THE TRINITY, THE SHACK, AND THE GOSPEL

 

You may have heard that the Father, Son, and Spirit are all the same God,

but they wear different masks, have different roles,

like I am a mother, sister, and friend, but am just one person.

But no.

God the Father is not God the Son and God the Son is not God the Spirit.

If there was only one Person, Reeves explains, He could not have died for us. Neither would they be in a dance with each other!

Yet, still, the Father, Son, and Spirit are one, in perfect harmony.

Mike Reeves says, rather, when Jesus says that He and the Father are one,

He doesn’t mean they are the same, but just taking different roles, but rather, taking an earthly and scriptural illustration, that they are like the husband and wife who become one in marriage. The same word Deut 6:4 uses when it says, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one” is the same word Genesis 2:24 uses when, in speaking of man and woman marrying, says, “they shall become one flesh.”The husband is not the wife and the wife is not the husband, yet they are one.

When they listen to the music of the Spirit, when the husband leads and the wife stays in step, they become one, yet they are not the same.

And as we become one with the Trinity, as Jesus prayed in John 17,

we are not God and God is not us, yet, we are one.

He abides in us and we in Him, but we are not the same.

We long to understand this mystery.

We have already seen the weakness in comparing the Trinity

to something as impersonal as an egg,

for the Trinity is personal, loving, and in a dynamic dance.

I think that picture of a loving community

is part of what gave The Shack its enormous popularity.

It tapped into the personal and relational truth about the Trinity.

Opinions vary widely on this, but I believe we have a sisterhood who can discuss this in love and that we can learn from one another.

It is challenging to walk the fine line between legalism and heresy!

I really don’t want to fall off on either deathly side.

Dee and The Shack! :-)

Several of you were concerned we were going to discuss the Shack, and e-mailed me. I do understand, for I share your concerns. Yet I also know so many unbelievers were impacted positively by it — both the book and the movie. Yet if I knew a month ago what I definitely know today, would I have invited Twila and our new friend to see it with me? I’m not sure. I did think God led me to invite this woman and it turned out very well. Our friend has had much tragedy in her life and found it a comfort. I also knew that we were going to have an opportunity to discuss it afterwards over supper. lt led to a great discussion, a deepening friendship, and our friend is now coming to our church, The Orchard, where as before she was unchurched. I have come to think of The Shack as “pre-evangelistic,” helping many who have believed, perhaps because of tragedy, that God doesn’t love them. (That wasn’t the case, however, with our friend. Despite tragedy, she has believed God is good.) For us — it was a very positive experience and the movie made all three of us ponder together and grow closer to God and to each other. All that was so healthy!

But I have since come to also understand that the author definietely believes in universalism, which is heresy. I saw possible traces of that in the book, but it wasn’t really clear, and I didn’t see it in the movie. But in an interview with Tim Challies last March, Young says he does support universalism. He feels since Christ died, all are saved. You can read the whole article here or see my red key pull-out..com/book-reviews/what-does-the-shack-really-teach-read-lies-we-believe-about-god

Challies asked Young:

Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation?

And Young answered:

That is exactly what I am saying!

 

This is heresy. So that puts Young in the category of Hannah Hurnard, Sue Monk Kidd, and Rob Bell, all of whom seemed to begin with Christianity but then became clearly heretical. Both Bell and Young believe everyone is going to heaven. I understand that desire to believe that, but that is simply not what the Bible teaches. Miroslav Volf, a Croatian theologian, said many Americans have trouble with a holy God who brings judgment, but many Croatians have trouble with a loving God who does not hold accountable those who have raped, tortured, and murdered their loved ones. God is both holy and loving — the Gospel tells us we are lost because our sin offends a holy God, yet He has thrown us a lifeline. If we receive Him as our Savior in repentance and faith, He forgives our great offense. That is the teaching of the gospel, and is the solid foundation of our faith.

So what should we do with the early works of these authors, such as The Shack and Hinds Feet in High Places or Rob Bell’s Nooma videos? It is sad, but I would be hesitant, at least on a general basis, to recommend any of their early works for fear people would go on to embrace their later works. I applauded Zondervan for stopping their selling of the highly lucrative Nooma videos when Bell’s heretical Love Wins came out with another publisher. They were being a careful shepherd.

Yet it is also true God can speak truth through anyone — even Balaam’s ass! I do believe there is  gold in The Shack that has led to edifying discussions. For us, as believers, I don’t think we should be so fearful for we have the anointing of the Holy Spirit. To me it is legalistic to forbid all secular books or any edifying works that have questionable parts. (You may not agree — so freely enter into the discussion in love!) If you have read the book or seen the movie, I’d love to hear what gold or mud you saw in The Shack. If you didn’t read or see either, you can still enter into some of the concepts it brings up. Everything outside of the Bible needs to be sifted, but often we can find gold.

The basic story of The Shack is of a father (Mac) who lost his little girl to a murderer and struggles to believe God is good. God then invites Mac to the scene of the murder where the Trinity is then revealed in love. Here are some scenes from the movie.

Here is the gold I sifted from the mud.

God is good — and heaven is real. How wonderful it was for Mac to see his little girl happy and joyful in heaven.

Mac was closed to God after the murder, despite loving attempts from his neighbor. But God came to him in a dream (we find at the end it was a dream.) That is how God is coming to many Muslims today — so it can happen.

The Trinity is loving and relational — and I thought that relationship was portrayed well — they were even dancing.

The Spirit is always feminine in Scripture — and I did like the graceful Asian woman who collected Mac’s tears and led him into a garden that looked like a mess on earth but a thing of beauty from above. (Of course I’m glad the Spirit is not an Asian woman, for then the Spirit could not be everywhere!)

I thought the picture of the wife fighting for the marriage after the death of their precious little girl was beautiful, telling Mac, “we have lost so much — let’s not lose each other.” And the older daughter who felt such guilt needed help — and God opened Mac’s eyes to see that. That all portrayed dealing with a fallen world with wisdom.

And then I saw mud.The love of God was certainly emphasized more than than any need for repentance.  Each of us see things through our own filter — that’s why I don’t think a believer who has the anointing of His Spirit would be led astray, but an unbeliever might be, thinking God accepted him without any need for him to repent and put his trust in Christ’s provision. 

Many in the Reformed tradition, which I am, are a bit uncomfortable with portraying Jesus — for how can you? I would not go as far as J. I. Packer in Knowing God who doesn’t think you should have pictures of Jesus in children’s Bible storybooks, but I do know it is impossible to portray our Lord accurately through pictures. In my original clip for my upcoming book He Calls You Beautiful, I originally used one movie clip that portrayed Jesus as a Shepherd and showed him walking toward us. Lizzy suggested I find one where you couldn’t see his face — and I did — and I like it so much better. Many were also offended by the portrayal of God the Father as a woman. My son J. R. and his wife Dianne were, saying, “Though God the Father has feminine attributes, He is clearly masculine.” Yet I understood why “Mac,” abused as a child by a male, might not have related to a man. The author himself was abused by “missionaries” when he was in a missionary school, separated from his parents.

Ravi Zacharias, in the following clip, has an interesting commentary on why he was uncomfortable with this portrayal of the Trinity.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsvwsT8ZY2

I think we have discovered the Trinity is so hard to explain. I appreciated what our own Susan said last week about the illustration of the apple. She felt it was helpful for children but that as we mature we can deal with a more complicated metaphor, such as the dance.

I know we will have a loving, honest discussion here through which we can all grow! I also know you will be so blessed by Mike Reeve’s message on the Trinity.

I do think it is legalistic to confine your reading to only Christian works, for there is gold in secular works. One of my favorite books and movies of all time is To Kill A Mockingbird. And there are so many inferior Christian books and movies — instead of forbidding one and endorsing the other — shouldn’t we use discernment and teach our children to be discerning? Why not sit down (though I know it is a bit painful) and watch the shows your children love with them: Batman, Beauty and the Beast, Bambi… and help them sift the gold from the mud in discussions afterwards?

Sunday

1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

2. If you read or saw The Shack, how would you summarize your thoughts? Did you mine any gold? What

    mud did you see?

3. What ideas do you have on helping children become discerning adults? Do you ban non-Christian works from your children? If so, why? If not, why?

Monday-Wednesday Bible Study (1 John 2:18-26 and 1 John 1:4-13)

5. Read 1 John 2:18-28

      A. Where did false teachers begin and how did they come to show that they were not really part of the

         body of Christ? (vs 18-19)

      B.  Why do believers have discernment, and how can we spot a false teacher according to verses 20-26?

6. Read 1 John 4:1-6

     A. What caution are we given in verse 1?

     B. How do you see each person of the Trinity in verse 2?

     C. Again, why should we not be so fearful according to verse 3?

     D. John gives two tests to discern the spirit of truth and the spirit of error in this passage. What are they?

7.  We should always be like the Bereans, sifting for truth and error. Outside of the Bible, even the comments

     in study Bibles, need to be sifted. There is gold in secular books and movies, and there is mud in Christian

      books and movies. Can you give an example of gold in a secular work and mud in a Christian work?

8. Read 1 John 4:7-12

    A. Mike Reeves say that many, when the word God is mentioned, feel guilt. They imagine our God to be

        like Allah who controls but, being monolithic, has never learned to love. What do you learn about the

        love of Tri-une God from this passage?

