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Milstones And Beach Trips

I read this morning that school students will begin making patrols with police in Hungary during a month long campaign to change driving habits. According to authorities, the schoolchildren will hand out pieces of lemon when police issue a fine for bad drivers. In like manner, they will give good drivers an apple. County Police spokesman Gergely Fulop said, "A penalty coming from a kid for breaking rules generates a stronger feeling of guilt among adults than a simple fine."

Would you child give you and apple or a lemon based on what they saw of you life? Your kids see you good, bad, and really ugly. I pray never have to hear my son say “daddy, I thought you preached and told me that we never yell at mommy” or some other rebuke from my child. But, the responsibility to set a godly example for our children is paramount in all that we do. Jesus went so far to express his feeling in a chilling way when he said Matthew 18:6

“"But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me--it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea!”
Wow, Jesus tell us how you really feel. Jesus knows the influence parents have and it deeply angers Him when this influence and responsibility is not used to bring kids closer to Jesus. So, should you have a millstone around you neck or not?

Back to work on Sunday’s Sermon, Pastor Phillip


Life Is Hard

The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous face many troubles, but the LORD rescues them from each and every one. (Psalms 34:17-19)

Life is hard for all people. We all stump our toes, we all face adversity. I love the Bible because it is real. It touches human life and correlates to experience, but offers hope far greater than anything we could ever imagine. Notice in the passage above and the emphasis on “his people.” When we allow ourselves to be claimed by God and surrender our self-sufficiency and then turn to allow His God-sufficiency to replace it we open a new door to a new life blessing and protection.

Now, of course we wish we could escape troubles—the pain of grief, loss, sorrow, and failure, or even the small daily frustrations that wear us down. But, we don’t get an escape we get God. God promises to be "close to the brokenhearted" and to be our source of power, courage, and wisdom, helping us through our problems. It seems the more problems we have the closer God is. So when trouble strikes, don't get frustrated with God. Instead, know that if have trusted in Christ as your Savior he is there and closer than you know or even imagine.

Pastor Phillip


Steroids and the Grace of God

Steroids, with a new rash of baseball players busted I had to think about the * or the asterisk. The asterisk, of course, means that the record is a sort-of record, a footnoted record. The asterisk means the record is tainted. Take home run king Barry Bonds back on August 7, 2007, Bonds hit number 756, the home run that broke Hank Aaron's record. Most of the talk about the new record, though, is whether it really should count, because Bonds was juiced up. Sports buffs say if his name goes in the record book it should be accompanied by an asterisk.

But what if God placed marks beside our name when we messed up or cheated at life? I mean what if all of our infractions and sins were held over head, talked about, thrown in our face for the rest of life? How awful would that be? Thankfully Psalm 103 10-12 says

10 He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve
or repaid us according to our offenses.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His faithful love
toward those who fear Him.

12 As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed
our transgressions from us.

Then the great words of Romans 8:1

Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those who are in Christ Jesus

Thankful may name is free of the * because of the grace of God, Pastor Phillip


Quit Trying To Be Good!!!

The Westminster Confession of Faith our Presbyterian brother’s use begins with a very good question. It asks “what is the chief end of man?” What do we as humans live and exist for? Now this powerful document answers “Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” This means that goal should be to bring God glory by enjoying Him. This is great! This does not say that our chief end is to glorify God by trying harder, doing better, cussing less, or even sinning less but by enjoying God. Now enjoying God means that these other areas will fall into line.

The Christian life for many is a struggle to be good, but this misses the point. Only Jesus is good, and our responsibility is to be in Christ and accept His goodness and grace on our behalf. We get the great transaction 2Cor 5:21 “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

So we should live our lives and seek to love and enjoy all the blessings that God has for us. The problem with trying to be good by sinning less is that you continually focus on not sinning. The problem here is the focus is on sin. When we do this we miss all the good things of God to enjoy. This is a liberating concept that I have only began to live out in my life over the past year. So today strive to live out “Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psa 34:8) This means that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God's glory.” (1Co 10:31)

Going to glorify God right now by pouring another cup of coffee! Pastor Phillip

BTW, I got some Italian Coffee Cream (powdered) here at the office and it too sweet for me, so if you want it come and get it!


