Tag Archives: Jesus

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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The Swivel Chair

When you hear the words “sin” and “repent”, does it make you want to run screaming in the other direction?  That was me.  I was an atheist for the first 22 years of my life and I had absolutely no interest in anything having to do with God or Christianity.  Thankfully, that all changed in 1994 (you can read that story here: Joshua the Prophet).

After following Christ for about 20 years, I felt like God gave me some clarity on the words “sin” and “repent” and I wrote a very short post about them last year.  Have you read it?  If not, you can check it out here: Two “churchy” words

For the past year, every time I read the Bible, I read it in the light of what those words now mean to me.  And it’s brought such clarity that I want to share more with you.  How can I make it crystal clear?

The Swivel Chair in my mind
The Swivel Chair in my mind

How about this?  I have a swivel chair in my office.  I can choose to turn it in all different directions.  I can turn toward the computer, the printer, the file cabinet or the hallway.  It’s my choice.

Imagine that there is a swivel chair in each of our minds.  We have the choice of which direction we turn our thoughts.  But unlike the swivel chair in my office, imagine that this chair can only face one of two directions.  It can turn toward God or away from God.  And, just like in my office chair, we have the choice of which way we turn.

If it were up to God, there would be one moment in every human being’s life when we realize that we are not the king of our own universe, but that He is the King of the universe.  In that moment when we turn to God, acknowledging that He is our creator and the ultimate authority in our life, thanking Him for sending Jesus to take on our sin, we are what Christians call “saved”.  That decision is called “salvation”, when we are “born again” (John 3:3).

But it’s not up to God.  That’s not the kind of world He created.  Instead of creating robots,  He created human beings with free will.  Why?  Because He created us to be in a love relationship with Him.  If He demanded that we love Him, that wouldn’t be love.  Love requires choice.  And the choice is up to us.  He already made His choice.  He loves us no matter what.  But His desire is that we would choose to love Him back.

And when we choose to love Him back, accepting His love and forgiveness, we’re “saved”, as the Apostle Paul explains in his letter to the church in Ephesus:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

But God speaks in the Bible over and over again about “repentance”; changing our mind and turning to Him.  Why do we need repentance if we’ve already turned to God?  Isn’t once good enough?  Are we unsaved and then we get saved again and again and again?

Nope.  Salvation happens one time.  But we are human.  The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 7 that our fallen human “sinful nature” draws us back to our own devices over and over again.  Probably a million times each day, our thoughts turn away from God and back to our own selfish desires.  And that is “sin”.  That is turning away from God.  That is “missing the mark”.

Think about that swivel chair in our mind.  There are only two directions:

  1. Sin (pride, “missing the mark”) = trying to figure out life on my own
  2. Faith (humility, repentance, “changing one’s mind”) = turning to God for His direction

Romans 14:23 says that “everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

From the swivel chair, that makes perfect sense.  There are only two directions: Faith or Sin.  We can look to God and see the world through His eyes (Faith) or we can look at the world however we think is best (Sin).  “There is a path before each person that seems right,
but it ends in death.”  Proverbs 16:25 (NLT)

God created us to have a relationship with Him.  Intimacy with Him is the goal.  Not following the rules, but following Jesus. Not perfection, but following the Perfect One.

In Beth Moore’s “Living Free” study, she quotes a friend who was far from God, depressed and broken.  Her friend said, “I thought I couldn’t come to God with this sin in my life.”  When I read that, my heart broke for her.  I wanted her to understand that not coming to God WAS the sin in her life.  Turn around.  Come to Him.  That is repentance.  That is faith.  That is humility.

In “Living Free”, Beth goes on to say that “prayer keeps us in constant communion with God, which is the goal of our entire believing lives.  Prayerless lives are powerless lives, and prayerful lives are powerful lives; but, believe it or not, the ultimate goal God has for us is not power but personal intimacy with Him.”

He loves us.  He created us.  He wants us, warts and all.  He knows we’re messed up.  He knows we’re broken.  But that brokenness is not sin.  That is part of being human.  Our sin is our turning away from Him.  Repentance is turning back, confident that He is waiting to receive us with open arms.  “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

Beth Moore continues her study with the question, “How is intimacy with God different from the goal of being good enough to be acceptable to God?”  Here is my answer.  And my prayer is that it can be your answer as well.

Intimacy with You, my God, is knowing that, because I turned to Jesus who took on my sin, my “turning away”,  and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior, I’m already good enough, covered in Your grace, reclining at Your banqueting table, resting with You, my creator, enjoying Your presence and knowing that You enjoy me, just as I am.

Go ahead.  Read that again.  In the swivel chair of your mind, turn to God, seeing the huge  smile on His face, and read those words to Him.  He’s so happy to see you.

“For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
-Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

Won’t You Be My Love?

