The Shack

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It was and is a powerful book…
It was and is a controversial book…

The Shack created more spiritual dialog among people of every stripe than any book had for a long time.
Personally, I love books that cause me to think, but for some people, books that make them think, or offer a different perspective are to be feared, banned or burned…this is sad and unfortunate.

Paul Young, the author of the Shack, spoke four times over an August 2009 weekend at the church I pastor. In all honesty, it was perhaps one of the most powerful weekends I have experienced, and trust me, I have experienced many.

The ministry that poured out, the grace and healing so many people experienced are hard to describe, yet unforgettable in my soul. Paul was amazing, authentic, a lover of Jesus, and simply a man sharing his journey, through fiction, of how God met him in his “Great Sadness.”

@wmpaulyoung was a blessing to the many believers, seekers, and wonderers who spilled through our doors

So, while the theologians posture, getting ready to battle at the throne of truth and error, and ultimately miss the point yet again, I’d encourage you to see the movie and take some time to listen to the four speaking sessions that Paul presented at SVA…I will provide the links below.

Paul built each session to compliment the next, so pull up a chair, relax and enjoy the teaching, questions, and honesty that was poured out at SVA.

God is larger than we can ever imagine…and He can work with our questions, wounds and struggles…

Session 1: Saturday 8/8/09 9am- Paul discusses the origins of the book with great Q&A session.

Session 2: Saturday 8/8/09 7pm: Paul discusses the metaphors and Trinity in The Shack

Session 3: Sunday 8/9/09 9am: How God works in the Great Sadness

Session 4: Sunday 8/9/09 11am: Seeing things with fresh eyes

Common Ground

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In a culture that elevates a “winner takes all” approach to life, it is often hard to have “common ground conversations.” Most of our conversations quickly de-escalate into a “who is right, or here is why you’re wrong” type which serves to insert a strong halt to the topic(s). This is acutely seen when it comes to religion, right? Many feel religion is the source of all conflict, Marx believed it to be the opiate of the people, others wonder which one is right, and each one thinks their belief is the right belief.

While surrounded by religions today, we tend to live religiously illiterate lives preferring a 140 character understanding, or better yet an amazing Facebook meme.

Our knowledge concerning the belief systems of others runs only as deep as our tweets. This creates fear, hate, antagonism and worse.

I am excited about a new conversation I am starting at Snoqualmie Valley Alliance this weekend called Common Ground. We will be looking into seven religions that seem to have the most power and influence in the world today. My goal is to focus on the truth that exists between us rather than simply illuminate our differences. When we find areas of common ground we expand our understanding beyond our personal bias or a great tweet. We are able to experience a greater level of community with our neighbors who think and believe differently than we do. Both Jesus and the apostle Paul first sought to find common ground with people, and the result was a radically changed world.

I believe that when we have a better understanding of other religions, we become more confident of our own faith. This removes the fear, hostility, and animosity that is created by a lack of understanding.  In its place we will experience a new level of grace, humility and compassion…and boy, does our world need more of that.

Go To Dark Gethsemane

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Good Friday reminds me that darkness must proceed resurrection.

Good Friday reminds me that pain and suffering, the blood sweat and tears of life, are part of the journey, not something to avoid, minimize or deny.

Good Friday reminds me that when life reaches the apex of darkness, the light of dawn is thinly close.

In the Garden of Eden humanity experienced the divine disconnect. There Adam chose self over God’s sovereignty, sin over God’s sufficiency.

It would be another garden where the second Adam, Jesus, would choose differently in order to redeem and heal the brokeness created by the first Adam. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus chose the sovereignty and sufficiency of His Father’s plan over his own safety and sustenance.

This choice transforms the world.

In his book “Life of Christ” Fulton J. Sheen noted:

“As Adam lost the heritage of union with God in a garden, so now Our Blessed Lord ushered in its restoration in a garden. Eden and Gethsemane were the two gardens around which revolved the fate of humanity. In Eden, Adam sinned; in Gethsemane, Christ took humanity’s sin upon Himself. In Eden, Adam hid himself from God; in Gethsemane, Christ interceded with His Father; in Eden, God sought out Adam in his sin of rebellion; in Gethsemane, the New Adam sought out the Father and His submission and resignation. In Eden, a sword was drawn to prevent entrance into the garden and thus immortalizing of evil; in Gethsemane, the sword would be sheathed.”

In Gethsemane we are faced with the brokeness of our humanity.

The truth is we are more about our own safety than sacrificing it for the flourishing of others.

The truth is we don’t forgive our enemies, we conceive of ways to destroy them.

The truth is we don’t really care about the plight of our neighbor unless it somehow affects us.

The truth is we seldom forgive an offender unless they grovel for it.

The truth is we have rushed, embracing resurrection without dealing with the darkness of Gethsemane and Calvary.

You can’t live out resurrection without first crying in Gethsemane.

There is an old Lutheran Hymn that inches it’s way up into my heart each year during Holy Week, and in particular on Good Friday. It is called Go To Dark Gethsemane. As a resource to help you fully embrace the darkness in order to truly live a life of resurrection, take some time to meditate on this hymn.

Go to Dark Gethsemane
By: James Montgomery

Go to dark Gethsemane,
All who fell the tempter’s power
Your Redeemer’s conflict see.
Watch with him one bitter hour;
Turn not from his griefs away;
Learn from Jesus Christ to pray.

 

Follow to the judgment hall,
View the Lord of life arraigned;
Oh, the wormwood and the gall!
Oh, the pangs his soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss;
Learn from him to bear the cross.

 

Calvary’s mournful mountain climb;
There, adoring at his feet,
Mark that miracle of time,
God’s own sacrifice complete.
“It is finished!” hear him cry;
Learn from Jesus Christ to die.

 

Early hasten to the tomb
Where they laid his breathless clay
All is solitude and gloom.
Who has taken him away?
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes.
Savior, teach us so to rise.

The last line is the call to live resurrectionally…

Savior…teach us so to rise!

Prayers For Belgium

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Another Isis Attack, this time in Belgium. There have been at least 7 other cities this week who also experienced the violent terror of these groups.

Today, I am praying for and with those in Belgium, and all the others who are the latest victims of the evil of ISIS…I’m also thankful for those in the Muslim community who are speaking out against the brutality of ISIS et al.

In the U.S we often wonder how someone becomes “radicalized” by these Jihadist groups. I read a well written article on why peaceful muslims are drawn into radical Islam. It sheds some light on the subject, although it leaves some very hard questions which need deeper conversation.

Check out the article here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/03/22/radicalization-isil-islam-sacred-texts-literal-interpretation-column/81808560/

Nabeel Qureshi, author of the article and former Muslim, has also written a book called “Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward” which also looks into this current global problem.

Dealing with ISIS, and other radical groups, requires a global response. Humility, grace and an unshakeable commitment to end terror, injustice, persecution and violence is the only way forward.