Monday, March 28, 2011

SEX GOD: Some thoughts on the book.

So this morning I was getting my oil changed. I brought a long a couple of books to read, because you never know how long something like this might take. Turns out, it wasn't much of a wait, but it finally gave me a chance to finish the last chapter of Rob Bell's "Sex God: Exploring the endless connections between sexuality & spirituality."

Being the type of person that I am, I can't resist leaving a book like that on the table for the other customers to see while I am up at the counter talking to the staff. When I came back, the man & woman who had been sitting there both kind of had this confused look on their faces as they averted their eyes from my gaze. (Which reminds me; I must think of my annual joke to play on the rest of my family for April Fools Day. It's only a few days away.)

Anyway, I figured that even though the book came out in 2007, I would do my own review for my friends who read my nonsense on this blog. But for starters, I want to do a recap of the other Bell books that I've read, so as to put a little context on this.

Velvet Elvis: I would only recommend this book under certain conditions. (This is the book that caused such a stink years ago.) #1. If you are a "Calvinist," especially a hard-core Calvinist, DO NOT read this book. It will only cause you to have seizures. #2. If you are very new to the faith, and/or are sort of the "Weaker Brother," (No insult intended.) I would stay away from this book. It can honestly be confusing, especially if you don't understand the context from Bell's biblical world view. However, if you feel secure in your faith and can handle some honest disagreements, then go for it.

Jesus wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile: This one is only controversial if you are big into the whole "Religious Right" thing. If you believe that America, or any other kingdom of man, can be confused with actually being a "Christian Country," then you won't like this book.

And now for Sex God: I recommend it! But not for the reasons you might think.

First off, if you are looking for something racy or semi-naughty, due to the title, sorry but this ain't it. In fact, in some ways, I was a little disappointed because I thought that he would be more specific in some areas. Seriously, with chapter titles such as "God wears lipstick" and "Whoopee Forever," I thought that Bell might actually touch on some examples. However, the book is pretty much a "Big Picture" view of sexuality and humanity.

And for the record, I can't find the slightest thing controversial about this book. Even John Piper would like it. So I'd recommend it to everyone.

Actually, I think that before I comment on anything specific, I'll just let these videos tell their own story. I think that they are excellent explanations.


Bell begins the book with the premise that first attracted me to his style of ministry to begin with. In the first chapter "God Wears Lipstick," Bell begins with an eyewitness account of a freshly liberated concentration camp in WW2. He points out that "A concentration camp is designed to strip people of their humanity. It's anti-human. And in the Scriptures, anything that is anti-human is anti-God." Bell then goes on to point out what I have heard from him many, many times about all humanity being created in the image of God. "Everybody, everywhere. Bearers of the divine image."

Think about the ramifications of that idea? Grasp it, and you pretty much have the entire book summed up.

The way you treat others...that living, breathing divine how you show or DON'T show contempt or respect towards God. How much more so does a person's sexuality play into this?

Towards the end of that chapter, Bell points out that "A church exists to be a display of the new humanity," i.e. Seeing people as God sees them.

"When I respect the image of God in others, I protect the image of God in me. When Jesus speaks of loving our neighbor, it isn't just for our neighbor's sake. If we don't love our neighbor, something happens to us."

There is plenty to comment on about the book, but I want to stop here and give you a couple of true stories. I would also like to state that I am not trying to convict or "Guilt" anyone. I just want to offer some food for thought.

True Story #1. Many years ago at work, we were taking a lunch break. One of the guys was telling everyone about the strip club he had gone to the night before. He had received a "Lap Dance," and had enjoyed it thoroughly. I hadn't said a word or made a face during that entire story, yet he felt compelled to tell me to "Lighten up."

So I kept my voice completely calm and asked him some questions. (I also told him that I wasn't judging him in anyway...just asking questions.) I asked, "So when she was doing her thing on your lap, what were you thinking? Were you thinking, "Wow, what an intelligent & capable gal. I'll bet she is really worth getting to know?" OR, were you thinking "Boy would I like to **** ** *** *** right now?"

He expressed his desire to do the later, and not so much the former.

So then I asked him, "So if that were your sister, mom or daughter, would you like some other guy thinking those thoughts about her?"

He got a little upset and said "My daughter would never..."

I cut him off and said, "Yeah, but she IS someone's daughter, sister or maybe even a mother.!!!"

