"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)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Freemasonry: A cult?


For a while now I have been trying to understand Freemasonry. It is perhaps the most convoluted group of teachings of any society I've seen. It is extremely hard to pinpoint what masons actually believe. Most of the stuff you find against freemasons is equally whacky. There are numerous conspiracy theories alleged, along with accusations concerning the worship of Satan.

However, here is what can be absolutely determined.

1) Freemasonry is syncretistic. In other words it brings together different religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Paganism, Buddhism, etc. To become a mason you simply must believe in a god. It seems especially taken with mysticism (Kabbala, Rosicrucianism, gnosticism).

2) Freemasonry is a secret society and a religion. Though they deny both of these, their practices and writing affirm both. It is a society that is secretive about its rites and rituals (hence secret society). To reach various degrees you must swear an oath of secrecy. It is a religion. It includes prayer, rituals, moral systems, chaplains, beliefs about salvation, heaven, and morality (hence a religion).

3) Freemasonry teaches salvation by works. There are clear teachings that affirm that it is through good works that we attain salvation into the 'celestial lodge'. This salvation, as well as its symbols, is offered to people of any religion and therefore is not about the gospel of Christ.

Having said all this, these are the clear markers of a cult (which is why at least the Anglican and Roman Catholic church has labelled Freemasonry as heretical). Churches should be careful. One thinks about the letters to the churches in Revelation which warn the churches about the dangers of allowing false teaching to run rampant. It will effect the spiritual health of the church. What is more it is a dishonor to the sacrificial death of Christ in our behalf, the only means by which we can be saved. In him and him alone is our salvation.

The best resources available on the subject that I have found are from The Christian Research Institute (www.equip.org) A reputable ministry that does good work. Follow the links below:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

George Whitefield's Crypt - Old South Church, Newburyport, MA

One of the blessings of living in New England is that history is right in our back yard. The great evangelist/preacher of the Great Awakening George Whitefield's crypt is buried in a church he founded in Newburyport, MA. I can't believe I've lived here this long without having visited it. So, today I decided to drive the 2.7 miles over to Old South Church and visit.

While I was looking around at the outside of the church we met a guy on his way inside. I anxiously asked if there is a way to get a look inside. Just then the pastor of the church Rob John came to the door. Providentially he allowed us in for the '50 cent' tour. He said, next time, it is really helpful to call first...yeah, I was a little pushy, but hey it's George Whitefield's crypt! Thanks to Pastor Rob and his church member for being gracious to us. Take a look at some of the pictures below:
Though Whitefield never pastored at Old South, he was good friends with the first pastor there Jonathan Parsons with whom he is here buried (along with Joseph Mince, a minister who preached blind). It was pretty stunning standing at the pulpit, which felt about 10 feet higher than the pews for the congregation, under which Whitefiled is buried. After that, I took a seat by the crypt itself in the basement (that skull behind me is just a mold as his real skull is underneath with the rest of his remains!).

Of course Whitefield is in glory, awaiting the resurrection, and forgiven of all his sins through a mighty Christ, as he said, "What if thou hadst committed the sins of a million worlds? Christ's righteousness will cover, Christ's blood will cleanse thee from the guilt of all."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Peacemaking

Right now for our summer sunday school, we are going through a study by Peacemaker Ministries, that deals with conflict resolution. It is, to put it simply, OUTSTANDING. If you attend FBC, and you are able in any way to make it to the class, come. It is biblical, gospel-centered, practical, and profoundly helpful. I hope and pray that this class will lead to further small group and individual training on peacemaking. Follow the links and check it out:

Peacemaker ministries


Blurb on FBCs website

It is not too late, in fact you can borrow that previous material to catch up if you are interested.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cliches

A few years ago I started a sermon with a compilation of funny and nonsensical cliches. It went like this:

Cliché Analogies

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. And if that horse is stubborn as a mule than there is no sense beating a dead horse.