Sunday's Sermon Notes 2/8/09

Parent Traps: Avoiding Satan Traps For Our Families

For the LORD... will keep your foot from the trap”. Pro 3:26

The Trap of Provision: We should strive to foster worship of God over worship of material

1) Providing For the Needs of Our Children Is a Basic Responsibility: But if someone does not provide for his own, especially his own family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)

2) Are We Guilty of Providing Too Much of the Wrong Things and Not Enough of the Right Thing: After all, we didn't bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. (1 Timothy 6:7-8)

3) The Right Thing to Provide Your Child is Instruction in How to Rightly Worship God : "There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. (Romans 3:10-11)

God has made your child’s heart to worship, what it will worship is going to be largely influenced by you as parents …

So be aware your parenting shapes generations to come: "These are all the commands, laws, and regulations that the LORD your God told me to teach you so you may obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy, and so you and your children and grandchildren might fear the LORD your God as long as you live. If you obey all his laws and commands, you will enjoy a long life. (Deuteronomy 6:1-2)

So make sure God is worshipped daily: Listen closely, Israel, to everything I say. Be careful to obey. Then all will go well with you, and you will have many children in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you. "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one (or The Lord Alone). (Deuteronomy 6:3-4)

So be warned about the failure to love God with all your heart, soul, and strength: And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. (Deuteronomy 6:5-6)

Giving your kids only a little of God may have the affect of inoculating them from ever experiencing the fullness and the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ…

Your children will probably never raise any higher spiritually than where you are right now in your life…

So Don’t Let Striving for Material Provision Keep You From Providing For Them Spiritually : And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Mark 8:36

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:17

Questions for Reflection

1. What do I provide more of for my child: spiritual instruction or stuff?

2. What am I as a parent intentionally doing to shape the spiritual direction of my child?

3. What am I as a parent showing my kids through my life is more important: stuff or God?

4. If my kids never grew any closer to God than I am, would this be OK?

Is worship of God in our house a daily reality or once a week event?


Facebook Turns Five

Facebook marked its fifth anniversary on February 5, setting a milestone for social networking as a cultural phenomenon. I enjoy it and like keeping up with friends. But as with anything there are some guidlines that are good to follow. Below is a list that was complied by Dr. Albert Mohler.

Here are a few suggestions for safeguarding the social networking experience:

1. Never allow social networking to replace or rival personal contact and communication. God made us to be social creatures that crave community. We cannot permit ourselves to substitute social networking for the harder work of building and maintaining personal relationships that are face to face.

2. Set clear parameters for the time devoted to social networking. These services can be seductive and time consuming. Social networking (and the Internet in general) can become obsessive and destructive of other relationships and higher priorities for the Christian.

3. Never write or post anything on a social networking site that you would not want the world to see, or anything that would compromise your Christian witness. There are plenty of young people (perhaps older persons now, too) who are ruining future job prospects and opportunities by social networking misbehavior. The cost to Christian witness is often far greater.

4. Never allow children and teenagers to have independent social networking access (or Internet access, for that matter). Parents should monitor, manage, supervise, and control the Internet access of their children and teens. Watch what your child posts and what their friends post.

5. Do not allow children and teens to accept any "friend" unknown to you. The social networking world can be a dangerous place, and parental protection here is vital.

6. Encourage older friends and relatives to sign up and use the technology. Grandparents can enjoy keeping up with grandchildren and with friends and loved ones separated by distance or mobility.

7. Use the social networking technology to bear witness to the Gospel, but never think that this can replace the centrality of face-to-face evangelism, witness, and discipleship.

8. Do all things to the glory of God, and do not allow social networking to become an idol or a display of narcissism.

The fifth anniversary of Facebook is a milestone in American culture -- and a good time for a reality check. We were made by our Creator to be social creatures, but made for far more than mere social media.

Got to update my status! Pastor Phillip


The Shack: Good, Bad, Or Ulgy?

The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Acts 17:11 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

The Shack, people I find either love it or hate it. I read it and was bothered. Now being bothered by what you read can be a good thing as it challenges your ideas and beliefs. The challenge made me think through conceptions of God, made me think about the interrelation of the Trinity, and made me think through the ever-present problem of evil. All big and weighty matters are good to sort through, but as they are sorted out the basis of belief has to be based Scripture and not fiction. Because it is so popular and people have asked me about it, I am going to post a critical review of the book. Now, the review I am going to post is a bit long and nit-picky, but I think it will cause you think through these matters presented in the book a bit more biblically. I don’t necessarily see all the problems the writer of this review presents, but Norm Geisler is a leading Christian theologian and far smarter than myself.

The Shack: Helpful or Heretical?A Critical Review by Norman L. Geisler and Bill Roach

The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by William P. Young (Wind Blown Media, 2007, 264 pp) is a New York Times best seller with well over a million copies in print. Literally hundreds of thousands have been blessed by its message, but its message is precisely what calls for scrutiny. Responses to The Shack range from eulogy to heresy. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message predicted that The Shack “has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!” Emmy Award Winning Producer of ABC Patrick M. Roddy declares that “it is a one of a kind invitation to journey to the very heart of God. Through my tears and cheers, I have been indeed transformed by the tender mercy with which William Paul Young opened the veil that too often separated me from God and from myself.” (http://theshackbook.com/endorsements.html). People from all walks of life are raving about this book by unknown author “Willie” Young, son of a pastor/missionary, and born in Canada. He is a graduate of Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon.

