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What Your Vehicle Says About Your Beliefs

First, this is not that type of post advocating for one type of car manufacturer or another and then trying to put some spiritual twist on it.  Wrong blog if that is what you are looking for.  This is about my morning drive to church for a staff meeting while noticing the variety of license plates in our community.  I live and minister among the Military so understanding the sub-culture we are reaching is important.  The variety of plates on a ten-mile stretch this particular morning included two Gold Star families, one Bronze Star recipient, one Disabled Veteran, and one Woman Veteran.  As a Retired Veteran, I instantly recognize each of these plates and what they say about the owner of the vehicle.

 

But, it was not the variety of Military or out-of-state license plates that generated this post.  It was the abundance of Masonic window decals and car emblems that were also present during the morning commute and not on the same vehicles.  The decals and emblems ranged from Master Mason, Eastern Star, Scottish Rite, and to the York Rite.  All of these symbols represent an association and level of a degree completed by the owner of the vehicle.  I recognize these emblems as I was once a 3rd Degree Master Mason until I requested to be removed, or demit from the organization.  I see these car decals and emblems all the time, and probably so do you.  But during this morning drive, as I was observing the various Military plates, I couldn’t help but to think about the letter “G” used in the Masonic symbol and what it represents.  Not only what it represents, but what it also speaks about the beliefs of the owner.

 

Most Masons would say that the “G” means Geometry, God, or the Grand Architect based on how well one was trained and immersed into masonry.  Any quick internet search will reveal that it means “Geometry under the Great Architect of the Universe,” which is true.  And by now you may be wondering why I posted this, but I ask that you bear with me a little longer as I want to stress how this does matter theologically.  Because within the teachings of Masonry there are verbal gymnastics occurring in an attempt connect the god (Grand Architect) of Masonry to the God of Holy Scripture.  But, it fails and the reason why I demitted. 

 

You may be thinking that I am way off base here because you know many members of your church and they all tell you that their Masonic Lodge will have an open Bible and prayer every time they meet.  True.  They even have Chaplains and their ceremonies and teachings often uses Scripture.  But, that does not make it Christian.  Let me explain.  All Christians recognize that Holy Scripture is God’s self-revelation to man, or Special Revelation.  For within Holy Scripture God reveals Himself and His redemptive work.  From the moment of creation and the fall (Genesis 1-3) God was providentially working all things out to bring His Son to the cross (Acts 2:23).  And from the cross to the consummation God continues His redemptive work to restore all things back unto Himself (Revelation 21:1-8).  This is redemptive history.  God’s salvific plan being worked out is also seen through the covenants from Noah, Abraham, Moses, and to David.  Yet, God also promised a new and eternal covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; 32:40) that was instituted by and through the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross (Luke 22:20).  In sending His Son in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7), God the Father spoke directly to man by His Son (Hebrews 1:2).  This is important my friend and the very problem Masonry faces.  If God spoke to us by His Son, Jesus Christ, of whom the Father was well pleased to send (Matthew 3:17; 17:5), and the fullest revelation of Holy Scripture, as all of Scripture points to Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27), then of whom does a Muslim Master Mason understand the Grand Architect of their organization to be? 

 

And yes, there are Muslims who are Masons.  While Islam does recognize Jesus [Isa; Surah 4:157-159] it will not recognize the deity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, being one with the Father as Jesus Himself proclaimed (John 10:22-33).  Simple fact.  Yet, the international organization of Freemasonry speaks about how compatible Masonry is with Islam.  Isn’t that an interesting point.  Masonry is compatible with both major religions.  But let us continue and also acknowledge the fact that Islam does not recognize the authority of Holy Scripture, but that of their holy book the Quran.  The Quran does speak of the Torah and the Gospels (Tawrat and Injeel; Surah 3:3-4); however, it also teaches that those who follow the Torah and Gospels (Jews and Christians) are doing it wrongly (Surah 3:7).  Thus the Muslim call to proselytize and convert others to follow the teachings of Muhammad in the Quran.  Therefore, the Grand Architect for a Muslim Master Mason is none other than the Muslim god Allah.  And any comparative religious study will quickly outline the theological divide between Islam and Christianity (see my 2016 book reading list for the book written by Muhammad Al Ghazoli if you are interested in reading about these difference from a former Muslims perspective).  No matter what the pew sitting Master Mason tries to claim about compatibility they cannot verbal jiu-jitsu this discussion into a “it’s really a Christian organization” tap out.  I know.  I’ve tried. 

