth group, whatever – but you’ll only follow Jesus until things start getting uncomfortable.  “What, Jesus, you actually want me to talk about you with my friends! But they might not like me anymore if I do.”

Really, I get it.  It’s tough to truly live with Jesus Christ as your King, letting Him call the shots.  Faith isn’t easy: anyone who tells you otherwise is either ignorant or trying to sell you a lie.

Jesus says “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24).  How many masters are you trying to serve?

What’s my Mission?
Jesus taught that our mission on Earth is to make disciples of all people everywhere.  “Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and earth. 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'” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Have you ever been to a little league baseball game and seen one of the kids in the outfield watching the birds or checking out the bugs in the grass rather than paying attention to the ball that’s heading his way?  I think there are a lot of Christians who are like that… are you one of them, or do you know what you’re here to do: Honor Jesus Christ and make him known to others.

Are you Intentional?
Living a T3 lifestyle doesn’t happen by accident, it takes a lot of work.  I love the word “intentional,” it’s just so purposeful.  Many of us talk about having good intentions when things go wrong, but the reality is our original hopes didn’t happen because we didn’t follow through on what we wanted to do.

How many of us truly desire to grow closer in our relationship with Christ through Scripture and prayer – yet we never make a plan to actually carve out time to do it!  We make excuses like, “I was too busy” and “I didn’t find the time.”  But the truth is that we didn’t make the time.  The saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is all too true.

We often have this idea that Jesus was a fly by the seat of his pants type of guy who didn’t make plans and just went with the flow.  But he had a Treasurer (Judas Iscariot, the traitor) who took care of the money to make sure they had enough to meet their needs as they went from place to place.  Take a look at what Jesus says in Luke 18:28-33,

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.”

You need to choose who you’re living for and what you’re here to do, it won’t happen by accident.

Are We Too Individualistic?

I’ve begun prepping for an upcoming series on the Nicene Creed, which begins “We believe…”  One of the books I’m reading emphasizes the “we” aspect to the Christian faith.  As Christians, we are called to be interconnected to each other, and to fully admit our complete dependance upon God through Jesus Christ.

So often we hear people talk about faith being “personal”… and it is!  But our faith must not be “private” so that we keep it all to ourselves and either a) Withdraw from the world (or else how will we be the “light of the world”) or b) Disconnect our faith from our daily lives (so that way our faith would have no affect on our daily actions… what good is faith then?!).

Here’s a great quote I read from author Alexis de Tocqueville’s work Democracy in America (which was quoted in the book I’m reading):

“Individualism is a calm and considered feeling which disposes each citizen to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and withdraw into the circle of family and friends; with this little society formed to his tastes, he gladly leaves the greater society to look after itself…. They form the habit of thinking of themselves in isolation and imagine that their whole destiny is in their hands…. Each man is forever thrown back on himself alone, and there is a danger that he may be shut up in the solitude of his own heart.”

Read that a few times, and then take a look at what the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2:3-8:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

Mexico Team Update

This Summer’s planned-for trip to Mexico has been cancelled, but I’m diligently working on other opportunities for the team to serve elsewhere on the same dates (Aug. 1-7).  If you are aware of a service opportunity that would be Christ-honoring and Spiritually-challenging, please let me know ASAP.  I will let you know more details of where we will be “re-routed” as soon as I have more information for you.

My reasons for this decision are as follows:

  • Most people involved continued to express significant concerns for safety, despite their willingness to remain on the team
  • Some informed me if we go to Tijuana they will pull out of the trip
  • Perhaps waiting one year and keeping our eyes and our prayers directed towards Tijuana would bear more fruit through a team going in 2011 rather than this summer.  Maybe more students would also be willing and called to go if a heart for Tijuana was cultivated over the next year?

We walk by faith and not by sight and we do not live out of fear, but I want to provide the best and most fruitful missions-experience for the students going and I have come to believe that means re-routing our team elsewhere (although I’m not quite sure where that will lead us yet).  It’s crucial to trust God fully when He has clearly and specifically called us to obey Him in something, I also believe that means obeying him in giving up our plans and trusting Him to come through for us… That’s where I’m at right now.

As we wait to see what God is doing and where He is leading our team, please pray for the team leaders (Van & Lynn Latham, Keith McRell, Andrew Barker, and me) to prayerfully discern how best to lead this team.