The Background of the Book
The Shack is Christian fiction, a fast-growing genre in the contemporary Christian culture. It communicates a message in a casual, easy-to-read, non-abrasive manner. From his personal experience, Young attempts to answer some of life’s biggest questions: Who is God? Who is Jesus? What is the Trinity? What is salvation? Is Jesus the only way to Heaven? If God, then why evil? What happens after I die? In the final section of the book titled “The Story behind THE SHACK,” he reveals that the motivation for this story comes from his own struggle to answer many of the difficult questions of life. He claims that his seminary training just did not provide answers to many of his pressing questions. Then one day in 2005, he felt God whisper in his ear that this year was going to be his year of Jubilee and restoration. Out of that experience he felt lead to write The Shack. According to Young, much of the book was formed around personal conversations he had with God, family, and friends (258-259). He tells the readers that the main character “Mack” is not a real person, but a fictional character used to communicate the message in the book. However, he admits that his children would “recognize that Mack is mostly me, that Nan is a lot like Kim, that Missy and Kate and the other characters often resemble our family members and friends” (259).

The Basic Story of the Book
The story centers around a note that Mack, the husband and father in the story, received from “Papa,” who is supposed to be God the Father. It reads, “Mackenzie, It’s been a while. I’ve missed you. I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together” (19). From this, the story moves through the personal struggles Mack has with such questions as: Why would someone send me this letter? Does God really speak through letters? How would my seminary training respond to this interaction between God and man? The story takes a turn when Mack’s son almost drowns while canoeing. During the chaos his daughter is abducted and eventually killed. This is what caused Mack to fall into what the book calls “The Great Sadness.” This time period is supposed to reflect his spiritual condition after the death of his daughter and the questions he has been asking for many years. Grieved with the death of his daughter and the possibility that the note might be from God, Mack packs his bags and heads for the shack. The point of this journey is to suggest that his traditional teaching, Sunday prayers, hymns, and approach to Christianity were all wrong. He comes to the conclusion that “cloistered spirituality seemed to change nothing in the lives of people he knew, except maybe Nan [his wife]” (63). In spite of being an unlikely encounter with God, Young uses this fictional encounter as a vehicle for Mack’s spiritual journey and encounter at the shack. While at the shack, Mack discovers that God is not what we expect Him to be. In fact, God the Father is a “large beaming African-American woman,” Jesus appeared to be “Middle Eastern and was dressed like a laborer, complete with tool belt and gloves,” and the Holy Spirit is named Sarayu, “a small, distinctively Asian woman.” The book identifies these three people as the Trinity (80-82). After trying to reconcile his seminary training with this new encounter with God, he concludes that what he had learned was of no help.

A Brief Evaluation of the Book
Young’s point is clear: forget your preconceived notions about God, forget your seminary training, and realize that God chooses to appear to us in whatever form we personally need; He is like a mixed metaphor. We cannot fall back into our religious conditioning (91). The Shack attempts to present a Christian worldview through the genre of religious fiction, but just how Christian it is remains to be seen.

Problem One: A Rejection of Traditional Christianity
Beneath the surface of The Shack is a rejection of traditional Christianity (179). He claims that traditional Christianity did not solve his problem. Even Seminary training didn’t help (63). He insists that Christianity has to be revised in order to be understood, reminiscent of McClaren’s Emergent Church book titled, Everything Must Change. However, one might question whether it is Christianity that needs revision or Christians that need to be revitalized. One thing is certain, Christianity should not be rejected because it has some hypocritical representatives. To be sure, some Seminary training is bad, and even good Seminary training doesn’t help, if you don’t heed it. But the baby should not be thrown out with the bathwater. Christ established the Church and said the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Mt. 16:16-18). The Shack, as gripping as its story is, trades a church occupied with people who hear the Word of God preached for an empty shack where there is neither.

Problem Two: Experience Trumps Revelation
An underlying problem with the message of The Shack is that it uses personal experience to trump revelation. The solutions to life’s basic problems come from extra-biblical experience, not from Scripture (80-100). Non-biblical voices are given precedent over the voice of God in Scripture. These alleged “revelations” from the “Trinity” in the shack are the basis of the whole story. While biblical truth is alluded to, it is not the authoritative basis of the message. In the final analysis, it is experience that is used to interpret the Bible; it is not the Bible that is used to interpret experience. This leads to a denial of a fundamental teaching of Protestantism.