 

Masonry opens the door to religious pluralism.  Let me repeat that to let it sink in.  Masonry opens the door to religious pluralism within a congregation.  Which, religious pluralism is simply a belief that Jesus Christ is not the only way to salvation.  You may be a Mason, or know someone who is, and thinking this is not what they believe and I am way off base here, but I ask you to continue reading.  Masonry may seem mild or innocent but its incipient pluralistic teaching is very dangerous as it destroys the exclusive claims of Holy Scripture.  Jesus Christ Himself proclaimed that He is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me [Jesus]” (John 14:6, ESV).  And for Masonry to be compatible with Christianity and Islam it has to embrace a pluralistic salvific position because it must also embrace their teachings about their Grand Architects.  This is not syncretism, a blending of religious beliefs, but religious pluralism that all religions are equal.        

 

But, let us take a slight detour to solidify this argument before I wrap this up.  In the book of Hebrews we read about Jesus that, “after making purification for sins, he [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he [Jesus] has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Hebrews 1:3b-4, ESV).  Did you catch that about Jesus and angels?  Jesus is superior to angels!  And who did the prophet Muhammad receive his supposed revelation from?  But not to digress, also notice how God the Father spoke to man by His Son, who is appointed Heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2a) as all things were created through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:2b)!  The Quran and Holy Scripture do not and will not align theologically!  The god of Islam is not the God of Holy Scripture!  Period!  Masons, either wittingly or unwittingly, have to surrender the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ to embrace their organizations pluralistic acceptance of other religions Grand Architect beliefs.  Even if the other religions will not acknowledge the reality of Jesus Christ who is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he [Jesus] uphold the universe by the word of his [Jesus] power” (Hebrews 1:3a, ESV).  This is High Christology and no Muslim will acknowledge these realities about Jesus Christ.  If they did they would leave Islam and embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ!  Masonry blurs this reality. 

 

With the Masonic organization acknowledging and accepting that both major religions are compatible to their teachings, they must minimize the teachings of both.  Simple truth.  The Grand Architect of Masonry has to become a generic god of any religion!  Religious pluralism attempts to usurp the authority of Holy Scripture for the sake of inclusion thereby removing any Good News in Jesus Christ.  And many unsuspecting men who enter Freemasonry, like myself, do not even realize it.  And when they do there are attempts by others to justify Masonry and its compatibility with Christianity.  When this stuff creeps in, and it has, the Church must be prepared to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3b, ESV).  The Gospel is too important!  Theology does matter!    

 

Your Masonic decals and emblems say a lot more than just being a member of an organization.

2016 Reading List

Here are the books read in 2016, in no particular order, along with a short informal review.

 

  •   Jesus Among Friends and Enemies edited by Chris Keith and Larry W. Hurtado.  This was a recommendation by my online New Testament Professor Dr. Chipman, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a very good book.  It explores the historical setting and sociological implications of the various groups and persons discussed by the authors.  The authors utilize a variety of references to present their views for each group which is very insightful.  But, one must have some understanding of critical scholarship so to not throw it down and scream ‘Heresy.’

 

  •   Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free by F.F. Bruce.  This was another book recommended by my online New Testament professor and an excellent work.  It is a collection of lectures given by F.F. Bruce and worth having in your library.  While an excellent book it was not my primary resource when writing but equally visited.

 

  •   Paul and His Letters by John B. Polhill.  This book was read in 2015 in preparation for New Testament Survey II but I included it here for several reasons.  One is that I really enjoyed this book as it has become a primary resource for Paul’s letters.  Second is Polhill’s view of Pauline authorship along with an outline for each letter. Lastly is the references contained in the notes section.  The reference section alone is worth having this book in your library!  But you will enjoy having it as a reliable resource.