    B. How can people in the world see an invisible God, according to this passage?

    C. What happens to us as we love one another according to this passage? How is this joining in the

         dance?

9. How, according to 1 John 4:13 do we know God abides in us? How have you sensed the Spirit in your life

    this week? (Last week Susan mentioned she found sensed Him, not through an extraordinary experience, 

    but through truth in a radio podcast.)

10. How long has God loved the Son according to John 17:24? What does this teach about the tri-une God?

11. How much does God love us according to John 17:23? Do you believe this?

Thursday-Friday Message — Free from Mike Reeves

12. Share your notes and comments from the message.

Saturday

     13. What is your take-a-way this week and why?

 

COMMENTS (109) Post a New Comment ↓
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I will not be able to be very active this week, and I haven’t seen the movie and I may be the only person y’all know who didn’t even read the book! But as I read this this morning, all I could hear was this: “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:23). Dee, I am humbled, challenged, inspired by your faithfulness and how He leads you, how you hear Him. Tough I did not email you about it, I did have some concerns when this was first mentioned a few weeks ago! I almost posted the Challies article to our group (and there is an excellent GC one by Gavin Ortlund). But instead I just prayed for God’s leading and I am surprised, and so blessed by reading all of this here this morning. What a gift to be under such a wise, humble servant. So very thankful for you Dee. 

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Lizzy — how dear you always are. I am not offended by cautions from people — I appreciate them. We see better more together than alone. I missed that you had given a link to Challies and will have to look at Gavin Ortland. You and I are both memorizing 1 John — and those warnings against false teachers are so strong. Yet I also love John’s reassurance that we have the anointing of the Holy One and have overcome them! You are such a gift here, Lizzy.

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    Actually, I refrained from posting any of the articles I saw, I just prayed instead! I know I can be too inflexible, and I pray against being legalistic. I agree there can be much to glean from non Christian books. Sometimes, as with the Shack, I was honestly turned off from reading it simply because of all the hype around it at the time more than realizing the content. Then as I learned more about it, I did not want to read it or see the movie. And I do tend towards wanting to fill my mind (especially when it comes to books) with food I know to be good for me…and yet, there may be fear in that as well. I have much to learn in this! thankful for your grace!

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1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
 
Dee, I thought you handled the dilemma of The Shack very well in your introduction. It is sad when someone starts out with a Christian perspective in their early works and then turns away. I truly got a lot of gold out of Hind’s Feet. However, I read The Shack several years ago, but many details have left me and I am not sure I can remember enough of how the Trinity was portrayed to contribute anything. I will pray for the discussion here, however. I don’t think it is right to forbid reading of secular books to children, but, to be age appropriate with them and to, whenever possible, discuss “gold” and “mud” with your children and grandchildren.

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    Thanks, Dianne. I know — I used to quote Hind’s Feet!

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    I agree Diane, I think Dee handled it well and I also agree that it is like a knife that tears through our hearts when someone whom we have learned from turns. 

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1.  What stood out?  The fact that we need to be mature.  It is true with anything you watch or read or listen to.  Sometimes people will stay away from movies, but are watching garbage on TV, don’t listen to media but read romance novels.  Each of us need to be in a position of humility about what we can and cannot expose ourselves to, and that includes the news outlets.  Paul tells us in Romans 10 to let God lead us, and not judge one another for whatever level of freedom we have or don’t have.  We also need to be sensitive to those whose convictions are stricter than our own.  You truly are on a tightrope, Dee, but you are handling it with prayer and that shows.  I appreciate this safe forum to raise discussions in.
 
2.  I read the book years ago when it first came out.  The gold I saw was that God can heal our deepest hurts, often by bringing us back through them in our minds and spirits.  I agree, however, that I pushed aside a bunch of what other people are disturbed with to get there.  Because I’ve read a lot in my life, I don’t expect to have everything line up correctly when it doesn’t propose to be a handbook of the faith.  I am OK with picking up a nugget or two and tossing the rest.  One of my favorite authors is Isaac Asimov.  He was not a believer and didn’t pretend to be.  But I like how he spins words and concepts, and I don’t need to read him all the time.  I DO need to be in God’s word more than daily.  That is where you find out if something lines up or not.  Be quick to jettison what does not.
 
3.  As far as teaching children go, it is a full time job to shape and direct them in the vein of Deut, talking of God’s truth constantly.  Then you can hold up advertisements and shows and books and teacher’s comments and church lessons and help them do the compare.  To have discussions even with adults, like you’ve done, Dee, and point to what God says about it.  This is an area of passion for me, and one that sparks a lot of prayer.  It has to do with the handing down of our faith to others, and it can all be lost in that transfer.  O Lord, that we would be committed in our inner selves to make sure the next person, the next contact, gets the whole truth about You, so that they can be passinate for You.

    Reply

    Good thoughts, Mary.

     

    Reply

    I agree. Good thoughts. Especially appreciate the gold you identified  that God can heal our deepest hurts. Also the idea we can pick out the nuggets and toss the rest. A good analogy to apply. 

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One last chime in and then I’m out for the week, but I do want to say I don’t at all agree with banning non-Christian books, for my kids or myself and my incredibly voracious reader daughter would surely disown me if I ever tried something like that!). There are SO many great resources out there for helping our kids, and adults process through media and seeing that the True Story is often hidden even within secular works. I think it is so important NOT to teach a fear-based mentality towards the world and the culture that ONLY says “stay away it will hurt you”. We must teach that greater is He that is in us than he who is in the world. The most important concept to me, is that the sin we must crucify is not so much “out there” as it is within our own hearts. So rather than ban ourselves from what is “out there”, I think we do need to learn to live wisely in a fallen world, staying true to our convictions, remembering to hold Phil. 4:8 before us,and learn to discern what is true and what is not. Not sure if I made any sense here but I am out of time!

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    Such an important truth Lizzy about the most dangeorus sin. Good thoughts!

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    I love how succinctly you put this, Lizzy!

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Well done Dee! I agreed with what u said about finding nuggets of gold. I felt that I did that in both “The Shack” & definitely “Hinds Feet On High Places”. I didn’t realize there was even a “problem” with that book! I have read it (Hind’s Feet) a few times & was so blessed, healed & inspired to press on with our Shepherd. I also feel that we can get tied up in knots & not stay free. Yes, we should read through the filter of the Holy Spirit, but these books are fiction & can lead us to ponder & dig deeper. I read The Shack a few years ago & was quite touched, tho it was definitely outside the box. I felt that the main themes of healing, Gods love & mercy, & the creative picture of the Trinity was refreshing, but fiction. As u said Dee, these books can be used to spark further discussion  :)

    Reply

    That’s how I feel — and perhaps it is my evangelistic heart — but I feel when people show an interest in a book like this it shows a hunger — and I want to explore that to see if they might come to know, as Priscilla and Aquilla said, “a more excellent way.”

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I have not read the book “The Shack” nor have I have seen the movie. A few Christian friends have watched it and several were very impressed and told me to have my husband and I watch it because” we will be blessed.” My husband is not a movie watcher so I often watch movies with friends. Due to conflicting schedule, I wasn’t able to watch it with any of these friends who invited me. 
To some degree, I feel like I am so behind in biblical literacy I’d rather stay home and spend my time reading my bible and Christian books than watching movies. Not that going is a sin. Considering how busy my job and church responsibilities make me, I really don not have time to watch movies. And coming from a country where movies are a special treat, movies take on a financial accountability for me. Of course, they do come out in DVD’s later. 
 I often think of Philippians 4:8 (I believe Lizzy mentioned this verse as well) when I read, watch a movie, have a conversation etc. Is is true? noble? pure? admirable? Excellent? praiseworthy? It does not take very long to decide by the guidance of the Holy Spirit what I need to spend my time in. And yet, just like someone said here-I am not to judge the preferences of others. I have an audience of ONE. I need to be discerning of what the triune God is impressing in my heart, mind and soul.
I don’t know-I am kind of rambling here. Sorry, if I am off tangent. I would like to see the movie someday, though becuase it can be a springboard for conversation with my friends. And I do love my friends. :-)

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Dee, this may be off topic, but can you please tell us about the latter life of Hannah Hurnurd and her eventual heresy?  I, too, have been very blessed and encouraged by reading her books.  I think through this conversation I have had a warning flag put in front of my heart.  I know somewhat of what happened to those missionary kids who were abused at their boarding school.  The whole situation is beyond incredibly sad.  First of all, the parents really believed they were following Jesus to the fullest when they gave up their kids to boarding schools to reach the unreached.  Now we see that as a horrible mistake, and most missionaries no longer engage in this practice.  That was before the advent of home schooling and it just wasn’t thought possible to educate your kids aside from formal schooling.  My heart aches for those parents and mostly for the precious kids who, many of them, have turned their backs on God.  The author of The Shack was one of those abused kids.  I see how his heart was so damaged and yet he sought for God in his pain, but somehow got into error through his own emotional leadings and not adhering to truth which does not change.  I am so tempted in this area myself, having been severely damaged by a Fundamental Independent Baptist upbringing in which many horrible things happened.  I have been seeking for years to find out the truth about God’s love for me despite the erroneous way He was represented to me.  Through this discussion tonight, and also listening to Voddie Baucham on You Tube on “The Shack,” I am crying out to God to deliver me from any error in my own understanding of God and His holiness and love.  More than anything, I don’t want to fall into error just because of hurts in my past by those who misrepresented His truth.  I cannot throw out truth simply because someone said they believed truth, but didn’t live it out.  I feel driven more than ever just now to saturate myself in His Word – His Word is TRUTH!  And He is the Way, The TRUTH, and the Life!  I can trust Him and I can trust His precious Word.  Oh, I don’t want to fall away into error in my latter years.  Thank you to you and to all the dear sisters up here who truly love Jesus and love TRUTH.  I especially appreciated Ernema’s comment above.  Love to you all.  I was writing so quickly, that much of what I wrote probably makes no sense.  Sorry. 