Problem Three: The Rejection of Sola Scriptura
The Shack rejects the sole authority of the Bible to determine matters of faith and practice. Rather than finding a Bible by the altar in a little old country church and getting comfort and counsel from the word of God, he is instructed to go to an empty shack in the wilderness with no Bible and get all he needs to cope with the tragedies of life from extra-biblical voices. The Shack’s author rejects what “In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture…. God’s voice had been reduced to paper…. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients…. Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book” (63). However, the Bible clearly declares that “Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, emphasis added). Indeed, our comfort is not found in extra-biblical revelations but is realized in that “through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). In short, the Bible is sufficient for faith and practice. No new truth beyond the Bible is needed for doctrine or living the Christian life. Of course, this does not mean that God cannot bring biblical principles to our minds when needed through various experiences, even tragic ones. He can and He does. Nor does it mean that God cannot guide in circumstances that help us in the application of biblical principles to our lives. He can and He does. But these experiences bring no new revelation. They are merely the occasion for God focusing our attention on the only infallible written source of His revelation, the Bible and the Bible alone.To forsake this fundamental principle is to leave Protestantism for Mysticism.

Problem Four: An Unbiblical View of the Nature and Triunity of God
In addition to an errant view of Scripture, The Shack has an unorthodox view of the Trinity. God appears as three separate persons (in three separate bodies) which seems to support Tritheism in spite of the fact that the author denies Tritheism (“We are not three gods”) and Modalism (“We are not talking about One God with three attitudes”—p. 100). Nonetheless, Young departs from the essential nature of God for a social relationship among the members of the Trinity. He wrongly stresses the plurality of God as three separate persons: God the Father appears as an “African American woman” (80); Jesus appears as a Middle Eastern worker (82). The Holy Spirit is represented as “a small, distinctively Asian woman” (82). And according to Young, the unity of God is not in one essence (nature), as the orthodox view holds. Rather, it is a social union of three separate persons. Besides the false teaching that God the Father and the Holy Spirit have physical bodies (since “God is spirit”—Jn. 4:24), the members of the Trinity are not separate persons (as The Shack portrays them); they are only distinct persons in one divine nature. Just as a triangle has three distinct corners, yet is one triangle. It is not three separate corners (for then it would not be a triangle if the corners were separated from it), Even so,God is one in essence but has three distinct (but inseparable) Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Problem Five: An Unbiblical View of Punishing Sin
Another claim is that God does not need to punish sin. He states, “At that, Papa stopped her preparations and turned toward Mack. He could see a deep sadness in her eyes. ‘I am not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It is not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it’” (119). As welcoming as this message may be, it at best reveals a dangerously imbalanced understanding of God. For in addition to being loving and kind, God is also holy and just. Indeed, because He is just He must punish sin. The Bible explicitly says that” the soul that sins shall die” (Eze. 18:2). “I am holy, says the Lord” (Lev. 11:44). He is so holy that Habakkuk says of God, “You…are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong…” (Hab. 1:13). Romans 6:23 declares: “The wages of sin is death….” And Paul added, “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). In short, The Shack presents lop-sided view of God as love but not justice. This view of a God who will not punish sin undermines the central message of Christianity—that Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:1f.) and rose from the dead. Indeed, some emergent Church leaders have given a more frontal and near blasphemous attack on the sacrificial atonement of Christ, calling it a “form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful father, punishing his son for offences he has not even committed” (Steve Chalke, The Lost Message of Jesus, 184). Such is the end of the logic that denies an awesomely holy God who cannot tolerate sin was satisfied (propitiated) on behalf of our sin (1 Jn. 2:1). For Christ paid the penalty for us, “being made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God through him” (2 Cor. 5:21), “suffering the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18).

Problem Six: A False View of the Incarnation
Another area of concern is a false view of the person and work of Christ. The book states, “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this universe, we now became flesh and blood” (98). However, this is a serious misunderstanding of the Incarnation of Christ. The whole Trinity was not incarnated. Only the Son was (Jn. 1:14), and in His case deity did not become humanity but the Second Person of the Godhead assumed a human nature in addition to His divine nature. Neither the Father nor Holy Spirit (who are pure spirit--John 4:24) became human, only the Son did.

Problem Seven: A Wrong View of the Way of Salvation
Another problem emerges in the message of The Shack. According to Young, Christ is just the “best” way to relate to the Father, not the only way (109). The “best” does not necessarily imply the only way, which then means that there may be other ways to relate to God. Such an assertion is contrary to Jesus’ claim, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes unto the Father except through me” (John14:6). He added, “He who believes in Him [Christ] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Jn. 3:18). Jesus is not merely the best way, but He is the only way to God. Paul declared: “There is one God and one mediator between God and Men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Problem Eight: A Heretical View of the Father SufferingThe book also contains a classic heresy called Patripassionism (Literally: Father Suffering). Young claims that God the Father suffered along with the Son, saying, “Haven’t you seen the wounds on Papa [God the Father] too?’ I didn’t understand them. ‘How could he…’ ‘For love. He chose the way of the cross… because of love’” (p. 165). But both the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed (A.D. 325) made it very clear that it was Jesus alone who “suffered” for us on the Cross. And that He did this only through His human nature. To say otherwise is to engage in “confusing the two natures” of Christ which was explicitly condemned in the Chalcedonian Creed (A.D. 451). Suffering is a form of change, and the Bible makes it very clear that God cannot change. “I the Lord change not” (Mal. 3:6). “There is no shadow of change with Him” (Jas. 1:17). When all else changes, God “remains the same” (Heb. 1:10-12).

