Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Shack Will Be Talked About


I just finished reading William P. Young's The Shack after a friend said, "You must read this book. Eugene Peterson compares it to Pilgrim's Progress. It's that good." The Shack is the story of Mack Phillips' journey into the heart of God as he struggles to deal with the guilt, shame, anger, and rage that cuts into his life after his six year old daughter Missy is abducted and brutally murdered, leaving only her bloody dress in an abandoned shack. A few years later, on an icy morning, God sends Mack a message, asking him to join him at that shack for a weekend. Mack does and the rest of the book allows us to enter into an allegorical world of discussion and encounter with the Trinity, who help Mack to deal with the pain and turmoil of his life. Eugene Peterson exact words regarding the Shack were: “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good! “In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant, the Shack wrestles with the timeless questions, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” The book is choppy in places and the author stumbles in the early chapters to establish characters, get the story going, and impress us with his writing. However, if you just stick with it, the story has so much heart and is so compelling that you will not be able to put it down. For the first two chapters, I kept wishing it was over. For the remaining chapters, I wished it wouldn't end and found myself bursting into tears and bowing to worship.

The Shack really does read like a kind-of-pilgrim's-progress and a kind-of-systematic-theology. The story is compelling. Yet, at the same time, Young, who is a dad and a guy who holds a regular job out in the rat race, dares to tackle HUGE subjects like the nature of evil, the nature of the Trinity, the problem of pain, the atonement, forgiveness, justice, and the meaning of love.

The fact that Young uses fiction to tackle theological issues is one of the great things about the book. Having gone through its first print and now getting serious attention from Christians and seekers across the world, it is going to cause lots of folks to begin talking about some pretty serious theology. Hurray!

At the same time, one of the down sides is that Young, at times, makes a pretty big mess of some of the BIG stuff. Namely, The Sovereignty of God is very limited in Young's theology and God is often portrayed as someone who loves us very much but just can't do anything to help us at times because he does not want to interfere with our choices. Additionally, he tends to see hierarchies as wrong and rejects any kind of hierarchy within the Trinity and subsequently in human relationships, choosing to believe that total equality is the answer to many relational difficulties. According to the whole of salvation History, God has made it pretty clear that he can and does interrupt our choice making, because he loves us. In fact, he has been known to wage war against his own people because of their refusal to choose Him- He is that jealous for us (See the book of Hosea or Ezekiel 16, for instance). Likewise, the Bible clearly shows Jesus willingly submitting all things to the father and it shows beauty in many hierarchies including the created order, the relationship between God, angels, man, animals, and in the human scheme between man and woman, and man and government.

However, these problems are not a reason to avoid the book. Instead, they are reason to read and think and grapple with big things. Essentially, I would say the book is worth reading mostly because Young really shows us the power of God's Love, as Father, and he does a great job getting us to feel God's love through the power of forgiveness and the beauty of grace. Read it with your mind turned on and, if you have "daddy issues" keep the tissues close.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Strength in Community

This is an incredible video of the struggle for survival between buffalo and lion. Thanks Baxter for pointing out this video.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Must Read!


I believe that Tim Keller is the most formitable man alive. His new book, The Reason for God is coming out next month. So, pre-order it because everyone needs to read every word Tim says. Yes, I know I sound like I am going over board, but I am not. Tim is just a person who really needs to be heard and read. To find out more about The Reason for God go to Redeemer's site (The Church Tim founded and Pastors)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heroes

After ten people told me, "You need to see Heroes," I went and rented Season One. What is Heroes? Well, it is X-men for everyday people. Basically, the premise is that a whole group of people across the globe have evolved into super humans over time and now have to deal with the challenges that come from being able to do things like, fly, read other people's mind, teleport, and things like that.

Though some of the plot lines and are a bit shallow and much of the drama is geared toward getting us to simply get excited (release endorphins), there is a very important underlying worldview (that is a view of the world that is driven by a set of beliefs) that is driving Heroes.

The underlying assumptions of this show are rooted in a philosophy called Scientific Determinism which asserts that time, chance, and genetic mutation have allowed some species to macro-evolve, thus increasing their chances for survival and decreasing others chances for survival.

The fact is that now an entire generation has a wildly popular TV show based on the notion that we can and are getting better (well some of us are). I wonder what the overall effect of this will be on the poor, the retarded, the marginal, the genius, and those who reject the notion that we are made in the image of God and are by virtue of being Creatures that a Personal God Created, of incredible value. Just something to think about. Because of the writer's strike, the rumored date of Season Three airing, tonight, is not happening.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Six Months of Preaching at Ascension

I have been preaching at Ascension now since September. Here are some sermons for download.

