Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Meet Your Maker at “The Shack”

If God is so good, why did He allow my little girl to be murdered?  That was the question that haunted Mack and kept him stuck in The Great Sadness.  How many of us are stuck in a great sadness of our own, brought on by one tragedy after another, day after day?  Would we jump at an opportunity to have our questions answered by God Himself?  One day, Mack received an invitation to meet God at “The Shack” to do just that.  I would like to invite you to do the same.

Have you ever invested hours and hours of your life in great book, only to go to the movie theater and be completely devastated by how a wonderful book could be turned into such a disappointing use of two hours?  This is not the case with the movie “The Shack”.

I spent much of the summer of 2013 listening to “The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity” by William P. Young on CD in my car.  I listened to it a full three times before the library insisted that I give it back.  And when I found out that the movie of “The Shack” was going to be released on Friday, March 3, 2017, I grabbed my print version, which I had never actually read, and dove in.  I’ve invested a good 25 hours of my life in this book, and the 2 hours and 12 minutes that I spent on Saturday, March 4th watching it unfold on the big screen did not disappoint.

Actually, the only criticism I’ve heard about the movie is that “Father God”, also known as “Papa”, is played, for most of the movie, by a an African American female actress.  If God is our Father in Heaven, why is He portrayed as a woman in a dress?  That’s another question Mack wanted answered.  Papa responded:

“To reveal myself to you as a very large, white grandfather figure, with a flowing beard like Gandalf, would simply reinforce your religious stereotypes, and this weekend is not about reinforcing your religious stereotypes.”

I would say this entire book (and movie) is all about challenging our religious stereotypes.  How many of us struggle with God as a Good Father simply because we have no earthly example of a good father?  Might it be freeing to see God through fresh eyes?

Consider Genesis 1:27:

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

If God made us male and female in His image, then His image contains both male and female attributes.  God demonstrates this throughout the Bible by referring to Himself not only in “fatherly” terms, but also in “motherly” terms.  Here’s just one example.  The Apostle Matthew records Jesus lamenting over His children with a Mother Hen analogy:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” – Matt. 23:37 (NIV)

Papa has full knowledge of Mack’s “father wounds” that keep him far from a Fatherly God, and so He presents Himself as Mother.  And this is just one example of God’s goodness and kindness portrayed in “The Shack”.

Another example has to do with the rest of the Holy Trinity and another character known as “Wisdom”.  Papa is an African American woman and, later in the movie, a Native American man.  Jesus is a Middle Eastern Hebrew man.  The Holy Spirit is an Asian woman.  And Lady Wisdom is a Hispanic woman.  What a beautiful picture of God’s Kingdom:

“Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
Clare Herbert Woolston

So, if you’re red or yellow or black or white or purple, if you have questions for God about good and evil and why He allows such things, I urge you to go see “The Shack”.  And if you want to know more, read “The Shack” (or take it out of your library on CD and have it read to you). Eugene Peterson, who wrote “The Message” paraphrase of the Bible, is quoted on the front of my print copy of “The Shack”:

“This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his.  It’s that good!”

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Thank You (“Christian Redefined” part 1)

Our church is getting ready to start a weekend message series called “Christian Redefined“, looking at what Jesus really said about the religion that bears his name.  What was he expecting from us when he came to visit this planet?

I’m not in on the church’s planning meetings, but the new series announcement got me thinking about what it really means to be a Christian.  I’ve written a lot about the importance of our posture towards God.  We can either live our lives turned away from Him or turned towards Him.  But what does that look like in practical terms?

In my post Moment by Moment, I talked about how I had turned away from God and stopped saying “forgive me”, but ended the post talking about thankfulness.  It wasn’t until I did a “mini-series” on Forgiveness that I realized what was really going on.

We only ask for God’s forgiveness one time: at the moment that we acknowledge that Jesus has saved us from ourselves by dying for us and coming back to life again.  In that “lightbulb” moment where it all comes clear, we see that we need God’s forgiveness.  But God forgave us long before we turned away from Him.  He forgave us before we were even born.  Now, I don’t understand how all of that worked, and I wrote about that, if you’d like to read more: A Forgiven Atheist?  What I do know is that we don’t have to keep asking for forgiveness over and over again, and I wrote about that here: Garbage Truck Confession

So, if Christianity isn’t about asking forgiveness over and over, what is it about?  I think it’s about developing new habits, not “trying harder”, but training our minds to respond wisely.  I’d like to talk about 3 specific training areas:

1) saying thank you

2) saying bless you

3) asking “what am I to do?”

I have too much to say about each of those, so I’m going to break them up into 3 different posts.  Let’s start here, with saying thank you:

Yes, we’re human, so we’re selfish and we want to be in control.   We’re going to turn away from God and do what we want to do.  Over and over and over again.  But God did something really beautiful.  When Jesus died and was resurrected, he said it was good that he was going away because he would send us his Holy Spirit (John 6:7-11).  He calls his Spirit the Advocate, the Counselor, the Helper, because He will help us and counsel us.  What happens if we go to a counselor for help and then don’t listen to them?  Can they help us if we’re not listening?  Nope.  The Holy Spirit will tell us when we have turned away from God, but we have to be listening.  And when we hear Him and turn back to God the Father, what’s the most appropriate response?  “Thank you!”  All day long, every time our thoughts are turned to God, thank Him.