Problem Nine: A Denial of Hierarchy in the Godhead
The Shack also claims that there is no hierarchy in God or in human communities modeled after Him. He believes that hierarchy exists only as a result of the human struggle for power. Young writes of God: “‘Well I know that there are three of you. But you respond with such graciousness to each other. Isn’t one of you more the boss than the other two…. I have always thought of God the Father as sort of being the boss and Jesus as the one following orders, you know being obedient….’ ‘Mackenzie, we have no concept of final authority among us; only unity. We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command…. What you’re seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power…. Hierarchy would make no sense among us’” (121). However, Young cites no Scripture to support this egalitarian view of God and human relations—and for good reasons since the Bible clearly affirms that there is an order of authority in the Godhead, the home, and the church. Submission and obedience are biblical terms. Jesus submitted to the Father: “O My Father,… not my will be done but yours” (Mt. 26:39). “He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death…” (Philip. 2:8). In heaven “then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). Children are to submit to their parents: Paul urged, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord…” (Eph. 6:1). Likewise, women are urged: “Wives submit to your own husband, as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). “The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). Members are to “obey your leaders” (Heb. 13:17). Indeed, citizens are commanded “to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient…” (Titus 3:1). The hierarchial order in the Godhead is the basis for all human relationships. And pure love does not eliminate this; it demands it. The Bible declares; “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 Jn. 5:3). Portraying God as a Mother, rather than a Father, reveals an underlying anti-masculinity in Young’s thought. He wrote, “Males seem to be the cause of so much of the pain in the world. They account for most of the crime and many of those are perpetrated against women…. The world, in many ways, would be a much calmer and gentler place if women ruled. There would have been far fewer children sacrificed to the gods of greed and power” (148). He does not explain how this would not be a hierarchy if women “ruled” the world.

Problem Ten:Ignoring the Crucial Role of the Church in Edifying Believers
The Shack is totally silent about the important role the community of believers plays in the life of individuals needing encouragement. In fact there is a kind of anti-church current born of a reaction to a hypocritical, legalistic, and abusive father who was a church leader (1-3). However, this is clearly contrary to the command of Scripture. A bad church should not be replaced with no church but with a better church. God gave the church “pastors and teachers, to equip the saints…for building up the body of Christ…” (Eph. 4:11-12). Paul said, “To each [one in the body] is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). Young replaces a Bible-based church in the wildwood with a Bible-less shack in the wild. Comfort in bereavement is sought in a lonely, Bible-less, empty shack in the wilderness where one is to find comfort by heeding deceptive presentations of God. At this point several scriptural exhortations about being aware of deceiving spirits come to mind (1 Tim. 4:1; 1 John 4:1; 2 Cor. 11:14). As for the need for a church, the Scriptures exhort us “not to forget the assembling together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as we see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25). Without the regular meeting with a body of edifying believers, proper Christian growth is inevitably stunted.

Problem Eleven:An Inclusivistic View of Who Will be Saved
While The Shack falls short of the universalism (“All will be saved”) found in other emergent writings, it does have a wide-sweeping inclusivism whereby virtually anyone through virtually any religion can be saved apart from Christ. According to Young,, “Jesus [said]…. ‘Those who love me come from every system that exists. They are Buddhists or Mormons, Baptist, or Muslims, …and many who are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institution…. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christians, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa….’ ‘Does that mean…that all roads will lead to you?’ ‘Not at all…. Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you’” (184).Again, there is no biblical support for these claims. On the contrary, the Scriptures affirm that there is no salvation apart from knowing Christ. Acts 4:12 pronounces that “There is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.” 1 Tim. 2:5 insists that “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” And Jesus said, “unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24). For “whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (Jn. 3:36). And “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (Jn. 3:18).

