To Camp Berea we go!

We’re off to Camp Berea again!  I know you’re excited, and I am too, so here’s the information you need to know.

What’s Due this Sunday:

  • Remaining $70 of the balance.
  • Camp Berea forms (Permission & Medical Release form and the Paintball form).  All forms are available at EBC, but we are not able to post them online (sorry!).

Time to meet:                 
Friday, March 4th at 5:00 sharp… DON’T BE LATE!
(the bus will be leaving by 5:15 once we’re all packed up!)
at Emmanuel Baptist Church
Bring a bagged dinner  (We’re only stopping for one bathroom break)

We Return on:
Sunday afternoon, March 6 at 4:00pm
at Emmanuel Baptist Church

What to bring this weekend:
Bible (if you have one)
Sleeping bag & Pillow & Towels
Bathroom stuff (Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant etc.)
Gym clothes (They have an indoor gym)
Snow pants or extra clothes in case you get wet from tubing.
Boots, Warm clothes, Winter Jacket, Winter Hat, and Gloves
(You don’t need to over-pack… you’re only packing for TWO DAYS!)

What NOT to bring this weekend:
The Obvious: Drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, weapons, or anything illegal.
MP3 Player of any kind
Cell Phone
Any other electronics:  Cell phones and ipods isolate you from others, we want you to “get away” for the weekend to make new friends and meet Jesus. Any of the above will be confiscated and returned when you arrive back to EBC on Sunday.

Why no cell phones or iPods?
Because they ISOLATE and DISTRACT.  At camp we hope to build a greater sense of community, build new friendships, and connect with God in a deeper and more meaningful way than we do when we’re home.  Take this opportunity to unplug: Facebook, your Cell Phone, and your Music won’t stop working for you when you get home because they’re bitter you left them for two and a half days!

What if there’s an emergency and I need to talk to my son/daughter?

  • Call Camp Berea’s office and they will find me and your son/daughter ASAP.
  • Call Pastor Mike’s cell phone (most parents have my cell phone number, if you don’t just try calling another parent to get it since I’d rather not put my cell number online for anyone to get).

What are the details about Paintball?

  • There is a $10 field fee for each 1 hour session or $25 if you play 3 sessions. This includes the cost of your marker and 200 rounds of paint.  For each extra 100 rounds of paint, there is an additional charge of $5.
  • Yes, you may bring your own equipment.  You must turn it in at the office when you arrive on camp grounds.  $10/ session or $25 for 3 sessions for the field fee (you still need to buy your paint from Berea).
  • You must bring a release form signed by your parent or guardian in order to play. Your signature (is under 18) is also required on the “Participant’s Signature” line.  You can get the paintball form from Pastor Mike.

Who’s the Speaker & Worship Leader?

  • Sam Bhatt is our speaker: As a youth pastor for a number of years, Sam has a strong heart for students and a desire to serve them. His riveting storytelling engages students as he humorously takes them through the issues they face, igniting them to pursue passionately the strength they can find in Jesus Christ. Sam attended Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, Iowa.
  • Ohio Avenue, you can check them out HERE and HERE.

The Pilgrim/Indigenizing Principle: How Christians can Faithfully Live in Culture

I have recently come across Andrew Walls’ “Pilgrim & Indigenous Principle” and have found it a very helpful guide for how Christians can faithfully live in their culture.  Justin Taylor has written an excellent and far more in-depth take on Wall’s principle than I intend to provide here: “Two Essential Gospel Impulses: The Indigenizing Principle and the Pilgrim Principle.”

I’ve written on this issue before by referring to what’s been labeled “Cave Dwellers & Feflon Christians.” “Cave Dwellers” take the stance that we should reject culture completely in order to prevent it from having a negative influence on us.  “Teflon Christians” are those who deny that culture even has an influence on them, and so they just do/watch/listen to/consume whatever they want while believing it makes no impact on their faith.  I’m going off on a limb and am going to make a very general statement saying that most American Christians fall more into the Teflon Christian camp… at least that’s how it seems when we look around.

