Why Everyone Should See the Shack

Standard

Why everyone should see The Shack

I was asleep to the ocean of pain in my own life, and The Shack woke me up.  My traditional upbringing rarely equipped me with models that adequately handled the pain in a healing way. Consequently truths about God were impressed on me that left me uncertain about a God that seemed far more interested in right behavior than relationship and a deep connection with Him. I was trained in biblical academics at some of the finest institutions, but I doubted God’s goodness, and I had invisible walls between myself and God. The pain of my experience clouded my mind and most importantly my heart.

What do we do with our pain in the face of a God we have been told through traditions is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving but allows so much pain and feelings of injustice? These are the questions The Shack addresses through a fictional story designed to help us see and know a very real side of God and relationships that are so desperately needed in our pain.

When the book, The Shack, was released there was a buzz, often negative but also some positive about its story. Theologians, bloggers, and spiritual people all weighed in on its so-called “heresy and flaws.”  My wife, Lisa, hosted a book discussion and several women read and digested the book deeply. It was, as of today, the largest gathering she has hosted. Why? It wasn’t because they were riding a wave of “pop-culture-heresy,” but because The Shack touched and addressed some of the deepest and most profound questions about our spiritual lives. And it provides an imaginative, yet accurate, story of how to understand God and process our pain.

To understand The Shack we have to consider its genre and purpose. Although it might be fair to say the story leaves out and challenges some classically held views on God and His nature, what it does present is a corrective balance through a picture of real aspects of God that bring healing and hope. The Shack presents, through imaginative storytelling, the power of a God that loves deeply and knows everything – far beyond our limited and quite judgmental vantage points. It highlights God’s profound wisdom in the face of our so often rash and inept ways of handling evil and the ocean of pain it brings. The Shack demonstrates a God that enters into our pain, handles evil in a far bigger and more glorious way than we my dream, and brings the wisdom of His grace and forgiveness to our hearts. Rather than focusing on wrath and punishment, we see in The Shack a real side of God and his immeasurable wisdom. In The Shack we see a glimpse of God’s truth and gracious love woven into a fictional story to bring help, hope, and healing to our broken hearts.

In the recent release of the film, The Shack, it has yet again stirred up a buzz. I’ve read several blogs and articles condemning the film as “heresy,” yet many of these articles miss the main point. We are designed for relationship with God and each other – His image bearers. Our brokenness, pain, and limited perspective cloud our ability to trust Him and His vast and patient love. We know that God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience leads us to healing through repentance and forgiveness (Romans 2:4), and that the depths of His loving and wise ways are beyond our limited imaginations and responses to pain (Romans 11:33-36). The Shack helps us enter into a deeper spiritual world and divine perspective that better define wisdom and forgiveness.

To be sure The Shack doesn’t cover all the aspects of God’s nature, and due to its genre it mainly highlights element so often missing in our thoughts about God. Christians need to watch the film and read the book with open eyes to discern what is missing, but I believe to also receive the elements that it was intended to present. If we receive The Shack this way, we just might find the God that is really there, really does have answers, really does provide help, hope, and healing for the pain and evil in our hearts.

For these reasons and so many more, I think everyone should see The Shack.

Courage

Standard

Courage.  You can’t lead and win without it.  Finnish drivers lead the world in rally car victories, and they do it with with a culture of driving courage. In Finland, they teach their drivers “sisu.”  Sisu is the Finnish word for “courage,” but its nuances are deeper than our English word can convey.  Sisu means something deeper than basic courage.  Sisu means courage-wisdom-skill, and the ability to face fear to accomplish task at a higher level.  The question is: What task do you face that requires “sisu” to overcome and succeed?

People of faith and desire for victory know that leadership is full of the need for sisu.  We have to face our fears and proceed in faith that God will accomplish more than we ever dreamed possible, and not hold back in a tough turn life throws at us.  We need courage.

Eph. 3:20 tell us that when we operate in our Spirit empowered calling in Christ, God will be able to do more than we can even imagine if we have the courage, or “sisu” to trust Him through every challenging twist of the race.

We need to drive on the road of life with courage.  As a rally car driver faces a turn, he doesn’t just “slow down” but faces the corner with sisu.  That means braking just right, getting the right gear, and accelerating through the turn to maximize the hitting of the apex to perfectly follow through with speed, even in the face of the fear of crashing.  Drivers need courage to face the challenge of the corners and keep the most momentum through them.  Life is full of twists and turns on rough roads that appear dangerous.  Christians need the courage of the Spirit to move forward with maximum momentum and not lose heart.   Today I’m sure you faced some rough turns, and we know many are yet ahead of us in the race of life.  Let’s cultivate a culture of courage and get a little more “sisu” in the Spirit!   God will provide and give us the ability to face the turns for the advance of His Kingdom.

