"As she stood looking at it, wondering why there was a lamp-post in the middle of a wood and wondering what to do next, she heard a pitter patter of feet coming toward her..." (C S Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Dissection of a Sin

The other day, I found myself in an awkward situation. I observed a mini feud between two friends, and realized that I had unwittingly thrown myself in the middle of it. I knew I was in a place where I would appear guilty.

What did I do? I asked one friend to not let on that I took part in it, so as to relieve me of any appearance of guilt. Now, let me say, I wasn't guilty. At that point I had done nothing wrong, I just knew it would appear that I had to the other person. So, I manipulated the situation to 'clarify' my innocence.

What's the problem with that? A lot. I sensed it in my soul immediately.

First, my manipulation meant I didn't trust God to reveal my innocence in the situation. I trusted my own craftiness. I did not trust in God's sovereignty over all circumstances. This trust in self rather than God seems to be at the heart of a lot of my sin.

Second, I showed cowardice. Instead of being willing to face up to the situation no matter how bad it looked, and speak the truth no matter how awkward it seemed, I opted to take cover in secrecy.

Third, I encouraged my friend to lie. Though I did not ask him to lie, my manipulation led to a subtle lie on his part, that I was no doubt partly responsible for. If I had not chosen to be manipulative, there would have been no lie.

Sin is most dangerous when it looks friendly: “Sin comes to us, like Judas, with a kiss; and like a Joab, with an outstretched hand and flattering words.” (J C Ryle, Holiness)

I confessed my sin, first to God. Thank God that I have a mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Thank God that I have a Savior. I did not, indeed could not, try to earn forgiveness, rather I look to my only hope in life and death, Christ.

Then, I confessed my sin to another. This is simply a safeguard to my own heart. I looked to a trusted person and explained what I had done, without trying to defend myself.

Finally, I dealt with the situation and admitted guilt.

Why? What does all this matter? Because we love God, and sin displeases him. Because He is worth it. Because holiness matters.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Members Class

FBC entire new members class in now online. Use it for Bible study, for review, or to prepare for membership at FBC Haverhill



Pastor Rick

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Travellers Choice

A message for you traveler who’s not traveled so long
Some tidings I bring you, and present them in song
Soon the road takes a turn, and the turn grants a fork
You will need choose a path, a difficult work

You may choose the direction that is journeyed by most
You’ll find plenty of company, ‘A fine path’ they all boast
Or instead you may choose the path overgrown
Rare will be company, you shall go mostly alone

But a word I must give you, I advise you to heed
The outcome of the paths and the direction you lead
Young lad please consider, think carefully with haste
For one is toward life, and the other toward waste

If you choose the direction, where most have tread feet
The passage will be broad, it will be steady and mete
You’ll face little challenge and the adventure will be ease
Flattering tongues and wise men, will be not in the least:

“The journey you’ve set on, and now just begun
Will face good times many, in not long we’ll be done
There’ll be merriment and gladness and smiles to grin
There’ll be laughter and happiness and plenty of sin”

“The path is long approved, so join in the feast
Take life easy and lightly, let us revel like beasts!
Here take a drink and some meat, then a maiden or two
Soon we will be at journey’s end, and all will be through”

Little do they know that their way leads to sure death
They come closer and closer, as they draw each blind breath
There is anguish that way, I dare not speak of their fate
For O how wide is that road, and how broad is that gate!

But if you should choose the path so less often tread
The journey will be difficult and much harder to stead
There you shall find twists and there you shall find turns
No doubt there will be wounds and cuts and bruises and burns

You may find a friend, who will be more like a brother
As you stumble and tire, you must hold up each other
He will not flatter you, and you must speak truth to him back
You shall protect one another, and defend from attack

The journey will seem long, and the sun less often seen
You’ll get dirty and cold, and you’ll wish to be clean
Don’t misunderstand me, joy and contentment descend
But it comes down mostly, when fixing both eyes on the end

Then young lad don’t despair, don’t let your courage diminish
With each step you draw closer, with each breath towards the finish
And there you’ll find Him welcoming, to your Eternal abode
Through the small gate, at the end of the long narrow road

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Silencing the Drums

Jesus spoke of a horrible place called the Valley of Hinnom. By his time it had become a trash heap, used to burn unwanted waste, such as animal carcasses. The place was continually burning in order to keep disease from spreading, and provided a picture of judgement Jesus used to describe 'hell'.

