Impressions of The Shack


Inquiring Minds Want to Know: What do you make of The Shack?

To be quite honest, I do not know what to make of the book, The Shack.  My impression is that the author, William P. Young, made a noble attempt to explain some of the more difficult questions about God, and did so in an engaging narrative.  At the same time, he crossed over some cherished ground in a manner that leaves him open to charges of heresey.

Is Young alone in this?

No. C.S. Lewis, among others, trod this path long before Young. 

So what do I think?

I think I am thankful for keener minds than mine.

In particular, I was intrigued with Tim Keller’s analysis of The Shack. Keller makes it clear that he was not offering a review, only some impressions. Still his comments are worth considering:

At the heart of the book is a noble effort — to help modern people understand why God allows suffering, using a narrative form. The argument Young makes at various parts of the book is this. First, this world’s evil and suffering is the result of our abuse of free will. Second, God has not prevented evil in order to accomplish some glorious, greater good that humans cannot now understand. Third, when we stay bitter at God for a particular tragedy we put ourselves in the seat of the ‘Judge of the world and God’, and we are unqualified for such a job. Fourth, we must get an ‘eternal perspective’ and see all God’s people in joy in his presence forever. (The father in the story is given a vision of his deceased daughter living in the joy of Christ’s presence, and it heals his grief.) This is all rather standard, orthodox, pastoral theology (though it’s a bit too heavy on the ‘free-will defense’).  It is so accessible to readers because of its narrative form. I have heard many reports of semi-believers and non-believers claiming that this book gave them an answer to their biggest objections to faith in God.


Keller’s “However” needs to be considered. To read Keller’s post click: The Shack – Impressions.

Cancer Suggestions from Johns Hopkins

I received the following Update in an e-mail.   It describes findngs from Johns Hopkins University about causes and preventative measures that guard against cancer.  Having gone through treatment for colon cancer, I thought this worthwhile to pass along and preserve.


1. Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size. 

2. Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person’s lifetime. 

3 When the person’s immune system is strong the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors. 

4. When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors. 

5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet and including supplements will strengthen the immune system.. 

6. Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly-growing cancer cells and also destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc. 

7. Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns, scars and damages healthy cells, tissues and organs. 

8. Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction. 

9. When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy and radiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications. 

10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy. Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites. 

11. An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply.. 


a. Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off one important food supply to the cancer cells. Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in color. Better alternative is Bragg’s aminos or sea salt. 

b. Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk cancer cells are being starved. 

c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer. 

d. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes to nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells. To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C). 

e. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine. Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer fighting properties. Water-best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it. 

12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes.. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines becomes putrefied and leads to more toxic buildup. 

13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body’s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells. 

14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Flor-ssence, Essiac, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, EFAs etc.) to enable the bodies own killer cells to destroy cancer cells. Other supplements like vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body’s normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells. 

15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor. Anger, un-forgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life. 

16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells. 

1. No plastic containers in micro. 

2. No water bottles in freezer. 

3. No plastic wrap in microwave. 

Johns Hopkins has recently sent this out in its newsletters. This information is being circulated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as well.

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To Speak or Not to Speak

I am torn.

According to a recent article by the Florida Baptist Witness, a group of concerned citizens are recruiting pastors to challenge a 55 year old law that prohibits non-profit organizations, including churches, from endorsing specific political candidates.  Practically speaking this law empowers the IRS to censor the content that is offered from church pulpits. 

On the one hand, I am sympathetic to this cause because I do not believe that anyone should censor legitimate speach.  In a free society political speach should not be censored. Further, while not being an alarmist, I am concerned that allowing the government this authority to regulate what is proclaimed from a church pulpit may one day broaden and include other issues that are moral-theological in nature but that have political implications – or that have simply become politicized.  The IRS is an agency with all authority and functions with a “guilty until proven innocent” M.O.  Having them as regulators is a dangerous proposition.

On the other hand, the pulpit is a place that should be unconditionally reserved for the proclamation of the Gospel.  PERIOD! While I do not like my civil rights infringed, I have no right, under God’s direction, to use the pulpit for anything other than declaring, teaching, and applying God’s Word.  Political speach becomes an easy – and often seductive – substitute for the real responsibility that ministers of the Gospel are charged to do.  Loosening the present law will not change my conviction, nor my practice, whatsoever.  But if the present law will keep some of my clergical colleagues focused on our collective purpose, well, that seems to be a good thing.

For those interested in this discussion, you might want to check out: Speak Up Movement

Idol Factory

John Calvin said:

“The human heart is a factory of idols… Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.”

