The Shack Movie

Al Wilson here. I am the Director of Student Ministry at Trinity. For the first time since July, I am sick. I am writing to you today with a congested head. My minor suffering of a head cold has led me to think about that word ‘suffering’ for this post. This past week at The Mill (our Sunday-night program for 6th-12th grade students) we started a new series titled ‘Where is God in _______ ?’
In this series, we are asking some tough questions and this past Sunday we asked ‘Where is God in suffering? I have been asked this question by different people at different times and I know that it can sometimes be a struggle to get my point across in a loving and coherent manner. My goal this past week was to help our students think through potential answers for those difficult questions that everyone has.
On Friday the movie The Shack came out. The Shack (book and movie) has been a source of a lot of controversy amongst Christians due to some questionable theology at certain points throughout the story. The movie delves into the question, “why does God allow suffering?” And as this was our main question Sunday night, I asked some of our high school students if they wanted to watch it and encouraged them to invite an unchurched friend. I was clear to say that although the Shack was written by a Christian who grew up on the “mission field,” this was a movie made by Hollywood, not a film by which to base one’s theology and beliefs about God. However, the movie did provide a different way to think about God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and to also help consider the question of “why does God allow suffering?”
Some people may be intrigued by the movie, while others may be resistant to exploring it further. I offer a few thoughts below.
  1.  The movie gave a good picture of the love that Jesus shows us. He was my favorite character. The film also showed the Holy Spirit in his role as comforter and counselor. It also shows God’s wisdom and why God’s timing is not always what we want, but what we need.
  2. The movie was not necessarily made for seasoned Christians. The Shack seems to have been made for the casual movie-goer who heard that the movie has an interesting premise. Or maybe for the one (Christian or non-Christian) who struggles with a past hurt. Perhaps it was made for the spiritually dry Christian, like Pastor Paul referenced this past Sunday morning.
  3. This movie IS NOT the Bible. It is a movie. There is biblical truth in this movie and gives a unique picture of the Trinity, but should definitely not be looked at as a comprehensive way to understand God. The Shack can provide a way to talk to that co-worker who wants to discuss it with you because they know you go to church or perhaps wrestles with the “unfair” sufferings they know. As Christian people, we have the privilege and responsibility to discuss life issues and any potential misunderstandings an unbeliever may have about life or the character if God and where Christ fits into our picture.
A group of students and leaders will be leaving this Monday to go to Portland, Maine and serve a population heavily comprised of refugees and immigrants. Given our country’s political climate and refugee situation, we are sure to encounter some hard questions. Last year we heard stories from refugees who were fleeing their country for political or religious reasons and I would hope that our students can point to the fact that we live in a sinful, broken world with constant suffering and injustice, but how God gave us a solution to these problems in the form of his son Jesus Christ. Thanks for taking the time to read through this post and I hope it may be shed some light on an imperfect movie in our imperfect world. See you Sunday.


Ponderings for March 8 2017

Hello Trinity Community. Has your week gotten off to a good start? If you’re a mallard you loved it yesterday! If you are a roofer, not so much.
We are on a quest to identify and work through the times of spiritual dryness in our lives. From this past Sunday, our stated plan was to be Honest while offering Hope and Help for the arid places in our walk with Christ. The three H’s.
One “assignment” this week was to read through Psalms 42/43 every day this week. Have you started? Reading the Scriptures can be a glass of fresh water for our spiritual lives. If Bible reading has become “old hat” for you, try changing up your style. Use a new version this week as you read through the words of the Psalm. And allow David’s words to be yours.
Hear these good words from Lesslie Newbigin (a Christian scholar). A good reminder to allow the words from the Bible be our first reference point (as opposed to other “sources”):
“I more and more find the precious part of each day to be the 30 or 40 minutes I spend each morning before breakfast with the Bible. All the rest of the day I am bombarded with the stories that world is telling about itself. I am more and more skeptical about these stories. As I take time to immerse myself in the story that the Bible tells, my vision is cleared and I see things in another way. I see the day that lies ahead in its place in God’s story.”
Nothing like removing the dryness of the soul with fresh, living water from the Scriptures. Not just words on a page, but a vast story that I am part of. God has made me a part of it.
More later my friends.
And to steal a common beer commercial: “Stay thirsty my friends.”
Pastor Paul


Ponderings for March 3 2017

You can quote me on this: “Because He loves us, God changes us.” Though change is sometimes painful, and more often than not resisted (especially by Christ-followers), it nonetheless is God’s M.O. for our lives. Not sure why we like things the “same ol’ way” but we do! And yet God’s motto is still, “Behold I make all things new!”
Sunday, we start an important message series on Spiritual Dryness. We will examine various Scriptures (firstly Psalm 42) and symptoms and causes of our common spiritual dryness. What I will keep us mindful of is that God’s ultimate goal for us is change. From Adam-likeness to Christ-likeness. From the old selfish me to the new other-centered me. 
So, although life doesn’t always go my way nor do my prayers always get answered to my liking, I bear in mind that God is changing me through it all, strengthening and deepening my faith in him.
Habakkuk the prophet wrote these beautiful and trying words:
Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
    yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