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I read the book, The Shack, when it first came out, and there was an uneasiness when I read it….and later realized why…as you have stated some obvious reason Dee. Thanks for the information. I also met one of the writers of The Shack, yes there was more than one who collaborated on the book, didnt know that too back then. He came to the Netherlands and was invited to a church I attended…I was  very intrigued but really felt something was off..he went onto tell he use to be a pastor and left the church after 20+ years of ‘churching’…he has his own following online, and radio podcast. I will not give his name out..because… I really find as much as he does speak of God and love, he doesnt believe in the church as many do and practice….he believes we have fellowship in many ways outside of the church, and some truth to that..but a lot of deception in what he stated too. When he left that meeting many starting praying and I asked why and they said, false doctrine, many saw through his meeting. I do believe he meant well, but I believe like mentioned above Universalism is very deceiving and if it was the truth, Jesus wasn’t needed at all then…. 
ON another note, I did see the movie, and found it to be very encouraging and surprisingly. I really enjoyed it. I was on the fence if I wanted to see it or not. I chose to see it, and judge for myself.  It really ministered to my heart, as I have no parents and it helped me see God as a loving parent and His heart for me. 
Im sorry I fell behind, life is busy and demanding when your husband is constantly gone. I did want to say I experienced Flag worshiping in my church for the first time yesterday. I have seen it, but gave it a try and it just did something to my soul….I went home afterward and ordered some swing worship flags to use at home. For worshipping really just ushers a person into the presence of God. I felt like I was dancing with God yesterday, He and I. Was so amazing. I did find a video I loved with a song I have never heard before too, with worshiping with flags and it really is exactly what we are studying here. I may not comment a lot this week too, but Im reading the post and following along. I want to go back and do last week to catch up and hear what God is speaking to my heart. Blessings to you all.

    Reply

    Thanks Staci. Can you explain a little more about worshipping flags? I know you don’t mean you worship them, but they aid in worship?

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      Oh yes, lol. No I didnt ‘worship’ a flag. They are used in dance, I know many churches use them at times during praise and worship. It’s very beautiful. There are different kinds of flags. I used swing flag, with no stick, just a weight. You can youtube. Or here is the one song I loved and the flag/dance just added to it.
      Here is the song I loved: called Kiss of Fire by Kathryn Marquis. I love this. 
      https://youtu.be/zaXZYS0DowQ

        I LOVE THIS — all new to me. Wow! Already passed this on to music people at The Orchard. Wow, Staci!

        This is very lovely, Staci. Thank you for posting.

        Staci,  I found this to be so beautiful!   I had never even heard of such a thing as flag worship (sometimes I think I have led a sheltered life!)  :-)      I so appreciate  you posting the link.   

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      We use fabric in our dancing and sometimes use flags. I’m not really that hip on the flags myself, I would rather just dance, but those who don’t dance might get something out of them. I like to use scarves and really enjoy our Pentecost piece because we have handmade scarves that look like the flags of several different countries. We wear them as “belts” and use red and orange scarves that represent the Holy Spirit. Love dancing Acts 2….

        I thought of you when I saw this, wondered if you use flags or not. We have regular dance as well. I love the flag, mostly the swing flags without poles, as they flow so freely as you dance.  Yes love that . We wear them as “belts” and use red and orange scarves that represent the Holy Spirit”. I have seen this. So beautiful.
         

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 It is beautiful how God designed one-ness in Marriage to reflect the Trinity.  Reeves said He is living in us but we aren’t God-of course that is true, and it is making me ponder because Jesus is God yet He is His Son-He is in the dance and they are One. Jesus claimed to be God and God’s Son. So they are One yet separate yet I am struggling a bit with what Reeves said and so maybe I need clarity. I do agree that He abides in us and we in Him, but we are not the same-we are not God.  Yet I also believe Jesus is God, and The Son and He is One with God and The Holy Spirit. So I need clarification. So hard to grasp this mystery. :) 
I haven’t read the Shack or seen the movie yet but I have been curious. When my boys were young I kept them away from most things secular except I did loosen up with Harry Potter when I thought my oldest was old enough to read the series and see the movie. I regret a bit of how strict I was but my biggest regret is ever letting them have cell phones with internet access!  Rabbit Trail reversal: :-)  I do like to watch secular movies and then discuss after with my boys when there is time. I am learning how to ask questions and let them talk.
I know this is a Christian movie but we went to see A Case For Christ and had some great discussions with all four boys, and I hope I don’t offend anyone but that was a far better movie than God’s not dead-and other Christian movies we have seen-oh my. :(  I can’t stomach some of the Christian movies I’ve seen-some of them upset me because everything works out for the characters in the end and that isn’t real life and our relationship with God isn’t about Him making everything work out the way we want it in our lives. 

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    Liked your rabbit trail. :-)

    You are the only one so far who commented on Reeve’s illustration of marriage as an analogy for the Trinity. I loved that.

    Oh — I so agree with you on movies. For fiction, I thought The Shack movie had quality, but The Case for Christ was better in that nothing made me uneasy!

    I do think, and will have to talk about this with Lizzy sometime, that a buzz may mean spiritual hunger to be discovered…those who are interested in the newest thing may actually be seeking…

      Reply

      OH yes, nothing made me uneasy about Case for Christ.and at the end it was just beautiful. The tenderness..oh. 
       

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I see there are already some very lengthy answers on the blog already but I am going to answer the initial questions without reading them first and then go back and see what others are saying. 
 
1. What stood out to you from the above and why? 
 
Actually I got derailed at the comment that “the Spirit is always feminine in Scripture–”
That caused me to do a little research because I had never heard anyone say that exclusively.  That of course goes back to grammatical and linguistical terminology as used in the Greek and Hebrew. I personally don’t think it can be said “always feminine”. But without question there are feminine characteristics. Here is a quote from one of the resources I looked at. 
“Theologically speaking, since the Holy Spirit is God, we can make some statements about Him from general statements about God. God is spirit as opposed to physical or material. God is invisible and spirit (i.e., non-body) – (John 4:24; Luke 24:39; Romans 1:20; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17). This is why no material thing was ever to be used to represent God (Exodus 20:4). If gender is an attribute of the body, then a spirit does not have gender. God, in His essence, has no gender.”
So God is not male or female but the masculine characteristic of God seems to be predominant in the terminology used in Scripture with complimenting feminine terminology.  
And here is a link to that resource for a little broader explanation. 
https://www.gotquestions.org/amp/Holy-Spirit-gender.html
Sorry to derail the discussion on that. 
(I should probably add here I don’t have a problem with the portrayals of God in the Shack because it is fiction.)
 Back to talking about “The Shack” in the next answer
 
 
2. If you read or saw The Shack, how would you summarize your thoughts? Did you mine any gold? 
What mud did you see?
 
I read “The Shack” several years ago when it first came out because I had listened to some comments from other Christians about it’s controversial content and I was curious to see for myself. After reading it I was left feeling kind of ambiguous about it.  It just seemed lacking to me partly because the gospel was not presented in a clear way and the Cross was obscure. I believe the Cross defines everything in life. Every tragedy, every heart ache, our very lives are defined by the Cross. Eternity hinges on the Cross. 
I can’t say I mined any gold from reading it at that time. So when the movie came on the scene and I had a few Christian Facebook friends touting it as a wonderful movie I started to revisit my thoughts. That’s when I discovered where the author was really coming from as a Universalist and it discredited his work for me. But then Dee comes along on this blog (-: and starts challenging my thinking as to the value of a discussion about it. Because you Dee have a legitimate testimony of mining gold out of it.  I decided I needed to at least be part of an objective discussion about it. 
I would be very interested in what Ravi Zacharias has to say but I couldn’t get the link to come up and copying and pasting didn’t work. I’ll search a little more for it. He is one of my absolute favorite apologists of God’s Word. 
 
 
3. What ideas do you have on helping children become discerning adults? Do you ban non-Christian works from your children? If so, why? If not, why?
 
 
I believe it is important to encourage children to evaluate and develop critical thinking skills or they can be led down any old path of rhetoric.  It is important that they learn to decide for God and his Word for themselves so they are solid in it’s truth and teaching as it applies to our lives and living wisely. We did not ban non-Christian works from our children. But I always felt the Word of God should be the final authority over any other works. 

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    Good to research my statement — very good. I will look up my source when I get time. Good for you, Bev.

