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The Shack:The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

 

My thoughts concerning Wm. Paul Young’s best-selling novel (Note:this review was written in 2010, but with the movie coming out this year, I thought I would republish it)

By Jesse Jost

Like most reviews of The Shack, I start out by telling you that my curiosity was piqued by hearing friends rave about the book, both in favor of it and against. It’s hard to resist reading a book that draws the fire of trusted conservative voices such as Mark Driscoll and Hank Hanegraaff, while at the same time garnering from Eugene Peterson one of the greatest compliments a Christian work of fiction can receive:  He compared it to Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress. Curiosity finally got the best of me and I picked up a copy of this story that has been on the bestseller lists for months and now fills the pages of over three million books worldwide. Now that I have read it, I understand the controversy and compliments this book has stirred. My own journey to the shack increased my dangerous leaning towards schizophrenia…part of me loved certain aspects of the book, while the other part of me was battling feeling “queasy” (to use Hanegraaff’s word) and agitated. So this review will be written by two people in one body. The parts praising the book will be written by my “ego”, while my concerns will be written by my “id”. (I may be using Freud’s terminology wrong, but only because I don’t care to do the research needed to accurately portray Freud’s theories. If he doesn’t like it, he can blame it on my repressed memories.)

Continue reading…

  • Bill Taylor

    Awesome review! My thoughts put down in your words. Hope it is okay to share.

  • Heidi

    Just take what God gives you & let go of the rest…don’t taint & polute for others. Who are we to even begin to touch on what God may do or heal another through a means he so chooses? He used a donkey…enuf said?

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“Look What the World Has Come to”

dreamstime_xs_52625128By Jesse Jost

Wherever you look, deterioration and disintegration are the natural order of things. The law of entropy is a brutal beast. With the near constant slide away from God that we see in our nations, churches, and relationships, it is easy to become cynical. In fact, it seems a badge of righteousness to be a prophet of doom, and bemoan the secularization of religious institutions, churches, and culture. It’s as if we feel our ability to highlight decay or trends toward liberalism is proof of our faithfulness.

But griping about moral decline is not a sign of godliness. Listen to any talk show, or coffee table chat, and you will hear rants about how bad things are getting, even from the most ungodly sources. It is not a righteous or godly thing to complain about the state of things. It is a human thing. Ever since we left Eden we long for “the good ol days,” (often glossing over the bad and exaggerating the good) and bemoan the inevitable slide towards degeneration.

When God made the world, we were assigned to be the caretakers of creation and in our rebellion, we made a horrendous mess: Endless violence, infanticide, rape, the oppression of women, slavery, the exploitation of the poor and weak, etc. There was every reason to despair.

But then something radical and unexpected happened. Continue reading…

  • Brian

    Very refreshing Jesse. It’s what I needed to hear this morning. It stops the mouth of the accuser.

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Is God Qualified For the Job?

dreamstime_xs_65772136By Jesse Jost

Imagine that the position of Ruler of the Universe became available. If you got the job what would be your first act? Stamping out ISIS? Eradicating cancer? Ending world hunger? With unlimited power at your disposal, these things should be easy to accomplish before moving on to eliminate hate and bigotry, right?

Even with all the wildly divergent beliefs and religions, if there is one thing we humans can agree on, this world is a messed up place. There is a deep groaning that things are not the way they are supposed to be. It often seems like God, considering the endless resources He must have at His disposal, could be doing a better job of cleaning up the mess and doing more to intervene and stop the bleeding. Is this really the case?

A defining attribute of humanity is our overweening presumption that we could be doing a better job than the person who is actually doing the job. With absolutely no comprehension of the finer details or the options that are really available, we feel full confidence to criticize and complain about how a job is being handled. From the decisions of the church board, to the executive orders of the president, we seem sure that were we in that position, we would have accomplished more, and done it better.

Are you more qualified for the job of God? It seems a foolish question to ask, but I raise it because so many of our attitudes and actions seem to reflect that, deep down, we really believe we know better than God.

Before we look at how qualified you are for the position of Supreme Potentate, let’s look at how well you’ve handled the job of being Human. Ever longed for something that you thought would make you happy, only to find it brought heartbreak instead? Have you ever uttered words that you have regretted? Ever look back and are grateful that you didn’t have the power or opportunity to act on the ill will that violent anger stirred? How often do you stick to your own goals and standards? Ever find yourself doing something you swore you never would? Continue reading…

  • Jesse

    Thank you for taking the time to write this Jesse.

  • Nancy Bowman

    Well said, Jesse! It encourages; it exhorts; and it exposes lies and cherished, vain imaginings about who we think we are. This is useful in the kingdom. May it bear much fruit. ~N.