This truth is difficult to convey. Few people think of themselves as idolators. And when I as a pastor, or a friend, suggest to people that they – like me – struggle from this affliction, the most common response is a grinning dismissal.

For most people the concept of idolatry conjurs mental images of statues and shrines. And since few people I encounter would knowingly do something as primitive as that, it is easy to understand why that notion is so easily ignored.

Nevertheless it is a condition that needs to be recognized.  We need to recognize it as a general condition of humanity. And each of us needs to discover what kinds of idols our own hearts are producing. You see, what my production center cranks out is different than what your production center develops – both in product and in volume.

In a recent post, titled X-Ray Questions, Scott Thomas, President of Acts 29 Network succinctly addresses this subject. And in that post he offers 35 X-Ray Questions for the Heart.  Thomas’ challenge:

Examine the following questions and ponder your heart for the existent idols and then crush the idols of our heart before they crush you.

  1. What do you love? Hate?
  2. What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for? What desires do you serve and obey?
  3. What do you seek, aim for, and pursue?
  4. Where do you bank your hopes?
  5. What do you fear? What do you not want? What do you tend to worry about?
  6. What do you feel like doing?
  7. What do you think you need? What are your ‘felt needs’?
  8. What are your plans, agendas, strategies, and intentions designed to accomplish?
  9. What makes you tick? What sun does your planet revolve around? What do you organize your life around?
  10. Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, escape, pleasure, and security?
  11. What or whom do you trust?
  12. Whose performance matters? On whose shoulders does the well being of your world rest? Who can make it better, make it work, make it safe, make it successful?
  13. Whom must you please? Whose opinion of you counts? From whom do you desire approval and fear rejection? Whose value system do you measure yourself against? In whose eyes are you living? Whose love and approval do you need?
  14. Who are your role models? What kind of person do you think you ought to be or want to be?
  15. On your deathbed, what would sum up your life as worthwhile? What gives your life meaning?
  16. How do you define and weigh success and failure, right or wrong, desirable or undesirable, in any particular situation?
  17. What would make you feel rich, secure, prosperous? What must you get to make life sing?
  18. What would bring you the greatest pleasure, happiness, and delight? The greatest pain or misery?
  19. Whose coming into political power would make everything better?
  20. Whose victory or success would make your life happy? How do you define victory and success?
  21. What do you see as your rights? What do you feel entitled to?
  22. In what situations do you feel pressured or tense? Confident and relaxed? When you are pressured, where do you turn? What do you think about? What are your escapes? What do you escape from?
  23. What do you want to get out of life? What payoff do you seek out of the things you do?
  24. What do you pray for?
  25. What do you think about most often? What preoccupies or obsesses you? In the morning, to what does your mind drift instinctively?
  26. What do you talk about? What is important to you? What attitudes do you communicate?
  27. How do you spend your time? What are your priorities?
  28. What are your characteristic fantasies, either pleasurable or fearful? Daydreams? What do your night dreams revolve around?
  29. What are the functional beliefs that control how you interpret your life and determine how you act?
  30. What are your idols and false gods? In what do you place your trust, or set your hopes? What do you turn to or seek? Where do you take refuge?
  31. How do you live for yourself?
  32. How do you live as a slave of the devil?
  33. How do you implicitly say, “If only…” (to get what you want, avoid what you don’t want, keep what you have)?
  34. What instinctively seems and feels right to you? What are your opinions, the things you feel true?
  35. Where do you find your identity? How do you define who you are?

Two other worthwhile resources on this subject:

Humble Calvinism: The Idol Factory

Idol Factory – A Series of messages by C.J. Mahaney & Mark Driscoll

Centered on the Gospel

What does it mean for a church to be gospel-centered?  That’s a popular concept these days.  What if we were scrambling to be law-centered?  The difference may not be so easy to see.

Ray Ortland adresses this question with keen insight and simplicity in his brief post: Centered On One or the Other

And what does the cover from the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album have to do with anything?

Well, you’ll have to read the post. Ray explains that too.

2010 NCAA Basketball Championships – South Region


 Here are my bracket predictions for the South Region of the 2010 NCAA Basketball Championship.  Where there are parentheses it simply indicates I predict the team I want to see win will be defeated.

First Round

  • Duke > Arkansas-Pine Bluff
  • Louisville > California
  • Texas A&M > Utah State
  • Purdue > Siena
  • Old Dominion > Notre Dame
  • Baylor > Sam Houston State
  • Richmond > St. Mary’s
  • Villanova > Robert Morris

Second Round

  • Duke > Louisville (Lousiville)
  • Texas A&M > Purdue
  • Baylor > Old Dominion
  • Villanova > Richmond

Third Round – Sweet 16

  • Duke > Texas A&M
  • Villanova > Baylor (Toss Up)

Fourth Round – Elite 8

  • Villanova > Duke

2010 NCAA Basketball Championships – West Region

Here are my bracket predictions for the West Region of the 2010 NCAA Basketball Championship.  Where there are parentheses it simply indicates I predict the team I want to see win will be defeated.