Pilgrims are simply men and women who are traveling through a country in order to get somewhere else.  They are not residents of the country where they are presently, rather, they consider themselves as citizens of their homeland.  The “Pilgrim Principle” has to do with what makes us Christian.  Paul tells us “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2) and Scripture reaffirms this teaching that we must not squeeze ourselves into the mold of the world/culture around us.  Rather, we must proclaim Christ Jesus and obey the Lord.  Christians should be different from everyone else… if you are a Christian and people can’t tell there’s anything different between you and your non-Christian neighbor then there’s a problem.  It’s good to revisit 1 Corinthians 8 and to remember Paul’s warnings about the strong leading the weak into sin by exercising their freedom.

Indigenous” means that something has to do with culture in which it is found.  A great example is folktales: every culture has its own folktales that are well known by the people of that culture, but it makes no sense to those outside the culture (try dressing up like Johnny Appleseed in Beijing and ask people who you look like!).  So the “Indigenizing Principle” teaches that there are aspects of culture that are entirely appropriate for Christians and the Church to embrace.  For instance, unless you read the Bible in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek then your church has adopted the Indigenizing Principle to some degree, because you read the Bible in the language of your culture!  Jesus prayed, “I ask that you do not take them out of the world, but that you keep them free from the evil one” (John 17:15).  Ultimately, God himself embraced this principle by sending God the Son to take on flesh, to live in our world in order to redeem it (Remember, “Emmanuel” means “God with us!”).  We also see the Apostle Paul embracing this in Acts 17 while in Athens.

So what does this mean for us as Christians as we seek to go about our days, praying and seeking to faithfully honor Jesus Christ in all that we do so that the lost might receive the Word of Life and be given the gift of faith and eternal life?  I believe we must hold these two principles in tension: Be a Pilgrim (don’t conform to the pattern of this world) and Be Indigenous (be all things to all people so that some might come to know Christ).

Most importantly of all: Focus on Christ.  As soon as we shift our focus onto being “relevant” we’re missing the point.   We do not work to make Scripture relevant, we work in order to demonstrate that it already is!  As we give our lives to Christ each day, focus on Him and pray for those around you…

 

Are You Attending SEMP?

I’m seriously excited about our Summer Mission Trip this year… the thing is… I haven’t heard any feedback from students or parents about it yet!  I’d like to know why, so if you’re a teenager please answer this poll so I know where we stand:

If you’d like to learn more about SEMP check out my post all about it here: SEMP: Student Evangelism Bootcamp

Know Your Enemy: Study Culture

When I was a teenager the movie “The Usual Suspects” came out and was one of the more popular movies among my generation.  One of the last lines of the movie is one of those lines you hear, think about, and think “Wow, that is so true!”  Throughout the course of the movie a handicapped accomplice is giving his testimony to a detective about a major crime and is given his freedom in exchange for information about the notorious mob boss.  At the end, the detective figures out he’s been hoodwinked and the handicapped man really was the mob boss himself and he replays their discussion in his head when you hear the line:

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”

As a Christian, my enemy is not homosexuality, lust, anger, abortion, murder, lies, gossip, poverty, suffering… my enemy is Satan.  Our enemy is not an idea, agenda, or godlessness in general.  Our enemy is active and wants to take us over.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8–9)

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm” (Ephesians 6:11–13)

I believe there are some Christians who give the devil too much credit and blame him for every sin they’ve ever committed.  But from what I have observed the majority of American Christians treat the devil like he’s not even real, as if he’s a fairy tale that’s useful for scaring us into godliness, but not actually real.  Yet at the same time, many who don’t give the devil a second thought also affirm that the Bible is entirely true and is God’s Word!  Brothers and sister, we must be very careful about this: Know your enemy.

I’ve heard it said that Christians should walk throughout the day with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.  We must study our culture and look at the world around us and discern where God is at work then discern where the devil may be lurking.

