The Gospel according to ‘The Shack’…

The Shack.jpgThis past weekend, the movie adaptation of the best selling book ‘The Shack’ was released. The movie (and the book) tells a story of trauma, tragedy, and loss, and explores several questions that most everybody asks at different times in their life. And because of the familiarity and popularity of the book inside of the church and Christian world, many churches, mine included, had formal and informal group outings to watch and (hopefully) discuss the themes of the movie. So I wanted to take some time and share my thoughts about the central questions and themes of the book and movie.

However, I also want to pause and acknowledge that the story also carries some controversy. There are concerns that the story lends itself, intentionally or unintentionally, toward poor theology. And while I agree that there are those elements within the story, I don’t think they’re the central themes. Questions of universalism, karma, and atonement theory are certainly raised, but not nearly given the same attention as pain, suffering, justice, and God’s place in all of those things. This story doesn’t seek to systematically rewrite theology – it’s an exploration of the existential questions; the ‘here and now’ stuff.

So with that being said, here are some thoughts on ‘The Shack’. SPOILERS Continue reading

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The Humanity of God…

1200px-temptations_of_christ_san_marcoThe Gospels are full of stories and moments that challenge us, as the reader, to take a long hard look at ourselves. The woman caught in adultery (John 8), the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) all challenge the reader to reassess grace, holiness, and mercy in their own lives. One story that I don’t think gets the attention it deserves for it’s challenge to the reader is the story of Jesus’ fasting and temptation in the wilderness. It’s found in three of the four Gospels (John never really plays by anyone’s rules)

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to it for a long stretch. I think I got lost in the details of it; fasting for 40 days and a conversation with the devil can make the story feel incredibly unrelatable. I’ve done short fasts, but nothing close to a month. And while I’ve had some incredibly spiritual moments, both good and evil, I can’t say I’ve ever had a direct conversation with the devil.

But if you move past the sensational parts of the story, you can begin to see the true humanity of Christ. And that, after all, is the point of the story.

We’re too quick to dismiss this story out of hand. After all, how tempting can anything be for God? That question neglects the crucial component of Christ which is His humanity. He was one of us. (If you read nothing else, pause and let that thought bounce around in your head for a little bit – Christ was, and is, one of us). The temptations that Jesus faces are temptations that every one of us can relate too. Here’s how: Continue reading

Wanted – Christianity, Very Used…

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You can do a lot in the world of online garage sales. You can have auctions, sell some of your own stuff, and even place a ‘Wanted’ ad if you’re in the market for something. It’s recommended that you include a ‘condition’ (usually new, gently used, used, etc.) in the description to help people figure out if they should respond. So, for example, if I wanted a dining room table, and I was comfortable with a couple of dings or scratches, I might put out an ad like this:

‘Wanted – Dining Room Table, New or Gently Used’

Over the last few years, I’ve watched as Christianity and culture seem to get further and further from each other. And while I certainly don’t know all of the reasons why the walls of the church get higher, so to speak, each year, I do have an idea or two.

Many in the church seem to be trying to ‘collect’ their Christianity, in the same way as any other collector would. Churches seem to serve as large display cases or china cabinets for pristine figures, comics, or dishes. They seem to be concerned with preserving the quality of their wares instead of fully using them.

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Here are a couple of thoughts on ‘collecting’ Christianity: Continue reading

Four Ways to Connect w/God…

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When I was in college, I participated in the Army ROTC program. One of the fundamental skill sets we learned early on was Land Navigation, which consisted of map reading, orienteering, and plotting out a course over the terrain to find different points on the map. We would often use a variety of skills and tools to hike through the woods to these points. We’d use compasses, protractors, and different techniques to find our points.

When I think of trying to better understand or connect with God, I think of this hiking or map reading imagery. So here are four things that you can use to connect with God:  Continue reading

Making the roof fall in…

A few years ago, Mel Gibson, the worldwide movie star, had a very public and very terrible breakdown. He used racist, misogynistic, and sexually violent language talking about people, both in broad groups and specifically targeting a few, including his then girlfriend. After the dust of settlements and court hearings died down, Gibson essentially went into hiding.

Until this week, when he began to do the press tour for his new movie.

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One of the stops was on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Now, I know Colbert to be mostly a comedian, but I also know he does not like to leave proverbial elephants in the room. I’ve watched him ask people some rather tough questions for a goofy late night talk show. So when Gibson came out, they eased the conversation to the topic of this very public breakdown. During the conversation, Colbert said something that struck me with such gracious poignancy, because I, and many others need to be reminded of it. He said:

“No person is their worst moment” Continue reading