It’s important to have all your ducks lined up in a row, because Birds of a feather flock together. Besides that a bird in the hand is worth two in the air, but that’s okay if you can Kill two birds with one stone so long as you don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Because you don’t know which came first the chicken or the egg
And at the end of the day, To make an omelette you have to break a few eggs

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That’s too bad because Dog is man’s best friend even though it’s a Dog eat dog world. The last thing you want is to find yourself in the doghouse. Unless of course it’s Raining cats and dogs. In which case try to be a cool cat because their Bark is worse than their bite!
One more. You need to be able to Read people like a book, because some people even though they are as Quick as a whip and Sharp as a tack and maybe even cute as a button they will still Lie like a rug. So if you don’t know what you are doing you will be as Blind as a bat and as Dumb as doorknob, all dressed up with no place to go, and Standing there with your head in the sand, your tail between your legs, not knowing which way is up, and one thing is for sure you will not be happy as a clam.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Books to Read Before You Die

In my opinion, all these:











And at least one book by John Piper (preferably one of these):










Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Shack versus The Bible

When there is enough buzz about a popular book impacting Christians, I try to read it to get a gist of it so I can comment knowledgably about it. The Shack is the newest thing down the pipe. At first, I resisted buying the book and spending the time it would take to read it. I heard a couple of guys I respect (Albert Mohler and Mark Driscoll) talk about all the theological problems with the book, and that was enough for me (see also Michael Youssef's condemnation). But as more and more buzz grew about the book, I realized I should read it myself. I just finished it Tuesday.

I once heard it said that poison is most dangerous when it looks like something edible, such as candy. When poison sits in an ominous bottle with a skull and crossbones on the label, few are tempted to drink it. However, if poison were sitting in a candy bowl on the coffee table and looked like M & Ms it is much more dangerous. The Shack, I think, has enough poison in it to kill but comes packaged like candy coated chocolate.

Here is what I mean. There is much ‘good’ to say about the book. This is the candy coating of the book. First, it is an engaging story. I have to say I found myself almost in tears a number of times while reading the book. The main character Mack, loses his daughter to a serial killer. Just thinking about losing a daughter is deeply hurtful to me. The writer, Mr. Young is a decent writer and the book is very readable. Also the book deals with some of the hardest questions in life about God. For example: The Trinity, The Problem of Suffering and Free Will vs. Determinism, to name a few! Sadly, I think the Bible disagrees with Mr. Young on all three of these issues (and a host of others). Another candy coating is the book is very accessible. People are reading it, you can buy it at any Borders, Barnes & Noble, or book shop. It is wildly popular. That is the outer candy shell, but where is the poison? Where do I start.

Let me say I do not know Mr. Young personally, and my comments are not about him, but about the book. For all I know he may be a genuine Christian who let his imagination get away from him! Instead of making this a ‘me versus the author’ discussion, which would basically be useless, let me compare some of the direct quotes from the Shack with the Bible, and add just minimal explanation. In the end, what I think you will find, or at least what I found, was the god of the Shack was not the God of the Bible and not the God I love and worship. I know that is strong, but meditate on these differences:

In the Shack, God the Father is represented primarily by a ‘big black woman’. In Scripture God must not, indeed cannot be represented by any image human or otherwise.

The Bible: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Ex 20:4) “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Tim 1:17)

The Shack: “Am I going crazy? Am I supposed to believe that God is a big black woman with a questionable sense of humor?’ Jesus laughed. ‘She’s a riot! You can always count on her to throw you a curve or two. She loves surprises, and even though you might not think it, her timing is always perfect.” (90-91)

In the Shack the Father suffered the cross along with the Son. This has been labeled Patripassianism (a form of Modalism) in church history and condemned as a heresy. Scripture clearly denies this, as only the Son was born, died on the cross, and rose from the dead:

The Bible: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1) “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Ro 8:31) “In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Rev 5:12)

The Shack: “Papa [God the Father] didn’t answer, only looked down at their hands. His gaze followed hers and for the first time Mack noticed the scars on her wrists, like those he now assumed Jesus also had on his. She allowed him to tenderly touch the scars, outlines of a deep piercing, and he finally looked up again into her eyes.” (97) “When we three [the Trinity] spoke ourselves into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood.” (101)

In the Shack, there is no authority in the Trinity. The book is adamant about this, as if all members of the Trinity spurn all forms of authority. According to the Scriptures, although there is equality in the Trinity, there is also authority.

