After reading the Shack, I’m wondering why so many believers disagree with the theology. I think it’s a return to our foundations in our Messiah/Savior. Just because God appeared to the lead character as an African-American woman and called themselves Papa. He/She even said God the Father has characteristics of both genders and can appear in any form He chooses. The book is a reminder that life is meant to be lived out in relationship with our Heavenly Father that is provided through the sacrifice of His Son and the power of the Holy Spirit. In our independent nature we get lost in rules, rituals, and routines to the point that we get all caught up in ourselves and leave God out. Then we blame God for the problems that come into our lives. Papa even said they weren’t the ones who put the curse on this lovely planet. They put humans in charge as the highest form of creation and by pursuing our own independent nature we put the curse on ourselves. Incidents like 911 and the Holocaust were never part of God’s will, although He could have prevented it but because of our freewill He allowed it to happen. And if people come to know and love God through it then He can bring good out of anything. If only we’ll look past life’s hardships and quit blaming God. If we end up in hell it’s because we allowed our own hearts to harden because we couldn’t trust God. To trust someone you have to realize the extent of their love. If you don’t trust in God or love Him why would you care if you get to spend eternity with Him? The cosmic chasm that separates God from man was created by man choosing to pursue his own way in life and was originally intended for Satan and his angels. Never once in the book did God condemn or judge His children as being wicked and evil like many churches do today. He just said we were lost in this world. Technically we are still lost until Jesus comes back because the Word teaches that only those who persevere till the end will be saved. Those that persevere are those that love God and won’t let anything separate them from His love. Perseverance is by faith and is reflected in our works. The part that many chrisitans won’t agree with is when God told Mack that true relationship is about submitting to each other. Humans try to control each other and manipulate which explains why we struggle with anger and depression. Submitting to God means trusting His plan which is to be made whole like His Son. As long as you’re committed to that goal you can pretty much do whatever you want with your life because you still have free will. You should only restrict your freedom when it can cause someone else to stumble so you won’t be responsible for their sin. Apart from God we don’t have much freewill because we are enslaved to the world system which produces much sickness resulting from stress & anxiety. How does God submit to His followers? My guess would be by granting us the desires of our hearts as we delight ourselves in Him.
I remember a movie I watched over ten years ago entitled “In and Out”. It featured Kevin Kline and the ever attractive Joan Cusack. Kline played an English professor who was engaged to Cusak and throughout the entire movie everybody kept telling him he was a homosexual. Finally at the end of the movie, during his own movie, instead of saying ‘i do’ to his fiancee, he comes out of the closet. I doubt seriously he was gay but the movie shows the mind control, or peer pressure, that society can have over an individual if one lets it. We are all called to be leaders in whatever sphere of influence the Lord puts us in. To our mentors we are followers, to those we are mentoring we are leaders. If you let the government or any organization have control of your thoughts they can eventually deceive you into believing something that may not even be true of you. In my case, despite the fact that I’ve been in recovery since last July for years of depression and a life of social anxiety, some doctors and mental health providers keep trying to convince me my anxiety is mania and I need a good mood stabilizer (these are actually antipsychotics so I don’t know why they don’t just call ‘em that); they also keep telling me I need something for the racing thoughts. First off, my thoughts aren’t racing just because I talk fast due to a speech impediment and stuttering problem. Don’t you hate it when people try to tell you what’s going on inside your head? How can they see in there anyway? X-ray vision? The same is true in church. If you rely solely upon what your preacher is teaching without seeking God for yourself, you could be deceived. God speaks through His messengers but we are still human and likely to insert our own opinions. The Bible has over 40 authors and all of them human so they could have inserted their own opinion. However God managed to deliver a perfect and timeless message of hope, love, and redemption to fallen humanity. The moral to the story-don’t believe everything you hear. Seek the source of all truth-the Author of life Himself.
