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.

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Free Forty Day Devotional for Lent 2017

I’d like to give you a free devotional for Lent 2017.

I’ve always enjoyed following a devotional for the season of Advent and Lent. Short daily meditations help keep me centered on what’s truly important. For Advent: reflecting on how I can best receive the presence of God in my life. For Lent: reflecting on how God uses suffering to refine me into the likeness of Jesus as I wait for God’s resurrecting power to fill me.

Free Lent 2017 Offer

For this reason I want to offer you a gift of my book, Return from Exile, free on Kindle on Ash Wednesday as well as the two days preceding it. Return from Exile uses the biblical theme of exile to explore how God uses loss in our lives. Over the forty days I reflect on what causes exile, what we can learn in exile, and what it takes to return from exile to live a new, resurrected life.

I hope you will share this post to let others know about this offer. The book is also available in paperback at 30% discount here if you use the code: YHSMPH6T. You can also purchase it at full price from Amazon.com.

A Book for Those Struggling with Loss, Pain, Anger & Disappointment

Here’s what one recent reader said of the book:

This is an excellent book for anyone struggling with loss, pain, anger, and/or disappointment…While some self-help books wield bible verses like a club, Diederich offers them as search-light into the human heart and a gentle guide for constructive solutions . He does not condemn us for feeling angry, dissatisfied, hurt or in despair, but instead gives us a model for how to use these conditions as a tool for growth and perhaps even someday use the knowledge gained to help someone else.

I speak as a pastor/friend, wanting to help you out of your personal exile to reclaim the life that God has waiting for you.

Return From Exile is for Everyone

The reviewer above used Return from Exile to help them through a rough divorce. It will soon be used in a small group of cancer patients to help them deal with the many losses associated with the disease. Return from Exile is meant for everyone because we all deal with loss.

I hope you will share this special Lent 2017 offer with friends and family going through their own season of loss. Click here to download the book for free now.

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Discover God’s Forgiveness in “Starting Over”

I’m convinced that one of the most overlooked truths in the Bible is God’s absolute and unconditional forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is assumed but not embraced. Most believers are afraid to admit this allowing unresolved guilt to eat away at them.

Finding God’s Forgiveness

God's forgiveness

Discover God’s Forgiveness

As a result of failing to understand and accept God’s forgiveness, people fall into a variety of legalistic traps. Their guilt pushes them away from God and into a hamster-wheel of performance, working daily to please God and people, hoping for their acceptance.

Sound familiar?

To counteract this Christian secret I have written a short book called: Starting Over...finding God’s forgiveness when you find it hard to forgive yourself.

The book lays out in plain language why God forgave us and how he did it. My hope is that after people read this book they will understand God’s forgiveness in a way that will convince them of its reality. I want to help people push past their regret and start living the new life that God has for them.

One early reviewer wrote:

I’ve always struggled feeling worthy of God’s love. I can honestly say that after reading “Starting Over” that I feel a stronger connection with God and his gift of forgiveness.

Get a Free Copy of “Starting Over”

I’m hoping to launch the book by Easter (April 16th) but I need some help. I’d like 50 people to read it and then post a review on amazon.com the day I launch it.

If you are willing to help me out, I’ll send you a free PDF copy today when you email with your request. On launch day you will get the Kindle version for free.

The book takes less than two hours to read. Have we got a deal? Email me here to request your copy. I’ll notify you when the book launches. You can also help me out by sharing this post on Facebook. A few of your friends might appreciate the chance to read the book.

Thanks for your help!

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Churches That Abuse: Six Warning Signs

In researching my new book on spiritual abuse (Broken Trust), I’m unearthing a number of good resources. The following is a recap of an article about the book, Churches That Abuse, by Dr. Ron Enroth. The book is currently out of print but this outline is still helpful.