The Bible: Jesus says, “You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” (Jn 14:28) “For [God the Father] ‘has put everything under his feet.’ Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Cor 15:27-28)

The Shack: MacKenzie, we have no concept of final authority among us, only unity. We are in a circle of relationship without any overlay of power. We don’t need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best. Hierarchy would make no sense among us. Actually, this is your problem, not ours.” (124)

In the Shack, you do not have to be a ‘Christian’ to be a child of God, and Christ uses many roads to find you. In the Bible there is no other way to become a child of God but through the faith in the gospel of Christ as one becomes a Christian.

The Bible: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (Jn 1:12) “I am the way and the truth and the life and no man comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6) “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” (Acts 11:26) “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Ro 3:26-27)

The Shack: “Those who love me have come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims;…I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, in my Beloved.” “Does that mean,” said Mack, “that all roads will lead to you?” “Not at all.” Jesus smiled as he reached for the door handle to the shop. “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.” (184)

Similarly the Shack teaches that God has forgiven everyone’s sins (not just those who believe). According to the Bible, the only way to be forgiven is through faith in Christ.

The Bible: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38) “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:17-18)

The Shack: In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship. (227)

In the Shack, God submits to us (yes you read that right) so as not to impose on our free will. You almost have to ask the question of the book “Who is god to whom?” In the Bible, we submit to God and God never submits to us.

The Bible: “submit to the LORD” (2 Chr 30:8) “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me.” (Ps 81:11) “Now as the church submits to Christ....” (Eph 5:24)“Submit yourselves, then, to God.” (James 4:7) As far as God submitting to our free will, this is simply wrong: “One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will? “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' ‘Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Ro 9:19-21)

The Shack: “Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we [The Trinity] are submitted to you in the same way.’ Mack was surprised. “How can that be? Why would the God of the universe want to be submitted to me?’ Because we want you to join us in our circle of relationship. I don’t want slaves to my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me.” (147-148)

This anti-authority mentality extends not only to man, but to all institutions in the Shack, such as politics, economics, and marriage. The Bible has a very different view.

The Bible: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves….This is why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.” (Ro 13:1-7). Jesus tells Pontius Pilate, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (Jn 19:11). “I urge, then, first of all, that request, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:1-4)

The Shack: “Like I said, I don’t create institutions; that’s an occupation for those who want to play God. So no, I’m not too big on religion, and not very fond of politics or economics either.’ Jesus’ visage darkened noticeably. ‘And why should I be? They are the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and receives those I care about. What mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three?’” (181)

In the Shack, suffering is not from God and not part of God’s plan. According the Scripture, God is sovereign over all things. Again, what Mr. Young is saying is partially true. It is the part that is wrong that is so dangerous. But first the Bible:

The Bible: “’Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10) There are numerous places where God brings judgment on someone, take for example Uzzah who touched the ark “The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.” (2 Sam 2:7). As for Christians and our suffering, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” (He 12:7-8)

The Shack
: “But I still don’t understand why Missy had to die.” “She didn’t have to, Mackenzie. This was no plan of Papa’s. Papa has never needed evil to accomplish her good purposes. It is you humans who have embraced evil, and Papa has responded with goodness. What happened to Missy was the work of evil, and no one in your world is immune from it.” (167)

I could go on and on, and as it is, I have failed to mention serious issues with regard to God’s holiness, the gender issue with God, the doctrine of sin, the doctrine of the atonement, the teaching about Scripture, etc. that are misconstrued and disfigured in this book. If you haven’t read it, my suggestion is, don’t, simply because it is unhelpful and will be over and done with in a year or two. If you have read it, I would encourage you to ask the question “Does this match up with Scripture?” Where is The Shack getting its view of God? If not from Scripture, then where?
In the foreword to the book we read the line, “Mack would like you to know that if you happen upon this story and hate it, he says, ‘Sorry…but it wasn’t primarily written for you.’” With this I would have to agree. This book was not written for me. I have grown to love the The Unseen Father in Heaven, and Christ Jesus his Son who alone died in my place, and the Spirit of Truth who gave us the Word of God in the Bible, far too much to really enjoy a book such as the Shack.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Justice and Mercy