But the Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna, had a notorious history to it. Before it became a trash heap it was a center for the worship of the pagan god Molech. The things that went on there would be enough to make even the most insensitive squeam. Fathers would offer their children to be burned alive as child sacrifices. Of course what father could stand and listen to the horrifying screams of the child he offers up? But the priests had a solution to this problem. They would bang drums to drown out the screams of the innocent. It is enough to give you nightmares. The deafened fathers, the cold-hearted priests, the screaming babies. You can almost hear the sound of the drums...drums...drums.

What a crazy society. Isn't it great that we have progressed so far from such a savage world? Such a thing is unheard of today. Not in America. No way.

Wait.  Not so fast. The drums are still banging, and the screams of the sacrificed are still being drowned out. This day 3,700 children are sacrificed before they even see the outside of the womb. 3,700 abortions. 3,700 child sacrifices in America. Molech would be more than satisfied. Though they are not offered to him. They are offered to a much greater god, the god of Self. A much greedier god. Where are the screams of these innocent children? Could the fathers bear such screams? No, they must be drowned out. They are drowned out by the priests of Self. Drowned out by the drums. Can't you hear the drums? 'The right to choose', 'women's lib', 'unwanted teen pregnancies', 'planned parenthood', 'down syndrome babies'...drums...drums...drums.

It is not enough merely to overturn Roe v Wade.  We need to reveal how wicked, abominable, vile, horrifying, terrifying abortion is. We need to reteach a basic principle that even the barbarians and savages knew: mothers don't kill their babies. They love them. They protect them. They take care of them. Or, we can continually be apathetic, mesmerised by the sound of the drums.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Till We Have Faces

I just finished a book by C S Lewis called Till We Have Faces. Some have said it is his best work. I might agree. It is amazing how shallow we have come to think about God today, compared to people like Lewis.

The book is a retelling of a Greek myth. In the myth Psyche, a beautiful young woman marries Cupid the son of Aphrodite. There are two parts to Lewis' retelling of the myth. First, is his argument against the gods. He said he had been thinking of this part of the book since he was a boy. Orual, Psyche's sister and virtually mother, loses Psyche to 'the gods'. The 'god' who Psyche is united with is mysterous: is he hideous or is he beautiful? Orual voices her argument against the gods:

“Do you think we mortals will find you gods easier to bear if you’re beautiful? I tell you that if that’s true we’ll find you a thousand times worse. For then (I know what beauty does) you’ll lure and entice. You’ll leave us nothing; nothing that’s worth our keeping or your taking. Those we love best—whoever’s most worth loving—those are the very ones you’ll pick out. Oh, I can see it happening, age after age, and growing worse and worse the more you reveal your beauty: the son turning his back on the mother and the bride on her groom, stolen away by this everlasting calling, calling, calling of the gods. Taken where we can’t follow. It would be far better for us if you were foul and ravening. We’d rather you drank their blood than stole their hearts. We’d rather they were ours and dead than yours and made immortal.” (Till we have faces, 290-291)

The second part of the book, is Lewis' answer to his argument against the gods. This part Lewis says could only put together after becoming a Christian. The 'speech' he is referring to is that honest recognition of who we are, how we have lived.

“When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?” (Till we have faces, 294)

Orual ends,

I ended my first book with the words no answer. I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice? Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words. Long did I hate you long did I fear you.” (Till we have Faces, 308)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Stuff Happens by Religion

I loved this (yes I changed the word 'stuff' from an expletive)

Buddhism: If stuff happens, it's not really stuff.

Islam:If stuff happens, it's the will of Allah.

Hinduism: This stuff happened before.

Judaism: Why does this stuff always happen to us?

Catholicism: Stuff happens because you're bad.

T.V. Evangelism: Send more stuff.

Atheism: No stuff.

Jehovah's Witness: Knock knock, stuff happens.

Christian Science: Stuff happens in your mind.

Agnosticism: Maybe stuff happens, maybe it doesn't.

Existentialism: What is stuff anyway?

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Boston Celtics and life

I'm a huge Celtics fan. Been one since I was a boy. This year was magical for me to see the Celtics win the whole thing. I'm glad the season is over, for the simple reason that I spent way too much time watching games (pre-season, season, and post-season). But I have to say I learned alot about life and ministry from watching the Celtics. I'm serious, this isn't a stretch either. In fact, Jess was telling me how happy she was that she could point to the Celtics as a model for sportsmanship in talking to our son. Here's a list of characteristics that I think the Celtics displayed that transfer over to other aspects of life:

1) Be willing to make big changes. The celtics were the 2nd worse team in the league last year until they made HUGE changes in the off season. They basically pulled a 180 in terms of their game plan and took enormous risks. Jobs, futures, big money, and whatever else was on the line, and they did it anyway. They took a lot of heat for it.

