Category Archives: God

The Shack Free Sermon Series by F. Remy Diederich

the Shack Free Sermon SerieThe movie, “The Shack” was just released in theaters. I spoke on the book for seven weeks back in 2009 when the book first came out. I thought you might find these messages helpful to process the movie and discuss it with your friends. Download The Shack free sermon series below.

The Shack is about how a man (Mack) processes the death of his daughter with God. Here’s an outline of what I talked about in my series:

Part One: How Do Finite People Describe an Infinite God?

I looked at the controversy over the book. Many Christians attacked the book as heresy. Personally, I loved the book because it took a creative way to engage people in talking about God…even highly theological issues.

Part Two: Be Careful How You Judge Others

I took a step back to look at Christians being so quick to judge this book. I talk about how it’s wrong to judge someone’s motives and methods.

Part Three: The Great Sadness (Depression)

This message was about a major theme of the book: The Great Sadness. The sadness not only came from tragedy but from feeling abandoned by God. When Mack chose to stop speculating on what he didn’t know about God and chose to trust in what he did know about him, his healing began.

Part Four: The Shack and a Personal God

Here I looked at how The Shack helps us to see that we can relate to God personally. Even though Mack struggled to know God and often wanted to give up on God, there’s something in him that kept seeking after God. That’s why when Mack got a note in the mail from “Papa” to meet him at the Shack, the place where his daughter was murdered, he felt compelled to go.

Part Five: Questioning the Nature of God

The Shack surprisingly discusses some very theological questions. In this message I looked at two of them:

  • Is God male?
  • Are the Father, Son and Spirit all equal?

Part Six: Who’s in Charge of the Trinity?

I tackle one more theological question that is raised in The ShackIs there a chain of command between the Father, Jesus and the Spirit? That is, does the Father call the shots in the Trinity? Does he tell Jesus and the Spirit what to do? Or is there another kind of relationship between the three?

Part Seven: Forgiveness

In The Shack, the issue of forgiveness is never far from the surface. In this final message, I look at forgiveness and answer the question; How can I forgive when it hurts so much?

Download The Shack Free Sermon Series

Each message in the series has a set of study questions for personal reflection or to discuss with your small group.

I hope you enjoy the series.  Download The Shack free sermon series here.

Please note, these messages are from 2009 and are based on the book, not the movie. I haven’t seen the movie yet to know how close the movie adheres to the book.

Facebooktwitterrss

Don’t Let Your Shame Block God’s Love

Last Sunday I spoke about an aspect of God’s love that I have never spoken about before. Most believers understand that God loves them. They can quote the Bible verses. But many believersshame-652499_640 are never able to receive God’s love because they don’t think they deserve it. In their mind, God’s love is for people who have cleaned up their act.

But there’s an inherent problem to this kind of thinking: you can’t clean up your act without God’s love. If you insist on becoming a better person so God can love you, that “carrot” will always be in front of you. You’ll never get there. You’ve consigned yourself to your own personal “hell,” but you don’t even know what you’ve done because you think you know all about God’s love.

Yes, you KNOW about it. You haven’t RECEIVED it. You need to let the knowledge drop from your head to your heart and bring the healing that’s needed.

The issue is: we receive God’s love on our good days…when we are doing well. But we don’t receive God’s love when we need it the most…when we screw up and fail miserably. We resist the invasion of God’s love because we don’t think God wants to/ or is able to come into our unholy place.

You’ve consigned yourself to your own personal “hell,” but you don’t even know what you’ve done because you think you know all about God’s love.

A good example is something that happened to me 20 years ago. I had done my initial study of shame (which I’ve written about since). I realized that shame was not just a topic for other people. Shame was MY issue. My dad shamed me and I faithfully passed it on to my kids.

I felt sick about it for three months. It haunted me. I felt like I had passed on an incurable disease that would affect my kids forever. But then it dawned on me that hating myself and being depressed wasn’t doing anything productive. It only made things worse.  It wasn’t helping my kids to continually beat myself up and live under the weight of guilt. I was letting my shame rob from me again. How ironic!