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Appetizers from Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God”

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By Jesse Jost

In the late 1940s, A.W. Tozer was riding a train and, as was his habit, in prayer and meditation. He started recording his thoughts and by the time the train arrived the first draft of “The Pursuit of God” was written.

Tozer was a man who knew the ecstasy of genuine communion with God. Aides at his church would often hear Tozer alone in his office moaning in wonder and adoration of God. When Tozer wrote of God He wrote with a reverent familiarity few have acquired this side of heaven.

I read “The Pursuit of God” a couple times in my late teens/early twenties and I remember being so impacted by it. I finally revisited it this week. Wow, what a power packed, spiritually challenging and inspiring book.

Whether you have read this book before or have never heard of it, I urge you to read it. Free kindle copies are available on amazon and it’s only 128 pages.

Below are some of the main ideas I condensed from each chapter, along with key excerpts from several chapters to give you a taste how potent Tozer’s pen really was. I hope you are encouraged to pursue God with more vigor and that you find your appetite for Him aroused by Tozer’s thoughts

If you want more information on Tozer’s life I have written some notes HERE that I gleaned from a biography called “A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer” Written by Lyle W Dorsett

Chapter 1: Following hard after God

Don’t rest content with academic “knowledge of God” pursue the intimate, soul delighting experiential knowledge of God. Knowing God in this way is eternal life, it is what Paul valued more than anything else.

“Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in and out of season, and when they had found Him the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking.”

“I want to deliberately encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is the deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people.’ Continue reading…

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BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF A.W. TOZER

fullsizerender-1By Jesse Jost

Leonard Ravenhill, the late passionate revivalist claimed to advise every “Bible student with whom I have contact by phone or letter or in person: Buy all the books Dr. A.W. Tozer has written and digest them.” He said that to know Dr. Tozer was a great blessing. To pray with him was to be in the Holy Place!”

Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897-1963) was a pastor, writer, and passionate God-seeker. His writings continue to stir hearts and light deep desires to really know God. Tozer’s writing played a big role in my spiritual formation, so I was eager to read a biography of him called “A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer” Written by Lyle W Dorsett.

Tozer had his own blind spots and weaknesses, but he would have been the first to point those out. His desire was not to glorify himself but to point people to God. I found his life fascinating. So if you have been impacted by Tozer and were curious about the man behind his books, here are my notes on his life.

Aiden was born the middle child of Jake and Prude Tozer. His grandmother was his only spiritual influence, but was a pain and critical of Prude.

Aiden’s sister was told to watch the bread in the oven; Gma came over and said the stove needed more wood. The house caught fire, but Gma kept the girl busy saving only Gma’s stuff. The fire fractured the family.

Aiden’s father, Jake Tozer was a stern, depressed caustic, distant man. He worked hard farming but never made any money. When Tozer was 14, the family moved to Akron, Ohio, where Tozer’s oldest brother got their father a job at B.F. Goodrich. Aiden tried to sell things on commission on trains but was no salesman.

He became converted at 17 at a tent meeting. Met his future wife Ada shortly after. Ada’s mother was his spiritual mentor for a while. Aiden soon was revealed as a gifted speaker and discovered that he was called to the ministry of teaching and speaking. Continue reading…

  • Mitzie Clarke

    I have read the books of A W Tozer for years but I never read his biography. It is quite interesting. It give me greater incite into his writings.

  • Dean Morford

    Read everything and anything of Mr Tozer’s you can. It WILL have a great influence on your spiritual journey.

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Motivation and the Christian Life

dreamstime_xs_61827956By Jesse Jost

Apart from enough motivation, growth and positive change are nearly impossible. As followers of Christ, we have a call to grow in holiness and to daily become more like Christ. We are also to grow in good works as we seek to bring Christ’s love and healing to this hurting and broken world.

But without strong internal motivation to actively pursue these things, we grow stagnant, or worse, we grow cold and apathetic, and surrender to the forces of destruction and decay.

We can rail and scold and threaten all we want, but apart from a healthy source of motivation, (and Spiritual power) all commanding of the will is weak and ineffective. I want to be clear up front that to be saved or regenerated, no amount of human motivation will be enough to bring change, we need a supernatural new birth. I am talking about our part in sanctification that is influenced by our efforts or lack there of. What will we choose to build with on the foundation we have been given? Will it be wood, hay and stubble? Or something enduring? (1 Cor 3:11-14)

Where do we look for effective motivation to obey the divine call to holiness that is on our lives?

POISONOUS SOURCES OF MOTIVATION

Before we discuss positive motivation, I think it’s important to examine the destructive sources of motivation that people often turn to when they want change.

