Why Everyone Should See the Shack

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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.

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Courage

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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.

Who is building your house?

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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.

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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.

The Big Spill… Foolishness is NOT listening to Jesus

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One of the most important teachings of Jesus for Kingdom Growth must be Matthew 9:17 “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins…”

After almost 15 years of ministry, I have to say that I am so often foolish because, even thought I personally have made wine and know exactly what Jesus is talking about, I still so often do not apply Jesus’ exhortation. I try to “do” ministry and life in my old way and expect it to work! And… I am actually surprised when in trying to advance my life through self effort, mixing following Jesus with worldly methods, and trying to grow people to follow Jesus without really doing things the way Jesus tell us. My life and ministry become a Big Spill. How foolish!

There are so many ways Jesus wants to help us…

We must jettison Pharisaical-traditionalism-legalistic hearts and lives for grace, mercy, and justice.

We must seek to serve and not selfishly be served.

We must give and find blessing in giving rather than constantly seeking for ourself.

We must love others as ourselves.

We must seek to grow spiritually by following, obeying, and living in the grace of Jesus.

We must seek to grow the Church through relational encouragement and prayer rather than fancy programs.

We must first and foremost seek to be fully devoted followers of Jesus who seek to help others follow Jesus (classic discipleship) rather than synergistic spirituality.

We must… as I am attempting to do in this blog, Repent and Follow Jesus from the depths of our hearts and so our souls will be supple with humility and grace to receive the expansion of the Kingdom of God and His life-giving presence.

Resting in God Alone

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Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.  Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.  (Psa 62:1 NIV)

Does my soul find rest?

If you’re anything like me these words have always sounded nice, but what does this actually look like? The picture David gives is one of finding rest in a unique place of safety, a “rock” or “fortress.” In Israel these kinds of places can be found on mountain tops, caves, and high rock formations. The problem is that in order to use these safe-houses you have to go up. The picture is going up to God spiritually and resting in Him alone, just the way one would go up to the fortress and stay there for safety from their enemies.

In all honesty, our biggest problem is that we do not go up, rather we stay down.  We stay down in all sorts of ways.  It is easier that way, but it really isn’t safe and it certainly doesn’t offer us any added security.  In order to have a soul that waits or finds rest in God we have to go to God, alone.  Staying down and trying to fight our battles alone simply will not do.  We often try to find help not in God alone but in something else, or we try to add a bit of God at the ground level or on the side.  We must leave behind our own sources of help and go to God alone.   Spiritually we need to go up to God and enter into His presence and wait.

The key is that in Christ we actually have access to God’s throne 24/7 but we must spiritually avail ourselves to Him.  We must spiritually enter God’s presence and allow Him to be our rock and fortress.  My desire is that we would hear the hope offered to us in Ps. 62 and respond by going up to God.

 

Be the Bee

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My Dad is a bee keeper in his “retirement.” He has taught me a great deal about honey bees and how they function.

Each bee has a defined identity and role in the colony. There are drones, workers, and a queen. They all work together and each does its part. If the colony is working together in balance they will thrive.  If they are out of balance or don’t do the job of their identity, however, the colony will die.

He also showed me that an individual honey bee isn’t really “alive,” but rather all the bees together as a whole unified colony are alive! This blew my mind. If a bee flies away from the colony it will die alone.

I started thinking how amazing and unique bees are compared to “independent” humans, and then I stopped and realized there is much to be learned from the bees. What child can survive without a mother and a father? What teenager can grow, mature, and be launched into the world to start their own family without the incredible support of parents? How healthy is anyone without friends and family? Would we die without them? Moreover, if I need them, don’t they also need me? What is my part in our interconnectedness? This makes us all very important and interdependent… maybe we are more like bees than I thought!

In Scripture we are told over and over that we ARE the Body of Christ. Like a body, Christ cannot function with just one Christ-follower. Christ also has given the Holy Spirit to give each person a gift(s) to serve the whole body like parts. So often today in our independence-focused-world we forget how essential and needed each person is and how much we actually need each other. Again I thought, maybe we are more like bees!

So I say don’t just be yourself, Be the Bee!
Recognize your unique identity in Christ and how important you are… not individualistically but for His whole Body!
Operate with a mindset to live interdependently and care for others in your unique gifting – they need you and you need them. It’s the way God made us.