Unjust Suffering with Purpose

Standard

imgres

The story of Joseph inspires us about the fulfillment of God’s purposes to save and do good for His people. Yet at the same time it challenges our idea of what that process will look and feel like in our lives. We often believe our story should be an ever increasing journey of joy; each day with less pain and challenges, but this is not the case. Recently several people shared a picture that sums this pattern better than 1000 words:12717941_1973814622842861_4940173371820713140_n

Many of us have experience untold loss and pain that leaves us reeling and questioning God’s goodness and possibly His mission and purpose. Like Joseph, in our younger years we believe He gave us a vision of greatness but our present circumstances appear to have dashed these dreams we thought with certainty were given by God. Is this really an accurate view? The story of Joseph speaks today about our lives in its testimony of the greater purposes of God through our pain and plan for our good.

Joseph’s story highlights and outlines brightly how God actually works through suffering, especially unjust suffering, to reveal hope. Imagine yourself in Joseph’s sandals. His brothers kidnap him, sell him into slavery, fake his death so that they can cover their tracks and ensure no one will be the wiser to go rescue him! Then when Joseph makes a brief recovery by rising to a position of honor in Potiphar’s house he is falsely accused of adultery and sexual assault only to be thrown in prison without trial. How must Joseph have felt to see a glimmer of success only to be quickly pushed back into the ash heap of prison, left to rot in the dungeon of rejection and defamation of his hard-earned reputation. Even in prison Joseph sought to serve God by interpreting the dreams of the cupbearer and baker only to be abandoned yet again! this is the place many of us find ourselves: forgotten by those in favor and suffering unjustly for things we do not feel we deserve. We feel utterly forgotten by former friends, so-called “church family,” and perhaps we even may feel abandoned by God. When we feel the pain of rejection, abandonment, false accusations, and the humiliation of loss does that mean our mission and purpose is also lost? Maybe we say to ourself, “God’s mission and purpose for me is over. Perhaps I misread His earlier goodness to me as delusions of grandeur or megalomaniac notions of greatness with a touch of naiveté in spiritual immaturity. Maybe I should give up and die.” Each of us can find ourself in this lonely and confusing place when the pain of unchangeable loss churns our hearts like the forces of breaking waves over our lives. Pushed down, disoriented, and hopeless we feel we can’t breathe and there exists no possible way to reach solid ground.

The good news is that if you are still reading you are alive, and that speaks to the present fact that God is not finished with you. Like Joseph, you will someday soon be raised up – stronger and more prepared for the next wave and wiser to accomplish the purpose and mission to which you have been called. We cannot give up.

Remember the Story. At just the right time and after the sufferings, you like Joseph, will be set on solid ground. Though many have done you wrong and left you for dead, God has not and will not. We see this in the end of Joseph’s story but most clearly we see this truth in Jesus. He is the one who suffered the ultimate unjust rejection, pain, and death on the cross. Jesus was left naked and bleeding on the cross, while being mocked and derided, only to be finally and completely abandoned by God Himself. Jesus’ mission was to finish the pattern that Joseph started, and secure for us the goodness of God’s permanent call and presence in our lives. Through the pattern of suffering Jesus was plunged into the depths of death only to be raised three days later. He was vindicated and victoriously raised for the defeat of not just death but all injustice. He secures your story through suffering, and He provides the pattern of how God’s purposes and mission will be known in you. Jesus, like Joseph, went through pain, not around it. Why do we think it would or should be any different for us? The challenge is the fact that it will not be different but the same, except that now we have in Jesus even greater hope.

What has happened to you that your heart cannot seem to take? Put it through the Story of Joseph leading you to Jesus. What unjust fires have left your imagined life in an ash heap that appears to be an eternal and irrecoverable tomb? Do not allow the desolate condition of your present circumstances dictate the vision, mission, and calling of God in your life. Jerry Sitter, in his book on suffering rightly states,” Your life does not consist of a succession of isolated events randomly strung together but rather a story with a purpose that [ you, like Joseph] do not see and will never entirely understand.  [Joseph says to his brothers] ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.'”

We must find ourselves in the real story of God’s goodness.  We must, in Jesus say, “I choose to believe and live in the fact that God is working out His ultimate purpose in my suffering and pain and is leading me toward a day of greater good.”

Just in Time or Just in Case? How God will deliver for you.

Standard

imgres

Your life is full of needs. Many of these needs are acute and time sensitive. Will God give me a new job before the money runs out? Will God provide healing for the health of me and my loved ones? Will God provide rescue from the brokenness of my relationships personally, professionally, and socially?

When will He provide? Why does He seem to wait?

I used to cry out to God and ask Him to give me everything I thought I’d ever needed so that “Just in Case” I would be protected and have the comfort of knowing that I was resourced for the troubles of life.  God did NOT answer these prayers.

Inside I knew that my prayers actually lacked faith. I wanted God to give to me resources above what I needed or in advance so that I would not have to trust Him when times were tough!

God most often does not provide in advance, nor by the way is He late!  God provides “Just in Time.”