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    Bev,  I also questioned the comment about the Spirit always being feminine.    I think that may be dependent on which language the word spirit is written in.  I studied Latin in high school and Greek in college.   I never gave to much credence to that sort of thing because a lot of inanimate objects were in the feminine case, such as a gate or a road.   

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    Thank you for the information. I was taken back too with the Holy Spirit portrayed as femenant . I have never seen the Holy Spirit this way…i just see the Holy Spirit as God and Jesus in One. The Comforter….as scriptures state. Like you, universalism really destroyed the message for me as well. I do like Ravi Zacharias as well. :)

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      note * the message meaning the message in the book The Shack, universalism destroyed the book for me…

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1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
 
Dee,  I thought  you looked in very good form on the tightrope!  (Nah,  I know that isn’t really you!)  I think you do a wonderful job of leading us through difficult topics!   

2. If you read or saw The Shack, how would you summarize your thoughts? Did you mine any gold? What mud did you see?
 
Guess where I was introduced to The Shack — through church!     About 8 years ago,  our pastor had us read The Shack for a Lenten study.    Then this past Lenten season,  she decided to do it all over again  (the study was opened up to our congregation and another congregation as a joint study). Following the completion of the study,  she arranged for a group of us to go to the theater and see the movie.    I participated fully the first time (eight years ago), but this time my husband and I had a conflict at the time of the study, so we just re-read the book and went to the movie with the group from church.     I think the point was been well-made by now that we all understand The Shack is fiction.  However, I felt that it did a good job of putting the reader/viewer at ease with the Trinity.   I loved the joy and and the buoyancy of spirit that it presented (even while dealing with a grief-stricken father).   Like Dee, I was delighted that Mack got to see that his Missy was happy in heaven.   
 
My favorite quote from the book is on page 185:   “Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies.   Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes.   That will only lead you to false notions about me.   Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.”

3. What ideas do you have on helping children become discerning adults? Do you ban non-Christian works from your children? If so, why? If not, why?
 
No,  I don’t think that secular books should be banned.  However,  I do believe in leading children toward Christian literature.    I recently had a mixed-emotions experience at church.   The pastor has instituted a program by which members can donate children’s books, and then on the 5th Sunday of the month,  pastor lets the children who come forward for the children’s sermon pick out a book to keep.   All kinds of books are donated, of course.   I tend to want to weigh in with books of faith.   One time I donated some Story of the Bible books, and one of them was placed into four different family’s homes.  This last time, I donated books that were each different from one another, but yet they were all on the theme of prayer.   I had hoped for a repeat of my previous experience; but alas, when the pastor let the children choose a book, every single one of them chose secular books.   Nothing wrong with Dr. Seuss, but I felt I had higher hopes!    The books that are left over are given to Family House (homeless shelter).   I was a tad disappointed, but I remembered that I had prayed that God would see that each book would get into just the right hands of a child that needed it most.   Soooo, hopefully that happens at Family House.  

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    loved your view on The Shack and response. I wasn’t a fan of the book, but viewed it as Fiction, because it is and loved the movie. Absolutely loved your quote from the book and I remember that well in the movie too.“Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies.   Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes.   That will only lead you to false notions about me.   Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.”   I think I have always been quick to say to God why did you allow this to happen?? Forgetting we serve an loving God that can even work through tragedy and pain and bring us to the other side of healing and joy again. Beautifully put. 
    ~especially love your thoughts on the books and what a blessing your church did in giving books to children and the left overs, which sometimes can always be the best to the shelters. I can see God all over that, beautiful!
     
     

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5.A.  The false teachers started out with the believers and then split awaym or went out from them.
B.  Discernment Comes from the Holy Spirit shedding His light on scripture, not just a proof text, but the whole counsel of God.  It is a good thing to challenge one another, saying, where do you find that in the Bible?  We spot falsehood when it goes against God’s word or character.
 
6.A.  Again, a caution to test the spirits, to see if they line up with God’s word.
C.  In vs 3, we do not need to be afraid.  We have been told ahead of time what to expect and how to test and discern.
D.  Two tests.  What do they do with Jesus?  And what do they do about church authority and orthodoxy?  By which I mean the truths our faith has rested on for 2000 years.

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I posted a lengthy response to the first 3 questions but it got marked as spam when I tried to edit it. I sent an email to David, but I’m going to wait to see if it gets posted before I go and retype everything.

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1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
 
I’m not sure I have enough knowledge to participate this week. I might just read what others have to say. I have never heard of this movie or book. I feel way out of my league talking about this topic also. I guess it’s because I have never even considered what you are suggesting here (that everyone goes to heaven and there is no hell). I am naive. I feel uncomfortable talking when I haven’t seen the movie or read the book. 
Also, I was disappointed that 2 favorite country western singers participated, if it isn’t really a biblical focus,  but then again maybe they’re like I am; I rarely take movies literally. They are just movies with much embellishment and ” creative freedoms.”
 
3. What ideas do you have on helping children become discerning adults? Do you ban non-Christian works from your children? If so, why? If not, why?
 
Since I’ve pretty much screwed up all of my children without realizing it (or meaning to) over the years, I don’t really have any good ideas about raising discerning adults. However, I don’t ban secular materials in my home; my mother was an avid reader of all sorts of materials so that’s not something I would do.  As I suggested above, I feel like people are smart enough to figure out whether things are valid or not.   Ban Beauty and the Beast?! But, the costumes and the music and all the cool characters… For me there’s no “deeper” meaning to the movie it’s a children’s movie. 
 
 I think if I saw the movie like the shack I would probably think it’s a sweet movie and that’s it. I don’t typically think deeper thoughts about Hollywood. 
 I do think my adult children have been affected by people who believe in this universalism however.  If I mention something about how someone better watch what they’re doing or they may end up in hell, my older son will say, “that’s if you believe in that.” He’s suggesting that not everyone believes as I do as a Christian and I should respect that about those people. 
 

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5. Read 1 John 2:18-28
 
      A. Where did false teachers begin and how did they come to show that they were not really part of the body of Christ? (vs 18-19)
 
They came into the Church and tried to deceive believers but they did not stay as a part of the body of Christ because being false teachers and against Christ they brought in lies. Where Christ is there is truth and their lies cannot stand. 
 
      B.  Why do believers have discernment, and how can we spot a false teacher according to verses 20-26?
 
We receive our discernment from being anointed by the Holy Spirit. He leads us to the truth of God being a triune God.  He glorifies the Son and the Father.  
False teachers deny Jesus as the Christ the very Son of God. They deny the Son and the Father as being eternal God. 
 
 
6. Read 1 John 4:1-6
 
     A. What caution are we given in verse 1? 
 
We are told not to believe everything we hear but rather to test the spirits and see if they are from God. 
 
     B. How do you see each person of the Trinity in verse 2?
The Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) confesses (affirms) that Jesus (the Son of God) has come in the flesh and is from God (The Father). Antichrists will try to undermine his Diety and teach he was or is not fully God. But just a good man or teacher. 
 
 
     C. Again, why should we not be so fearful according to verse 3?
 
We really should not be surprised them because He told us they have come and He has given a test for us to apply and know that they are false. 
 
     D. John gives two tests to discern the spirit of truth and the spirit of error in this passage. What are they?
 
The first is that they will not confess Jesus as the Son of God. The second is they will speak from the World and to the world. The world will agree with their teaching.  Sadly I think about someone like Ophra Winfrey who has gone into teaching and promoting a new age mysticism kind thinking and has left the church. She has rejected Jesus as the only way to Heaven and many other Biblical truths.  
Those who know God listen to and associate with the truths taught about God from his Word and by his ministers. 
 
7.  We should always be like the Bereans, sifting for truth and error. Outside of the Bible, even the comments in study Bibles, need to be sifted. There is gold in secular books and movies, and there is mud in Christian books and movies. Can you give an example of gold in a secular work and mud in a Christian work?
 
I like your reference to being
like the Bereans. (-:  
We attend a Berean Bible Church and are associated with The Berean Fellowship of Churches which took it’s name from that scripture in Acts 17:11.  
Our pastor has said more than once from the pulpit to not accept what he preaches at face value but to find out for ourselves from the Bible if it is true or not. To keep him accountable to the Truth of God’s Word. 
 
I think Le Miserables is a good example of gold in a secular book and movie. The unconditional forgiveness by the priest Bishop Myriel to
Jean Valjean for stealing from him and keeping him from prison then Vajean applying that same sacrificial principle to his own life. 
 
 
When it comes to mud I hope I don’t offend anyone here but I think Joel Osteen is putting out a very muddy message under the name of Christianity in his books and sermons. My observation is he preaches a health wealth prosperity gospel that flies in the face of Jesus Christ as the Servant of God who lived a completely sacrificial life depending totally on his Father’s will and provision for his earthy needs. He humbled himself and went to the cross and reaches down to the lowest of low in humanity with the gospel of hope and redemption. 

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    Thanks Bev — good responses. I wanted to give you the link and the quote about the Spirit always being feminine — but I don’t have the time to find out where it is in this long hour. But it is a wonderful panel discussion. However, I should have checked more carefully before just quoting it. I know we speak of the Holy Spirit being “He”, though he actually is genderless, I would guess. And I don’t know Hebrew, but I do know this man does.