“Every woman I’ve ever met feels it — something deeper than just the sense of failing at what she does.  An underlying, gut feeling of failing at who she is.  I am not enough, and, I am too much at the same time.  Not pretty enough, not thin enough, not kind enough, not gracious enough, not disciplined enough.  But too emotional, too needy, too sensitive, too strong, too opinionated, too messy.  The result is Shame, the universal companion of women.  It haunts us, nipping at our heels, feeding on our deepest fear that we will end up abandoned and alone.” – Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, by John and Stasi Eldredge

Wow.  I just finished reading this powerful book.  This is not a “do these 10 things and you’ll be a Proverbs 31 woman” book.  The subtitle really sums it up:  “Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul”.  Sounds pretty, doesn’t it?  Boy, I’d like to think that I’m “mysterious”, because most days I just feel “messed up”.  John and Stasi nailed it.  I am too much and too little all rolled into one.

Beth Moore said something at her 2009 Living Proof Live conference that has always stuck with me:  “Repression will make you sick, rebellion will make you stupid.  We gotta be real.”

The Apostle James says it this way:  “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 (NIV)  

Sharing our hurts is healing and I believe that positive life change only happens with other people.  Keeping it to ourselves only makes it worse, or in 12 Step language, “we’re as sick as our secrets”.  I spent most of 2013 in a Celebrate Recovery 12 Step Study and I learned that genuine confession leads to genuine change.  Telling our story is freeing, on so many levels.

Think of it this way.  If we keep it between us and God, there is no accountability.  We might say, “Hey, He forgives me, we’ll just keep this between us.  No need to get anyone else involved.  It’s a private matter.”  Just one problem with that.  No change happens.  We keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, the very definition of “insanity”.   But when the pain of changing finally feels less than the pain of staying the same, it’s time to change.

So, here I am with you, my trusted friends, confessing my sin to you.  I am a mess.  I am too much; I am too little.  I am up; I am down.  I am happy; I am sad.  I am carefree; I am frustrated.  I am optimistic; I am pessimistic.  I am kind; I am harsh.  I am manic; I am depressive.  I am intelligent; I am hopelessly stupid.  I am encouraging; I am discouraged.  I am on top of the world; I am in the lowest pit.  I am an eagle soaring high above the clouds; I am Eeyore beneath the rain cloud.  I am free to dream the grandest of dreams; I am tied up in knots.  I am a woman of faith; I am a woman of fear.  I am filled with the love of Jesus; I am bound by the lies of the evil one.  I have it all together; I am completely overwhelmed. 

So much of it comes down to expectations.  Am I expecting too much?  Am I expecting too little?  Do I expect everything to fall apart?  Do I expect that I will be left “abandoned and alone”?  Or do I expect that God will come through?  Do I expect that He will take care of me?  Do I expect that He will never leave me, never forsake me, and that He has amazing people waiting to help me at just the right moment?  If I give in to despair, if I give up, will I miss out on seeing God come through for me?  Yep, I will.  I’ll miss out.  And something will be missing in the world that could have been there if I hadn’t given up.

Toward the end of Captivating, in a chapter called “An Irreplaceable Role”, John and Stasi remind us that we were each made with a unique purpose in mind.  No one else can live the life that we alone were created to live.  You are the only person on earth who can fulfill your purpose.  I love this beautiful reminder of who we truly are:

“You are a woman.  An image bearer of God.  The Crown of Creation.  You were chosen before time and space, and you are wholly and dearly loved.  You are sought after, pursued, romanced, the passionate desire of your Fiancé, Jesus.  You are dangerous in your beauty and your life-giving power.  And you are needed.”

Oh, there’s so much more.  Read the book (check your library).  We are needed.  We all have something to contribute.  Expectations can kill us, but hope frees us.  Hope of today, hope of tomorrow and hope of eternity.  Hope lives with Jesus.  And when we live with Jesus, we get to experience that hope.  And if we don’t feel it, we need to ask him to help us feel it.  But don’t wait on feelings.  They’re so fleeting.  One minute everything is amazing and the next minute everything has gone wrong.  But God is still working.  And He still loves us immeasurably.  And He’s fighting for us, as a groom fights for his bride.  I wrote about that in December when I started reading Captivating.  Check out The Beautiful Adventure if you’d like to read more.

I heard MercyMe’s “Won’t You Be My Love?” this morning and it stirred something in me that made me want to write for the first time in a month.  I hope it stirs something in you too.  And if you love it, the whole album is only $9.99 on iTunes.