    The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights. (3:17-19)

Read it again, more slowly. So why can I rejoice and be joyful despite the lousy situation? Because God is “enabling me to tread the heights.” He is maturing me, making me more Christ-like. He is changing me. And as you know now, “Because he loves us, God changes us.”
Whether it feels like it or not; and especially in the arid places of spiritual dryness, you need to be reminded that God loves you deeply! 
See you Sunday. 
Pastor Paul
P.S. As I long for my church to be a well-read church, I offer these titles of important books about God’s love. Pick one or two up. You won’t regret it.
All Loves Excelling by John Bunyan 
The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D. A. Carson
The Love of God by Oswald Chambers 
A Different Kind of Happiness: Discovering the Joy That Comes from    Sacrificial Love by Larry Crabb

The God Who Loves You by Peter Kreeft 
The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
The God Who Loves by John MacArthur  
Testaments of Love by Leon Morris 
Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen 

The Love of Christ by Richard Sibbes 
You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith 
God’s Love by R. C. Sproul
Nothing Greater, Nothing Better: Theological Essays on the Love of God edited by Kevin Vanhoozer 

P.P.S. As I long for my church to be an informed church, I want to let you know of some “visible” changes coming up around here.
   * This Sunday you will see the cross beautifully displayed front and center in our Worship Center. 
     For our new series. For Lent. For our worship.
   * Next week work will begin on our roof;  a needed change for the aging shingles.
   * A new sign will be coming out front soon, welcoming the community (as our website and      
     bulletin already do) to Trinity Church. A minor but important change to remove perceived barriers.


Ponderings for March 1 2017

“Work away today. Work away tomorrow. Never comes the day, for my love and me…” Lyrics of a song long gone by the Moody Blues.
Never comes the day…Ouch!
Can be true in a marriage if you’re not mindful.

Can be true spiritually if we don’t keep short accounts with God.

Historically, Christianity has built in reminders in the church life and calendars to enable Christ followers to “welcome” the day for my Lord and me. Regular days for worship and fellowship. And even days for humble repentance and confession of sin.

The 40 days before Easter were designed for such attention. To create a specific time frame set aside for praying and fasting, that is what Lent was always meant to be. And Ash Wednesday (today) was designed as a day of repentance and humility that initiated the Christian into this season.

All across the globe today, Christians will commemorate the beginning of Lent; some in a ceremony that involves their foreheads marked with ashes and for many others with deliberate choices to pray and/or fast for a season. All with the hope of renewing their intimacy with God. And of warding away the busyness and routine that life can become. So that the day for “my love (Christ) and me” can actually come–Today!

In future years, we will plan services at Trinity on Ash Wednesday for us to gather together in humble worship and repentance. For today, I would encourage all of us to take a few minutes out of our day to humbly acknowledge the Lord. Would you spend some time thanking the Lord for your life and salvation in Christ? And then, of course, making the effort to confess your sins and repent of your distant heart from Him. Be assured, as well, of his forgiveness and welcoming of your presence right now!

Spend a few minutes mulling over these words and verses from our gracious Lord:
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity;
          I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,
              and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.’

Therefore, let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found”   (Psalm. 32:5-6).
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19).

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteous” (1 John 1:9).

Happy Ash Wednesday Trinity friends!

Pastor Paul


Ponderings for February 24 2017

Sitting at the Cleveland Clinic waiting as my mom has several heart appointments. Looking outside at this beautiful day and experiencing all the other sights and sounds of a big hospital. 
“You need to go over to the B elevators,”  the kind Clinic worker loudly speaks to the elderly gentleman waiting in a wheelchair. He repeats the instructions again, this time even a bit louder to the man with compromised hearing. 
Our text and worship guide this Sunday will be Psalm 86. It begins “Incline your ear to me O Lord…” Though sometimes God may seem hard of hearing, he’s really not. Our Lord can come across at times as in need of an audiologist, but he actually hears us very well!
He desires for us to repeatedly call on him, not because he can’t hear us or is forgetful, but because he loves to hear the sound of our voice and wants us to always and repeatedly come to him with our needs. 


If it seems God hasn’t heard you lately, don’t lose heart or shout louder. Ask him to incline his ear toward you and pour your heart out to him. Then patiently believe he has heard you and desires his best for you. All in his time. 


To prepare for our special worship time on Sunday, give Psalm 86 a read. And be prepared for our Lord to incline his ear to our prayers and worship. 


See you Sunday

Pastor Paul