Sunday, May 21, 2017

THE SHACK:Criticism or Critical Thinking Needed

Sanctify them in the Truth. Your Word
is Truth (John 17:17)
An outing with a few of my church sisters led us to a movie that created somewhat of a buzz in Christian circles years ago.  We caught it at a theater just before its ultimate descent to DVD.  You've probably heard of it.  It's called The Shack!

Based on a controversial book by William Paul Young  in 2007, I read the book years ago and was curious as to how faithful the movie would be to the original work.  I also wondered with the declining passion for Biblical discernment among Christians; if it would stir up the same kind of excitement as it did ten years ago.  I can't say that it has!

If you do an internet search you'll find a few movie reviews by noted Christian outlets, but in essence it's just about par with what was written when the book first came out.  Hard to believe that by the release of the movie this year, 20 million books had been sold! This being so even with its ban by some Christian book selling outlets.

I would need to write another post if I was to recount the plot of the book in detail but let me just say that it involves a typical Christian man with unresolved wounds in his past having a crisis of faith as he endures the violent and tragic loss of his youngest daughter.  Mack, as the character is known,  has to make some critical choices along the way to his healing and among them is the Choice to Forgive!  Forgive first himself and then the murderer of his baby girl!  He is invited to go back to the scene of the crime, an abandoned shack in the woods, where he has an intimate encounter with God!

After the show, the ladies and I grabbed lunch and discussed the movie, our thoughts, criticism, and revelations after viewing it! We had plenty to talk about as you can imagine.  From the depiction of God, by a black woman (Papa) who in one scene bopped to contemporary music, to the vague allusions and endorsements of other religions that conflicted with our Christian faith!  We sort of came to the conclusion that you could be a Buddhist, Mystic, New Age practitioner, or Atheist and find something you could relate to in the movie!  Was this good or bad?  The verdict is still out!

If you have not seen the movie, I'm not quick to recommend it! Why you might ask since I purchased the original book,  and a follow-up companion to it entitled, Finding God in the Shack: Seeking truth in a story of evil and redemption, by Roger Olson, and consider them both good reads!  I don't recommend it for Everyone! Only those  with a strong Biblical foundation! 
If you're still willy-nilly in your faith or as Paul says in 2 Tmothy 3:7, easily swayed and always learning but never able to acknowledge truth, I suggest you stick with the Bible!!

The major themes of the movie however,  I found compelling and common to all humans: the undeniable presence of evil in the world; the pain and suffering of loss; the need for forgiveness to attain peace, and finding the will to go on.   As a Christian, I found each answer in Jesus Christ!  If you're of another faith, this movie might give you another view, but my hope is that it will lead you to Christ as well!

As for criticism of the book and the movie (and there are many) I think that we need to be less of a Critic and more of a Truth Discerner! We need to practice and teach biblical truth everywhere we go, especially to the younger generation.  It begins with Critical Thinking! The ability to skillfully analyze, assess, and reconstruct our thoughts (Rom. 12:2) based on what the bible says.  We need not fear what movies like this may do to the untrained mind, we should be about training those minds in the ways and thoughts of God... in the absolute truth of God's Word. 

As I perused my old copy of the book, I found a note I wrote at the end. I think it summarizes this post well: 

 People who would have problems with this book (and now the the movie) are (1) Those with an extremely high view of scripture and fear these views will be challenged.  (2) Those who are virtually ignorant of scripture truth and are easily influenced by "anything" they deem spiritual. 

We don't have to be fearful or ignorant...All we need to be is prayerful, obedient and discerning!


Read God's Word with a Heart for Truth and You will always find Truth!



UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

STORM PROOFING YOUR HOUSE!

The wise woman builds her
house...the foolish one tears 
hers down. (Prov. 14:1)
It's been too many mornings recently that I've had to wake up to a rain storm pounding against my windows!  My basement has a tendency to leak so I generally hop out of bed to see if there's been any damage!  I've been blessed over the years. Even without a sump pump, we've escaped flooding!

Sadly, I can't say that about other kinds of storms I've had to encounter in my life!  But here's where age and experience really comes into play....After surviving a few of them, God gives you wisdom and you learn that things turn out better if you do some preventative work ahead of time. You learn how to storm proof your house!

