Sunday, March 26, 2017

So Long, Stereotype!

The church is sort of full of stereotypes. In the New Testament context, I suppose they start with the story of Jesus' birth.

We picture an evil innkeeper who wouldn't find a room for Mary and Joseph.  Except it probably didn't happen that way.

Or maybe the crowd gathered around the newborn Jesus, in a manger in a barn out back of the nonexistent "inn". More likely it was downstairs of the house where they couldn't find anywhere else to stay.

Houses back then were not an acre with a lawn and a 3BR/2BA bungalow, you know. Or a stable, for that matter.

Perhaps the time honored painting of that crowd around the manger, which includes the 3 Wise Men from the East. Well .. they wouldn't have been there, either. They were a LONG way away from Bethlehem, and it's doubtful Mary and Joseph would have kept Jesus in a manger until the Magi could get there.

They probably weren't even expecting them....

But hey, nothing in the scripture says there were 3 of them, anyway. Only that however many of them there were, they brought 3 gifts.

Those may be common stereotypes, but they're not the ones I am thinking of. I am thinking specifically of the commonly-held views about Jesus, Himself.

If you want a cute little exercise some time, just replay in your mind, Jesus' interaction with the woman at the well, or the woman caught in adultery. But put a smile on Jesus' face.

No judgment for an extensive divorce history, or a scandalous sex life. Just love, showing on Someone's face. Can you just imagine the grin when He said "Go get your husband .... ", knowing full well her situation? Or maybe Him grinning, first, before He said "Where are those who accuse you?"

Before I get back to The Shack, a side trip. Have you ever done anything to help someone,where it made a huge difference in their life? I recall a "F.A.I.T.H" visit once, in which I was asked to share a "FAITH testimony" But my train of thought was interrupted when I noticed the daughter of the person we went to see. She was quietly crying in a corner of the living room, which caused me to stop the "presentation" and ask her to come sit on the couch. So I just talked to her.

She ended up getting big-time, down-front, saved. Repentingly, rejoicingly, resoundingly SAVED!

That's been 10 or 15 years now, and I've only seen her once or twice, in that time. But I have to tell you, those really were times of rejoicing.

So I think it is, with Jesus and the redeemed. Yet I do not see many representations of the Savior, that reflect that. Those are normally the "Sallman head", Jesus standing at the door and knocking or maybe on a cross, or an ethereal picture featuring a halo or aurora.

Those are OK, I guess, but how do you think Jesus reacts when He sees one of His redeemed? Yes, He suffered sore for us, but ... news flash:

IT WORKED!!

When you see a grown child of yours ... one that makes you proud ... is the first thing you think of, the grief they brought? The pain of childbirth? The sacrifices you made to raise them? The things you did without?

I doubt it. I think you get blessed to the max with how they turned out. And I think the same thing goes through Jesus' mind when He sees one of us.

That's a picture of the actor who played Jesus in the movie, up yonder. Wearing just about his default expression in the film. And that was my big takeaway from the movie, The Shack.

When I read the book, I was percolating along fine until I got to the passage in which Mack tells Papa that he felt abandoned by God, much as Jesus said He was, on the cross. Papa corrected Mack and said "I know what He felt ... but I never left Him".

Wow.

Well, this time, the "AHA" moment came when I saw Jesus as a winsome, happy Man Who loves to engage with His people, and is "tickled pink" that His suffering worked.

I think He's just that, and more, And what a privilege to look forward to seeing that smile again, one day.

He won't be the only One smiling, if I'm right....

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Somewhat Surprising Admission

Peg and I went to see THE SHACK yesterday. We enjoyed it to the max.

No, that's not the admission.

All I can say is that is that it was the best $16.90 I've spent watching a film, since I don't remember when. The admission, on the other hand comes (perhaps inadvertently) from those criticizing the film. Most particularly those of the same branch of the faith as me. Namely, Southern Baptists.