1-13-08
The Vision of Isaiah: Breaking the Power of Idols Isaiah 49:1-7
Vision are powerful. They give us a look at what the future could be if... God delivered a vision to Isaiah that would allow the Israelites to become free from the addictive Idols that had kept them from God. This sermon covers the whole of the book of Isaiah, showing how the prophecy of Jesus as Immanuel, Servant, and Conqueror would allow God's people to worship God alone.

12-30-07
From Slavery to Sonship: the Access, Approval, and Adorationn of God's Sons and Daughters Galatians 3:23-25; 4:1-7
The Galatians had missed the point of the Gospel. Instead of understanding the radical grace that saved them, they extended salvation to include circumcision. This sermon addresses Paul's response to the Galatians and his urging to accept the beauty of the Gospel as a message of radical inclusion initiated by God that allows us to be divine Sons and Daughters.

12-16-07
From Ruin to Restoration: When Joy Comes Isaiah 35:1-10
We all long for redemption at Christmas. Our lives, our songs, our stories and the "Spirit of Christmas" all seem to speak of an underlying ache to see the world beome a place of peace and joy, fairness and reconciliation. This sermon responsds to the problem of not being able to "pass the cheer" 365 days a year.

11-11-07
Amazing Guilt or Amazing Grace: Grace, Gratitutde and Generosity 2 Corinthians 8:1-15
The first of two sermons on Stewardship. Though guilt is a great motivator for giving, it is ani-thetical to the Gospel which motivates us through the power of Amazing Grace.

9-30-07
Hell: The Choice, Company, and Cruelty of Hell Luke 16:19-31
A Sermon based on Jesus' teaching on hell using the story of Lazarus and the rich man. This sermon stresses the need to speak of the truth of hell in love and to deal with objections that we have to Hell as people living in the third millenium.

9-09-07
Following Jesus: How to Hate Your Friends and Family? Luke 14:25-33
Using Luke 14:25-33, this sermon delves into the costliness of all realtionships- human and divine- and unpacks Jesus' hard saying,"If you do not hate your mother or father... sister or brother, you cannot follow me" by addressing the relational, positional, oppositional, and unconditional aspects of being a follower of Jesus.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Vision of Martin Luther King, Jr

Today we remember a man who gave up his life for a vision of the future that he was never able to see. He died in the hope of a better world. He is definitely a man worth remembering. King said these words,

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop… Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land."

I Have a Dream

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rock Songs from the Bible

A friend of mine recently asked me if I knew songs other than the Byrds, Turn, Turn, Turn, and Jimi Hendrix All Along the Watch Tower that had their roots in the Bible. Here are the first eleven (the number on my volume "dial") worth mentioning.

1. Highway 61 by Bob Dylan

Oh God said to abraham kill me a son/ Abe said man you must be puttin me on/ God said no, abe said what/ God say you can do what you wanna but/ The next time you see me comin you better run/ Well abe said where dyou want this killin done/ God said out on highway 61/ Well Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose/ Welfare department wouldnt give him no clothes/ They asked poor howard where can I go/ Howard said theres only one place I know/ Sam said tell me quick man I got to run/ Oh Howard just pointed with his gun/ And said that way down highway 61/ Well Mack the finger said to Louie the King/ I got 40 red, white, and blue shoestrings/ And a thousand telephones that dont ring/ Do you know where I can get rid of these things?/ And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son/ Then he said yes I think it can be easily done/ Just take everything down to highway 61/ Now the 5th daughter on the 12th night/ Told the first father that things werent right/ my complexion, she says, is much too white/ He said come here and step into the light/ He said hmm youre right let me tell the 2nd mother this has been done/ But the 2nd mother was with the 7th son/ And they were both out on highway 61/ Now the roving gambler he was very bored/ Trying to create a next world war/ He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor/ He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before/ But yes, I think it can be very easily done/ Well just put some bleachers out in the sun/ And have it on highway 61

2. Judas by Depeche Mode

Is simplicity best/ Or simply the easiest/ The narrowest path/ Is always the holiest/ So walk on barefoot for me/ Suffer some misery/ If you want my love/ If you want my love/ Man will survive/ The harshest conditions/ And stay alive/ Through difficult decisions/ So make up your mind for me/ Walk the line for me/ If you want my love/ If you want my love/ Idle talk/ And hollow promises/ Cheating Judases/ Doubting Thomases/ Don't just stand there and shout it/ Do something about it/ You can fulfill/ Your wildest ambitions/ And I'm sure you will/ Lose your inhibitions/ So open yourself for me/ Risk your health for me/ If you want my love/ If you want my love/ If you want my love/ If you want my love