 

  •   A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry by Heath Lambert.  My approach to counseling while in the Army has been very simple…the direct approach.  But this doesn’t translate well into the civilian population so I have been working on how to interact with those not from my tribe.  This book by Dr. Lambert is excellent as I appreciate how he opens with the swirling debate between secular, integrated approaches, and the need to depend on the sufficiency of God’s Word for counseling.  Plus each chapter is laid out systematically building upon the next as one would expect when the title is ‘A Theology of.’

 

  •   Christ, Muhammad and I by Mohammad Al Ghazoli.  Wow!  There was times when I wanted to throw this book down rather than continue reading it.  It is shocking to learn that the Muslim prophet Muhammad had 23 wives and one of them, Aisha bint Abu Bakr, was only six years old when he married her!  And then when Aisha was nine years old the Muslim prophet Muhammad had sex with her!  And somehow the god Muhammad followed approved this?  Let me be clear here that the Muslim god is not the holy God of the Bible my friend!  They are not the same!  This book is very revealing as it was originally written in Arabic with the intention of reaching Muslims with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you want to know more about Islam that Muslim scholars are aware of but ignore…get this book.  Just remember that it was originally written in Arabic and then translated into English.

 

  •   The Gospel for Muslims by Thabiti Anyabwile.  A very quick and excellent read.  A couple of points that I appreciate with this book is Thabiti’s reminder that the Gospel for Muslims is the same Gospel for everyone!  Excellent point.  The Gospel does not change as it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe [Rom 1:16].  The second thing I like about this book is the chapter on witnessing to African-American Muslims.  He identifies many of the differences between African-American Muslims and Arab Muslims which are very important in my opinion.

 

  •   On Pastoring by H.B. Charles Jr.  If you have not heard H.B. Charles Jr. speak you are missing out on a humble and gifted pastor, preacher and servant.  And while his book is a reflection of his years in the ministry, you will soon realize the wisdom he passes on to the reader.  The chapters are short but very captivating.  He closes the book with short sayings he has assembled over the years that are often cited on Twitter!  Excellent book to have and revisit.

 

  •   From Student to Scholar: A Candid Guide to Becoming a Professor by Steven M. Cahn.  This book was a Twitter recommendation by someone that I follow.  And while I am not interested in becoming a professor I am interested in pursuing doctoral studies.  The first three chapters were the ones that I was interested in as the author writes about the common problems many doctoral students encounter and some steps to be better prepared.  These chapters will be revisited after my application for doctoral studies is approved.  Yes, I am that positive about it!

 

  •   Missional House Churches: Reaching Our Communities with the Gospel by J.D. Payne.  This is a very good book that examines both arguments for and against house churches.  This book came about after several books were used for research in 2014 in developing a church strategy to reach the community through missional communities.  There are many voices that argue against house churches as they are in favor of the traditional approach, but Dr. Payne presents a well-structured and well-balanced book examining house churches.  If you are thinking about house churches as part of a strategy to reach the various communities in your city…you will want to read this book.

 

  •   A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small-Group Dynamic by Rick Howerton.  Rick was invited to speak during a church staff meeting to observe and help guide our discussions.  After sharing about the work on a new missional strategy he recommended this book as it speaks directly to what we were planning.  It was like reading elements of our strategy, but ten times better!  So again, if you are considering missional strategies to reach the communities of your city….get this book.  But let me warn you now that it is difficult to find.

 

  •   Connecting in Communities: Understanding the Dynamics of Small Groups by Eddie Mosley.  This book was a recommendation by Rick Howerton and worth every penny.  I like to tab important pages intended to be a reference and this book ate up a lot of Post-it tabs!  The information is well organized and user-friendly.  Again, if you are interested in small groups why reinvent the wheel when there are so many wheels already out there?  This is a solid wheel!

 

  •   Praetorian Project: Multiplying the Gospel Through Military Church Planting edited by Clint Clifton.  This short book was given to me by my Pastor as we read various books by Military personnel for our Military Ministry.  It is part of our goal to transition from being a Military Friendly Church to a Military Focused Church (but that is another blog for another day).  This book is very short and was read in one sitting…about four hours.  It does present some great thoughts on Military planting churches near Military bases, but it also presented a topic on membership that made me pause.  Maybe it was just how it was phrased that initiated filling the margins with rhetorical comments!