First Round

  • Syracuse > Vermont
  • Gonzaga > Florida State
  • UTEP > Butler
  • Vanderbilt > Murray State
  • Xavier > Minnesota
  • Pittsburgh > Oakland
  • Florida > BYU
  • Kansas State > North Texas

Second Round

  • Syracuse > Gonzaga
  • Vanderbilt > UTEP
  • Pittsburgh > Xavier
  • Kansas State > Florida (Florida)

Third Round – Sweet 16

  • Vanderbilt > Syracuse
  • Pittsburgh > Kansas State

Fourth Round – Elite 8

  • Pittsburgh > Vanderbilt
  • 2010 NCAA Basketball Championships – East Region

    Here are my bracket predictions for theEast Region of the 2010 NCAA Basketball Championship.  Where there are parentheses it simply indicates I predict the team I want to see win will be defeated.

    First Round

    • Kentucky > East Tennessee State (ETSU)
    • Wake Forest > Texas
    • Temple > Cornell
    • Wisconsin > Wofford
    • Marquette > Washington
    • New Mexico > Montana
    • Clemson > Missouri
    • West Virginia > Morgan State

    Second Round

    • Kentucky > Wake Forest
    • Temple > Wisconsin
    • New Mexico > Marquette
    • West Virgnia > Clemson

    Third Round – Sweet 16

    • Kentucky > Temple
    • West Virginia > New Mexico  (Toss Up)

    Fourth Round – Elite 8

  • Kentucky > West Virginia
  • 2010 NCAA Basketball Championships – Midwest Region

    Here is my prediction for the Midwest Region of the 2010 NCAA Basketball Championship.  Where there are parentheses it indicates the team I wanted to see win but I predict will be defeated.

    First Round

    • Kansas > Lehigh
    • UNLV > Northern Iowa
    • Michigan State > New Mexico State
    • Houston > Maryland
    • Tennessee > San Diego State
    • Oklahoma State > Georgia Tech
    • Ohio State > Cal – Santa Barbara

    Second Round 

    • Kansas > UNLV
    • Michigan State > Houston
    • Georgetown > Tennessee (Tennessee)
    • Oklahoma State > Ohio State

    Third Round – Sweet 16

    • Kansas > Michigan State
    • Georgetown > Oklahoma State (OSU)

    Fourth Round – Elite 8

  • Kansas > Georgetown (Georgetown)
  • Teenagers: Tendency Toward Legalism

    Do you remember a Brady Bunch episode where Greg and his parents got into a debate about “Exact Words”?  Greg, who had been grounded from driving, when confronted about borrowing a friends wheels, insisted that his parents only instruction to him was that he was not drive the family car.    The rest of the episode is an illustration of the difficulty of livng by exact words.

    What I never realized was that this episode also illustrated a more universal principle. 

    According to Paul Tripp:

    “Teenagers have a natural tendency toward legalism.”

    What parent has not heard something like:

    • “You didn’t say I couldn’t…” or
    • “You didn’t tell me to.. today”  

    I’ll have to be honest, sometimes my kids are technically correct. BUT still, …we all understand, by common sense, what should have been expected.

    Such statements are merely expressions of this tendency toward legalism. 

    There is no use trying to make certain we are right.  There is no sense in trying to be more clear in our instructions.  We need to recognize this for what it is: Legalism. And we need to get across to our teenagers that, in the end, legalism does no one any favors.

    Our teenagers need to understand, not only the lesson Greg Brady learned in that episode, but more importantly they – and we – need to be reminded what Paul says in Galatians 3.10:

    “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law”


    This is the Second in a series of six posts elaborating on the insights Paul Tripp offers in his book Age of Opportunity.  To read the others click: Teen Tendencies & Temptations.

    Is “Missional” Just “Evangelistic”?

    In his book The Present Future, Reggie McNeal reveals the contrasts in the different ways leaders can think about the church and its ministry. McNeal reveals the different paradigms that pastors can have as they fulfill their ministry in the church.  Being missional is first a shift in thinking about the nature of the church. Once a missional understanding is adopted, the way we do church begins to change.

    1. A missional church stresses community transformation over growing the church.
    2. A missional church strives to turn members into missionaries over turning members into ministers. 
    3. A missional church focuses on recovering Christian mission over doing church better.