So I decided to agree with God and forgive myself. If he could love me in my failure, then I could too. I stopped berating myself and owned my shame, talked to my kids about it, and actively sought to not only change my behavior but teach what I learned to others. Instead of wallowing in self-pity I broke the cycle of shame that my dad passed onto me. That’s a good thing! That’s something I am proud of doing.

I mention this because you might do the same thing…beat yourself up over failure and not allow God to love you and forgive you. But if you want to find the freedom that God has for you, that needs to happen. Just think whom you might become if you loved yourself like God does?

You can download Sunday’s message here. 

Download your free copy.

Download your free copy.

I gave away my book on Sunday that deals with overcoming shame. I want to do the same here. Click this link: Healing the Hurts of Your Past. I hope you’ll read it and post a link to the book on Facebook so your friends will read it too!  Why give it away? That’s simple: more people will read it. More people will discover how shame has diminished them and the people around them. And hopefully, more people will find the same freedom I have found.

Facebooktwitterrss

Five Reasons People Struggle to Find God

One of my roles is to help recovering addicts include God in their recovery process. No small task. To start the process I like to hear their stories…that is, how they saw God growing up, if at all; how they related to God through a religion, or nature, etc.Finding-God-banner-703x201

After a while, some clear themes emerge. It is VERY rare that someone in recovery tells me a good story about their spirituality. If they have found God it was usually after a long detour through some kind of bad religion. As a pastor (another role of mine) it’s been enlightening as to how LITTLE the church has helped people find God. Really sad. But there are other reasons that keep people from God. Let me list what I’ve learned.

Reasons Why People Struggle to Find God

  1. Meaningless church/religious experiences. As mentioned, it’s rare that people tell me how attending church helped them to know God. It’s usually something they had to endure for a season (usually through confirmation…a training process for kids in middle school) before they opt out. Parents want their kids to get the basics of faith but no more. The lesson kids get is that church is irrelevant and God is distant, so pay your dues and leave.
  2. Bad experiences with “believers.” This covers a gamut of experiences that turn people off from God. The basic response is: if this person is a true believer then I don’t want anything to do with what they are into. Here are a few examples of bad experiences:
    • hypocrisy
    • judgmental attitudes
    • abuse
    • historical craziness like the Crusades witch burning, or “Jones Town Massacre.”
  3. Small Mindedness. This could be included in the point above but is broad enough to be worthy of its own point. If you consider yourself an open minded free thinker, any kind of religion can pose a threat. Religion, by nature, channels your thinking into a set format. So religion is the enemy. “Believers” often think in such narrow, simplistic ways. Personally, this is something that I find embarrassing about fellow believers. They like to make things simple, i.e. black and white, pat answers. Don’t confuse me with science or the facts. To them, the beauty of faith is that it solves all complex problems with a few Bible verses. But what they love is the very thing that causes a revulsion in the free thinker. The free thinker sees faith as something that reduces you as a person.
  4. Tragedy. I’m surprised how many people either quit on God or never give God a chance because of a tragedy. There’s nothing like a death to kill faith. It’s interesting how they could handle the injustices in the world until injustice struck THEM. Until they got up close and personal with suffering, they were fine with God. (Surprisingly, the same experiences bring others to faith.)
  5. The invisibility of God. Maybe the number one struggle I hear is that it’s hard to believe in something/Someone you can’t see. People want to touch it and feel it to know it’s real.

I’m not going to attempt to answer these obstacles here, just note them. I’m curious what else you would add to this list. Please leave a comment below.

I will say that if you focus on the person of Jesus that you can bypass all five of these concerns (I’m not trying to be simplistic in saying this. I’m just saying that these five issues are often meaningless smokescreens that cloud the true issues of faith.) Whenever my doubt surfaces, whenever believers make me mad and make me want to give up on the idea of church, I always remind myself that Jesus was a historical documented person with multiple eye-witness accounts of his life, death and resurrection. My struggle isn’t with life’s problems or people that disappoint me, it’s with whether or not I accept the claims of Jesus.