3. Adam and Eve by Bob Marley and the whalers

The lord named Adam and Eve/ to live a happy life/ In the garden of Eden/ but they disobeyed/ I wanna know/ why they sin/ in the garden of Eden/ It`s a devilman`s affair/ in the shake of a surfband/ And they broke the fruit of life/ and everyone of us is living in sin/ Any anywhere you go/ woman is the root of all evil/ He was the first one to break a fruit/ and everyone of us is living in sin/

4. All You Zonbies The Hooters

Holy Moses met the Pharaoh/ Yeah, he tried to set him straight/ Looked him in the eye/ "Let my people go"/ Holy Moses on the mountain/ High above the golden calf/ Went to get the Ten Commandments/ Yeah, he's just gonna break 'em in half/ All you zombies hide your faces/ All you people in the street/ All you sittin' in high places/ The pieces gonna fall on you/ No one ever spoke to Noah/ They all laughed at him instead/ Working on his ark/ Working all by himself/ Only Noah saw it coming/ Forty days and forty nights/ Took his sons and daughters with him/ Yeah, they were the Israelites/ The rain's gonna fall on you/ Holy Father, what's the matter/ Where have all your children gone/ Sitting in the dark/ Living all by themselves/ You don't have to hide any more/ All you zombies show your faces.../ The pieces gonna fall on you/ All you zombies show your faces, I know you're out there/ All you people in the street, let's see you/ All you sittin' in high places/ It's all gonna fall on you

5. God Shuffled His Feet The Crash Test Dummies

After seven days/ He was quite tired so God said:/ "Let there be a day/ Just for picnics, with wine and bread"/ He gathered up some people he had made/ Created blankets and laid back in the shade/ The people sipped their wine/ And what with God there, they asked him questions/ Like: do you have to eat/ Or get your hair cut in heaven?/ And if your eye got poked out in this life/ Would it be waiting up in heaven with your wife?/ God shuffled his feet and glanced around at them;/ The people cleared their throats and stared right back at him/ So he said:"Once there was a boy/ Who woke up with blue hair/ To him it was a joy/ Until he ran out into the warm air/ He thought of how his friends would come to see;/ And would they laugh, or had he got some strange disease?/ God shuffled his feet and glanced around at them;/ The people cleared their throats and stared right back at him/ The people sat waiting/ Out on their blankets in the garden/ But God said nothing/ So someone asked him: "I beg your pardon:/ I'm not quite clear about what you just spoke/ Was that a parable, or a very subtle joke?"/ God shuffled his feet and glanced around at them;/ The people cleared their throats and stared right back at him

6. 40 U2

I waited patiently for the Lord/ He inclined and heard my cry/ He brought me up out of the pit/ Out of the miry clay/ I will sing, sing a new song/ I will sing, sing a new song/ How long to sing this song?/ How long to sing this song?/ How long...how long...how long...How long...to sing this song/ He set my feet upon a rock/ And made my footsteps firm/ Many will see/ Many will see and fear/ I will sing, sing a new song/ I will sing, sing a new song/ I will sing, sing a new song/ I will sing, sing a new song/ How long to sing this song?/ How long to sing this song?/ How long...how long...how long...

7. Good Charlotte: The River

As I walk through the valley/ Of the shadow of LA/ The footsteps that were next to me/ Have gone their separate ways/ I've seen enough now/ To know that beautiful things/ Don't always stay that wayI've done enough now/ To know this beautiful place/ Isn't everything they say/ I heard that evil comes disguised/ Like the city of angels/ I'm walking towards the light/ Baptized in the river/ I've seen a vision of my life/ And I wanna be delivered/ In the city with the sinner/ I've done a lot of things wrong/ But I swear I'm a believer/ Like the prodigal son/ I was out on my own/ Now I'm trying to find my way back home/ Baptized in the river/ I'm delivered/ I'm delivered [Avenged Sevenfold] You're from a small town/ You're gonna grow up fast/ Underneath these lights/ Down in Hollywood/ On the boulevard/ The dead come back to life/ To the praying Mother/ And the worried Father/ Let your children go/ If they come back/ They'll come home stronger/ And if they don't/ You'll know/ They think that evil comes disguised/ Like the city of angels/ I'm walking towards the light/ Baptized in the river/ I've seen a vision of my life/ And I wanna be delivered/ In the city with the sinner/ I've done a lot of things wrong/ But I swear I'm a believer/ Like the prodigal son/ I was out on my own/ Now I'm trying to find my way back home/ Baptized in the river/ I'm delivered/ I'm delivered/ Baptized in the river (on my own)Baptized in the river (on my own)I wanna be delivered (on my own, on my own)/ Baptized in the river (on my own)/ I wanna be delivered/ Baptized in the river (on my own)/ I wanna be delivered/ Baptized in the river (on my own)/ I wanna be delivered/ I confess I'm a sinner/ I've seen a vision of my life/ And I wanna be delivered