Next to deciding a vocation comes the decision to marry or stay single. Or to remarry for some. The Bible commends those that choose singleness because they will have less distractions in their service to Him and won’t have to work as hard to earn a higher income to support their spouses (in the cases of the husbands). Marriage is a huge responsibility and requires sacrifice and you also learn more about God during this state. But you shouldn’t feel pressured to make a decision. Do whatever you want but pray about it first. If God doesn’t want you to pursue a career or a marriage relationship He will let you know. Many couples divorce after a few years because the sex isn’t as exciting. One guy told me that the first year of marriage he put a penny in the cookie jar for everytime he had sex with his wife. After the first year he pulled a penny out every time. Couples today (like time’s have changed any) base everything on physical attraction. There is more to sex than just intercourse. It’s a lifetime commitment to becoming one with another person. Much like your relationship with God. It’s also possible to become so close to God that you lose your desire to marry. Also, marriage is more than just a license for all those that are sleeping around and cohabitating. People in these categories think they can avoid marriage by just being “roommates with benefits”. Because they are spiritually blind they don’t realize when you have sex with someone you create a bond that can’t be broken. Just the way God designed it. Therefore, it’s only adultery/fornication to have premarital sex if you have no intention of marrying the person. It’s also more honorable to wait till after the ceremony so you don’t stir up love till it pleases. 1 Cor. 13 declares “love is patient”. Jesus taught that adultery is the only grounds for divorce. This is because (in the Armenian camp at least) when you commit adultery you break your inital marriage vows with your first wife and reestablish a connection with someone new. Only in America do we have laws where you can be legally separated from you wife through a divorce decree. However like a marriage license, that is just a piece of paper. In God’s eyes you are still married till you have sex with someone else. Then it becomes God’s will to marry that person. One spiritual mentor pointed out that in Jewish history the reason the OT patriarchs had so many wives was because they didn’t recognize divorce. If you slept with someone you were legally bound to them. It would make sense that if you failed to provide for them you would be stoned. If you use that as an excuse to leave your spouse for someone else or sleep around you have a hardened heart and are desperately in need of repentance, my friend. You should strive to reconcile always but if it’s not possible you should consider celibacy first. If you don’t have that desire then pray about remarriage. The only thing God calls us to do is trust Him in all things. Righteousness (right-living) comes by faith to those that trust God with their entire lives. The prayer of a righteous man availeth much. So the stronger your faith the more you’ll know what you’re supposed to do with your life. This also goes with other areas, such as choosing a job. The right job or the right person is whoever is right for you. God is your one true love and your soul mate and your only source for love & understanding. If you try to find this in any relationship then it makes you guilty of relationship idolatry (more common among women). Men usually are guilty of idolizing their careers. If one spouse idolizes their spouse, then God will allow a divorce to come between them because He is jealous God. Before you commit to marriage, you should make sure you have overcome any life-controlling issues and are spiritually, emotionally, and financially healthy. However don’t wait till you are “whole” since this is a lifetime pursuit otherwise you will subconciously be renouncing marriage whether you plan to or not. Sex is an awesome gift and Ecclesiastes says there is nothing better than to enjoy the gifts of God-in the right context. Many think the idea of sex is disgusting because it has been misrepresented to them. In closing, go after God.
What does it mean to be free? Jesus came to give us an abundant life of righteousness, joy, and peace. It is for freedom that He set us free. He said the truth will set us free. However we are still slaves of righteousness. God is the source of all truth and He promises divine revelation to all who come to Him through the blood & the cross. Those that want Him for who He is and not who they would like Him to be-a god that the make up to suit their sinful lifestyle. The only sin we are guilty of is not trusting God. When we fail to trust God in any area of our lives we become slaves to sin in that area; whether it be financial/debts, bad relationships, addiction & sickness. In the Christian’s secret of a happy life, Hannah Whithall Smith says when we know God our will becomes one with His. We don’t surrender our free will like some believers believe. It just changes to become more Christcentered and less selfish. God promises to give us the desires of our heart because He changes our heart to reflect what He wants for us. It’s up to us to step out in faith and pursue what we want out of life-trusting Him to open the right doors. John Macarthur’s most encouraging book is Found: God’s Will; in which he writes that if we are 1) saved 2) sanctified 3) spirit-filled 4) submissive 5) suffering then 6) do what you want because you are in the center of God’s will. God’s perfect will is for us to be made whole like His Son and He won’t withhold anything unless it hinders that goal. However it always comes in God’s perfect timing but we still have to do our part which is to trust Him. The greatest mystery of life which has divided the church for centuries is how God’s sovereignty and man’s free will work together. We ultimately end up doing what we want as Calvinist Theologian put in one of his apologetic books but it all flow from our relationship with our Heavenly Father. We are slaves to Christ because we only desire to be right with God because of the transformed heart we have received at salvation. In closing, if God has put a burden on your heart you won’t be able to let go of it. As you grow it will become more of a burden. If you repress it, you will struggle with depression and possibly fall into addiction and possibly medication until you surrender and step out in faith.