2) Leadership must lead. Sounds simple, but without KG the Celtics would never have won. No one, since I've been watching Basketball, has as much passion and intensity as KG. The guy would literally not sleep between games just focusing on what needs to be done. He's insane to watch (In my extremely biased oppinion, I think he was the league MVP). That set the tone for the whole team.

3) Teamwork, Teamwork, Teamwork. When Paul Pierce was injured in the first game, the coach turned to his players and said "That's why we play 12 guys". The reason why this season worked is because big egos were willing to play like a team instead of looking for their own glory. All their personal stats were down, but they ended up with the best record in the league and a ring.

4) Good coaching. Doc Rivers isn't the most masterful strategist. I found myself questioning him a lot. But what he is, is a player's coach. He has a good reputation with all his players. They love him, he loves them. He's straight forward with them. That relationship took them all the way to the Championship.

5) Hard Work. As the saying goes 'Offense wins games, Defense wins championships.' The difference, offense is hit or miss (excuse the pun), defense is all about how hard your willing to work. Ray Allen's work out ethic was so exemplary that Pierce decided to adopt it as his own. These guys starting working out together before the coaches even called them together. Allen shows up 2 hours before ever game I believe and goes through the same shooting routine. Hard work.

6) Humility. That word is seldom used in pro sports. But it was evident among the Celtics. After virtually every win the Celtics would respond the same way, "We saw some things we did badly, and we know we can do better." KG wouldn't take photos without Pierce and Allen with him, because he didn't want it to be all about him. They wouldn't insult other teams or players, even when asked point blank about them. In fact they would often comment on the ability or skill of their opponents.

7) Integrity. Doc Rivers (the coach) continually modeled it for his players. Stop arguing with the officials and play the game boys. When asked about the 'officiating scandal' Doc responded by saying 'I have know question about the integrity of our officials.' Pierce cleaned his bad boy antics up for the whole season. They were the class act of the league. (One criticism: KG and the F-bomb. It's pretty easy to read his lips)

8) Perseverance. Some personal struggles (Doc and his father's death) and some sport struggles. After struggling mightily in the first two rounds of the playoffs, they simply kept pressing on. Numerous injuries and they played hurt. Love it.

9) Respect for tradition. The players were constantly surrounded by old celtic greats like Bill Russell and Havlicek. Their response: respect. They would continually talk about what an honor it was for them to play for a team with so much tradition and history. These guys paved the way for the current generation.

10) Masculinity. They were a nitty-gritty tough time. Diving on the floor for loose balls, bumping hard for rebounds, and even getting into a few shoving matches time and again. I don't care for dirty players, but there is a time to man-up and stand your ground. The Celtics did that. They were a tough, strong, and grind it out team every game.

Every one of these is something that can transfer into other aspects of life, even ministry.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My attempt at fiction: A Parable of Ogres

There once lived a group of ogres, ugly as can be. Their favorite past time was to laugh at how horribly ugly ogres look. They would mock their large humped back figures, their big crooked noses, their sharp yellow teeth, their long pointy ears, and their lime-green skin, which was covered with pimples. At times this laughter turned to all out ecstasy. The ogres would fall to the ground and laugh and cry and shake their heads with delight, all at the terrible and grotesque appearance of an ogre.

Then one day, in the course of his hunting, an ogre found a most peculiar object, which he reasoned came from the land of humans (a great feat, as ogres don’t reason much). He went to go show the other ogres and gloat about his new treasure. It was shiny and round and flat. But when the ogres looked more closely at the object, they began to see images and pictures of ogres inside the object. At first they began to fight over the little treasure, thinking it was magic. They yelled and grunted at each other to touch it and hold it. But ogres, being the type of creatures they are, could fight and laugh at the same time. So their laughing and mocking went on. In fact, the sight of the other ogres fighting over this shiny little object was even more humorous to an ogre than merely their appearance alone. Soon the whole tribe was rapturous with laughter. But then, one ogre finally got a hold of the object. He ran to be by himself so he could selfishly enjoy his new treasure. As he looked closer and closer at the image revealed in the shiny object, his countenance slowly changed. His laughter began to fade into a chuckle, and his chuckle faded into a smirk, his smirk to a frown, and so on. In a matter of a few minutes, the ogre was the saddest ogre in the woods.