Guilt

Guilt is a powerful motivator. The psychological pain of regret and self-loathing is excruciating and we will do just about anything to be free of it. The problem with being motivated by guilt is that there’s nothing we can ultimately do to atone for our wrong deeds. No amount of good deeds can wash away the stain or undo the damage. Guilt is a slave driver that drives a painful and purposeless treadmill. It is like digging your way out of a hole. The harder you work the worse the problem gets. Guilt only leads to burnout and discouragement.

Fear

Our mind has a potent imagination factory that produces startling horror movies of the future. These images can exert a strong control over us. We all have a strong aversion to loss and Satan can uses these made up (and false) glimpses of the future like puppet strings, pulling us away from the life of faith and surrender God is calling us to.

Please note the fear I am talking about here is different from the fear of God or an awareness of consequences. These are appropriate responses to God’s revealed truth. I am warning against Satan’s psychological manipulation that is based on lies and distortion, manipulation that works by casting doubt on God’s goodness or His sovereignty.

Approval of Man

Jesus warns very strongly against doing our good deeds to be seen by men. God cares about why we do things not just what we do. The fear of man brings a snare. (Proverbs 29:25)

This seeking men’s approval is, in some ways, the basis of civilization in a fallen world. People who are alone, and have had the restraining influence of “what will people think” removed, are often disgusted by the filth that rises to the surface of their own hearts.

The shame and praise we live for can have a dynamic effect on the outside, but will be impotent to change the inside. Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7) The danger in living for man’s approval is the opportunity for self-deception. Because we can selectively edit the image we want to project, it is relatively easy appear more sanctified that we really are. When we live by the appraisal of men, we may believe we are as holy as we appear and fail to notice spiritual cancers that are slowly eroding our character.

Another problem in living for man’s approval is that it can be incredibly demotivating. A few words of criticism, or even lack of recognition can be discouraging, and cause us to shrug, “Why bother?” But God’s call for diligent obedience is for Him and His glory. He sees and notices. The fact that men wrongly interpret things or fail to notice doesn’t change the eternal value of obedience.

Comparing and Competition

Continue reading…

  • Timothy

    I think the true source of motivation is something we arrive at in a much more mystical, and less cerebral way.

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5 Reasons Satan Loves Conspiracy Theories

dreamstime_xs_51403657By Jesse Jost

There is something so tantalizing about a conspiracy theory. It helps us make sense of the evil in this world to place the blame for societal decay on some secret organization, or sinister plot that is going on behind the scenes. I am fascinated by conspiracy ideas, they make for best sellers and great entertainment. But are conspiracy theories spiritually beneficial to us? I don’t think so and here’s why:

1. They create intellectual pride.

Our pride is fed by the belief that we have access to information to which the ignorant masses are unaware. We feel good, knowing we are among the “enlightened ones.” Satan uses conspiracy theories to make us feel “wise in our own eyes.” We enter dangerous territory: “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 26:12)

We need to realize that we are all prone to seeing patterns where none exist. We suffer from confirmation bias that only allows us to recognize evidence that confirms our theory and discount everything else. And we have motivated reasoning that makes us prone to self deception. Only by a humble acknowledgement of our own fallibility and a deep dependence on God’s spirit to guide us to truth can we minimize the blinding effects of pride.

2. They cause us to lose credibility.

Intellectual pride blinds us. While we feel that we are more likely see through shams and less likely to be duped, we actually become more susceptible to both. When Christians are quick to share conspiracy theories or urban legends, our role as ambassadors is damaged. We are to be prophets of truth and one of our most important messages is the miraculous, but also historical, resurrection of Christ. When our unbelieving neighbours see us believing stuff that a quick trip to snopes.com would easily dispel, how can they trust that our proclamation of the resurrection or our faith in God’s word is credible?

3. They cause fear and discouragement.

A common implied message accompanying conspiracy theories is that certain problems are too big for anybody to handle. Power is entrenched in high places, and there is nothing we can do about it except be faithful Chicken Littles warning that the sky is falling. I’m all for exposing corruption and shedding light on a problem, but only for the sake of a call to action accompanied by practical steps we can take to reduce or eliminate the problem. What we need more than ever is hope. When we lose vision for how we can make a difference, evil starts to win. Continue reading…

  • L. M.

    Great post, Jesse! The obsession of many good Christian Conservatives with conspiracies has long bothered me as well. We truly do damage the credibility of our witness for the Lord Jesus by being obsessed with paranoia about unsubstantiated things like the Illuminati or GMO’s or the dozens of other conspiracy theories out there. There are plenty of genuinely diabolical evils out there that we as Believers should be working to expose (the abortion crisis and human trafficking come to mind) – but being frightened at shadows only dilutes our ability to deal with genuine concerns and separates us from our only source of hope and power to overcome, Jesus. The real “shadowy power” manipulating people is, simply, the power of sin – not just some mere human organization – and Christ has called us to be agents of deliverance to overcome this very real – but very defeatable – evil.