Problem Twelve: A Wrong View of Faith and Reason
The Shack embraces an irrational view of faith. It declares: “There are times when you choose to believe something that would normally be considered absolutely irrational. It doesn’t mean that it is actually irrational, but it is surely not rational” (64). Even common sense informs us that this is no way to live the Christian life. The Bible says, “’Come now let us reason together,’ says the Lord” (Isa. 1:18:). “Give a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15); “Paul…reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2). “These were more fair-minded [because] they searched the Scriptures daily…whether these things be so” (Acts 17:11). “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God” (1 Jn. 4:1, emphasis added in above quotes). Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and reasonable Christians would add, “The unexamined faith is not worth having.”
Problem Thirteen: It Eliminates Knowledge of God According to Young, God is wholly other; we can’t really know Him. He wrote: “I am God. I am who I am. And unlike you…” (96). “I am what some would say ‘holy and wholly other than you’” (97). “I am not merely the best version of you that you can think of. I am far more than that, above and beyond all that you can ask or think” (97). One basic problem with this view is that it is self-defeating. How could we know God is “wholly other”? Wholly other than what? And how can we know what God is not unless we know what He is? Totally negative knowledge of God is impossible. Further, according to the Bible, we can know what God is really like from both general and special revelation. For “Since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen…even his eternal power and Godhead…” (Rom.1:20). As for special revelation, Jesus said, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also” (Jn. 14:7) and “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (Jn. 14:6). God does speak of Himself in His written Word (2 Tim. 3:16), and when He does it tells us something about the way He really is. His words are not deceptive but descriptive.

Problem Fourteen: It Entails Divine Deception
According to The Shack, God is revealed in ways contrary to His nature. The Father is revealed as a black woman and having a body when He is neither. The reason given for this is that in love God revealed Himself in ways that would be acceptable to the recipient (who had a bad father image) but were not so. But this is case of divine deception. God is a spirit (Jn. 4:24) and He has no body (Lk. 24:39). God is never called a “Mother” in the Bible. It is deceptive to portray God’s Nature in any way that He is not, even though ones motive is loving (91-92). A lie told with a loving motive is still a lie. Of course, when God speaks to finite creatures He engages in adaptation to human limits but never in accommodation to human error. Portraying God as having a black female body is like saying storks bring babies. Young calls it a “mask” that falls away (111). But God does not have masks, and He does not masquerade. “It is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18). Paul speaks of the “God who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). It is only the Devil, the Father of lies, who engages in appearing in forms he is not. “For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). To be sure, there are figures of speech in Scripture, speaking of God as a rock or a hen, but they are known to be metaphorical and not literal, since there are no immaterial rocks and God does not have feathers.

The Shack may do well for many in engaging the current culture, but not without compromising Christian truth. The book may be psychologically helpful to many who read it, but it is doctrinally harmful to all who are exposed to it. It has a false understanding of God, the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, the nature of man, the institution of the family and marriage, and the nature of the Gospel. For those not trained in orthodox Christian doctrine, this book is very dangerous. It promises good news for the suffering but undermines the only Good News (the Gospel) about Christ suffering for us. In the final analysis it is only truth that is truly liberating. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). A lie may make one feel better, but only until he discovers the truth. This book falls short on many important Christian doctrines. It promises to transform people’s lives, but it lacks the transforming power of the Word of God (Heb. 4:12) and the community of believers (Heb. 10:25). In the final analysis, this book is not a Pilgrim’s Progress, but doctrinally speaking The Shack is more of a Pilgrim’s Regress.

Here is another review that I probably like better and is worth reading as well.

Do you agree or disagree with this critical assessment of the book? Is this a mountain out of a molehill? What do you think? Pastor Phillip


Could Your Child Stand This Firm?

Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your brothers in the world. (10) Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little. 1Pe 5:9-10

I have spent a few weeks in China, great country, rough place to be a Christian. While we were there half of our group was detained for suspected missionary activity. They actually had to eat a Chinese census map in order to get rid of the evidence. But, after a half a day they were released. They worst that happens to westerners is a fine and deported out of the country. But, for the Chinese they go to work camps and lose property and jobs. So, as we are looking at raising Godly children here at Antioch, I came across this amazing story of the heart and determination of some very young Chinese Christians.

China's constitution allows citizens to believe in God, but does not guarantee the opportunity to put those beliefs into practice. The Open Doors organization reports that recently a group of children made a huge impact on government officials.

According to a Chinese teacher, the children were taken into custody when officials raided a Sunday School meeting. Security Bureau officers confiscated incriminating evidence and herded the children into a van. As the van headed to the police station the children started singing. When they arrived, they marched bravely into the interrogation room still singing, "In the name of Jesus, we have the victory."

The police interrogator threatened the children, telling them they would have to write "I do not believe in Jesus" one hundred times. Instead of cowering under the threats, the children wrote, "I believe in Jesus today. I will believe in Jesus tomorrow. I will believe in Jesus forever."

Officials were not prepared for a strong stand from children, and decided to call the parents into the police station. They told the parents they would release the children only if the parents said they were not Christians. Since many of the parents were not believers, they affirmed they did not believe and took their children home. When one widowed woman came to pick up her twin sons, she refused to deny Jesus.

