Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Shack

The Shack.

One of the most polarizing Christian novels to have come along in a long time.  You either love it or you hate it.

The story of author William P. Young is a compelling one.  Raised as a missionary kid in New Guinea, he endured sexual abuse at the hands of the tribe his parents were serving, suffered untimely deaths and losses, and the result was a faith that was deeply shaken and a life that became a train wreck.

Young originally wrote The Shack as a story for his children.  Following an adulterous affair, his wife, Kim, declared that he must change and forced him to confront all the painful issues of his past in order for him to heal and begin to make sense out of tragedy.  The Shack is a product of that confrontation.

In The Shack, the protagonist, Willie, endures a painful tragedy called The Great Sadness and, as a result, has a personal encounter with God.  The details of that encounter as well as the way Willie deals with his tragedy are met with extreme criticism from many religious arenas.

In my opinion, the book starts a bit slow and the description of The Great Sadness is very hard to read.  It is painful and I was tempted to put the book aside.  However, once past the graphic description of the tragedy, I was mesmerized and could not put the book down.  The end of the book presented yet another twist which was totally unexpected.  I pondered it for weeks after I finished it.

You must read the entire book in order to develop a complete perspective.  I will wait until comments indicate that several have read the book until I post my comments.  I don't want to give away any details that could possibly color someone's interpretation.

Of one thing I am sure: you cannot walk away from the book without a strong opinion.


LOVE was sent to me by a friend and I have lost the source...I apologize.  But read it and ponder.

The Bible is a prayerbook.

You don't read it statically. You read it proactively. As you read, the same Holy Spirit who inspired the writers illuminates the readers. How awesome is that? The Holy Spirit quickens the Word and something gets in our spirits.
I'm convinced that the Bible is the means to just about every spiritual end. I promise you this: if you are reading the Bible, God will convict you of sin that you need to confess. So in that regard, the Bible is the key to purity. You will also find plenty of promises to claim. The Bible sanctifies our expectations so we have more confidence after we read the Word. In that regard, the Bible is the key to faith. And, of course, it's the key to so many other things. What I'm getting at is this: prayer is a byproduct of Scripture.It is the way God talks to us. Then prayer turns the monologue into a dialogue.

My point? I'm not worried about your prayer life if you're reading the Bible. I think the quality of your prayer life will be directly proportional to the quality and quantity of Scripture you're reading.

Friday, March 5, 2010

"Crazy Love" by Francis Chan

The following review was written by Tim Challies on the Amazon website.  It is thorough and one with which I agree.  So why re-invent the wheel?  Here's what he had to say:

There are many voices critiquing the North American church today. The voices come from both within and without; from those who love the church and those who hate it. We all know that there is something wrong. But what? In many cases the prescription is the same while the cure varies widely. In his new book Crazy Love, first-time author Francis Chan, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, regular speaker at Passion conferences and other events, and the guy who recorded that "Just Stop and Think" evangelistic video where he walks for miles holding a surfboard, takes his opportunity to challenge the church. "This book," he says, "is written for those who want more Jesus. It is for those who are bored with what American Christianity offers. It is for those who don't want to plateau, who would rather die before their convictions do." It is a book that is meant to change the way Christians live their lives.

There are two ways of critiquing the church. We can critique out of love or out of disgust. Chan is committed to critiquing the church as an act of love. In a recent interview, when asked about the emergent church, he said this: "As a pastor I hear a lot of emergent leaders talk about what is wrong with the church. It comes across as someone who doesn't love the church. I'm a pastor first and foremost, and I'm trying to offer a solution or a model of what church should look like. I'm going back to scripture and seeing what the church was in its simplest form and trying to recreate that in my own church. I'm not coming up with anything new. I'm calling people to go back to the way it was. I'm not bashing the church. I'm loving it." And his love for the church is obvious throughout this book.

The format of Crazy Love is straightforward and effective. Chan dedicates three chapters to renewing our understanding of the character of God and seven chapters calling Christians to examine themselves. Within the book are two ongoing themes that are going to get people talking.

The first theme is that we must painstakingly examine ourselves. We cannot assume we are saved, or to use the biblical metaphor, we cannot assume that we are the good soil. Chan calls the reader to a serious self-inventory through a chapter that provides a profile of the lukewarm. He concludes, "a lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron; there's no such thing. To put it plainly, churchgoers who are `lukewarm' are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven." God wants all or nothing.

The second theme is deeply counter-cultural, going against the stream of both Christian and secular culture. It is this: live your best life later. Chan wants to see Christians living differently--living in a way that is markedly different from those around them. He wants to see Christians forgoing much of what we consider necessary, what we consider our due, in order to focus on treasures that are eternal. He wants us to get outside the realm of what is comfortable to us and focus instead on radical obedience. "God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through."

I found that this is a paradigm-shaking book with a message that Christians desperately need to hear. Too many of us are living too safely and too easily. But for the brief moments we spend at church each week, we are practically indistinguishable from the unbelievers around us. This is not the way it is meant to be. The church could use a loving exhortation and Chan delivers well.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Questmiles Book Club

I have always wanted to belong to a monthly book club.

You know, the kind that everybody reads the same book and then meets somewhere once per month to discuss what they liked and didn't like about it and how they agreed or disagreed with this or that and the thousand different things the author may have meant when he opened with the line, "It was a dark and stormy night..."  Yeah.  That kind of book club.

Finding time to read the book is not the problem.  But having a free evening to get ready, travel somewhere, spend a couple of hours discussing the book, chit-chatting with the other members while drinking a coke and eating cookies, then driving back home....well, THAT is next to impossible.

So...Questmiles Book Club will be our place to gather and discuss books.  I will post a review and you can respond with your thoughts and opinions.  We will also have a place where you can post any recommendations.  We will consider several genres: motivational, inspirational, instructional, thought-provoking, fictional (historical and Christian), etc.  I'm not into sci-fi, mysteries, or Westerns.

The only way this will work, however, is if you respond and get involved.  It's not going to be much fun to read the book, write the review, and nobody respond to it.  That's just work with no feedback.

So.  Are you interested or not?

We will start with the book, "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan.  Available through and on Kindle.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Posting News

Apologies to all for the lack of posting the past few days.  A crazy travel schedule combined with technology gone awry made for silence on my end.  :-/  Am playing catch-up today and will post the summary of the Week 2 lesson "Props" within a couple of hours.

Have a great Monday (or Tuesday for the ones across the date line!) everyone!