In the gospels (Matthew 7:24-28 and Luke 6:46-49), Jesus related a parable that you probably remember from your children's Sunday school class about the wise and foolish builders.  Take some time this week to read it again from an adult perspective and relate it to the trials that I know each of you have had to face.  I did so recently and found some maintenance work I needed to do on my Spiritual house to keep it in good shape when the storms of life come raging!  Here's what I came up with:


  • Both the wise and foolish builders had a lot in common:  Both wanted a house. Both had a vision.  Both worked hard and finished the job and both experienced the same storm.  This taught  me that God understands humans desires (Ps.37:4).  That even good plans don't always bring success (Prov. 16:3, 9).  That our motives determine the character of a thing (Ps. 127:1) and bad things can happen to good and evil people (John 16:33)
  • Building my Life House is all about the choices I make! (Luke 14:28-30): I asked myself: Is what I desire a true need or a want?  How far will I go to get it? What am I willing to sacrifice? Who will suffer from my decision? and Is the risk I take worth it?
The answers will determine whether your choices are built on Rock Solid Truth or Shaky Sand!

1. To Storm proof your Life House consider the Location:  Build in the right spot.  A safe and secure place (John 10:29).  Build with the future in mind.  Will it hold up in a storm? (Mark 4:39)  Build with the right materials.  Will it do the job when needed? (I Cor. 3:10)

2. To Storm proof your Life House consider the Foundation:  The foundation of a house is invisible but is the most important part of any house (I Cor. 3:11-14).  The foundation holds the house in place.  It anchors it.  The foundation supports the structure that its built on and keeps it from sinking.  The foundation helps carry and distribute the load.  It provides balance. 

3.  To Storm proof your Life House consider the Ramifications (consequences): Am I properly prepared to wait out the storm?  What's my back up plan? (Ps. 91:1; Ps. 27:14).  Do I have the right insurance coverage (Is. 43:2; Matt. 16:33).  When is it time to evacuate? (Phil. 3:13-14; Gal. 6:7-8)

My Sisters, what kind of Builder are YOU?  Wise or Foolish? (Prov. 14:1)

  • Build on the Sold Rock of Jesus Christ
    • Put your faith in Christ today if you're not saved! (Rom 10:9-10)
    • Read God's word (the Bible) daily and obey it to make good choices!
    • Get used to talking to God about everything. He's the Storm Master!
    • Live a life that reflect the Spiritual House He's built (I Peter 2:4-5)
IT'S YOUR CHOICE!!


UNTIL NEXT TIME...


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Monday, May 1, 2017

A MOTHER'S HEART!


Wow! Can you believe it's May already?  I can't.  Although April showers still linger. all you have to do is look around and you know warmer weather is on the way and Mother's Day is right around the corner!

Merchants really capitalize on this time of year: graduations, Memorial Day, but especially the sentiments of Mother's day! It's big business!  After all, even the most thoughtless child will often spend a few bucks on a card or a small trinket to give to their Mom.

But those of us who have taken that nine-month journey,  spent time and sacrificed as a maternal surrogate of sorts, know that there's more to it than that!  Something unexplainable happens as you raise your children and watch them try to maneuver the pitfalls of life.  You develop a Mother's heart! There's nothing quite like it!

I've heard it said, that when your children are young they're on your lap, but when they grow up they are on your heart!  Boy ain't that the truth!  On more than a few occasions, I along with other mothers have commiserated over the trials of our children.  When they hurt WE hurt!  When they fail, WE feel responsible!  You see, that's a Mother's heart for you.  Even when children become adults and make their own decisions and face horrible consequences in the aftermath, somehow we find a way to feel bad, even devastated by it all. 

Jesus must have felt the same way when He grieved over the sins over the Jewish nation. All of His preaching, teaching, healing, and illustrations of love and grace weren't enough to counteract the desires of His strong-willed children. All of it was rejected! Hear His heart:

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it." (Luke 13:34)


How many times did His Mother's heart yearn to protect His children. Protect them from foolish living, from dangerous situations, reckless or careless choices. We mothers, like Jesus would love to gather them beneath our wings, to continue to nurture, to advise, keep them from all kinds of harm, safe and secure, ever present before the Lord.  But that is not the way of life!  It is not even the way of wisdom! For each person must come into God's presence willingly!  And the hard lessons of life may be the only way that will happen!  It's small comfort to an aching Mother's heart... but it is true!

What we do know is this.  A Mother's heart never gives up hope! It sits by hospital bedsides; in court rooms, and across tables in prisons.  It holds the head of the addict going through withdrawals, and prays for the prodigal sons and daughters living in the far country of disobedience! 