Officials told her that if she did not deny Jesus, they would not release her sons. She responded by telling the police. "Well, I guess you will just have to keep them because without Jesus, there would be no way for me to take care of them!" Since the frustrated authorities had not expected such strong resistance, they told the woman to take her boys and leave, which she did.

Wow, that last mom blew me away. It seems she thought here children are just as well with the jailers because without Jesus she is incapable of raising them! What if we had that same dependency on Jesus in our lives, then maybe our kids would be able to stand firm like these little amazing believers did?

Resolve to depend absolutely on Christ today in all I do! Pastor Phillip


Sunday's Sermon Notes

Parent Traps: Avoiding Satan’s Traps For Our Families

“For the LORD... will keep your foot from the trap”. Pro 3:26

Sermon #1 The Trap of Success: We should strive to foster Christlikeness over cultural accomplishment

1) Beware Of The World’s Definition of Success For Your Children

Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world-- (16) the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one's lifestyle--is not from the Father, but is from the world. (17) And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God's will remains forever 1 John 2:15-17

2) Would We Be Proud Of Jesus If He Were Our Son?

And there came a voice from heaven: This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him! Matthew 3:17

3) What Was The Definition Of Success For Jesus?

"Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me--nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done." Luke 22:42

Success For Jesus Was Lovingly And Trustingly Submitting To God’s Plan And Purpose For His Life

Success For Your Child Not Merely Being…

Popular: "There's trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests--look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.” (Luke 6:26 The Message)

Smart: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge Pro 1:7

Self-Confident: I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Well-Behaved: Hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said: (8) These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. Matthew 15:7-8

Saved: But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Mat 10:22

So What Is Success For A Christian Parent?

Success For A Christian Parent Is Teaching Their Child To Lovingly And Trustingly Submit To God’s Plan And Purpose For Their Life

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. (14) Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous-and how well I know it. (15) You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. (16) You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. (17) How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable!

Psalms 139:13-17

You Help Your Children To Become The People That God Wants Them To Be

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

These notes were from this past Sunday. This Sunday it will be looking at the Trap Of Provision In Parenting. I hope to see you there! Pastor Phillip


I read recently about an old massive bridge in the Scottish highlands that spans a gorge known as "The High Bridge." But something happened that made it necessary for officials to condemn it. A tiny birch seed, caught by a gust of wind, dropped into a small crevice above the keystone. It lodged unnoticed in the lime, and before long it germinated. Soon it was a young sapling, but still nobody saw it. As it grew into a tree, its roots went deep into the masonry so that the arch was severely damaged. The bridge that had defied violent storms and supported the weight of marching armies finally had to be closed to traffic. It had succumbed to a small seed.

You know in our lives the smallest sins can have devastating consequences. One of them that is very easy to overlook and let grow and fester in our hearts is unforgiveness. Hear the words of Hebrews 12:14-15 “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness--without it no one will see the Lord. (15) See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many.” Just like that small seed and its roots affected that bridge so to bitterness that springs up in our hearts and can destroy even our deepest Christian relationships. A poisonous root of bitterness comes when we allow disappointment to grow into resentment, or when we nurse grudges over past hurts. Bitterness brings with it jealousy, dissension, and immorality. The good news is that we don’t have to be condemned like the bridge, to a life of bitterness and unforgiveness, because if we truly allow the Holy Spirit fill us, he can heal the hurts that causes bitterness and save us from the damage it could have been caused.

"For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. (15) But if you don't forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing. Matthew 6:14-15

Pastor Phillip


Supersize Me

Supersize Me was documentary that came out a few years back. During the30 days of filming, Spurlock dined at McDonald's restaurants three times per day, sampling every item on the chain's menu at least once. He also "super-sized" his meal every time he was asked. Spurlock consumed an average of 5,000 calories (the equivalent of 9.26 Big Macs) per day during the experiment. As a result, the then-32-year-old Spurlock in 30 days gained 24½ lbs. A 13% body mass increase, and experienced mood swings, lethargy, and liver damage. It also took Spurlock fourteen months to lose the weight he gained. But one of the most surprising statements in the whole movie was that he felt continually hungry. 5,000 calories a day, but felt hungry all the time. This was due to the fact that there was limited nutritional value found in the menu items, so the body crazed real nutrition. I was blown away by this.

But this is true in other areas of life as well. Randy Alcorn, says in his book The Purity Principle

Those who turn from God to embrace a God-substitute suffer terrible loss. Why? Because they were made to find joy in God, not the substitute. They swap God’s present and future blessing for something they can immediately see, taste, or feel. But that something never satisfies.”
Try all we want to find real joy, happiness, and meaning apart from God but we never will. So we binge on all the world has to offer apart from God, but never be filled until we see the truth of Psalm 16:11
You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.