    In the above video, Tim Keller also offers some insights about the missional church. Keller explains why this label – Missional – is not just new slang for being Evangelistic.

    For those who want to explore a little more, let me suggest reading Timothy Corwin’s blog post Being Missional: Is There Really a Difference?  Tim is pastor of The Rock Church of Saint Louis, and has written several thoughtful pieces about the missional church.

    Revivals Begin With God’s People

    “Revivals begin with God’s own people; the Holy Spirit touches their heart anew, and gives them new fervor and compassion, and zeal, new light and life, and when He has thus come to you, He next goes forth to the Valley of Dry Bones…

    Oh, what responsibility this lays on the Church of God! If you grieve Him away from yourselves, or hinder His visit, then the poor perishing world suffers sorely!”

    ~ Andrew Bonar

    A Missional Church IS…

    A missional church is rooted in the purpose of God, and understands that God is on a mission to reclaim a People for himself and restore a Creation to it’s orignal beauty. This is known as missio dei – Mission of God.

    A missional church recognizes that our culture in North America is no longer an expression of Christendom.

    Christendom was a period in history when Christianity was the prevailing religion. During this time Christian thought, directed by the Bible, provided the lense through which people evaluated the world.

    We can no longer assume that:

    • People are part of a congregation.   In the past, most people had some affiliation with a church. Now, most people have no connection with a church, increasing numbers of people have never even been in a church.
    • People define Right vs. Wrong based upon some understanding of God’s Standard.
    • People necessarily care what the Bible says, much less that most people have any understanding of what it teaches. 


    1. The church can no longer serve as chaplain to a culture, and a People, as if they only need encouragement along Life’s Journey.
    2. Each congregation must engage the culture(s) in the community where God has sovereignly placed us in the same way that a missionary must engage a foreign culture:
    • Learning to understand before trying to be understood.
    • Presuming our neighbors have no previous understanding of God and the Gospel – or at best they have a fragmented and distorted understading.
    • Look for Redemptive Analogies – stories from within the culture that reflect the truths of God and the Gospel.
    • Loving a People who may reject us, and even hate and harm us.

    The church must:

    1. Grow inwardlay strong yet Outwardly Focused.
    2. Be MORE Incarnational than Attractional
    3. Evaluate all ministries with a missional lense.

    In summary: A Missional Church pours itself out on the community, seeking cultural transformation more than its own prosperity.

    Teenagers: Lacking a Hunger for Wisdom

    No one likes to be corrected, but the wise person learns to appreciate correction that comes from a reliable source. 

    Proverbs 13.18 tells us:

    He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame,
           but whoever heeds correction is honored

    This is a lesson all of us need to remind ourselves.

    But according to Paul Tripp this lesson is perhaps especially appropriate for teenagers. According to Tripp, in his book, Age of Opportunity, teenagers have a “Lack of hunger for wisdom or correction.”

    What Tripp is saying is: It is not only that teens generally are lacking wisdom, one of the common traits is that they don’t even look for it. They are not aware they are in need of it. 

    That teens lack wisdom should easily be understood. Wisdom comes only from experience and correction. Teens have generally not lived long enough to have developed wisdom.  And sadly, even those teenagers who have experienced too much of the hard realities of this world still lack wisdom.  This is evident in that they are often the ones who are in the most trouble. Likely this is because, while teens who have had to grow up too fast have experience, they have usually not experienced necessary correction.  They have been left to their own instincts. They have not had wisdom imparted to help them assess their experiences and learn to discern right from wrong; wisdom from foolishness. 

    Realizing that teenagers are in need of wisdom is a great place for parents and teachers and youth workers to begin. But, along with that knowledge, we must also remember that teenagers’ limited experience and perspective leaves them with a lack of felt need for wisdom. Put more susinctly, teens are not aware that they are in need of wisdom, so they don’t seek it, they don’t hunger for it.

    So, what do I take from all this?

    1. If we who work with teens want to make a positive impact we ought to remind ourselves of a few things:

    • the importance of wisdom,
    • the need for teens to develop wisdom
    • the understanding the usual teenage apathy, even antipathy, about developing wisdom   

    2. Perhaps we will be diligent in our approach to:

    • Make a priority of cultivating wisdom
    • Whet the appetite for wisdom

    3. Perhaps we will use the book of Proverbs as a guide and tool in our parenting and discipling. If we do, we can help the teenagers in our lives, and in our churches, develop a positive perspective to apply to their experiences.


    This is the First in a series of six posts elaborating on the insights Paul Tripp offers in his book Age of Opportunity.  To read the others click: Teen Tendencies & Temptations.