I love this quote by Christmas Evans (1766-1838). He personifies the justice and mercy of God and how they must come together in the cross:

"An embassy of angels, commissioned from Heaven to some other world, paused at the sight; and Heaven forgave that pause. They saw Mercy standing by the gate, and they cried, ‘Mercy, canst thou not enter? Canst thou look upon that world and not pity? Canst thou pity and not relieve?’ And Mercy, in tears, replied, ‘I can see, and I can pity, but I cannot relieve.’ ‘Why dost thou not enter?’ inquired the heavenly host. ‘Oh,’ said Mercy, ‘Law has barred the gate against me, and I must not, and I cannot unbar it.’ And Law stood there watching the gate, and the angels asked of him, ‘Why wilt thou not suffer Mercy to enter?’ And he said, ‘No one can enter here and live;’ and the thunder of his voice outspoke the wailings within. Then again I heard Mercy cry, ‘Is there no entrance for me into this field of death? may I not visit these caverns of the grave; and seek, if it may be, to raise some at least of these children of destruction, and bring them to the light of day? Open, Justice, Open! drive back these iron bolts, and let me in, that I may proclaim the jubilee of redemption to the children of the dust!’ And then I heard Justice reply, ‘Mercy! surely thou lovest Justice too well to wish to burst these gates by force of arm, and thus to obtain entrance by lawless violence. I cannot open the door: I am not angry with these unhappy, I have no delight in their death, or in hearing their cries, as they lie upon the burning hearth of the great fire, kindled by the wrath of God, in the land that is lower than the grave. But without shedding of blood there is no remission.’

Thank God for the cross which satisfies God's justice and provides us the mercy of salvation! As we approach Good Friday and Easter, may we be reminded of God's love for sinners like us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Gospel, defined

By God’s grace, I persevered through two years as a youth pastor when I began pastoral ministry. One of the great blessings of doing youth ministry was to recognize the need to be as simple and crystal clear as possible. Otherwise forget it, teenagers will eat your lunch. If I tried to skirt an issue, or beat around the bush, or was fuzzy in my own thinking, they would see it as naptime. Eventually, I learned to be direct. I would say to the teenagers, “If at the end of the day, after all is said and done, you do not know what the gospel is, I have failed you as a youth pastor. But if at the end of the day you do know what the gospel is, then I have succeeded. Yes, there is more to it than that, we are going to be learning how to love each other, and serve others, and build community together and learning how to understand the Bible, all of which are products of the gospel. But at the end of the day, the primary measure of my success as a youth pastor is whether or not you understand what the gospel is.” Hopefully till this day you could walk up to them and ask them, “What is the gospel?” and hear a simple short summary. Here it is, the gospel is this:
We are all sinners who stand under the judgment of God. But God in his grace has sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place on the cross and to rise again, that whoever repents and believes in him will be saved.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Grace Immediate (another poem)

'What is Grace? Is It absurd?
Can It be touched, can It be heard?
Where do we find It? Where is It known?
Can it be held? Can It be shown?
Is Grace of God? Or is Grace of man?
Is It transcendent? Can it grip our hand!'

The world is darkened in need of You
Broken and fettered, so we ask 'Who
Are you oh Grace? Speak or we die
Vanquish us now, or comfort our cry!'

Then spoke a man of humanly face,
'I hear you my son, I am true Grace.
I am transcendent yet I am here,
Enclothed in flesh, dying all stare
Suffering for you I carry the cross
I have known anguish; I have known loss'

Could it be Grace, come as a man?
Grace to be held, gripping our hand!
You are true Grace, whom my soul seeks
Grace that can hear, grace that speaks!'