When the other ogres finally found him, they decided to fight for the object once again, if for no other reason than to see the funny sight of ogres hitting each other for the shiny little object once again. To their surprise, the sad ogre willingly gave the treasure up. Desperately, the sad ogre had hoped that giving the treasure up would make him jolly again (a rarity, ogres don’t give treasure up too often). But afterwards he didn’t feel better, instead he felt even more gloomy and upset than before. The other ogres took little notice of him at first and as planned began to fight each other to hold the treasure. In time, one by one, they each had their turn looking into the shiny object by themselves with its images of ogres, and one by one they each slowly changed from his jolly delight to sad melancholy.

Finally, the last ogre, after becoming saddened by the object, tried to give it back to the others. No one took it. None of them wanted to see the images again. So the last ogre had a novel idea (very unusual, novel ideas don’t come easily to ogres). He would smash the treasure to little pieces and be rid of it once and for all. So the great big ogre took hold of the shiny little treasure and smashed it to a hundred pieces. At first all the ogres grunted and growled in cheer for the bravery of the last ogre. For a moment they celebrated as usual laughing and mocking at the horrible appearances of the others. They even thought the image of the one who smashed the mirror was the most funny and ugly thing they had ever seen. But alas, they looked upon the shards of the broken treasure scattered around the ground. And as each ogre looked upon the shards, he saw that each separate piece contained the same images as before. Of course (as humans know), being broken pieces, the shards were smaller and they were not as clear as the larger object, but nevertheless they revealed the same image as the original treasure.

From that time on ogres have been a grumpy sort of creature. They don’t much like laughing at each other, and they sure won’t stand for anyone laughing at them. Many ogres have clubbed each other to death over a little giggle, and rumor has it many humans have been clubbed as well. Since that dreadful day in ogre history, ogres have hated humans above all else for sending upon their tribe the curse of the Mirror.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Does Church History Matter?

In a so called unprecedented age, where all of Christianity is re-inventing itself, and all of Christian doctrine is up for re-writing, one must ask the question "Does church history matter?" (Just to write this almost makes me cringe at how unbelievably near-sighted my generation has become!)

If we say 'yes it matters' too emphatically, the response will be "Why are you Protestants then?" Didn't Luther radically depart from centuries of theological teaching. One common criticism against Luther (and the Reformation) was "Can you alone be right and the whole world be wrong?" And, when Luther talks about Sola Scriptura, isn't he saying Scripture is all that matters?
A few things about Luther. First, his Sola Scriptura argument was not that Scripture is the only authority for the church, but that Scripture alone is the final authority for the church. According to Luther, there can be, indeed should be, lesser authorities, including pastors, doctors, and theologians of the past. Also, Luther himself was not a "My Bible and me" would-be-theologian. He was extremely well-versed in both Scripture (in which he earned a doctorate) AND church history. Luther did not see himself as departing from all of church history, but that part which strayed from Biblical faith. He would often use church history to defend his arguments, as did Calvin and all those who followed. Calvin himself was so well versed in Augustine that he would quote lengthy sections from his works from memory.
Now, having said that, here is the value of church history. I am one person. I read my Bible and come to certain conclusions based on what I know of the historical and textual context. You (my reader) are another person who does the same. For us to converse with each other may help us to see blindspots in each others thinking. What if we could multiply that by, say...a few million others throughout all generations of Christian history from every diverse background. Also, when I read the Bible, I find it helpful to consult an expert every so often, like a mature Christian friend or pastor. What if I could hear what theologians, philosophers, monks, pastors, and scholars have said about something for say...two thousand years? It is possible that we will discover something totally new, something that all of church history was wrong about, and we alone have discovered. It is possible, but not probable.
Church history is not authoritative in that it can tell us contrary to what Scripture tells us (in such case Scripture always wins), but it is authoritative in that it tells us what men and women (far more smart, far more faithful, and far more godly than I!) have thought of Scripture from generation to generation. Many of whom lost their lives because of their belief in it.
So, maybe instead of re-writing all of our Christian doctrine in this unprecedented age of reinventing the church (again cringing), we should humbly dialogue with the few million friends who went before and see if they have something to offer?

Friday, January 25, 2008

What would you want in a New Service?

At FBC we are thinking about adding a new service, open to everyone but geared towards 20-30-40 year olds. The gospel remains the constant, but how are we to be all things to all men that by all possible means we might save some. What would you want to see happening in a worship service that would allow style to work towards gospel-centeredness rather than as a hindrance from it? Examples

1. Breaking into small group prayer, more chance for fellowship

2. Better use of technology

3. Question/answer times during or after the message

4. More cultural engagement --dealing with what's going on in the world

5. More ancient liturgy, candles, incense, better tie into history

Any thoughts, lay them out.