    I would say Joel Olsteen is a false teacher. I think an example I would give in mud from Christian movies are the movies produced by a Baptist church that are getting increasingly better, but still have the mud that if we live for God everything will turn out okay: Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and War Room. REally good movies — but that’s big blotch of mud in them I believe!

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      Thanks Dee,  I don’t want to come across as if I think the Holy Spirit is either feminine or masculine because I don’t believe that is the case. From what I read the Hebrew word is in the feminine tone but the Holy Spirit as God comes across in scripture in the masculine as well. I think not being a linguist takes us in to some deeper analysis that can get pretty involved to explain.   Thankyou for the link. I’m sure I will find that interesting. 
      You are right about Joel Osteen being a false teacher. I didn’t think that through. Just because someone says they are Christian doesn’t make them Christian. 
       

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5. Read 1 John 2:18-28
 
      A. Where did false teachers begin and how did they come to show that they were not really part of the   body of Christ? (vs 18-19)
 
They began as part of the church, but they didn’t REALLY belong.  They showed that they weren’t really part of the body of Christ because they left.  We aren’t told why they later left the body of Christ.   They may have had funny reasons for joining in the first place.    People today can have off-center reasons for being part of the church.   They may think it will give them good business contacts, or sometimes church members just follow a family tradition of going to church and don’t really question why they are doing it.   
 
 
 
      B.  Why do believers have discernment, and how can we spot a false teacher according to verses 20-26?
 
When we accept Christ as our Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit.   The Holy Spirit helps us to recognize the truth when we hear it.  
 
6. Read 1 John 4:1-6
 
     A. What caution are we given in verse 1?
 
Basically, not to believe everything we hear – even in church!   We are to sift and test speakers and teachers.  
 

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 6.    D. John gives two tests to discern the spirit of truth and the spirit of error in this passage. What are they?
 
Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.  Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.  
 
7.  We should always be like the Bereans, sifting for truth and error.   Outside of the Bible, even the comments in study Bibles, need to be sifted. There is gold in secular books and movies, and there is mud in Christian  books and movies. Can you give an example of gold in a secular work and mud in a Christian work?

I am going to have to think a bit to come up with gold in a secular source.  I’m sure it exists, just need to think.  
I went back to Facebook and copied a post I had made on the Dee’s Friends blog in April.  I will post it here as a partial answer to this question.  This is an example of “mud:”  
 
I am just wondering if any of you saw the PBS program last night entitled “The Last Days of Jesus.” I watched it, and I was appalled at many of the “enhancements” they included (changes they made). I kept talking back to the screen, saying “No! No!” It came to a crescendo when they said that everything we know to be part of Holy Week did not happen in a week — it took about six months, and Jesus was in the equivalent of a “holding tank” for months before he was taken out and crucified.

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Dee, Im not one for reading fiction, I wish I was…my oldest daughter loved to read growing up and her favorite book to this day is To Kill a Mockingbird. She was given a nice copy from her teacher when she graduated high school. My daughter has read To Kill a Mockingbird so many times during high school and even now as an adult. I wish I had that love of books. But I dont. Im more about art and math . :)
So I just answered the Question on banning secular books for children. We had to read all the classics in high school, like I said I was not a reader…but my daughter loved them all. I think it taught them how to read literature and find meaning and lessons from the books. I think the same applies so all books, I dont agree with some books…but that is where as Christians I feel its important to share and read the bible, the word, with your kids. They will soon discern truth from fiction or ‘false’ doctrine. Its not just in books, but in what they learn in school classes as well. I will admit it was hard to see my children learn about other religions in the world and be taught things in school, to include evolution…so I won’t say I completely agree with all that, they were made aware and it made for a great time of discussion in our house and to speak the truth to them too and ask what does God say about that in the bible. I admit sometimes they felt like I was trying to lecture them…not my intentions…but thats the conflict we face with so much false or untruthful teachings they even encounter  at school or elsewhere…

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    Art and math! Almost seems like an oxymoron but I know it isn’t — there is actually a lot of art in math and I imagine, math in some art.

    I too generally prefer non-fiction, but some fiction I have found so edifying. I am now reading books by Lynn Austin –historical fiction. And so enjoying it and understanding some biblical history better.

    Love having you here.

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      Lynn Austin, I will have to look that up, is that related to Jane Austin books? I love all those classics, Pride and Prejudice being my all time favorite movie. Glad to be here and read all the great thoughts and comments. 

        No — she’s a contemporary author. I don’t like many contemporary Christian fiction writers, but I have liked her very much. Right now reading Return to Me about Zechariah and understanding where he fit in history (return of exiles from Babylon) and love how she weaves a story and edifies with profound truth.

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    Staci,   I remember how surprised we were when our older daughter, Karen, announced that she wanted to major in architecture.  When we questioned how she came to that conclusion, she said that art and math were her favorite subjects, and she did well in them; and architecture allowed her to put them together.  She became an architect. She is about to turn 50 in July, and so far architecture has been a good path for her!    

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      Wow, that’s amazing. I love seeing lines/angles and such with buildings . My eye is just drawn to them and especially in Art. My husband thinks its odd that it fascinates me….lol. Then again he doesnt see art or math fun. Thanks for sharing this. Im about 4 years shy of 50. You must be very proud of your daughter. What an accomplishment! :)

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5. Read 1 John 2:18-28
      A. Where did false teachers begin and how did they come to show that they were not really part of the 
         body of Christ? (vs 18-19)
False teachers have always been, even in the Old Testament, the bible states many antichrist have come and gone. The did not stay but went according to the bible, if they had stayed with believers then you would know they were true. I believe also by their fruits you will know a person, just as the bible states.
 
      B.  Why do believers have discernment, and how can we spot a false teacher according to verses 20-26? The Holy Spirit quickens us, He is our teacher, He lives inside of us, Greater is He that lives in us than He that lives in the world. 1 John 4:4.We are to go to the Word, the bible and judge that way too. Also what fruit is the person producing, the bible says you will know a person by their fruits. Matt. 7:15-20. 

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I am appreciating all the comments and discussion.

 I read The Shack years ago,before our own loss, but didn’t see the movie. I had plans to that didn’t work out. I was sort of nervous about seeing it, mostly because of my pain, I sure don’t like to ‘lose it’ in public, but also because of my misgivings about the subject matter.

When I read the book I felt it was moving and thought provoking, but that I wouldn’t recommend it to a new believer. The part I was most impacted by was when the main character had a taste of what it would be to stand in the place of judgment. It was humbling to realize how much we don’t see or understand. It still humbles me.

One of our elders recently said something like this ‘ All heresy springs from the desire to see God as we desire him to be and not as he has revealed himself to us in scripture’ I have thought a lot about that statement. 
It is easy to understand the appeal of universalism, but it can’t be reconciled with the clear biblical message that hell is real.

I allowed my boys to read secular books. The Harry Potter books were very popular in our house, Daniel in particular loved them. After a while I read the first one, and agreed it was a great story. I ended up having vivid dreams about it every single night while reading it. That scared me. I have read a lot of excellent books our the years, none have ever caused me to dream on a nightly basis. I shared that with my boys, together with the thought that Harry represented a good sort of magic, and that a whole generation of kids were being accustomed to the idea that good magic could triumph over evil magic while the bible warns us away from all forms of sorcery. That Christ was our hope, our only hope, in the battle against evil. I gave them something to think about. Eventually they chose not to read the new releases. I didn’t make a big deal about it, but quietly rejoiced!

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    Hi Chris! That’s really good about the Harry Potter books, I commend you. That’s a battle we had a bit but eventually our kids lost interest and I rejoiced too. I shared what the Bible says too and having dabbled in that side, witchcraft, before I was a Christian…. I knew way to much… I knew better and I was honest with my kids about it all and they listened and respected what I said…. I call that GOD. ;)

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    I have a different view about the Harry Potter books. I read them, enjoyed them, and that was that. I didn’t take them too seriously or literally. I believe in God, not magic. J.K. Rowling did disappoint me when she said the headmaster character was gay though. Why did she have to go there?!

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    With your story, I don’t think you should see The Shack. I love you!

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    Chris, I appreciate your perspective on The Shack. Given your story, it would be hard to read and, especially, hard to watch.  
     
    Also, I love your elder’s words. There is a lot of truth in that.  ‘All heresy springs from the desire to see God as we desire him to be and not as he has revealed himself to us in scripture.’ How often we twist God into our own image.

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      I liked that quote too. So see it in my sister and her Unitarian church.

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Thankyou for sharing Chris. The comment by your church elder is an excellent observation. 
Also your testimony about Harry Potter is interesting. That is another series if books I have felt ambivalent about. 

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7.  Mud. I can’t come up with an author or title, but know what you are speaking of.  They will slip something in that obliquely refers to universalism or denies the deity of Christ.  More often it is more of an omission of something vital, like repentance.
 
8.A.  God is love.  He does not just show love or contain love, He IS love.  His life in us is what makes true love possible for us to receive and to give.  The Triune God is all over this passage. The Father and the Son are easy to see in each verse.  The Spirit is a little harder to see, but by association He is there, and then in vs 12 it says He lives in us.
C.  As we love one another, we become more complete in God.  We move with Him, loving each part of the Trinity and never really settling on just One, but always seeing more of Him to admire and love.