Here’s a hypothetical example:  Suppose Bill struggles with anger and when he comes home from work his family is walking on egg shells so they don’t set him off.  But Bill is a Christian, and he really wants to overcome his anger… what should he do?  It’s not as simple as saying “focus on being less angry.”  If Bill focuses on being less angry, he’s stiff focusing on his anger… he’s still focusing on sin.  Some might say, “Bill should focus on patience, since that’s the antidote to anger.”  But I’d say Bill ought to focus his mind and passions on Jesus Christ.  As Hebrews 12:1-2 says,  “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

Some Christians claim we only need to study Scripture, only study the Truth, in order to live the godly lives we are called to.  Many of us are probably familiar with the anecdote that IRS agents don’t study counterfeits, they study the real thing in order to identify the fake dollar bills.  True enough, and we ought to spend our greatest effort immersed in the Bible.  However, IRS agents study the real thing and then are tested by having to identify a which bills are counterfeit and which are real.  If IRS agents and bank tellers never see a counterfeit in their training I highly doubt they will be able to quickly identify one when it is passed.  We must train ourself and train our children to know the truth and be able to engage the culture around them in order to discern what is true and what is a lie and give them the integrity to choose what is right.

But our enemy is not of flesh and blood… our enemy is active and looking to devour us.  This isn’t a Christian scare-tactic and I’m not saying “Run away, Run away!” from culture and hide out in a monastery.  I don’t believe we should all become Amish and escape from the devil’s schemes.  I simply believe that we need to remember who our enemy really is, and live accordingly.

Know your enemy, learn his war-tactics and how to fight against him…

 

Digging into Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”

Lady Gaga has released the lyrics to her forthcoming album and single, “Born This Way,” which she hopes will be another rallying cry for homosexuals and transgendered people in our culture.  I’d like to offer some thoughts on how our Christian faith should inform our thinking about homosexuality, but first, here are the lyrics:

IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU LOVE HIM, OR CAPITAL H-I-M
JUST PUT YOUR PAWS UP
‘CAUSE YOU WERE BORN THIS WAY, BABY

MY MAMA TOLD ME WHEN I WAS YOUNG
WE ARE ALL BORN SUPERSTARS
SHE ROLLED MY HAIR AND PUT MY LIPSTICK ON?IN THE GLASS OF HER BOUDOIR
“THERE’S NOTHIN WRONG WITH LOVIN WHO YOU ARE”
SHE SAID, “‘CAUSE HE MADE YOU PERFECT, BABE”
“SO HOLD YOUR HEAD UP GIRL AND YOU’LL GO FAR,
LISTEN TO ME WHEN I SAY”

I’M BEAUTIFUL IN MY WAY
‘CAUSE GOD MAKES NO MISTAKES
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY
DON’T HIDE YOURSELF IN REGRET
JUST LOVE YOURSELF AND YOU’RE SET
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY

OOO THERE AIN’T NO OTHER WAY
BABY I WAS BORN THIS WAY
BABY I WAS BORN THIS WAY
OOO THERE AIN’T NO OTHER WAY
BABY I WAS BORN
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY
DON’T BE A DRAG -JUST BE A QUEEN
DON’T BE A DRAG -JUST BE A QUEEN
DON’T BE A DRAG -JUST BE A QUEEN
DON’T BE!

GIVE YOURSELF PRUDENCE
AND LOVE YOUR FRIENDS
SUBWAY KID, REJOICE YOUR TRUTH
IN THE RELIGION OF THE INSECURE
I MUST BE MYSELF, RESPECT MY YOUTH
A DIFFERENT LOVER IS NOT A SIN
BELIEVE CAPITAL H-I-M (HEY HEY HEY)
I LOVE MY LIFE I LOVE THIS RECORD AND
MI AMORE VOLE FE YAH (LOVE NEEDS FAITH)

DON’T BE A DRAG, JUST BE A QUEEN
WHETHER YOU’RE BROKE OR EVERGREEN
YOU’RE BLACK, WHITE, BEIGE, CHOLA DESCENT
YOU’RE LEBANESE, YOU’RE ORIENT
WHETHER LIFE’S DISABILITIES
LEFT YOU OUTCAST, BULLIED, OR TEASED
REJOICE AND LOVE YOURSELF TODAY
‘CAUSE BABY YOU WERE BORN THIS WAY
NO MATTER GAY, STRAIGHT, OR BI,
LESBIAN, TRANSGENDERED LIFE
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN TO SURVIVE
NO MATTER BLACK, WHITE OR BEIGE
CHOLA OR ORIENT MADE
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN TO BE BRAVE

I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!

Jonathan McKee has posted a great (but long) response to this song on his website HERE.  He’s also written a very good article entitled “Coming out of the Closet… and Into the Church: What Should the Church do About Homosexuality?” Both articles are well worth your time to read and really think about… especially if you’re a Christian and are wrestling with questions about how to respond to the homosexual question.