Who is the world mentioned in the Bible? In one sense, the Word says God so loved the world; and in another it says the world will hate you if you follow His Son. Without getting too deep into greek words-God loves the people of the world that are part of His creation. Even the people that rule the world under Satan’s power. When Jesus warned that the world will hate His followers, He meant the system that governs the affairs of the world. Satan is in charge of the universe until Jesus comes back. Do you think we are wicked by nature as some fundamentalists declare? Do you think God could have just damned Satan to hell after he tried to lay claim to God’s throne? God gave us an independent nature, then gave us all over to the world system. The greatest gift we have is free will. The freedom to choose to love God. But we can only do so if God, as the husband in a marital relationship, leads us by the hand as we learn to walk with Him. Those that believe in the Messiah, or acknowledge Him, God draws to Himself. Those that commit their life to following Him at all costs-i.e.; striving to be made whole and overcome sin and become like Jesus will be saved. The Bible tells us only those who persevere till the end will be saved. God directs everyone’s steps and works things out in advance so we will come to Him and won’t fall away. He’s done His part. Our part is to accept the free gift-to trust Him. The more pride you have the more difficult this is. Humble yourself though. You really don’t want God to have to humble you. Be careful what you ask for you just might get it. Beginning a relationship with God is more than just a OSAS experience. It’s a life of faith. A journey of self-discovery as you come to know the person you were created to be in your Father’s image. A jouney of knowing Him by receiving His Son as Lord & Savior and seeking to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Since God exists in three persons you can’t come to know Jesus and deny the power of the Spirit. The Bible also warns of those that practice religion but deny it’s power. Next blog will be on our freedom in this wonderful plan (doesn’t entirely seem so wonderful sometime).
The greatest mystery to life is God’s sovereignty v. man’s free will. We have free will but God has to initiate (similar to the relationship between the husband and wife). God calls us out of darkness when our hearts are the most receptive but we have to choose to trust Him-and trust (faith) is an action word for without good works our faith is dead. Those that God calls are those that believe or acknowledge Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah (Lord & Savior). John 2:24-26 says many trusted in Jesus but He didn’t trust Himself to them (impart His life to them). Now that’s almost as scary as Matthew 7:21. Many believe or trust in the Lord but the way they live their life doesn’t add up making it look like head knowledge. Those that God/Jesus trusts Himself too are those that are committed to following hard after Him. Eternal security comes from abiding in the Vine. Your assurance is based upon your personal relationship with the Lord and your faith in Him which is made evident by your actions. Marriages that persevere with God at the center can stay together. Sinners that persevere in righteousness & holiness become bloodwashed saints and their faith is the victory that overcomes the world. If you don’t persevere you are like a roller coaster (in more ways than one); you slide back into your sin and I believe the Word says the last state becomes worst than the first because you actually know God. Predestination means God directs your steps so you will be right with Him but you have to trust Him. Like God told even Cain: “if you do what is right Satan will not enslave you but if you don’t do what is right sin lies crouching at your door.” God’s view of doing what is right and being “good” is higher than what we think of as “being a good person”.
Go after God,
My new year’s resolution-to not let fear hold me back. Fear being the opposite of faith and anger is known as fear turned inward. Anger leads to depression; depression to psychosis. Thus a downward spiral of mental instability that can lead to self-medicating on drugs & alcohol and even psychiatric drugs. The late Quaker author, Hannah Whithall Smith wrote in her book “The Christian’s secret of a happy life” that many believers act like their faith in God is like a headache that they can’t get rid of. God promises righteousness, joy, and peace to all that truly follow Him through Christ. They even mention in the 4 spiritual laws that many are not living the abundant life that God promises to His followers. Many christians aren’t either. Many act like they are afraid to enjoy life because they are trying so hard not to sin and live for God. This could cause them to lose their freedom in Christ and bind themselves to the Law again. In Genesis, God told Cain that he could master sin (after killing his brother) if he did what was right. Not trusting in God makes us slaves to sin. Our actions don’t get us into heaven or hell-our lack of trust in our heavenly Father does. However you faith, or lack thereof, determines your actions. To sum up; trust in God and don’t be afraid to live life to the fullest. It even says in Ecclesiastes that it is good to be able to enjoy life because it makes up for the hardships. As long as you don’t make an idol out of living for pleasure. If you have faith in God this won’t happen. If it does He will gently nudge you back onto the right path. Gently the first few times; though if you keep making the same mistakes over and over again, justice will catch up with you.