  • Guest

    It’s not just bad for our credibility, it can lead us to hell. Because of conspiracy theories and the fear of modernism more and more people are coming to loathe Pope Francis because he is compassionate but is not concerned about the small t traditions. Jesus also did that and the Pharisees hated Him for healing on the sabbath. People hate him because he refuses to condemn sinners, thinks the good deeds he does in public are just for show, and doesn’t follow their traditions. They think he’s a false prophet and antichrist, even thought he’s the Pope.

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My Glory Weed and the Way of the Cross

dreamstime_xs_39198853By Jesse Jost

A glory weed threatens to strangle me. Its ravenous appetite for praise, recognition, and social media likes devours moments where my strengths are on display. Twined by its thorny embrace, I am jealous of others’ chances to shine, and frustrated when platforms are denied me. I can be reduced to a pathetic approval addict, compulsively checking my phone or computer for likes and comments. With deep-reaching thorns, my glory weed stabs my ego, tormenting me with past criticisms and a haunting sense of being rejected and ignored.

I hate this weed. Yet nothing feels as good as watering it by revelling in past successes and words of praise.

My predicament goes much deeper than my glory weed. I also have a deadly form of spiritual cancer that is attacking my passions and desires. Physical cancer corrupts healthy tissues into a lethal, spreading force. In the same way, my cancer perverts healthy, God-given desires into enslaving passions that grow painful tumours on my soul. My cancer is my selfishness, my greed for my will, done in my way, in my time. It morphs my sex drive into lust, my desire for justice into a cruel passion for revenge, my hunger into gluttony, my protective instincts into anxiety and fear-based control, my need for love into a crippling pursuit of approval, and my worshipping into idolatry. The reach of such a soul cancer is broad and terrifying. A godly desire to use my gifts for God’s glory has often metastasized into a yearning for self-promotion.

I am troubled by the disease and enslavement within, but am often at a loss for how to deal with them. Fasts and self-discipline have been impotent to bring lasting change. I can clean up fairly nice on the outside. I have been a Christian long enough to know the right things to say that will make me sound humble, godly, and spiritual. But deep down I see too clearly that the person I truly am is nowhere near as Christ-like as the person I want you to see. Continue reading…

  • Bill Emmerson

    Praise God for his mercies

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The Books That Have Shaped Me

IMG_6201By Jesse Jost

Its been said that the person we are becoming is shaped by the people we hang out with and the books we read. These are some of the best books that I have ever read; they have stirred me, convicted me, and also brought great pleasure. They are listed below in no particular order, but organized by category. I highly recommend any book on this list! Comment below on the books that have had the biggest impact on you or brought you the most joy. Happy reading!

ChristianLiving/Theology

Unoffendable by Brant Hansen

Very impacting book that set me free from a lot of self righteous anger and my critical spirit that so often “wounds me.” So good!

Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ by Matt Papa

One of several books I’ve read lately that keep me focused on Jesus and the power of the Gospel. Jesus truly becomes more desirable and awesome to me with each passing year.

Eyes Wide Open by Steve DeWitt

Really opened my eyes to the beauty of God and how much we miss.

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

Showed how the love exemplified in the trinity is the foundation for a correct understanding of all theology. Amazing book.

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken

A man discouraged and feeling abandoned finds the power of God among the most persecuted Christians around the world. Makes you squirm, but is so faith affirming.

The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy War by Joshua Ryan Butler

As someone who has struggled with doubts about God’s goodness because of the doctrine of hell and the God-sanctioned brutality in the Old Testament, this book was so refreshing and convicting. Hell and Judgement day are not truths that call God’s goodness into question, they are great proofs of His passionate love for His creation. God has a love with teeth that will not stop until He has removed the hell from our hearts, and hell from from His glorious creation. Judgement day is good news for the down-trodden and oppressed and all who are in Christ Jesus.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis Continue reading…

  • Rebecca

    Makes me want to order a stack of books for my nightstand!! Your recommendations hold more clout than you may realize. = ) Grateful for how you use your reading to gain and give a more detailed picture of the Father.

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New Podcast!

12370863_1120135844672293_7840213459121591541_oWe are pleased to announce the creation of our own podcast channel. You can find our channel here: http://purityandtruth.podbean.com/

Or find our podcast on itunes by searching for “purity and truth” or “Jesse Jost”.

I am currently uploading all 20 sessions of my three part church history series, after that I plan on continuing to upload the audio from many of my past speaking engagements on topics such as apologetics, evangelism, and romantic relationships. Check it out and book mark the page to check back in the future.

I hope my words are an encouragement to you. God bless!

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