8. Metallica Four Horseman

By the last breath of the fourth winds blowBetter raise your ears/ The sound of hooves knocks at your door/ Lock up your wife and children now/ It's time to wield the blade/ For now you have got some company/ The Horsemen are drawing nearer/ On the leather steeds they ride/ They have come to take your life/ On through the dead of night/ With the four Horsemen ride or choose your fate and die/ You have been dying since the day/ You were born/ You know it has all been planned/ The quartet of deliverance rides/ A sinner once a sinner twice/ No need for confession now/ Cause now you have got the fight of your life/ The Horsemen are drawing nearer/ On the leather steeds they ride/ They have come to take your life/ On through the dead of night/ With the four Horsemen ride/ or choose your fate and die/ Time/ Has taken its toll on you/ The lines that crack your face/ Famine/ Your body it has torn through/ Withered in every place/ Pestilence/ For what you have had to endure/ And what you have put others through/ Death/ Deliverance for you for sure/ There is nothing you can do/ So gather round young warriors/ now/ and saddle up your steeds/ Killing scores with demon swords/Now is the death of doers of wrong/Swing the judgment hammer down/ Safely inside armor blood guts and sweat/ The Horsemen are drawing nearer/ On the leather steeds they ride/ They have come to take your life/ On through the dead of night/ With the four Horsemen ride/ or choose your fate and die

9. Wayward Son Kansas

Carry on my wayward son/ There'll be peace when you are done/ Lay your weary head to rest/ Don't you cry no more/ Once I rose above the noise and confusion/ Just to get a glimpse beyond this illusion/ I was soaring ever higher/ But I flew too high/ Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man/ Though my mind could think I still was a mad man/ I hear the voices when I'm dreaming/ I can hear them say (Refrain) Masquerading as a man with a reason/ My charade is the event of the season/ And if I claim to be a wise man, well/ It surely means that I don't know/ On a stormy sea of moving emotion/ Tossed about I'm like a ship on the ocean/ I set a course for winds of fortune/ But I hear the voices say (Refrain) No!/ Carry on, you will always remember/ Carry on, nothing equals the splendor/ The center lights around your vanity/ But surely heaven waits for you/ Carry on my wayward son/ There'll be peace when you are done/ Lay your weary head to rest/ Don't you cry (don't you cry no more)

10. Adam Raised a Cain Bruce Springsteen

In the summer that I was baptized/ my father held me to his side/ As they put me to the water/ he said how on that day I cried/ We were prisoners of love, a love in chains/ He was standin' in the door I was standin' in the rain/ With the same hot blood burning in our veins/ Adam raised a Cain/ All of the old faces/ ask you why you're back/ They fit you with position/ and the keys to your daddy's Cadillac/ In the darkness of your room/ your mother calls you by your true name/ You remember the faces, the places, the names/ You know it's never over it's relentless as the rain/ Adam raised a Cain/ In the Bible Cain slew Abel/ and East of Eden he was cast/ You're born into this life paying/ for the sins of somebody else's past/ Daddy worked his whole life for nothing but the pain/ Now he walks these empty rooms looking for something to blame/ You inherit the sins, you inherit the flames/ Adam raised a Cain

11. Holy Diver Ronny James Dio

Holy Diver/ You've been down too long in the midnight sea/ Oh what's becoming of me?/ Ride the tiger/ You can see his stripes but you know he's clean/ Oh don't you see what I mean/ Gotta get away/ Holy Diver/ Shiny diamonds/ Like the eyes of a cat in the black and blue/ Something is coming for you/ Race for the morning/ You can hide in the sun 'till you see the light/ Oh we will pray it's all right/ Gotta get away-get away/ Between the velvet lies/ There's a truth that's hard as steel/ The vision never dies/ Life's a never ending wheel/ Holy Diver/ You're the star of the masquerade/ No need to look so afraid/ Jump on the tiger/ You can feel his heart but you know he's mean/ Some light can never be seen