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1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
The picture of “you” on the tight rope. I know that being in the public eye where your every word, spoken, misspoken and sometimes even unspoken, is scrutinized and criticized for years thanks to cyberspace, it must have been a difficult decision to tackle this topic. Thanks.
 
2. If you read or saw The Shack, how would you summarize your thoughts? Did you mine any gold? What mud did you see?
I read the book and for some reason I thought that it was non-fiction. I was having a difficult time with what I sensed was “God” pretty much saying everything’s cool, it felt irreverent and not holy. No awe or majesty, but I thought, “Who am I to say what kind of a vision God had given that man.” 
When I found out that it was non fiction I was disgusted with myself, I felt like I had wasted my time and I told others not to waste their time reading it. I haven’t seen the movie and had no intention to until I read what you had to say about it.I wonder about taking my sister, since her daughter died she has said that God can’t be trusted. It breaks my heart.
 
3. What ideas do you have on helping children become discerning adults? Do you ban non-Christian works from your children? If so, why? If not, why?
When my kids were really young I restricted what they watched, read and listened to. I homeschooled so it wasn’t too difficult. I did read a lot of classic fiction to them and some of the popular fiction, too, but I stayed away from anything that glorified (in my opinion) the dark arts (no Harry Potter). There is so much good stuff out there that there didn’t seem to be any reason to waste time on the fad of the month. But no it wasn’t only Christian works. Only Christian music though.
When they got older we read a lot of books on Christian worldview and did studies on staying grounded in Christ while being out in the world. We read Corrie Ten Boom, Fox’s book of Martyrs stuff like that.
My oldest son is now 31 and he doesn’t go to church, although he isn’t hostile toward the gospel he just isn’t interested. My youngest 3 sons all go to church and are involved in teaching at their churches in some capacity. So there is no perfect formula.

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    As adults all of my kids have read and/seen the Harry Potter series as have I. I do think they were very well written and entertaining. When they first came out I just chose to keep my family away from it, I didn’t see any reason to spend so much time going through all of the pros and cons.

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    As adults all of my kids have read and/or seen the Harry Potter series as have I. I do think they were very well written and entertaining. When they first came out I just chose to keep my family away from it, I didn’t see any reason to spend so much time going through all of the pros and cons.

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    You are right that there is no perfect formula. We do the best to live each day to glorify Him and leave the results to Him.

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I have been swamped with activity in our home so I haven’t had time to catch up here but wow it looks like great conversations are happening. :)

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5. Read 1 John 2:18-28
      A. Where did false teachers begin and how did they come to show that they were not really part of the body of Christ? (vs 18-19)
 
False teachers are just like you and I, but they have left the body of believers. The Message says they were not loyal. Would these authors that Dee has spoken of demonstrate the antichrists spoken of here? I read Hinds Feet in High Places and was truly blessed. I haven’t read anything else of hers though; would be interesting to to just see what Dee (and others) are talking about.
 
      B.  Why do believers have discernment, and how can we spot a false teacher according to verses 20-26?
 
Believers have been anointed so they are of God. False teachers are those who have denied Christ.
 
6. Read 1 John 4:1-6 
     A. What caution are we given in verse 1? 
 
We should beware of false gods and actually test for them too. 
 
     B. How do you see each person of the Trinity in verse 2?
 
Jesus came in the flesh and represented God the Father. We confess our faith through the Spirit.
 
     C. Again, why should we not be so fearful according to verse 3?
 
If we have Christ in us then we may overcome the world through Him.
 
     D. John gives two tests to discern the spirit of truth and the spirit of error in this passage. What are they?
 
Two tests that John discusses is to look for those who deny Christ came in the flesh, and these people know the world well. They will not listen to those who know Christ.
 
Incidently, many bits of scripture this week (and often on this blog) have blessed me so much because the contemporary Christian song writers (which I did not grow up knowing, but know better today) have used mainly scripture in their works to write their songs. I usually listen to Pandora radio, the Chris Tomlin station. I love when I read scripture and think to myself, “Oh that song is this scripture!” I love that so much! Thanks to the songwriters of today who feel it is important to actually use scripture to write their songs!
 
Heres an example:
 
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬
http://bible.com/59/1jn.4.4.esv
 
 
https://youtu.be/GXI0B4iMLuU
 

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I think God can use anything and anyone to soften someone’s heart for Him. I love how often God does this in Scripture-He is so passionate for us. So if The Shack in it’s weaknesses spurs on a God designed hunger inside of an unbeliever for Him then I think it is a good thing. I am not saying that God will do that with every movie or book -and clearly there are some movies and books out there we need to steer clear from, but I don’t believe there is anything that is out of His hands. 
 

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    Rebecca, this is so true and I do agree with this. God can use anything and my friend who went to the movie agrees wholeheartedly with you.

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What stands out to me?
It is the tightrope picture! Yes, how we need to walk carefully, yet to be truthful in our responses. I did read The Shack some time ago and from a perspective of seeking a book to occupy my time on a long trip. I love reading and have read many books,and as I read it was to discover how this horrible event was to be played out. By the end I was glad of the outcome but so puzzled by the characterizing of the Trinity.
As my friend talked about going to the Movie I said, I am not sure how a non-Christian (her husband) would perceive it. I said I don’t think it is a great idea, and her response was, “That is legalistic!” So I have been very interested in this discussion. I want to hear Ravi Zacharias but have not been able to open the link.
 I did listen to Michael Youssef, Leading the Way, give a detailed sermon and talked about all the untruths according to the scripture. I do desire discernment and want to become more able to sift the truth. However I have no desire to watch the movie, knowing the basic reason for writing the fiction.
So often I have heard Christians express their feelings about the evil that impacts so many people and feel offended that  “God has allowed the suffering.”
So I understand a need to come to terms with it. I appreciate your perspective, Dee, as well as many responses.
I do want to express my belief that War Room is a powerful movie and in spite of the amazing outcome, I do recommend it as I believe that our prayers for our marriage and family are essential, even though we may not see answers…I still believe that God is at work and desires us to obey and pray!
Thanks for opening this important discussion.

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    thanks, Shirley. I’m glad the discussion has been helpful!

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9.  How do we know God abides in us? His Spirit gives us assurance of His presence.  When I came to the Lord, something happened instantly within.  I still had all my weaknesses and failures, but I knew without doubt that I was His forever.
This week, praying for and with a friend, the Spirit was pulling pictures from Scripture to pray over her.  It was like wiping the brow so someone I’ll and applying God to her mind and spirit.  I sure can’t do that!  It is also when He makes something in Scripture leap out at me, or convicts me of sin, or calls me to humble myself before Him.

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    Sweet testimony, Mary.

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Update/Rabbit trail on how sweet God is in our many ongoing trials and what He is showing us. He has taken what I thought was tragic with my oldest-and it is, but He is turning it around in our lives for His Glory and our good for we are seeing how utterly broken and helpless we are yet we are more loved than we ever dared dream-and so are our boys.The beauty is that in my foolishness in how I responded He hasn’t forsaken me rather He is breaking and shaping and He is becoming more real-as Twila said- and God won’t let me forget-He is as real to me as you standing there.  Amazing how gazing at Him helps to throw off what hinders us from pressing in! 
.

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    Oh yes, Rebecca!

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    I just love how you expressed this, Rebecca. I know this story well as I have had many foolish ways, but God has turned situations around in my life for His Glory. I am amazed.I must be a very slow learner! Or  it may be my stubbornness…
     

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    “Amazing how gazing at Him helps to throw off what hinders us from pressing in!”
    That is a profound statement. Thank you. I needed to hear that for a particular struggle I am having. 

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Hi Dee,my name is Daniele , I’m reading your book  A Woman of Purpose,in portuguese. I’m look for  the picture that yours daugher made about the lion. Please,help me find the picture. Sorry about my ingles. Thanks.

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    Welcome Daniele! Here is the link for Sally, Dee’s Daughter’s, Aslan (Lion picture) canvasses and poster.  https://deebrestin.com/shop/page/2/
    Please let me know if you need more help getting to that link: rebecca@deebrestin.com
     

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8. Read 1 John 4:7-12
 
A. Mike Reeves say that many, when the word God is mentioned, feel guilt. They imagine our God to be like Allah who controls but, being monolithic, has never learned to love. What do you learn about the love of Tri-une God from this passage?
    The main message is that God is love, and He loved us so much that He sent His Son as an atoning  sacrifice for our sins.  We need to love as God has loved us.   God lives in us and then his love is complete in us.     Not only does God love, but God IS love, and anyone who does not love cannot  know God.       
 
    B. How can people in the world see an invisible God, according to this passage?
 
They can see the results of His love in us.  When people see us exemplifying God’s love it helps them to know God.   As the song goes,   “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.  Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”    
 
    C. What happens to us as we love one another according to this passage? How is this joining in the dance?
 
God comes to live within us when we love one another.  It becomes an endless spiral: the more we love others, the more we are like God, and the more we love others – ad infinitum!     That is the dance!
 
9. How, according to 1 John 4:13 do we know God abides in us?   How have you sensed the Spirit in your life this week? (Last week Susan mentioned she found sensed Him, not through an extraordinary experience,  but through truth in a radio podcast.)
 
