Posts Tagged 'loss'

Autumn Thoughts: The New Law of Love

The New Law of Love

John 13:21-38

No treachery is worse than betrayal by a family member or friend. Julius Caesar knew such treachery. Among the conspirators who assassinated the Roman leader on March 15, 44 B. C. was Marcus Junius Brutus. Caesar not only trusted Brutus, he had favored him as a son. According to Roman historians, Caesar first resisted the onslaught of the assassins. But when he saw Brutus among them with his dagger drawn, Caesar ceased to struggle and, pulling the top part of his robe over his face, asked the famous question, “You too, Brutus?”

Today in the Word, August 13, 1992

Every Christian Chooses Between

* The Loss of Betrayal ~ John 13:21-30

  • 21/22 could be anyone; could we? DO WE?
  • 23/25 notice the encouragement in the midst of confusion: “ask Him!” WHO DO YOU NEED TO ENCOURAGE? “are you struggling? Ask Jesus”
  • 26 giving bread like this was a “mark of courtesy and esteem”; reminder-Jesus LOVES Judas; Jesus knows how badly we can mess up AND LOVES US ANYWAY. DO YOU BELIEVE THAT FOR YOURSELF? FOR OTHERS?
  • 27/30 At some point, Judas’ flirtation with betrayal grows into full-on possession by Satan. ARE YOU FLIRTING WITH BETRAYAL?

* And The Law to Be Loving ~ John 13:31-38

  • 31/32 “is glorified” = a future event as if already completed; 5 times Jesus reminds us that He WAS/IS/WILL BE glorified; the Cross isn’t a shame, it’s His FAME
  • 33 does this FOR us, NOT WITH US; If we’re trying to sacrifice something in our lives to impress God, it won’t work
  • 34 “new” = FRESH; loving isn’t new; COMMANDING it is
  • 35 AS we love, we witness to the world that we belong to Jesus; WHO DON’T YOU LOVE? WHY?
  • 36/38 Peter’s excitement overshadows his patience; Jesus knows Peter’s end state (“you will follow later”) even though he’s going to pass through a time of faithlessness

You might be feeling that you’re facing a time of faithlessness; worse, you might not be feeling it at all! Nevertheless – Jesus has faith in YOU – Are you returning that faith in Him?

How “unique” is our pain?

pain I read an article today about pain that pastors face. The article itself was okay; it mentioned areas where pastors can feel challenged. (For the curious, the areas are: Criticism, Rejection, Betrayal, Loneliness, Weariness, Frustrations, and Disappointments.) I won’t repeat the entire article here, but one phrase really caught my attention. Right before these various challenges are presented, this phrase was written in bold, to make sure I didn’t miss it:

“Some of the unique problems that pastors face are…”

And THAT got me to thinking. Why would I assume that the problems of criticism and rejection are uniquely related to the role of pastor? Doesn’t everyone face criticism occasionally? Aren’t we all rejected at times? There’s nothing special or unique about a pastor being betrayed or lonely: people from all walks of life experience these things.
I think the “unique” matter in all of this (that the article did NOT mention) is that there is often an unspoken expectation that these issues will not show up in the church – at least, certainly not to the extent that they might be known in “the world”. However, I don’t think that’s correct. After all, everyone has times of frustration, or disappointment, or weariness. That’s part of the human condition, and there’s no getting away from it.
Jesus experienced everyone of of these issues personally, and some of them frequently. That alone tells me that, as a follower of Christ, I’m going to be going through the same things as well – just not to the same degree as He did.
We, called to be God’s people in this time and place, will go through them all; there will even be times when we are responsible for *inflicting* them on others around us, whether people of faith or not.
I think the KEY is this: we cannot, should not, indeed MUST NOT try to walk through this life alone, or pretending like “we’ve got it all under control”. We don’t. We *know* that – and we know it’s true of everyone else if we stop and think about it – but when we’re tired, or under stress, it’s more of a challenge to remember our shared condition; we often just think it’s unique to our own situation.
Hebrews 3 has a good word for us: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb. 3:13) Every day, whether you think you need it or not, encourage someone else. Find a good thing to say; tell them they look nice, or that you appreciate their smile, or perhaps you’re refreshed by their candor. As we encourage one another, we ourselves receive encouragement. And the greatest encouragement we’ll receive is from God Himself: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)
Don’t give up – and don’t be a stranger. Share God’s grace with others at church on Sunday, so you’ll be encouraged to do it the rest of the week “out there”.
Keep Following Jesus –
Ed

“The Shack” thoughts

Okay, let me start off by saying that there will probably be spoilers in this blog. If you have not read The Shack, and don’t want to know anything about what’s in the book, you should know that I think it’s a wonderful read, and well worth it. Now, to keep from spoiling the book, stop reading this blog, and go read The Shack.