Here’s my response, and I’ll try to keep this brief in hopes that some of you will actually read it.

  1. It’s not honest to say you’re “Born This Way.”  Even secular scientists would confess that they have not discovered a “gay gene.”  We all know people who seem to identify with the opposite gender easier from a very young age, but that doesn’t mean they’re born gay.
  2. Sexuality is not the same as Ethnicity.  It isn’t a valid argument to equate Gay Rights with the Civil Rights Movement.  My dad is Irish and my mom is English and Lebanese… therefore I’m a mix of those ethnicities.  But those who profess to have been “born this way” rarely have parents who were gay (although the likelihood of a gay/lesbian “couple” having a son/daughter who is also homosexual exponentially increases… but I believe this is true for social/sociological reasons).  Drawing a parallel between homosexual rights and the Civil Rights Movement is simply disrespectful to those who endured generations of racial abuse because of their skin color.
  3. Natural desires aren’t all good.  I like to eat but don’t love exercise.  Does that mean I should eat whatever I want whenever I want it?  Does that mean I shouldn’t take a walk or go on a run or lift weights?  This is pretty obvious (reminder: Go on a diet and get more exercise!).  My natural desires are very often the opposite of what I should do.  If you are naturally more sexually attracted towards people of the same gender as you, I don’t think that’s necessarily justification to do what feels most natural.  I don’t say that tritely or like it’s something that’s easy or simple, but just because something’s natural and innate that doesn’t mean it’s right.
  4. Sexual organs are complementary and are intended to “fit.”  Even if you take a Creator away and ascribe to evolutionary theory, the sex organs simply do not work together in a homosexual union.
  5. Finally, and this is the obvious “Pastor-answer”: Scripture does teach clearly that homosexuality is wrong.  Those who open the Bible and claim that Scripture doesn’t teach homosexuality is a sin are simply twisting the Bible to say what they want it to say.  Either we believe the Bible is true and believe what is says (regardless of how uncomfortable it may make you) or the Bible isn’t true (and in that case you don’t care that is says homosexuality is a sin).

This is not something I write about with hatred in my heart towards those who are homosexual or transgendered.  I know that if someone reading this blog post is LGBT then he/she will probably think that I’m a wrath-filled or judgment-spewing Christian, and I sincerely apologize if that’s how this post has come across.  My desire in this post is to use “Born This Way” as a catalyst for encouraging the parents and teenagers in my church to give thoughtful consideration about how our Christian faith should inform our beliefs about homosexuality rather than basing our beliefs on such issues on what is culturally acceptable.

LWAYG: Download Series – “Filtering Your Media Choices”

For the last few weeks in youth group we’ve been talking a lot about the media we consume: TV, Movies, Music, Video Games, Commercials, Magazines, Print Advertisements, etc.  Did you know the average teenager consumes an average of roughly 7:30 of media each day?

We need to be thoughtful about what we’re looking at, listening to, and watching, because whether we realize it or not (usually we don’t!) we are being influenced by our media.  The advertisement industry produces commercials and ads to convince us that we need to buy whatever they’re selling in order to fill the void in our lives that we didn’t entirely realize was there to begin with.  We are constantly being told what to think, believe, or feel through our music or tv or whatever other media we encounter throughout the day… it’s time we start to really think about the messages we’re being taught without realizing it.

The Download curriculum (by Walt Mueller, of CPYU) teaches the “3-D Review” method of filtering your media choices.

  1. Discover: What’s this media (song, tv show, ad, etc.)  telling me to think/believe/feel?
  2. Discern: How does this line up with Scripture?  Is this in agreement/conflict with what God says?
  3. Decide: What am I going to do about this? (this goes beyond “I’ll turn off the song” and towards engaging with the deeper lesson of what “Discover” and “Discern” has taught us)

For example, watch the following popular commercial and we’ll put the 3D method to work

Discover:  What’s this commercial telling me to think/believe/feel?

  • If I want to have friends then I should switch to AT&T… afterall, if you don’t have friends then what DO you have?
  • If you don’t want to miss out on what’s going on then you should have AT&T, otherwise you might miss it!
  • If I don’t have AT&T as my cell phone carrier then I’m going to always be left out will be the social outcast of the group and might even embarrass myself because my slooowww cell phone carrier can’t hold a candle to AT&T’s blazing speed.