We can tell that God abides in us because we have His Spirit.   I find my heart is softened toward the misfortunes of other people  – I feel the touch!    I become concerned for others (even those far away, like in Somalia!)    
 
10. How long has God loved the Son according to John 17:24? What does this teach about the tri-une God?
 
God has loved the Son since before the creation of the world.      All three parts of the Trinity are bound together as one in love.    
 
11. How much does God love us according to John 17:23? Do you believe this?
 
God loves us as much as He has loved His Son.    That is a tad difficult to comprehend.  For sure I believe it intellectually – not sure that it has totally flowed completely down to my heart.   

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I enjoy going through the responses and input here from everybody. We are finishing up the school year and I am up to my eyeballs :-) in paperwork. Slow and steady though there are days, I have felt like pulling my hair out. LOL
I felt blindsided by some sad news from my family in the Philippines. These have been  “Jesus, please help me” days lately and I have sensed the Spirit presence through conversations with people that I usually don’t have. A sense of peace and of being in the moment although my heart is troubled. It seems a paradox but I know the Lord is near and He is good and He loves me and those I love. 

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    I’ll be praying for you and your family, Bing. I can’t imagine being in a different country than my relatives and how hard that would be to not be able to see them whenever I wanted. I know that God works mightily through you and you are a continual blessing to me on the blog and Facebook.

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      Thank you, Dawn. Nothing has changed with my family’s situation in the Philippines but I sense the Trinity wooing those I am praying for into the dance. :-) We are so blessed here to find such an encouraging fellowship even though we have not seen each other face to face!

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    I will pray Bing.

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7. Can you give an example of gold in a secular work and mud in a Christian work?
 
I guess I think of two televison shows that represent gold….people who truly loved each other; The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie, both shows of the seventies.
 
I’m having a hard time thinking of an actual bit of Christian work. The Christian show that I think was mud was when Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker hosted the PTL Club. I know it isn’t a movie or a tv show, but it represents “Christianity” at its worst;  blech. 
 

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    :-) Yes, Christianity at its worst!

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11.  We are loved even as the Trinity loves each other.  That blows a fuse or three for me.  It is too much, and I instinctively try to limit it to a size I can grasp.  Do I believe it?  In the abstract, yes.  In practical terms, not really.
 
12.  Mike Reeves.  I didn’t take very good notes, but what most stood out to me is that God does not become Father.  He already is/was.  And our God is not the cosmic police force.  He is love, and draws you into His dance of love.

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    Mary — those are two good points to remember!

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6. Read 1 John 4:1-6 
     A. What caution are we given in verse 1? 
        -to not believe every spirit, but to test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many are false prophets.
     B. How do you see each person of the Trinity in verse 2?
         – God sent Jesus(our savior)who lives in us, the Holy Spirit gives witness. 
     C. Again, why should we not be so fearful according to verse 3?
         every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God, this has already been in the world.
     D. John gives two tests to discern the spirit of truth and the spirit of error in this passage. What are they?
   -Every spirit that acknowledges who Jesus is, is of God.
   -Those who are of the world speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.Whoever knows God listens to those who are from God, but those who are not from God will not listen to those of God. The Word makes no sense to those who are of the lost or world.
7.  We should always be like the Bereans, sifting for truth and error. Outside of the Bible, even the comments
     in study Bibles, need to be sifted. There is gold in secular books and movies, and there is mud in Christian 
      books and movies. Can you give an example of gold in a secular work and mud in a Christian work?
-Secular work, there are many it seems. The Shack for example, shows God’s love in a new light.
-Christian work, I think as stated above, some Christian movies make everything out to be one big happy ending. But I will say some of the movies mentioned above did show you what happens when we allow sin into our lives/marriages etc…what can happen. God can also use any bad situation and turn it around for His Glory. It may not be the ending we would hope for, but God never promised us a rose garden either. He promised to never leave us or forsake us, not matter what the outcome be, good or bad. I think that should be exemplified more in Christian works. That I do like about the movie The Shack.
8. Read 1 John 4:7-12 
    A. Mike Reeves say that many, when the word God is mentioned, feel guilt. They imagine our God to be  like Allah who controls but, being monolithic, has never learned to love. What do you learn about the love of Tri-une God from this passage?
God loved and loves us enough, He sent His only son, Jesus to die for our sins and atone our sins. That we might live through Him.
    B. How can people in the world see an invisible God, according to this passage? Having Jesus in us, God’s Spirit dwells and lives in us. We have God’s love in us; His heart. We are the mouth,hands feet for God.Our actions in how we treat others, the lost and even our thoughts. Something God has really shown me within myself, even our thoughts towards others, even though they are silent, no one sees them, But God does see our thoughts. He is LOVE, so that is a check to myself if my thoughts are in line with God’s love….if not I have some serious praying and repenting to do. Guilty of that, forgive me Lord.
    C. What happens to us as we love one another according to this passage? How is this joining in the dance?
-As we love one another as God does, it joins a unity a family among believers. It’s so beautiful and encouraging. I see it as we are all in one big ballroom dancing before our King in love and unity with God. 

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    I see it as we are all in one big ballroom dancing before our King in love and unity with God. Love that picture, Staci!


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Hi Dee,my name is Daniele,i’m from  Brasil. I’m reading your book A woman of purpose,and i would like to find the picture that your daught made about the lion. Could you hepl me to find it,please? Thanks and sorry about my ingles.

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8. 1 John 4 7:12 What do you learn about the love of Tri-une God from this passage?
 
Since God is love and He made us, we may also love and may know love because of this. If we don’t know love then we are not of God. This is our connection to God the Father.
 
God sent His Son to earth to show us perfect love. We are to love each other, also showing that perfect love through faith. This is our connection to Jesus, the Son.
 
I struggle understanding the connection to the Holy Spirit. Is it the love that is between us demonstrates the Holy Spirit (not that we are the Holy Spirit, just that we show others the love of God)? 
 
    B. How can people in the world see an invisible God, according to this passage?
 
Through each other’s love.

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Lizzy has kept us updated on Mary E through facebook — I know many of you, including me, don’t get there regularly. She’s going through more intensive therapy and is weak. Please pray for her. She sends her love and appreciation for your love and prayers.

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    Oh no.. :( :( Yes..praying..

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    C. What happens to us as we love one another according to this passage? How is this joining in the dance?
 
We are saved by Jesus. We are reflecting God through our love for others. Am I missing something here? I feel like I am answering the same thing for each question, leading me to believe I have not gotten something I should have in this set of verses.

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12. Share your notes and comments from the message.
 
I have to begin by saying taking notes on this lecture was about the most difficult time I have had in all my years in this blog.   I usually enjoy taking notes on the message, but not so much this time.  Because of this, my notes are a little less  than usual.  You will not be able to watch my notes and listen — sorry, it won’t work this time!    Near the beginning, Reeves made a couple of comments that upset me: 
 
(1) There is an urban legend that the concept of the trinity was dreamt up by some emotionally-constipated monks.   If they would have gone out and gotten a girlfriend, we would never had the idea of the Trinity.   
 
(2) We are supposed to believe in the Trinity, but it makes no earthly difference in our lives whatsoever.    It is the shackle of orthodoxy!   So the Trinity is almost as popular in most churches as it is in most mosques.   
 
I’m hoping that Reeves was not expressing his own opinion, but was trying to show what he thought was the opinion of a lot  of people.   
 
Reeves completely dispelled any credence to the comparisons of the Trinity with an egg, or water-steam-ice, or a shamrock.     He said to begin to understand the Trinity that he would take us back to the Athanasian Creed.     I don’t know about the rest of you, but I had barely heard of the Athanasian Creed, and his reference to it didn’t help me much.    If anyone wants to know its contents, you might want to consult:    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasian_Creed
 
What is it that distinguishes the Christian Gospel?  What is it that is at the heart of our gospel?   As a good Protestant what probably comes to mind is:  We are saved by God’s grace alone, not on the basis of what I do.   I simply trust Jesus and I am saved. 
 
Other religions are about you trying to earn your salvation; in Christianity it is all done for you.
 
Francis Xavier, a Roman Catholic missionary in the 16th century went to Japan; and he came across a very large Buddhist Jodo Shinshu sect.  Supposedly Xavier found an element resembling Christianity in this sect, because their god compassionately achieves salvation for you, leaving you with nothing to do other than trust him.     Reeves also quoted from a part of the Muslim Koran in  which it states “I am not the Trinity, I am a different god.”     Reeves thinks Christians should be careful to be specific about which God they are talking about.   He sort of wondered aloud why,  if someone says something about God in a large group, no one ever asks “which god?”   
 
Reeves spent quite a bit of time on the thoughts of Christopher Hitchens (not an atheist, but an anti-theist).   Hitchens felt that if a god did exist, it would be awful.   It would be like living under constant surveillance – much like living in North Korea.   God is a Big Brother in the Sky.  The fact that some people believe he does exist makes them act in some ways that are loathsome.   Serving that imaginary tyrant, they spread guilt and hypocrisy through the world.   They will start acting as the regime police, inflicting violence on those who don’t serve according to the despot’s whim.   Hitchens says the only way to start being truly moral is to eradicate this poisonous idea of a heavenly Hitler.   Atheists have spent loads of energy trying to take down the “dictator in the sky.” What has not been heard, not said loudly enough by the church, is that traditional Christianity has an absolutely, fundamentally different being in mind, when it talks of God.   Traditional Christianity actually stands with the anti-theist in opposing the dictator in the sky, because it has a radically alternative candidate for God.  Christians do not believe in a solitary, bearded old guy on the throne.   If God had been solitary throughout all eternity, never experiencing love because He had no one to love, He would become a dictatorial bully.   This is so unlike the Christian God.  
 