Please feel free to email or call  with any questions.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Mike

Poll: Do You Know the Ten Commandments?

We’re about half way through a series on the Ten Commandments in Junior High Youth Group and I’m wondering how many people can actually list out the Ten Commandments without having to look them up… let me know:

If you need some help, here’s the Wikipedia page on the Ten Commandments.

Thoughts After a Hillsong United Concert

Last night I attended a Hillsong United concert at the Wang Theater in Boston.  The Wang Theater seats 3600, and it seemed filled up with people pouring out their hearts before God – what a night… I was very blessed.

Here are some of my reflections on last night (mostly positive):

1.  I love Hillsong United’s heart. You can say what you want about their worship style, but they are totally souled-out for Jesus!  There’s a world of difference between a worship song led by someone who’s performing rather than truly worshipping God.

2. I REALLY appreciate worship songs that address the reality of suffering without simply saying “Jesus will fix it.” When we read the Psalms (the Hymnal of the Old Testament) we find all these times when the writer is really struggling with God’s “distance” and silence.  Many of our worship songs seem to gloss over this “silent times” of faith and almost end up saying “You may be in the valley now, but don’t worry… God will take care of it.”  I appreciated that some of Hillsong United’s songs really dealt with these silent times in a meaningful way.  If you want a better idea what type of song I’m talking about (in a good way) then here’s a video to check out:

3. Altar calls that don’t point to the cross and call people to actually repent and give their lives to Jesus really frustrate me. Jesus is the Gospel.  “God” is a very general word in today’s culture and people can easily interpret “God” to mean whatever they perceive Him to be… but “Jesus” is very specific.  There is no Gospel without what Jesus did on the cross and through the empty grave.  I don’t think every Gospel presentation and Altar call needs to be presented the same exact way, but they should include at least two elements to be affective: First, they need to be Cross-Centered, and Second, they need to call people to Repentance and not simply confession of sin (I can say “Sorry that I’ve sinned” without committing myself to Jesus… but I can’t repent without doing that).

4. I’m getting older... there were moments when I felt like I was on the outside looking in because I didn’t get the worship experience others were feeling.  This really helped me identify with some of the older generations in my own church who are pretty ambivalent about the contemporary worship we’re trying to incorporate at Emmanuel.  There was one point in particular when people were singing “Woah woah woah” with arms raised high and clearly were being “moved,” but I just didn’t get it.  I don’t mean this as a judgement or anything… I just didn’t get it and felt like an old fuddy-duddy for a few minutes.

5. I was challenged to ask “How does some of this translate to serving churches in their worship services?” Some of the songs were great songs declaring who God is and what He’s done and what He promises,etc… but I couldn’t help thinking “How do you get up and preach a sermon after this song?”  Maybe I’m even more old-school than I realize (which I just may be!), but I firmly believe the sermon ought to be the focal point of the Christian worship service: bringing the Word of God (Scripture) to the people of God to call them to live righteous, humble, godly lives.  I don’t think it’s wrong or bad for there to be worship songs that you would only use for “special” worship services occasionally, but this was just one of my thoughts from the night I thought I’d share.

6.  Revival in New England is on more peoples hearts than I realize. To my knowledge, every nation-wide revival in America has roots  in New England.  I don’t want to be a “crazy” Christian… but I really am praying that God would do a might work in our nation through the least likely place (Boston!).

I Don’t Get Lady Gaga

I really just don’t get Lady Gaga…

I just watched her new music video with Beyonce, “Telephone,” and I feel like I need to spend some extra time in prayer today… and I watched the “Official Clean Version!”  I also looked up the lyrics and was absolutely less than impressed.

The song doesn’t say much other than “Leave me alone!”  But the music video is almost ten minutes long, and it’s filled with nudity, dancing, murder, and lots of attitude.  What’s not to love?  (please note the sarcasm)

Parents, I dare you to go to youtube.com and type in “Lady Gaga, Telephone” and just watch the first two minutes!  THIS is what is being put before teenagers today as “appealing.”  I’m not typically the type to jump and yell against celebrities and personalities, but lately I’ve really been overwhelmed by the filth that’s being put out there.

Jonathan McKee has written a great blog post about this music video if you would like to get a thoughtful response to this video (rather than my initial reactions).  Check out his post here: “Gaga and Beyonce Team up to Corrupt.”