Jesus lamented but never forgot the Jewish nation even though they rejected His love (Read Romans 11:25-29) and such is the Mother's Heart!  Here are a few reasons:

1.  It is God's will that all be saved and come to the knowledge of truth! (I Tim. 2:4)

2.  God is faithful even when His children are not. He will not disown Himself! (II Tim. 2:13)

3. He continues to show grace (unmerited kindness) that leads to repentance! (Rom. 2:4) *There is a reality that some of our children may choose to reject even this grace, but only the Lord knows when they've reached that point, so keep praying)

4. Jesus is moved with compassion for grieving mothers' hearts! He understands. He cares. He will always make provisions! (Matt:15:21-28; Luke 7:11; John 19 25-27)

I may be a couple weeks early Mothers, sending this encouragement to you but I dare not wait for a day on the calendar.  You may not hear from your child;  may not get a card, gift or a call. Might not get to spend precious moments alone with them on that special day, but know THIS: God loves you and is covering you and your children under His feathers, He has a Mother's heart, just like yours! (Psalms 91:4)  So,  HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

UNTIL NEXT TIME...


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Monday, April 17, 2017

FUNCTIONAL LEPROSY: A Spiritual Pandemic!

If I regard iniquity in my heart,
the Lord will not hear me. (Ps. 66:18)
I watch a fair amount of television  and I am always amazed by the number of commercials there are for medications. Talk about coming to grips with your own mortality! As humans there's a lot of diseases we have to deal with, but there's one drug and commercial that I've never seen.  It's a remedy for Functional Leprosy.  You see, it's a spiritual disease!

Ah, hah!  Never heard of it?  Me either, until a couple of weeks ago.   I joined about 300 women at my church for the Priscilla Shirer 2017 Simulcast!  If you're a student of the Word and love good women bible studies, the name is very familiar!  If not, then you might recall Priscilla as the prayer-less wife in the movie, War Room. 

Simulcasts have been going on for many years in Christian circles.  But this was my very first one.  I generally like to be in the same room with a dynamic teacher or preacher (even if it's 40 rows back in an auditorium with thousands). But I've got to tell you this turned out to be a great experience!  The Word of God, like the God we serve is truly omnipresent! His Spirit was so powerful that it didn't matter that Priscilla was hundreds of miles away in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  

Taking her text from 2 Kings 5:1-14, Naaman's Leprosy Cured, she unpacked the text with deft skill and precision telling us what it means to be a spiritual leper and how a little Israelite girl's faith was the key to the cure!  Here's how Priscilla's described the condition she calls Functional Leprosy.  It is hiding our sins, fears, and insecurities under a guise of spiritual health and wholeness.  To the outsider, we function well. We attend church, serve and even lead ministries.  We go through all the acceptable motions of emotionally healthy spirituality but inside we're dying from this dreaded disease.

Just like, the physiological symptoms of the leprosy disease, we become numb to the pain that is often afflicted upon the assumed spiritually weak.  The parallels between the two diseases don't stop there however.  Fearing the isolation, shame and loathing that so often comes with the disease (and the sin that is at its root), we keep the mask of functional leprosy glued on tightly.  Even when we are finally able to admit to ourselves that we are suffering, our pride attempts keep us from the cure! 

Such was the case of Naaman, a well respected, commander in the Syrian army who at the behest of a servant girl went to Israel seeking healing.  When he didn't get the reception he thought he deserved, rebuffed by the king and later refused a private audience with the prophet Elisha, he got angry and said forget it! The cure in his opinion, did not befit a man of his stature.  But like the servant girl, his underlings, had his best interest at heart.  They persuaded him to be obedient and thus as the prophet said, dipped  himself in the muddy Jordan river and found himself cleansed from the disease. 

Two powerful lessons resonated with me from this study.  Both of them required the dipping of my own sin in the blood of Jesus as I John 1:9  before I got it.  Both to this day fills me with hope: 

First, none of us are immune to Functional Leprosy!  It's sad to admit but often church is NOT the  best place to show your weakness and vulnerabilities! This is not to discourage Christian fellowship, theres really nothing like it!  But somewhere in our sanctified minds we still believe church is only for Super Saints! Those who have it all together! God's word says something totally different.  In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 Paul tells us that God's grace is sufficient for every weakness and it is in this weakness that God's power is perfected.  Also, Romans 8:1 assures us, that there is no condemnation in those who are in Christ Jesus! So go ahead... Go to church as you are...just remember you don't have to leave the same way you came! 