There is no personal relationship in the comparisons of the Trinity to an egg, water, or a shamrock. But God is a personal community of love.   The Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct persons loving each other.   That IS God!  The gospel collapses if you try to think of them as three bits of God or three masks.   It is not like you have three different gods who come together and just kind of like each other in a club.   Father is eternally Father.   Father cannot be on His own (has to be “father of…”  Son cannot be on His own.  He is the Son of….. The Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and Son.  So loving each other, they are who they are only in relation to each other.   A loving community.  
 
He referred to Genesis 1:27 (about marriage), Also said that in Deuteronomy 6:4 and Genesis 2:24, the same word for “one” is used, indicating a unity of persons.   
 
You cannot think of God without loving relationships.   He will not control from on high, but instead draws us into joy.   Our God is a fountain of overflowing love.    Simply knowing Him transforms selfish, nasty brutes into stars of loving, pleasant kindness.  
 

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    You’ve done it again, Deanna!

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8. Read 1 John 4:7-12
 
    A. Mike Reeves say that many, when the word God is mentioned, feel guilt. They imagine our God to be like Allah who controls but, being monolithic, has never learned to love. What do you learn about the love of Tri-une God from this passage?
 
The love of the Triune God is completely intertwined in this passage. 
The love of God the Father extends to everyone who is born of God and knows God. God’s love is shown in us because God sent His only begotten Son to us in flesh so we might have life. Love happens not because we 
love God on our own but because God sent Jesus His Son to be the appeasement for our sins. So if God loves us and He has demonstrated that He does through Jesus we in turn will love others because by having Jesus we have the Holy Spirit abiding in us and His love will be perfected in us. Verse 13 verifies the work of the Holy Spirit being given to us. 
 
 
 
    B. How can people in the world see an invisible God, according to this passage?
 
By the power of the Holy Spirit abiding in us and His love being perfected and demonstrated in our lives. From verse 14 it says we have a testimony that God has sent His Son to be Savior. Our lives show it.  
 
    C. What happens to us as we love one another according to this passage? How is this joining in the dance?
 
We are changed by God’s love in our lives through Jesus and the Holy Spirit perfects that love in us. 
All because of the love of God we have the wonderful privilege of joining into the oneness (the dance) of the Trinity. 
 
 
9. How, according to 1 John 4:13 do we know God abides in us? How have you sensed the Spirit in your life this week? (Last week Susan mentioned she found sensed Him, not through an extraordinary experience, but through truth in a radio podcast.)
 
We know because He has given us the Holy Spirit. 
The Holy Spirit was real to me in particular this week on Tuesday night.  I attended a women’s gathering at my church and I was part of a small group discussion that involved two young wives & mothers baring their souls over some very deep heartache and struggles going on in their lives. Both had heavy needs they are facing in their families. 
Situations that won’t be solved quickly. I am not by nature a doting, sympathetic touchy feely personality. But I do love and care deeply for both of these young women and the Holy Spirit led me to pray over each of them as they let themselves be transparent and vulnerable in sharing their needs.  I believe both of these friends left that evening knowing they were loved by God and by us that were with them. There was a strong sense the Holy Spirit was with us. 
 
 
10. How long has God loved the Son according to John 17:24? What does this teach about the tri-une God?
 
Jesus testifies to the fact that God his Father has practiced His love for him and has loved Him from Eternity past before they formed the world. The triune God is Eternal. 
 
 
11. How much does God love us according to John 17:23? Do you believe this?
 
God loves us even as He has loved Jesus. 
 
I believe it now but a few years ago I doubted His love for me and was slow to come to the realization of that very strong biblical truth as stated right here in this scripture. I have not had very much unconditional love practiced in my life over the years so my self worth struggled and I wasn’t convinced I had first place in even God’s love. Oh yes He loved me because every Christian knows God is Love and God loves us all but I felt kind of far down the line of His love because I felt unlovely. I just didn’t see myself as a “favorite” child and I knew I couldn’t earn it. 
Through Idol Lies and some of Dee’s early teaching from the Song of Solomon God began to speak His love to me and through His Word challenged me to confess my sin of doubt and to let Him embrace me with His love. My doubt was sin against Who God really is and says He is in His Word. The crux for me was being broken under the reality that His deep and great love was demonstrated on the Cross. No greater Love has been shown than when Jesus died at Calvary. 
 
I guess I would say the Holy Spirit has sealed that truth in my heart and all doubt has been removed. That is my experience now and I am seeing others differently because of that and I am freer to love others now because of it.  All Praise and Glory are His!!

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    Beautiful, Bev!

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7.  We should always be like the Bereans, sifting for truth and error. Outside of the Bible, even the comments in study Bibles, need to be sifted. There is gold in secular books and movies, and there is mud in Christian books and movies. Can you give an example of gold in a secular work and mud in a Christian work?
A. Gold in secular work: Les Miserables..I am not sure if the book the movie came from was written by a believer or not. I think those who made the movie were secular-but not sure. There are others I have watched but can’t recall now. :) 
 
B: Mud in Christian work: So off the top of my head I would pick the movie Courageous…oh my. My stomach was turning by the end when they signed that pact. I get that Fathers should be more involved but you can’t decide-or sign a pact and then be a good father. I’ve seen amazing fathers who travel all the time who can’t be there a lot but when they are there they are amazing because His love spills out onto their children when they are with them, but that comes from spending time with Jesus, not signing a pact.
There are others-most of them I can’t watch because they so easily solidify the stereotypes of Jesus- that aren’t true-which upsets me because of those watching He so loves and died for, are being misled. 
 
I will add that Bella is an amazing Christian move..Not preachy, but such an example of real life-Of His love. 

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Insightful commentary on Courageous, Rebecca.

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9. How, according to 1 John 4:13 do we know God abides in us? How have you sensed the Spirit in your life this week? (Last week Susan mentioned she found sensed Him, not through an extraordinary experience, but through truth in a radio podcast.)
 
We know we abide in Him because He has given us “…life from His very own Spirit.” (The Message) How sweet! 
 
I haven’t felt very close to Jesus this week. He seems far away. I have found some strength in my dieting this week that I normally don’t have, and I don’t know where it has come from.
 
I guess a blessing I have had is that my youngest son has been in Spain since January and won’t be home until November. He is doing 2 semesters abroad 😔. I miss him, and have been able to talk to him a few times (more than normal). He sent me a sweet Mothers Day gift and wants me to come to visit him. I am not a fan of going to Europe right now, but I do miss him. He found a $479 flight (cheap) and is hounding me to come. I am praying that God sends me the “go ahead” but so far I haven’t “heard” anything and most likely will miss the good flight. I guess that might be my answer?! I think he misses me.

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    I would say the strength for eating right is coming from Him! :-)

    Often the way I “hear” is a peace. Do you have that?

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      Yes Dee, it is a peaceful feeling!

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10. How long has God loved the Son according to John 17:24? What does this teach about the tri-une God?
 
God loved the Son long before the world existed.
 
I think it shows that the triune God is everlasting.

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12. Share your notes and comments from the message.

I don’t have time to share all my notes from the message but it was a further reiteration of points made in last weeks message and I appreciate the insights to the uniqueness of our God and His being a triune God from all eternity which is the basis for Him being a God of love.  I have never thought of love being a dynamic that cannot stand alone.  I think I understand Reeves as saying that there has to be relationship for love to be applied and lived out.  In other words it takes two to love. In the case of Our triune God there are three.   Love happens in a circle of fellowship.  We love when there is someone to love just as God the Father loves because He has the Son to love.  The Son in experiencing the love of his Father in turn loves us and by the power of the Holy Spirit draws us into that circle of love and fellowship.  The Trinity is all important to Who our God is and no other “religion” has a God like Him.  Taking this from my notes Reeves in essence said  “Christians need to identify the One true God who is not a solitary being from eternity past living only unto Himself. Love has been active and dynamic from before the creation of the world in the relationship of God the Father to God the Son. God is a father loving his son. Father means love.”  but that is not an exact quote.

Saturday 
     13. What is your take-a-way this week and why?

What I just wrote above in answer to question 12 would be my take-a-way because it is at the heart of this weeks study. The Reality of Who my God is as a Triune God of love and the wonderful privilege I have of being part of that wonderful dance that results from the circle of fellowship. Our God is beyond amazing!!

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    This link is SO BEAUTIFUL, Dee! You have summarized the precious truths of Songs of Songs together wonderfully. It brings tears.  I am so looking forward to your book, “He Calls You Beautiful”. I wish ALL women could see the truth that He calls them beautiful!

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    Lovely Dee! It worked!

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Test click on the word test and see if it works!  :)

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    yes it worked! I still haven’t found the Ravi video though….that link didn’t work for me 😔.

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