The admission, to me, is that the film's critics ... particularly pastoral or professorial types ... seem to feel that those within the sound of their voice (or circle of their reading/writing) are theologically unable to discern Spiritual truth when they see it. And conversely unable to see something which might mislead the clueless, about things theological. And, since most of what I read is in SBC circles, I'm thinking that the higher-ups opinion of the quality of discipleship is that it's pretty low. That discernment of theological things is severely limited, perhaps most particularly amongst SBC folks..

Well, that's not surprising. Especially considering that around 2/3 of those who consider themselves Baptist aren't in church on Sunday morning.

Consider, for a minute, the film FIELD OF DREAMS. Watch it and you will be told about mysterious audible voices whispering to people, telling them what to do. Mysterious letters appearing on baseball scoreboards, for the same reason. People coming back from their long-ago death to play baseball in Iowa. People appearing from, and disappearing into, a cornfield. Young baseball players becoming old doctors when they step across the baseline.

I'm not critical of FIELD OF DREAMS. In fact, I loved the film and I believe we have the DVD in the living room. But my point is this: I never heard anyone voice a protest that it was spiritually misleading. But my, oh my, the protests about THE SHACK!

For a denomination ... and the SBC's own website used to use that term ... which seems proud of what all it does, of how many churches it has and how many people it baptizes and how many members belong ... it's surprising that they'd be upset about members going to see the film.

When you see it, you will come away with the impression that:

  • God loves you. In a very real sense. Intensely. consistently.
  • Despite what He went through, Jesus is a happy, winsome man. One who loves to engage with His people.
  • The Holy Spirit is sort of ever-present, always willing to gently nudge us in the right direction.
  • When we see a mess in our life, something that makes no sense, seeing it from God's viewpoint is a whole 'nuther matter...
  • When things inexplicably come into our life, they'll serve a purpose in God's plan. Hang in there and you'll understand it some day.
  • God comes to us as what we need to see at the time. 
  • Living as ones loved by God, and sharing that love with those around us, really is best for us.

If you don't know the backstory of THE SHACK. learn it. You'll discover it wasn't written to be a theological display, any more than FIELD OF DREAMS is a story about the afterlife, heaven, or even baseball.

In the meantime, a message for the theologians and professors who might stumble across this: 

Thanks for admitting what we already knew out here. Now maybe somebody will get to work on the real problem. Which is not found in motion picture theaters. 







Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Quick Example: The REALLY Temporary Nature of Stuff

The picture there is the Riverchase Galleria, a huge enclosed mall shopping center just a few miles from our home. The tall building is the Office Tower, and the Hotel .. a few stories less than the Office ... is at the far right.

This was developed by a gent from Montgomery by the name of Jim Wilson. Jim was an acquaintance of a lady who worked for me at Riverchase Business Brokers, and she got us an invitation to the topping-out ceremony. And we went.

The party was held late morning in mid-1985, in the dirt immediately in front of where the Office Tower stands, It was a lot of fun .... I even got interviewed by a local talk radio host, asking what my view of the business climate, and the prospects for the Galleria's 100+ stores might be. (As if I might know something....)

When it came time to lift the highest steel I-beam into place, Jim Wilson had all of us sign the beam with a black marking pen. Needless to say, we all felt pretty good about having done that.

We all went back to work and carried on as usual. But a couple days later, our younger son called my office and told me to look out the North-facing windows. I did, and saw a HUGE plume of smoke in the distance. He worked for an LP gas company at the time, and Brad told me a tar kettle with one of their tanks attached had caught fire. It was quite a sight.

It singed and thoroughly smoked up the beam we'd all signed. So. they cleaned it up, sanded it down, and re-painted it.

So much for having signed the topping-out beam

2 years after that, the signature on the beam was gone, I'd closed my company and moved to the next career stage, my son went into computer programming, and the developer had died.

SOOO ... While the memories of the events are good, they really do need to be. Everything else is gone, including the signed beam, the developer, the talk show host, and my company.

The good news is that I am still saved and a beloved child of God. And that has only gotten better.

You can guess what I'm focusing on these days.....