What causes you to struggle with believing in God?

Facebooktwitterrss

Pastor, Should You Take A Sabbatical?

I am fortunate to have a church and denomination that understands the importance of taking a sabbatical. They granted me a three-month sabbatical. I took half of it this summer. I’d like to take a few posts to help pastors think about their possible need for a sabbatical and then how to go about it.closed

First question: why do you deserve a sabbatical? Few other professions offer them. What makes a pastor so special (or is it lazy) that they should get one when 95% of other professions don’t?

My first answer is that more people should take sabbaticals…in all professions. So maybe the question is framed wrong. Maybe we should be asking why more professions don’t allow for a sabbatical every seven years.

I’m not going to go into a deep Bible study on this. You can do that on your own. But I will say that God established the importance of sabbath in creation itself.  Sabbath doesn’t mean “rest.” It means to cease, to stop. God worked the idea of sabbath into his creation for two reasons: one, we need to stop for our emotional and physical health. We weren’t designed to go 24/7. Two, we need to stop for our spiritual health. When we stop, we are saying that we not only trust God to work through our effort, we trust him to work in our ceasing.

Okay, so a sabbath is biblical but why for weeks or months?  Isn’t a weekly sabbath good enough? It has to do with the nature of the job. Sabbaths are especially important for people who are ultra responsible, like a business owner. Any profession that requires you to carry an emotional load 24/7, even while you are away from the office, should get a sabbatical.  You need weeks or months to help you to fully cease, disconnect,  and get the rest you need. Taking a week or two off may get you away from your job physically but not emotionally. You need a sustained break to recharge your batteries.

Sadly, many pastors take a sabbatical AFTER they melt down. That’s not a sabbatical. That’s called recovery. I have a friend who collapsed in the middle of a sermon. His “sabbatical” came after his collapse and was more for healing than refreshing. He’s trying to play catch up now and he can’t seem to quite get there. I have another friend who owns his own business. He almost died of a heart attack this year due to stress.

Personally, I could feel the need for a sabbatical for at least a year. I planted a church eleven years ago, went through two capital campaigns, had a building built, and managed a few key staff transitions. It all took its toll. Pre-sabbatical I had unexplained fatigue and depression. Every time I even thought about getting away I’d tear up. I knew something was wrong. But now, post-sabbatical, I can tell the difference. Something inside of me changed. I got the break and refreshing I needed. I’m ready to go again.

In my next post, I’ll talk about what to do on a sabbatical. But today I just want you to consider taking one. Talk to your church board about the possibility.  Some churches offer their pastor a sabbatical every seven years. That’s nice but I think that should be a guideline. Rather than put a timeline on it, I’d go more by stress level. If you have gone through a two-year push to plant a church, do a capital campaign, or manage a church crisis, a sabbatical might be in order, whether you’ve been there seven years or not.

If you are not a pastor, maybe you could suggest a sabbatical for your pastor. It’s very hard to promote it for yourself. It feels selfish. So you will do him/her a favor by bringing it up. My administrator pushed the idea at my church and I was very grateful to her for it.

What are your thoughts? Have you been on a sabbatical? Do you wonder if you might need one? Have you suggested it but got shot down? What questions do you have about sabbaticals? I’d love to hear from you.

Facebooktwitterrss

Are You STUCK in Anger? Audio Book

I’m happy to announce that my book, STUCKhow to overcome anger and reclaim your life, is now out in audio format.

STUCK Cover

Now available in audiobook format

SPECIAL OFFER: This audiobook is available as a free download with a special offer from Audible.com. You can check it out here, as well as listen to a free sample of the reading.

Why get a book on anger? Because everyone has anger. But few know how to deal with it.

Anger is something people like to ignore. When it happens, they think it will never return. But sure enough, it does.