I was driving to get my taxes done yesterday, which is almost an hour drive each way.  Thankfully, the roads were clear, but there were a few snow showers that seemed to come out of nowhere and disappear almost as quickly as they started.  There were big trucks that were entirely too close to my car for my liking.  And there was a headache behind my eyes that just wouldn’t go away.  But every time my thoughts came back to “Thank you, Lord”, “Thank you, Jesus” or “Thank you, Lord Jesus”, my body calmed down and the drive was smoother.  There is something healing and freeing in the words “thank you”, especially when they’re directed towards God.

When I was in counseling 3 years ago, working through the aftermath of a nervous breakdown, my counselor told me, “Stop saying “I’m sorry” and start saying “Thank you”.” I had gotten myself into a crazy pattern of needing help, getting help, feeling guilty for being a bother, falling apart and saying “I’m sorry” over and over and over again.  I was surrounded by people who wanted to help me, but I felt so guilty for causing such a mess.  But my counselor was absolutely correct.  If I someone helped me and I immediately said, “Thank you”, the guilt never came , I stopped falling apart and my pitiful, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” cycle never started.  Thank you, Jesus!!

In the Apostle Paul’s 1st letter to the church at Thessalonica, he gives them these instructions:

“Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

If we don’t know what God’s will is for our lives, now we do:  joyful, thankful prayer in all circumstances, all day long, no matter what happens.  “Happiness” depends on what “happens” to us.  Joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  And what does the Holy Spirit remind us to do?  Turn around and say “Thank you!”

As I’m writing this post, this song is playing on WOW  Cable’s Music Choice channel 534.  Something tells me I should include it here.  🙂

33 Miles – “Thank You”

What if I looked at my life in a different way
Took a little more time to stop and pray
I know it would change all the moments in between

Decide to Keep Deciding

I’ve had a lot of opportunities over the years to make a decision about something in my life.  I bet you have too.  Draw a line in the sand.  This is it.  I’m going to change ______.  And then what happens?  I go home.  I get distracted.  I get tired and worn out.  I forget.  Or I just don’t want to any more.  Kind of like the New Year’s Resolution that we chose to keep to ourselves “just in case” it didn’t work out.  Our intentions may have been good in the moment, but when the rubber meets the road, life is hard and the status quo is a whole lot easier than following through on the decisions we made.

Yep, life is hard.  Jesus never said, “Believe in me and your life will be a piece of cake.”  Nope.  Actually, he said just the opposite: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).  Trouble?  That’s not what I signed up for.  But what if the trouble isn’t really our trouble?

In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Now that’s an interesting twist.  In this world we will have trouble, but how do we keep that trouble from invading our hearts?

In the first verse of John 16, Jesus says, “I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith.”  What “things” did he tell us?  Just two verses before that, Jesus said, “But I will send you the Advocate — the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me.”  (John 15:26)

Ok.  There’s our answer.  Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, so that we won’t abandon our faith.  And he spends most of John 14, 15 and 16 giving us more details about why he is sending the Holy Spirit and what his purpose will be.

John 14:26 summarizes his purpose: “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”  Why is it so important that we be reminded of what Jesus said?  Because “in this world we will have trouble,” but Jesus has given us his peace.  If we forget about his peace, that trouble will invade our hearts and we will live in fear instead of in his peace.  And that decision we made to change _______?  That will go right out the window.  Too much trouble.

I’m often reminded of a quote by Tim Keller based on 2 Peter 1:3-15.  Pastor Keller summed up that passage in that “we are always either remembering or forgetting what God has done.”   He’s absolutely right.  We could nail down every moment of life as either a “forgetting” moment (turning away from God) or a “remembering” moment (turning to Him).  God has sent us His Holy Spirit to remind us of what He has done, is doing and will continue to do.  And He did this so that we would not “abandon our faith” and turn away from Him, even in times of trouble or fear or weakness or struggle.

So, the next time we feel challenged to make a decision, big or small, to make a change in our lives, how about we decide to keep deciding?  We know that life will get hard.  We know we’ll get tired, distracted and irritated and we’ll turn away from God.  We may “abandon our faith” a zillion times each day, but He never abandons us.  He is always faithful.  He never turns away from us.

Our trouble is that we turn away from the only One who can really help us.  Thankfully, we can decide to turn around.  Decide again.  Decide anew.  We can keep the trouble of this world from invading our hearts by remembering God’s peace, His goodness and His love for us.  “His mercies are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:23)

But don’t wait til morning.  We can turn around right now.  He’s waiting with open arms.

Don’t believe me?  Check this out: The Face of Grace