Second, I so identified with the servants in the story of Naaman.  In my early Christian life, I felt that I was out of sync with my destiny.  I wasn't where I needed to be to get the most out of my life I thought!  Not in my personal ambitions and certainly not in my marriage!  But God's Word showed me something completely different.  I Corinthians 1:27 says that God will often choose the foolish things in the world to shame the wise and the strong.  Psalms 37:4 taught me to Delight myself in the Lord where I was and He'll give me the desires of my heart; and I Timothy 6:6 says contentment with godliness is great gain.

I love the way Priscilla Shirer put it in the Simulcast:  Like the servant girl, I thought I was displaced but I was actually being divinely used!  I thought I was being cheated but found I was chosen!  Maybe the same can be said of you!

UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS..NOT UNANSWERED PRAYERS!


For now we see in a mirror dimly,
but then face to face
(I Corin. 13:12a)
By and by, when the morning comes, all the saints of God are gathered home, we'll tell the story how we've overcome, for we'll understand it better by and by! -(Lyrics by Charles Albert Tindley, 1851-1933)

Here's a tune that comes to mind as you sit in God's Waiting Room!  I know it has for me a time or two.  Inquisitive by nature, I'm known to ask questions about things I desire a deeper knowledge about and for the most part with a little research I can find answers that satisfy my curiosity,  I tell you sisters, Google is a wonderful tool!  

However, there are some questions that Google can't answer.  Learned people can't provide it, and even experience falls short of a satisfactory answer.  Questions that only you and God talk about lest others would think you stupid, naive, or at the very least, unspiritual! So you commit these things to prayer...but what if God doesn't answer? 

First, if you are a Believer in Christ, God hears all our prayers (He's just not obliged to respond the way we want Him to!) Proverbs 15:8 tells us that He delights in the prayers of His children.  He also invites us to come boldly to His throne and make our requests known (Hebrews 14:6).  So it's not a matter of Him not hearing, He is omniscient after all, but whether our prayers meet the right parameters.  There could be other factors to consider.

We may be hindering the answers to those oh, so important questions: When we hide iniquity (sin) in our hearts (Ps. 66:18); God hides His eyes from us and our circumstances (Is. 1:15)!  Dealing  with personal, unconfessed sin is a bigger priority in God's eyes than our prayer requests! 

 Something else, the Bible teaches:  Our prayers must line up with God's will (I John 5:14) and we need to ask with the right motives (James 4:3)  I believe God answers every prayer in one of four different ways:  YES!   NO!  WAIT!  and  YOU ALREADY KNOW THE ANSWER!

Now getting back to those unanswered questions!  The problem is not God but us!  Often when we ask God the big WHY question it's not because we really want to know the reason but we want Him to let us in on His itinerary!  His timing!  His plans now and in the future! Let me tell you why He doesn't share these things:

1.  These are Secret things, reserved for the Trinity  (Deu. 29:29). Stop worrying about what you don't know...work on what you do!  We've got 66 books that show us God's plan for our lives, now that's good place to start!

2.  It's Really None of our Business! (Acts 1:7-8) One of the last things Jesus told His disciples when they asked when He would restore the kingdom,  was that it was not for them to know the times or season for this is under the authority of the Father


3.  God is merciful! Frankly, we're way out of our league, trying to handle things in God's In Box! Man's limitation is no match for God's infinite wisdom! (Exodus 15:11)

Now here's the Number One reason God doesn't always answer our questions...HE WANTS US  TO TRUST HIM!  He created us with free will, the power to make choices. He wants us to choose to trust Him even when we can't trace His hand or understand what He's doing!  He takes us often  from the Prayer Room, to the Waiting Room, but one day we'll be in our Heavenly Home and there...Trusting in the Lord, and according to His Word, We'll understand it better by and by!


UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Monday, March 20, 2017

MASTERING DISTRACTIONS!

There is an old Pennsylvania Dutch proverb that says, The hurrier I go the behinder, I get!  Do you ever feel that way? That you can't seem to get anything done but you're still exhausted at the end of the day? You are not alone!