 

  •   The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglas Bond.  I enjoy the series A Long Line of Godly Men and have several others.  But who can resist reading about a Reformer who carried a sword!  What can I say…I am a fan of John Knox.  During my time on campus visiting Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Christian George, Curator of the Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Assistant Professor of Historical Theology, encouraged people to find a dead guy [theologian] to fall in love with and learn about.  John Knox just might be that one.  He was bold in defending the Gospel and a reformer!  The book is a short read and very well written for its brevity.  No complaints as I already mentioned earlier that I have the others in this series.

 

  •   John Knox and the Reformation by D.M. Lloyd-Jones and Iain H. Murray.  Reading the book by Douglas Bond influenced me to purchase this book and it is remarkably excellent for how short it is.  But again, I am a fan of John Knox.  He carried a sword!  But I will share my recommendation with caution because this little book wets your appetite for more.  So I ended up purchasing The History of the Reformation in Scotland by John Knox and the book titled John Knox by Jasper Ridley.  I have not read these last ones but plan to get reacquainted with my dead friend in the near future!

 

  •   The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism by Carl F.H. Henry.  Let me first just say that this book is no easy read!  The first reading gets you acquainted with Henry’s writing style, language, and topic.  And I am not ashamed to write that I had to re-read several chapters!  And while this book was written 1947 it continues to address the need for Christians today to faithfully engage the culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

  •   Onward: Engaging The Culture Without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore.  Excellent book as I enjoy Dr. Moore’s candor, wisdom, and humility.  I also appreciate Dr. Moore’s leadership at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission as he leads the engagement among the many important topics today.  And he is not afraid to address the cultural Christianity that has invaded many Southern churches.  If Dr. Moore lived around the time of John Knox he too would probably have carried a sword!

 

  •   Born This Way? Homosexuality, Science, and the Scriptures by J. Alan Branch.  A very well written and enlightening book on a subject many Christians are weak in.  So weak that many are quick to accept the growing opinion of society that homosexuals are Born This Way.  This is a must have book that explores the evolution, research, and desire of sexual immoral lifestyles, the inconclusive science many want to ignore, and the current debates surrounding this topic.

 

  •   Transforming Sexuality: What the Bible Says About Sexual Orientation and Change by Denny Burk and Heath Lambert.  Another excellent and insightful book on a relevant cultural topic of our day.  What sets this book apart for me was chapter two, Is Same Sex Attraction Sinful, where the authors explore the topic if desire is sinful.  They meticulously unpack Scripture that was very insightful and shaping to what I understood about desire.  Thank you!

 

  •   What does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality by Kevin DeYoung.  Simply Biblical.  Kevin DeYoung first moves through the Bible to present the biblical argument and then takes on the questions.  Another book to have as a reference as this discussion about homosexuality and the church will continue, especially with major denominations now embracing liberalism.

 

  •   Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney.  For a small book this is wonderfully packed and highlights the need for family worship.  I see this book as an appendix to Dr. Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life because of how crucial it is in discipleship.  He leaves no room for the Christian to ignore family worship as he teaches how basic and uncomplicated family worship is.  You do not have to be a theologian or a music major to lead your family in worship!  Buy it…read it!

 

  •   Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney.  While another quick reading book it still packs a theological punch.  This book was read in one sitting, or about four hours.  It moves very quickly and was very informative.  I particularly enjoyed how he illustrated how to pray the Bible.  Not difficult at all.  But what I enjoyed was learning that I was already praying the Bible so the validation was exciting.  Now to only continue praying the Bible!

 

  •   My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  This was one of my morning devotional books for 2016 along with reading Scripture.  I was given this book not long after coming to faith in Christ in September 2007.  It has been a wonderful influence in my walk with the Lord and will remain a reoccurring devotion throughout my life.

 

  •   The One Year Christian History: A Daily Glimpse Into God’s Powerful Work by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten.  This was a second morning devotion book for 2016 incorporated into my morning readings.  What I enjoyed about incorporating this book as part of my morning devotion was how my prayers often included portions of what happened that day in history and my own walk with the Lord.  Good book but I question some of the dates used when citing passages from Nehemiah.  But that is me!

