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    A False god to Bring You Comfort in “The Shack” (“The Shack” Review, part 2)

    “True worship must worship God as He exists, not as we wish Him to be. The essence of idolatry is the making of images of God. An image is a shadow, a false representation. We may not bow before a statue or a figure, but if we make an image of god in our mind that is not in accord with God’s revelation of himself, then we are not worshipping in truth….” writes James R. White. “If we love Him and worship Him as He deserves, we will not dare to ‘edit’ Him to fit our desires.”[1] “Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew…

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    “The Shack”, a Review, part 1

    “Brazen and insolent, they are not afraid to insult the glorious ones…” (2 Peter 2:10).[1] “Mack turned and faced him, shaking his head. ‘Am I supposed to believe that God is a big black woman with a questionable sense of humor?’ Jesus laughed, ‘She’s a riot!’” – Excerpt from The Shack, by William Paul Young.[2] The long awaited movie version of the novel The Shack, by William Paul Young, is finally released. According to the book’s front cover, The Shack has sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Wikipedia lists it as a “Christian novel”, and one that has made the New York Times best seller list. Well known people, including…

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    Have Yourself a Mary Little Christmas

    As a Protestant, I’m part of a tradition that tends to looks askance at the Virgin Mary. Our concern that her prominence obscures the person and work of Jesus Christ has led us to go the opposite extreme and gloss over her story. In the opinion of my colleague, Dr. Tim Ralston, others “avoid her simply because she’s a woman and just not as exciting as the warriors, prophets, and apostles who regularly populate Bible stories with larger-than-life exploits and miraculous happenings." When we do talk about the Virgin Mary, we tend to focus on the “scandal” of people perceiving Jesus’s illegitimacy, though there is nothing in the text to…

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    Christmas Down Under

      Last December, my family and I experienced life in a different hemisphere on December 25. Dear family friends had invited us to spend the holidays with them in Australia. When we arrived a few days before Christmas, it felt strange to shop dressed in shorts and flip-flops. I noticed how easy it was to get around in department stores without lugging a winter coat. Aussie believers usually attend church on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, even if the holidays don’t fall on Sunday. So when the days arrived, we gathered to sang praises, hailing the incarnate deity. On Christmas instead of chestnuts roasting, we smelled suntan lotion. Instead…

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    Let Earth Receive Her King

    In the beginning your Word knits constellations together with invisible string, fills coffee beans with caffeine, and gives value to human beings. It bids Gideon depart from his winepress and the robin from her nest. Your Word commissions kings and guarantees victories, but the rejection of it results in silence. “’Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, ‘when I shall send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord’” (Amos 8.11).   Initially, your glory keeps Moses peeking from behind a rock. It guides Israelite exiles as a fire and cloud and…

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    Christmas: So Much More Than Celebrating a Birthday

    Because I’m gearing up to co-teach a grad course in Medieval Spirituality and Art, I have spent a total of about four weeks in Italy in the past year. And something I discovered as I worked to increase my visual literacy by “reading” cathedral art was that artistic depictions of “Madonna and child” are not just mother-child manger-ish scenes intended to remind us of Jesus’s birth, or even over-elevations of Mary. Rather, for mostly-illiterate audiences such art was originally designed to depict the incarnation of Christ: God came in the flesh! I overheard someone talking today about how the point of Christmas is to mark the beginning of the best…

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    If God is So Good, Why Does He Let Me Hurt?

    This is probably the biggest question, and the biggest obstacle to trusting God, in Christianity. It’s a legitimate question, and it deserves a thoughtful answer that honors the amount of pain attached to it. Disclosure: I am writing this while beset by the most physical pain I’ve experienced since post-polio syndrome started attacking my body with the “unholy trinity” of pain, weakness and fatigue. It hurts to stand, it hurts to walk. Every single step. Why does God allow it? And my pain is nothing compared to the horrific suffering of millions around the world. Doesn’t He care? Why doesn’t He stop it—surely He can. He could stop it all…

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    Malaysian Mystery

    Around the globe the mystery of the missing Boeing 777, Flight 370 has the world collectively holding their breath. Satellites and ships are searching. Bits of data and information keep surfacing and speculation is rampant. Was this a simple but tragic accident or was the plane hijacked and flown to an undisclosed location? Mystery intrigues us, catches our attention.  Someone described humans as “meaning makers.” We seek to make sense of things that happen to in our world. Likely because we live 2000 plus years removed from Jesus incarnation and resurrection, His revelation of the world’s most significant mystery doesn’t garner the same attention as this missing plane.  Yet, the…

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    Peace on Earth? What about a Little Peace in the House?

    What comes to mind when you think of Christmas? Perhaps family gatherings, carols, Santa, the manger, shopping, debt, a favorite food, or decorating. Your mind may go to joyful or hurtful memories of the past or to anticipation of problems ahead. For those of us with heavy responsibilities to see that everything is done on time and everyone is happy, it can be difficult to find peace in the busyness of high expectations or ourselves and others. Our homes may end up as battlefields rather than the sites of joyous celebrations of the birth of God as man. This morning I was meditating on the truth that God wrapped himself…

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    Advent, The Incarnation and Handel’s Messiah

    A few short days from American Thanksgiving and we are full speed ahead into the Christmas season – into Advent, the “coming” or “arrival”. Celebrating the coming of Jesus Christ to earth is exactly what Christmas is about. Something dramatic happened, an event that changed the trajectory of human history. In the midst of fast lane pressure, press of crowds and shouts of bargains let’s pause, catch our breath and consider. A son was born. God took on human flesh relinquishing properties of deity. God became man and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory – the incarnation. Hardly a casual thing to say so easily – it was…