This is common among busy people. We start a project over here, get interrupted,  go to another, and before you know it you're late for work, church, picking up the kids, and then rushing off to an appointment you just can't miss!   Bottom line:  Nothing you wanted to do got done at the end of the day!

There are many culprits in our chronically busy life styles. They suck up our time, wreak havoc on our body, and yield very little results!  But the one that has cropped up in my life lately with a vengeance is DISTRACTIONS!!  Chalk it up to old age if you will, but I've been seeing the symptoms in people of every age!  The difference in my case is,  I'm determined to do something about it!  I just believed the Lord had a remedy for all of this nonsense and you know where I found it?  Right in His word!  Let me drop a bit of God Knowledge on you this morning if you're feeling FRUSTRATED with DISTRACTIONS:


  • Take your Super Woman Cape Off!  You can't Help Everyone! Beware of over committing to projects, responsibilities, that take you away from the things God really wants you to do!  This is particularly hard if the things we're asked to do are helpful, and meet a real need.  Moses, in Exodus 18:17-18 was told by Jethro, this very thing in the Voice paraphrase translation: What you are doing is not good for you18 The responsibility is just too much. You are going to wear yourself out. Not only that, you’re going to wear out the people too. You can’t do it all by yourself. 
  • Keep the Main thing the Main thing! Look for God's Will in the matter first! The Lord is more interested in us Being With Him, than our notion of Doing Things For Him! Jesus told Martha, in Luke 10:42 as she was stressing over Mary's lack of concern for kitchen duty: There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her."   Our distractions are sometimes nothing but more busy work to keep our minds occupied and our hearts far away from more important things! 
  • Surrender Attempts to Control Every Situation! Know and Accept Human Limitations! Ministering to the needs of others is a God-Size job and we can not do it alone. (John 15:5a) As women we often forget that because nurturing and serving is in our DNA. We become worried and concerned and will often Take on More rather than Trust God More!  The Apostles had to learn a similar lesson in Acts when they were forced to surrender the needs of the widows to God and Spirit filled servants. Acts 6:3-4 -  3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” They learned to master their distractions and frustrations by sharing the load with others.
Summary:

In everything we do we must ask ourselves these questions:  Why am I doing this?  Who gets the glory? Am I using this as a substitute for spending real quality time with the Lord? You may be like me frustrated with everything that didn't get done, but have you considered....God may be using these very things to get us back where He wants us to be ON OUR KNEES?


UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Tea And Symphony!!

What a weekend I've had dear readers!  I spent a glorious couple of hours with beautiful sisters enjoying a little tea and a symphony!  If this sounds a bit archaic and too old school for your taste...hold that thought until the end of this post!

Generations of women at my church recreated an age-old bonding ritual of sisterhood, in what I believe combined both tradition and contemporary. The traditional part was the ambiance of low lighting, classical music, elegant styling, and a variety of teas, sandwiches and pastries served right at your table.  

The contemporary part was that no hats or gloves were required (ladies dressed in their best black and white); and tea time started at eleven a.m. rather than the formal two or three o'clock afternoon setting (we're busy women with lots of responsibilities). One particular joyous sight for me was that the older generation of women were served by younger women, many who had their own daughters and nieces beside them,  teaching them how to serve! Now that's a flash from my past!

The program was a bit different as well.  While one usually think of gifted musicians displaying their honed skills, our symphony was composed of only five women,  it was A Symphony of Sisters.   Each in a different season of their life: a college freshman; an aged widow; a working mom with five children; a caregiver wife to an ailing husband, and a busy mother in ministry raising three boys and a teenage daughter.  Their instruments were their voices, testimonials of God's goodness and grace in their lives and I tell you, they were in rare form!  It was truly inspiring.

So what did we learn about true sisterhood as we sipped our tea?

1.  Sisters are Still a force to be reckoned with!  We are Strong, We are Survivors, and with God's help, can get through anything!

2.  The Differences in our ages is not a Liability but an Asset. Younger women are fearless but sometimes reckless, they are forging new paths for themselves.  Older women need to trust them more to do the right thing, but be there for them when they get off track!

3. Women can indeed work well together. Love, Respect and the Appreciation for each other's gifts and talents were quite evident at this tea. We need to stop believing the negative rhetoric that younger women won't listen to wisdom and older women don't have anything useful to say!

As demonstrated at this particular tea: Our Lives are Like a Symphony...Everyone has a key part to play....Don't let hitting one sour note keep you from playing your part..we need you!


UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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