Discern: How does this line up with Scripture?

  • I don’t find my meaning and value through my friends, but through my relationship with Jesus Christ.  Even if I am the social outcast of my friends, my personal value isn’t found in “stuff” like my cell phone, but through in relationship with Christ.
  • Friendships are important (so important that the first thing God said wasn’t good in the Bible was for man to be alone!), but our friendships should be built on more than being technologically advanced.

Decide: What am I going to do about this?

  • Am I looking for my value through my stuff or through Christ?
  • Am I always be working to stay “cool” in front of my friends by having the right technology, wearing the right clothes, and saying the right thing?  What are my friendships really based on?

This is just one quick and easy example of the 3D approach to filtering our media choices.  This can be applied to any media.  Are you thinking about how your music/tv shows/movies/video games/facebook is influencing the way you look at the world?

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”  (Matthew 6:22–23)

What are you putting in your window?

Check out the link HERE to find a ton of 3D Reviews have have been done by CPYU, the ministry that developed the Download curriculum.

“Helping Parents Understand the Formative Influences on the Teen” Seminars

Most of you are aware that I am currently working on my D.Min. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the “Ministry to Emerging Generations” track.  As I’ve been reading and studying I’ve growing increasingly convinced that Youth Pastors (and churches, in general) need to do a better job motivating, equipping, and empowering parents to disciple their kids (especially through the teen years).  Therefore, my focus throughout this program will culminate in writing a thesis I’m provisionally entitling, “Motivating, Equipping, and Empowering Parents of Teenagers for 21st Century Discipleship.” There are three basic phases I’ll be working through in this study: two one-year projects and then the final writing process.

For my first project (this year, 2011), I hope to develop a series of six seminars in order to help parents understand the “formative influences” on your teenagers.  I don’t need to tell you how confusing (and confused) teenagers can be.  I hope to provide some insight into the different influences that help shape and form teenagers, these include: Basics of Postmodernity (how culture has changed in the past 30-40 years and how that’s impacting the younger generations); Developmental Psychology (what’s happening to their bodies physically, mentally, and emotionally and how that impacts their decision-making); and the influence of Media (how has TV, Movies, Music, Advertisements, and Video Games influenced youth-culture, and how can you help your son/daughter safely and “Christianly” navigate through all the media in their lives).  This year’s focus is primarily on Culture and helping parents understand the culture their kids live in, because in many ways they live in a different world than the one in which we live.

In 1 Corinthians 9:22 the Apostle Paul writes, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” This tells me that Paul worked to understand the people he was seeking to minister to as well as he possibly could.  We would be wise to follow Paul’s example.  Since we love our teenagers and sincerely desire to see them grounded in the Gospel and in love with Jesus Christ it would be wise of us to understand them as well as we possibly can.  Please do not read this and think, “I know my son better than you realize!” and dismiss what I’m saying, because I’m not accusing parents of being negligent or naive.  I simply want to provide the opportunity for parents to come together and dig deeper into these “formative influences” that are competing with you to shape your son or daughter.

These seminars are designed specifically for parents of teenagers, but would also be helpful to parents whose children will soon be teens as well as other adults (grandparents, teachers, etc.) who want to better understand teenagers and youth culture.

There will likely be three seminars before the end of the ’10-’11 School-year and the other three will be at the beginning of the ’11-’12 School-year.  Please give me your input through the following Poll regarding the scheduling of these seminars.

Update (2/22/11): Here’s the schedule for the first few seminars and a tentative outline for what the six seminars will address.

  1. March 13: Influences on Teens & the Parents’ Role in their Children’s Christian Formation
  2. April 3: Culture Shift – from Modern to Postmodern Thinking
  3. May 1: Not a Kid, Not an Adult – Responding to Developmental Theorists
  4. October: Listening to Youth Culture, pt. 1 (Internet, Technology, & Cell Phones)
  5. November: Listening to Youth Culture, pt. 2 (Music, Celebrities, & MTV)
  6. December: Listening to Youth Culture, pt. 3 (TV, Movies, & Video Games)