 

* I started Paul & The Gift by John M.G. Barclay, another recommendation from my New Testament professor, but did not finish reading it.  The material is very interesting as it starts off with the anthropological perspective and the historical examination of ‘gift’ as used across cultures.  It is a deep and theologically rich textbook, yes I used textbook purposely, and will take me a little more time digesting than the common reader.  So it is on my list for 2017…after more books on counseling, discipleship, hope and healing for our Veterans, and more books on reaching Muslims.

Look for my reading list in January 2018!

 

What’s in a Blog Title

As I was thinking through the creation of this blog site it became evident that a name was needed.  After all you cannot leave the name as the default Site Title.  What does that show the reader about my blog, or even about me?  Choosing a name became important because it represents the type of material it will contain and the direction it will go.  Visitors to my blog will quickly realize that this site is primarily motivated by my love for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and how His Word has and does shape my life and how I think, my Christian worldview.

And don’t be fooled thinking everyone does not have a worldview. They do.  So when someone claims that they believe in nothing they still operate from a worldview.  Let me share the basic definition of what a worldview is.  This definition comes from Paul G. Hiebert in his book Transforming Worldviews as the “fundamental cognitive, affective, and evaluative presuppositions a group of people [and individual] make about the nature of things, and which they use to order their lives” (2008, 15).  He goes on to write that “worldviews are what people in a community take as given realities, the maps they have of reality that they use for living (15).  Again, everyone has a worldview.  And when one comes to faith in Jesus Christ they bring with them their worldview in how they evaluate and interpret the world around them.

But, as followers of Jesus Christ our previous worldviews are being reshaped into a Christian worldview through sanctification.  For the Lord Himself prayed the High Priestly Prayer before His arrest that His disciples would not be taken out of the world but that they would remain to be sent into the world [Jn17:15-18].  And it is in verse 17 of this pericope that we see how our worldview is being changed as it reads, “Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth” (ESV).  Through God’s Word and His abiding Holy Spirit all followers of Jesus Christ experience a progressive, or a continued sanctification process as we live and serve where the Lord has placed us.  Our lives are being changed so that we are growing to be more like Christ [Rom 8:29].  And because of this understanding the Apostle Paul would later encourages Christians to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” [Rom 12:2].  Our mind, our worldview, is being changed in how we evaluate and interpret the world around us.  And for the better…or at least it should be!  But that is another topic for another day.

As a Christian my previous worldview is continually being challenged through the reading of Holy Scripture, prayer, and work of His Spirit that influences how I see and interpret the events around and in my life.  Hence the name for my blog Theologically Exploring Daily Encounters.  I want readers to quickly know that whatever the topic may be that it comes from a developing Christian worldview.  A worldview that has been impacted by the glorious reality of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Founder and Perfecter of my [our] faith!

Blessings!

 

Resource:

Hiebert, Paul G. Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.

 

Resolutions for the New Year

January 1st, 2017…and you’re probably already thinking about the resolutions you made several hours ago when the clock hit midnight.  Sadly there are those circles of people that frown upon the thought of making resolutions for the New Year.  But, are resolutions bad?  After all, what is a resolution?  A simple dictionary response is to be firmly determined, or resolute about a purpose or course of action.  So the real question would have to be what is one being resolute about.  Weight loss?  Eating healthier?  Or, are they along the lines of reading God’s Word daily?  Being more involved at Church?

When I think of New Year resolutions among Christians I can’t help but to think of Jonathan Edwards and his seventy resolutions!  Sure, they were not like our New Year resolutions, but nonetheless he wrote seventy resolutions about what he was firmly determined, or resolved about when it came to his walk with the Lord (Lawson 2008, xiii).  Jonathan Edwards was a brilliant theologian and humble pastor that God used mightily during the first Great Awakening.  He not only made resolutions, but wrote them out and pinned them to the inside of his coat when he traveled to review them weekly (157).  Weekly!

Don’t be too quick in frowning upon others who make a resolution that seeks to glorify the Lord.  Encourage them in their walk and be excited that through their self-examination they realize something about themselves that they consider has fallen short.  Heaven knows how much I have struggled over the years in my own walk.  Truthfully, we need more of this today among the body of professing believers.  To be resolved that the Lord Jesus Christ would be glorified through our thoughts, speech, and actions!

 

Reference:

Lawson, Steven J. The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards. Orlando, FL: Reformation  Trust, 2008.