Six Signs of Churches That Abuse

Spiritually abusive churches have many markers but here are six signs to help warn you of the presence of abuse:

  1. Dependency: The church fosters a dependence on its teaching and input from the leadership with what’s called “learned helplessness.” Members are instructed on every facet of life, who they can associate with, where they should work, how much they should volunteer, etc. The leaders imply that life is too complex for people to make it without the informed guidance of their spiritual wisdom. To operate without their input is to put your life and success at risk.
  2. Legalism: Legalism is the ladder that you climb in an attempt to reach God. The problem is that when you get to the top of the ladder, there is another ladder. You never get to where you hoped to be.
  3. Isolationism: this is where your church is insulated from outsiders. It’s a closed system. People within the church community are the only ones that can be trusted. People outside of the system are often spoken of in disparaging ways. Anyone that has left the church is belittled and cast as a threat to members. The church leader is often seen as the ultimate source of truth.
  4. Discipline: Abusive churches are obsessed with exposing detractors and publicly exposing them or excommunicating them. On the front side, the church might seem warm and accepting, but on the backside they can be incredibly cruel if you cross them in any way.
  5. Disrupted Family Relationships: A sign of a true believer is when they are willing to cut off ties with their family. Abusive churches often encourage this and discipline the people who refuse to do it.
  6. Surveillance: To keep people in line with the five areas above, surveillance is required. Church members are told to keep an eye out for how people behave under the guise of mutual accountability.

All of these attributes work in consort to control the person and develop strict allegiance to the church.

Jesus spoke of wolves coming in sheep’s clothing. There is no better disguise for falsehood than the church.

If you would like to receive a free copy of my book, Broken Trust, before it is published, please email me here to let me know. I will send you a PDF copy for your review.

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Free Sermon Series for Lent for Pastors

I want to give you a gift to pass on to your pastor. It’s a free sermon series for the season of Lent.free sermon series

Lent is the season that leads up to Easter. It’s the time we reflect on the suffering and resurrection of Jesus. But it’s also the time we ought to reflect on how our suffering can lead to resurrection as well.

Resurrection isn’t limited to the next life. It’s for this life too. God wants to resurrect us from our seasons of suffering.

Download the Free Sermon Series

This free sermon series is called: Return from Exile: How to overcome loss, failure and personal setbacks (or whatever your pastor chooses to call it). I’ve preached these sermons in my church and they formed the basis for by book, “Out of Exile,” which was followed by my latest book: “Return from Exile.”

The goal of the series is to help people reframe their losses as something positive. I use the metaphor of exile to talk about the various losses we experience in life that leave us feeling disoriented and disillusioned.

The Bible is full of stories about exile and how God used them for good in the lives of his people. If you are open to it, God can use your losses to transform your life. As one person said about the book: I learned that God makes his greatest investment in our lowest moments.

Download the free sermon series here. (email me if you want a Word document)

As an added bonus, here is a link for a free download to my book: Out of Exile: Pastor’s Edition to give to your pastor. It’s written to specifically help pastors overcome the losses unique to them.

Contact me if you have any questions. Otherwise, download the free sermon series and you are good to go. Or maybe just send the link for this post to your pastor.

I hope this series encourages your church.

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Making Progress on Book About Spiritually Abusive Churches

Here’s a quick update on the new book I’m working on. It’s a book that helps people in spiritually abusive churches identify what’s wrong with their setting and what to do about it.

Four Changes

I’ve invited people to read my first draft and give me their honest feedback. It’s been very helpful, causing me to make the following changes:

  1. Change the name of the book to reflect a primary feeling associated with experiencing spiritual abuse: Broken Trust.
  2. Eliminate half the material I suggested. It didn’t flow with the main purpose of the book, which is to give practical “how-to” steps” for people in spiritually abusive churches.

  3. Soften my approach. I’m a straight shooter and most people appreciate that about my writing. But people who have suffered in spiritually abusive churches have been shot at enough. I need to be more careful with my words with this audience.

  4. Answer more questions. People in spiritually abusive churches are hurt, confused, and often full of guilt. They don’t know what to do. It seems that everything they do is labeled as wrong and incurs the condemnation of many. They want answers, so I included a whole chapter on FAQ’s and gave more detail to many questions I had already answered.

These changes will make the book much more readable and helpful. If you would like to receive advance drafts of the book, email me here and I’ll add you to the e-list.

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Spiritual Abuse: the Fruit of Toxic Faith

I’m in the process of writing a new book that deals with toxic faith and spiritual abuse. It’s become a fascinating project because about ten people are actively working with me, giving me input from their own spiritually abusive history.

One thing that’s become quite clear is the difference between toxic faith and spiritual abuse. They are definitely correlated, but they are distinct from one another.

Toxic Faith vs. Spiritual Abuse

Toxic faith is the soil from which spiritual abuse grows. Without toxic faith there is no spiritual abuse. Spiritual abuse functions and is sustained, in both abused and abuser, by distorted thinking about who God is, and how he operates.

Put simply, toxic faith is performance-based thinking, meaning you have to earn the right to be approved and accepted by God. The better you perform, the more God likes you.