“My friends are broke and lost
Looking for someone to lead them to my cross
I need your help, I need your help

Won’t you be My voice calling
Won’t you be My hands healing
Won’t you be My feet walking into a broken world
Won’t you be My chain-breaker
Won’t you be My peacemaker
Won’t you be My hope and joy
Won’t you be My Love”

We may be broke and lost, but even in our brokenness, we have something to give.  We are needed.  Our prayers are needed.  They are powerful and effective.  Our lives are powerful and effective.  God is powerful and effective and He wants His power to flow through us out into this broken world.  Our expectations may be unrealistic.  Let’s place all of those expectations on Him.  He can handle it.  His shoulders are big enough.  And, in that freedom, let’s go out and live the lives that we were created to live.

The Beautiful Adventure

I used to feel like I was trying to get my life to the point where I didn’t need to “bother” God anymore.  My problems were tiny and irritating to Him, like mosquitos buzzing in the ears of the King of the Universe.  Have you ever felt like you are simply too much trouble and God is waiting for the day when you can finally take care of yourself?  For men: be a good boy, grow up to be “a nice guy”, live a safe life and do what you’re supposed to do.  For women: be a good girl, be helpful, kind and don’t do anything stupid.

Thankfully, I no longer think that God feels that way.  I believe we were made for something greater:

“Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.”
― John Eldredge, Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul

“We think you’ll find that every woman in her heart of hearts longs for three things: to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil beauty. That’s what makes a woman come alive.”
― John & Stasi Eldredge, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul

I’m not a man, so I can’t speak to the first quote, but as a female, the quote from “Captivating” resonates with me.  But it certainly puts a lot of pressure on my husband, doesn’t it?  And what about single women?  Do they have to wait for Mr Right to fulfill the longing of their hearts?  And what if he doesn’t?

Thankfully, I don’t think that was the point the Eldredge’s were getting at when they wrote those books.  More on that below.  But first, I need to go on a tangent.  The morning I read those quotes, I was in an emotional “funk”, looking for something to pull me out.  Even though God saved my mind back in September, He didn’t change my personality.  I still have emotional ups and downs, a Melancholy through and through.

But is that a bad thing?  I know I don’t appreciate sunshine without clouds, summer without winter, food without hunger, company without loneliness, up without down, good without bad.  Opposite sides of the same coin.

And I also find that the best questions come during the darkest times.  Those questions haunt me until I find answers.  And it is those answers that bring me out of the darkness and into the light.  If I stayed “up” all the time, I don’t think I would ever ask those questions.  And if I never asked those questions and got those answers, how could I be an encouragement to you?  No, I believe my Melancholy state is a thorn in my flesh that is there for a reason.

Rather like the Apostle Paul’s thorn in his flesh that he asked God to remove (2 Corinthians 12:7), I too have asked God to remove the feelings that drag me into a ditch of despair and a pit of self-pity.  I may scream at God, “I can’t do this!”, but He calmly and confidently, with a warm, loving smile on His face, responds, “I know, Beth.  You weren’t meant to do this alone.  I gave you feelings for a reason.  They were meant to draw you to Me.”  I understand what the Apostle Paul meant when he went on to say, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

So, in that emotional funk, with my mind focused on the quote from “Captivating”, here is what I believe God said to me about every woman’s desire 1) to be romanced, 2) to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and 3) to unveil beauty:

1) God is the one doing the romancing
2) I am playing an irreplaceable role in God’s great adventure
3) God calls me to unveil the beauty all around me, as seen through my eyes.  That’s this blog

I could make the same assumptions for men in their longings for 1) a battle to fight, 2) an adventure to live, and 3) a beauty to rescue.  What if that were:

1) The battle of this world, good against evil, fighting for good
2) The adventure of following God where He leads, not necessarily where life is safe, comfortable and secure
3) Rescuing the beauty, the “bride of Christ”: brothers and sisters who desperately need to know that there is a God who loves them so much that He sent His son to die for them

So, do you think that God wants us to get our lives to the point where we don’t need to bother Him anymore?  Or do you think He wants us to join Him on the adventure of a lifetime?  I believe that we each have a unique purpose.  Something we were put on this planet to accomplish.  Something only we can do – no one else.  The Apostle Paul tells is that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV).

What is the role you were designed for?  If you don’t know yet, let Jesus be your example, as he “went around doing good” (Acts 10:38).  Do good.  Don’t be a “bucket”, trying to fill yourself up.  Be a pipeline – a conduit of God’s love.  The only way that a pipe is “filled” is when something is flowing through it.  Let God love you and then give that love away.  Let good flow through you today, be an encouragement to someone else, be a blessing, and guess what?  You’ll be filled too.

And if you know what your role is, then go for it!  Joyce Meyer says that “God won’t do for you what you can do yourself.  You must do what you can do, and then trust God to do what you can’t.”  Maybe He’s simply waiting for you to take a step.  Maybe that step is to turn around and take His hand.  Join Him in the beautiful adventure He has prepared for you.  “Trust in the Lord and do good.” Psalm 37:3 (NIV)

Having trouble hearing from God?  Check this out:  Hearing Aids