Needing and Ice Coffee and Egg McMuffin, Pastor Phillip


Think About This

In Emerging Worship, Dan Kimball writes, "The average person is awake 112 hours a week (assuming he or she sleeps eight hours a night). If a person goes to a weekend worship gathering that lasts two hours, then 98.2 percent of their week is not in a weekend worship gathering. To most people, 'church' involves only 1.8 percent of their time. The rest is supposedly not 'church.' This is pretty crazy because in reality you and I and other Christians are the Church 100 percent of the time." What are your thoughts about this?

Pastor Phillip


25 Things About Phillip

This came from facebook and figured it might be worth sharing.

1. Apart from Jesus changing my heart and life, I have no idea where or what I would.
2. I find true joy and meaning from seeking to rightly know my self and others through the lens of Scripture.
3. I have honestly one of the most amazingly women in the world for wife. Rebecca inspires me daily with her love, devotion, and commitment to God, church, and her family.
4. I really enjoy spending time with my son Cason, he insanely fun to play with most of the time.
5. I love being pastor. There is really nothing else in the world I would rather be doing
6. The church I pastor is awesome. We are blessed to have good numeric growth, and lots of babies. Seeing people grow closer to God and people futures changed for the better for all eternity is great.
7. Daily Bible reading is something that I can't live without. I read because I have to, because apart from the wisdom of scripture I am idiot, and good for very little!
8. Preaching, I love to explain the Bible to people. Seeing people understand scripture is a rush that I can't describe.
9. People, being able to comfort and encourage people during their times of sickness and distress is very powerful and humbling experience. I am so thankful that God allows me to be a conduit of His grace.
10. I am color blind and dumb. Really I got no clue what color M&M's or Skittles I eat.
11. I chew my finger nails. I am crazy, I will keep them for a few days and chew the same nail. I know that is nuts and gross.
12. I struggle with Caffeine addiction. If left up to myself I would drink drink Red Bull and Coffee all day long. I used to, before I quit coffee for a year drink 20 cups a day. Not kidding, but the increased productivity was cut down due to the frequent trips to the bathroom.
13. I loved Mixed Martial Arts or the UFC. I mean I love I read the related blogs, fighter bio's and get with a few guys from church all the pay-per-views.
14. I buy way too many Bibles. I own a lot and if left to my self would own a lot more. Especially smooth and supple calfskin!
15. I only wear Haynes one pocket gray t-shirts when I am not dressed for church. I mean every picture of me and Cason, I am wearing them. They can never get too old or worn.
16. On the other hand I only wear gray Haynes mid-calf athletic socks and throw them away about every four months when the elastic goes and buy new ones, much to the chagrin of my wife.
17. Paper, I can't deal with crumpled paper. I like it nice and crisp!
18. I try to blog daily. (http://pastorhowle.blogspot.com) I like expressing my self through writing, but I have a problem with verbosity.
19. I love good quotes, they are distilled wisdom. This is because a good quote can so much, using only a few words.
20. Early mornings, I love to get and work early, but can't accomplish much 8 in the evening.
21. My wife and I are pretty crazy about The Office. We also watch Frazier re-runs and own all the Seinfeld DVD's
22. I have a lot of phlegm. I know gross, but I hack and cough like a four pack a day smoker.
23. I come from an amazing family. My mom, dad, sister, aunts, and uncles all love God they are a pretty huge reason I am who I am today
24. Most days my mom and I talk 4 or 5 times a day. Days when we don't talk are few and far between.
25. I once in college got a letter from US Customs for ordering a Cuban Cigar from Great Britain. I am still suspect to searches when I cross borders, never got the Cigar, but the company promptly and kindly refunded my money.
26. I was on the quiz bowl team and the reading club in school. (Don't judge me, I played football, wrestled, and ran track too!) I am full of a little knowledge about a lot of things. One person said "I know enough to make you think I know everything, but in actuality I know very little about anything." That pretty much sums me up
27. I should have used to past 20 minutes more productively.

Pastor Phillip


Changing Up

I have not been writing as much here lately, Delane Miller at my church asked me about it. The reason is I changed my preaching style. I had always been a straight through the book preacher. Pray and select the book and then go and preach. I like it a lot, but I found myself in a little rut. So, Pastor Kyle and I decided we would change do thematic series this year. The response has been good so far, but I jump around from passage to passage, change my mind a lot and I am like kid learning to ride a bike all over again. I have to now approach the Bible, from a broader perspective, than just simple then next part of the book I was preaching in.

But, it was a change. Change is hard, especially once it gets ingrained in us. I was wondering what in your life could use a change? Are there any habits, any routines, maybe even sins that have worked there way into your life you need to work out? Paul address the issue this way:

throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception. (23) Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. (24) You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God's likeness-righteous, holy, and true.” Ephesians 4:22-24

So, look for areas in your life in need of change and pray for God’s grace to enable you to make them!

Pastor Phillip