That, in a nutshell, is all it takes to completely mess with your mind. It sounds so simple. And, in fact, it sounds so normal. Isn’t that what religion is all about: performing for God? Your value is determined by your church attendance,  giving record, by how much you volunteer, or pray, or read your Bible, as well as by your obedience to church rules.

God keeps a spreadsheet on everyone with a complex algorithm that spits out your standing with God. But you don’t know what that value is. Church leaders have the unique wisdom and power to make that determination. They alone have the insight to know who is on the inside track with God and who is not. The worshipper is kept in suspense, not knowing if they are doing it good enough, dependent on the wise counsel of their leader.

What I’ve described is extreme, but only for making my point. This happens all the time in churches. Many people have outright rejected this kind of religion. They won’t let the church bully or intimidate them. This is why there has been a tremendous falling away from the church, first in Europe, and now in the United States. But others get trapped in abusive situations because of a sincere desire to know God and serve him.

What God Did For Us vs. What We Do For God

In the early church the apostle Paul was constantly waging a battle against purveyors of toxic faith. Paul had a very simple message:

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:10,13

Our confession is based on what God did for us, not what we did for him. Notice the activity of God in Paul’s words here:

You were dead because of your sins … Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. Colossians 2:13,14 (emphasis mine)

We were dead, but God took action. Paul’s point was that God has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. We are incapable of saving ourselves. Our job is to believe in the One (Jesus) who rescued us from our broken relationship God. Anything we do for God should come out of gratitude for what he’s done, not out of obligation.

But old habits die hard. Paul lived and preached in a Jewish world. Performance defined the Jewish mindset. Circumcision, Sabbath, and observing the Law were central to honoring God. People were convinced that if you did not abide by this performance framework, you were lost.

As Paul traveled about the world with his message, the Jewish evangelists would follow right behind him with their own message contradicting him.

Distorted Thinking

We get a good glimpse of this tension in the letter that Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, a region in modern-day Turkey. He made these accusations to people he had previously won to Christ:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 1:6,7

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 3:1-3

Toxic Faith and the New Believer

Toxic faith has a powerful impact on new believers. They are eager to know God. Their heart is open to learn and quick to obey. They are ready to be conformed into the image of God. The innocence and trust displayed makes it a beautiful time in one’s faith journey.

But that same innocence and trust is spoiled with the introduction of toxic faith. Instead of living a life of devotion out of gratitude for God’s unconditional acceptance, the believer is convinced that a life of devotion is necessary to be accepted by God.

I really don’t think people intend their faith to be toxic, nor do religious leaders conspire to offer a toxic faith. Our problem is we misunderstand the nature of God’s unconditional acceptance and it naturally develops into abusive scenarios.

Slowly and subtly spiritual abuse begins to grow out of our inadequate view of God. People in power begin to use performance-based religion to control their followers “for their own good” because they “know best.” The young believer, not knowing any better, acts against their own instincts in fear of letting God and others down.

Spiritual Abuse: the Fruit of Toxic Faith

A while back I read a story that gave a good example of how toxic thinking led to spiritual abuse.[1] An eight-year-old girl went to take her first communion at church. She had a wheat gluten allergy, so she brought her own rice based communion wafer. But when the church officials heard that she used a rice wafer, they invalidated her communion. You see, they thought that the bread that Jesus used for the first communion was wheat based, so only wheat can be used for communion bread.

The mother of the girl was disgusted, saying, “This is a church rule, not God’s will, and it can easily be adjusted to meet the needs of the people, while staying true to the traditions of our faith…I didn’t know that the divinity of Christ depended on wheat.”

This didn’t need to happen. This devoted family shouldn’t have had to make a choice between worshipping God and the health of their child. But this is a perfect example of how toxic faith naturally leads to abusing people rather than helping people draw closer to God. Thankfully this mother wouldn’t stand for it, but many believers are not that wise. They will conform to the rules to their own detriment, thinking they are showing God true devotion.

Jesus spoke of wolves coming in sheep’s clothing. There is no better disguise for falsehood than the church. That’s why it’s so important that you are careful in what you believe and whom you believe. Toxic faith is fertile soil. Wherever it exists, spiritual abuse is sure to grow.

If you would like to receive drafts of the book I am writing, please email me here and I will add you to the list. Please share this with others who might find it helpful.

[1] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/communion-mom-looks-to-vatican/

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