“Just in Time” is a shipping and inventory phrase that describes a revolutionary way to resource production.  Rather than order tons of parts or supplies in advance, a company will estimate how many parts they need and order the parts in exacting quantities to arrive just when they need it.  This saves time and money because they do not need to have warehousing for extra inventory.  Rather than hold on to supplies “Just in Case’ they move to the more powerful “Just in Time” system.

I am convinced that God works on “Just in Time” shipping!  

Whatever is going on in your life God knows about it and He knows with exacting quantities what and when you need it!  God wants you to trust Him and in prayer and active waiting rely on His Just in Time provision for you!

He will deliver for you not “Just in Case” but “Just in Time”!  

They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isa 40:31 ESV)

Resurrecting Doggies

Standard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Does God care about your dog?

If I pray for my dog will God answer?

Does God answer prayer, period?

This past week our Life Group (small group Bible study) received a prayer request about a couple’s ailing dog, Buddy. Buddy had lost his sight, could not raise his head, and was failing. His owners had to pick him up and physically take him outside, and they had to watch him to keep him from hurting himself by running into walls! They took Buddy to the veterinarian but there was nothing they could do for him. It looked like this was the beginning of the end of Buddy. But nonetheless we prayed for Buddy, and I suspect in our “theological sophistication” we may have done it more to care for and love our friends, not really believing that God cared for or would answer a prayer about a dog. Not only did we pray but so did Buddy’s owner. He went home and laid his hand on his old doggie friend and prayed, “God, you answered Hezekiah’s prayer and gave him 15 more years… would you heal Buddy, and just give him a few more?” And very soon afterward Buddy was healed. Buddy’s sight was restored. Buddy’s head was raised and he stopped running into walls. Buddy’s energy and health is back almost to his prime! He is now running around and playing and can go outside by himself. This was a virtual “doggie resurrection.”

God does answer prayer.  I was so taken aback by how my friend had far more “theological sophistication” than I imagined possible with reference to a dog! He prayed a biblical prayer to the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and was definitively answered! Why should we have doubted this possible? Did God not make all dogs, let alone the whole universe by the power of His Words? Did God not raise Jesus from the dead? Did not God do this for His glory and our benefit? Why do we doubt when we pray? Is anything too trivial or too hard for Him? Buddy and his owners don’t think so… they believe in “doggie resurrections” and the power of prayer.

I, myself, am humbled… and have a new and fresh insight into the power of prayer.

Who is building your house?

Standard

images

Solomon should know… he was a prodigious builder. During his reign the Kingdom of Israel expanded its boarders and buildings on a greater and grander scale than at any other time. However, Solomon’s wisdom led him to sing to the Lord this song…

Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psa 127:1-2 NIV)

What wisdom is there in this song for us today? For me it’s that my life should not be one exhausting, overly scheduled, no-room for margin, frenetic paced race. So many of us are laboring as if it is up to us to build our homes, lives, and community. Sure we need to work hard, but where is God in our labors? Without God’s strength we labor in vain… destined to burn out, depression, and creating hollow shells that do not have the Lord in them! Do we have the wisdom to trust God to build His house in us and among us or are we carrying that burden on our own? Do we know what it is to have God build the house?

If I were completely honest with myself I’m pretty sure a lot of my life may be “vain” because I’m so often doing thing in my own effort. You can only pull yourself up by your bootstraps so far… how vain!

My prayer for us all is that the Lord would provide the wisdom for us to trust Him as we labor in Him and for Him. May He provide for us what we need for labors that are fruitful and healthy. May He give us the wisdom to do what He calls us and have room for margin and rest in our lives. May He grant rest and sleep to us in His love.

Eminem Parenting? Your one Opportunity.

Standard

images

In November 2002 rapper Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem, released his semi-autobiographical film “8 Mile” and its accompanying hit single, “Lose Yourself.” In this song Eminem rhymes, “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow This opportunity comes once in a lifetime…” His original meaning behind these lyrics was his striving for superstar status as a rap entertainer and his determination to seize every moment for success.

Eminem is serious about his calling down to each moment of his life, each beat, each millisecond. How serous are we?

As a parent of two children, do I see that God has only given me one opportunity to love them, instruct them, and care for them? Am I too self-focused, tired, or caught up with other activities that I miss the God-given chance to nurture them in the fear and love of the Lord? Often I’m shamed by the determination of secular rappers in their focus on success in their calling, while I have an arguably greater calling as a parent and I have nowhere near their passion. We must realize that we only have one shot and we cannot miss a beat with our kids!

Tedd Tripp writes in his excellent book on parenting, “Shepherding a Child’s Heart,'”

“You must regard parenting as one of your most important tasks while you have children at home. This is your calling. You must raise you children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. You cannot do so without investing yourself in a life of sensitive communication in which you help them understand life and God’s world. There is nothing more important. You have only a brief season of life to invest yourself in this task. You have only one opportunity to do it. You cannot go back and do it over.”

We have only one shot with our children, one opportunity, are we going to capture it or let it slip?

The gospel is the power of God for life, and parenting.

 

We have an opportunity let’s capture it.