I’ve been asked to comment on some theological implications of the book, and I’ll try to do that here before any spoilers are revealed. The thing to remember about The Shack is that IT IS FICTION. It’s similar to reading Pilgrim’s Progress, or The Chronicles of Narnia. NO DOCTRINE should ever be based on what is found in this book; Scripture alone is all we’ll ever need for our rule of faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:16).

THAT being said, I think that The Shack is a wonderful way to get a different point of view on God’s love for us. It’s my opinion that very often, we become quite comfortable with how WE think God already loves us and deals with us according to what we already know. This book turns THAT concept on its ear, and tweaks it often!

For those people who accuse The Shack of heresy, I think they’ve completely missed the point. The Shack isn’t purporting to be God’s Word, but rather a story about a man who encounters God. It’s as heretical as the Neil Simon play “God’s Favorite”, or as Michelangelo’s painting of God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. They are *representations* designed to get the viewer to THINK about God. And that’s just what The Shack does – it gets you to think about God. Okay, ready for my thoughts? Here they come…

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SPOILERS AHEAD:

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Still here?

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Okay, you were warned.

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My thoughts on The Shack won’t make much sense if you don’t know where I stand theologically (because The Shack is most definitely a book with theological implications). Firstly, I’m a follower of Jesus (Acts 24.14). More specifically, I’d be placed in the Reformed branch of Christianity (Somewhere between Calvin and Zwingli, but with more of a social/intellectual permissive bent, a.k.a. Clement of Alexandria. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, then you could sum it up by thinking that I’m theologically centrist.I won’t waste your time (and mine) by listing all the things I am not: logically, that would be a near-infinite list.

The Shack: I think it’s a wonderful book, and there are a number of reasons why, which I’ll deal with in no particular order:

* The narrative itself is gripping. The protagonist, Mack, has suffered the loss of one of his children, and reading about how he deals with his grief was captivating. The author has done a very good job of describing what it must be like to lose someone close, and the resulting struggles with God’s sovereignty (“why would God do this to me”). Following Mack as he struggles to get through his issues made the book a page-turner for me.

* Theological paradigms are challenged. SPOILER ALERT: There’s no doubt that this book is basically Trinitarian in nature. God is portrayed as Three Persons, just like Christian Orthodoxy would demand. However, the truth that God is NOT HUMAN is very strongly emphasized in this book. Therefore, the pictures that many of us in the West would prefer to use in interpreting what the Trinitarian God would be like are NOT USED. God the Father (Papa) is portrayed as a black woman: “For me to appear to you as a woman and suggest that you call me Papa is simply to mix metaphors, to help you keep from falling back into your religious conditioning.” (p. 93)

And THAT is the heart of the book – it’s a narrative of one man’s encounter with God, but specifically NOT the “religious conditioning” God that so many of us are used to. Jesus certainly comes across as recognizable (he’s a Jewish carpenter with a well-stocked workshop), but the Holy Spirit is described as a woman named Sarayu. “Since there were three of them, maybe this was a Trinity sort of thing. But two women and a man and none of them white? Then again, why had he naturally assumed that God would be white?” (pg. 87)

* The book’s literary background is theologically broad. Personally, I think this is a great thing, and I’m very comfortable with it. But those people who are allergic to the idea that women can be in positions of leadership are positively going to have fits over this book. Specifically, there are THREE very powerful female figures in The Shack: SPOILER ALERT: Papa (God the Father in a female aspect), Sarayu (God the Spirit in a female aspect), and Sophia (the Personification of Wisdom – this concept is very present in the Apocrypha, and in older Christian literature, but not hardly mentioned in the last 200 years in my opinion).

* There are some wonderful “geek” moments in the book. Learning that God really likes fractals made me smile so much my face hurt.

* Finally, the book was very cathartic for me. Mack has a very difficult emotional relationship with his alcoholic father, and that so closely echoed my own experience that I had some difficulty seeing certain pages through tears. If you’ve had a good relationship with your own father, Thank God for that in your own life.


Pastor Ed Backell

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