Anger often has more control over us than we have over it.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can overcome your anger. Better yet, if you understand your anger, you can use it to find your emotional weak spots and get the help you need.

Don’t give away any more of your life to anger. STUCK will help you overcome it. Learn more here. 

 

Facebooktwitterrss

Let God Define Your Identity

Too often we let our failures define us. We let our bad experiences tell us who we are. But Isaiah reminds us that God is the one who should define our true identity: 

Too often we let our failures define us. We let our bad experiences tell us who we are. 

The nations will see your righteousness. Kings will be blinded by your glory. And the LORD will give you a new name. The LORD will hold you in his hands for all to see — a splendid crown in the hands of God. Never again will you be called the Forsaken or Desolate. Your new name will be My Delight and My Bride, for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his own. Isaiah 62:2-4

Isaiah said that when they looked in the mirror, the name stamped on their forehead was: “Forsaken” or “Desolate.” Maybe you’ve seen those same names written on your forehead. But God says:

No, that’s not how I want you to see yourself. I’m giving you a new nickname: My Delight, My Bride. I’m going to restore your glory and so you need to look in the mirror and see what I see.

Start living out of this reality and see if things don’t change for you.

Facebooktwitterrss

Out of Exile: Day 34 – Reframing the Loss

In the book Change or Die, Alan Deutchman says there are three factors that contribute to change: relationships, retraining, and re-framing. You need to have the right person coaching you (relationship), the right information (retraining), and to see your problem from a fresh perspective (reframing).

These three components are so important if you want to return from exile.  Most people think that just getting good information will help. We buy self-help books for this reason.  Many people have found how positive relationships help them to change. But what we often lack is the right perspective. The information and relationships don’t help if we don’t have the right perspective and actively reinforce it. 

Reframing enables you to be thankful for thankless situations.

The term “reframing” comes from the idea that you can often change the meaning of a picture by adjusting the frame. Imagine a picture of people enjoying a beach but there is a storm building in the distance. You can put the frame around the storm and call it a terrible day. Or you can put the frame around the beach scene and see the joy of it. It’s all in the framing.

There is an example of the apostle Paul reframing his experience in a letter he wrote to the Corinthian church in Greece.  The church was encountering great persecution for their faith. Paul too had suffered greatly. He relates to them his perspective on his personal “exile”:

God…comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God…In our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. See 2 Corinthians 1:3-10

Paul reframes his suffering as an opportunity to learn how to be comforted by God so he might pour out the same comfort he has received to others that suffer. He refuses to play the victim and complain or feel sorry for himself. He trusts that there is a greater good that God has for him, even if he can’t see it.

Did you notice what he added about the “God who raises the dead”? Every person in exile needs to believe in the God of resurrection. We always want the resurrection before we are truly dead…before all hope is lost. But resurrection only comes to the dead, people who have exhausted every possibility of their own.

People who are able to reframe their circumstances are positive. They can always find a reason to be thankful. Much research has been done on the power of a thankful heart.  Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami did a study comparing people who wrote down what they were thankful for to people who journaled their irritations.

After ten weeks, the group that tracked their thankfulness was more optimistic, felt better about their lives, exercised more, and had fewer doctor visits.

Another study tracked people who showed gratitude to someone in their lives who had previously gone unthanked. Upon thanking the person, all participants had a huge increase in their happiness scores. (Read more here).

Reframing enables you to be thankful for thankless situations. I just finished watching a documentary on Steve Jobs. The narrator mentioned how Jobs softened as he aged. When asked why that was, Jobs said: Failure. His failures made him a better person.

In a recent Time article remembering Nelson Mandela, Mandela was once asked what happened to him after 25 years in jail. He said, “I matured.” My point is that both men were able to see the value in a time of exile by reframing their experience.

How can you reframe the exile that you are in? What is it that God is working in you (or wants to!) that you can start receiving and thanking him for today?  Please leave a comment below.

Facebooktwitterrss