It's just a thought, but if you wouldn't appreciate someone else viewing your family member in that way, perhaps you should try to resist doing it to others. Like I said, it's just a thought.

Again, this is not meant to "Guilt" anyone. If Jesus is correct about poking out your own eye, and lopping off your own hand to avoid the sin of lust, then I'm a blind man typing with my toes.

True Story #2. I have a friend that I care a lot about. However, he tends to be rather hedonistic with his body. He likes to tell me that "Sex is as natural to me as breathing." (Which of course implies that he is dependent upon sex as much as he is on breathing to sustain life.) He tells me that he follows Jesus. However, I have to question that. I think he may want a Savior, but not a Lord. I often get the feeling that the god he worships the most is his penis.

I should say that one area where this book really disappointed me was the lack of going into detail about honoring God with our bodies, because I truly think it applies to this exact situation. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul goes on a long time about how Christ is now a part of our very bodies. Therefore, what we do with our bodies, we are also doing to Jesus. Paul compares the act of sexual union with becoming "One Flesh." ("Marriage," if you will.) So in essence, the sexual act is your becoming one person with another human being. That really doesn't work so well if you are Becoming One with numerous people.

At any rate, to my friend I would like to ask this question: "How comfortable do you feel telling this person that you have just had intercourse with about this Jesus who was voluntarily murdered on a cross for YOUR sins and THEIRS? Does it feel like a great time to bring that up while you are putting your underwear back on? Does telling this person about how much Jesus loves them and wants to make them a new creation feel a little awkward after you de-couple?"

If it does feel a little out of place at that point, I just feel that some re-thinking & re-ordering might be a good idea.

Back to the book.
In the final chapter, "Whoopee Forever," Bell brings up a very interesting point. He is talking about the new heaven & earth. There will be no need for a sun, because the light of God will shine on everything.

Bell writes; "Light exposes things. Light shows how things really are. There is no hiding in light. Light is freedom. There is nothing to fear because everything is shown to be exactly what it is. In the light, everybody is known fully. Which is what people crave in sex isn't it? To be known fully and still loved, still embraced, still accepted."

Bell goes on to point out that God is making all things new. He says that "For many people, sex is brief moments when everything is OK with the world, even if it isn't." But what happens when God finally does make everything new, and the world is as it should be? If sex is so amazing, can you even try to imagine what life will feel like in the new heaven & earth? WOW!

Like I said, there is plenty to comment on about the book. I can't cover it all. But I will say that there is plenty in there even for single people like myself. I'm not married. I've grown used to that state...grudgingly. At this point, I don't know if it will ever happen, or if I really want it to. (That's why I have a dog now...who likes to go fishing.)

So what about people like me? The Bible does make it plain that I should be celibate. Is this a restriction? Or is it actually a freedom? On page 162, Bell states that "According to Jesus, some people are so devoted to God that they don't need to be married. They have transcended the married state, moving past it to a place of union with God in which having a spouse is simply unnecessary...As if it's the most normal thing imaginable."

I need to hear things like that. I honestly would like to be so close & tight with God that he is the only thing on my mind every waking hour of the day. I doubt that this will happen in THIS life, but I want it to be a growing desire in me.

Oddly enough, my final thought on that doesn't come from this particular book. Instead it comes from Shane Claiborne's book, "The Irresistible Revolution." Shane had been talking to a monk who had taken a vow of poverty & celibacy. The monk told Shane, "We can live without sex, but we cannot live without love, and God IS love."




P.S. For more on Shane Claiborne, go to this link

P.S.S. And now, since we're on the subject of sex, something completely filthy...

Dis-GUSTING! (I need a stern talking-to.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Childlike Inquisition.

"Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But his disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, "let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."" (Matt. 19:13 & 14)

But don't stop there. Flip open your bible and read that bit again, and then continue reading all the way to the end of the chapter.

For those of you lazy enough not to do what I tell you you to, (Shame on you) the story that follows the blessing of the kids is the one about the rich, young ruler who gets frustrated because Jesus advises him to get rid of everything he has and simply follow him.

I don't think it's an accident that Levi put those stories next to each other like that. Little kids in all of their naive' innocence being blessed by Jesus, with parents acting in very basic faith, contrasted with a very intelligent & wealthy fella getting everything all complicated and walking away frustrated.

Not long before this, Jesus disciples were asking him which of them would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus' response? "He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will NEVER enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."" (Matt. 18:2-4)

I would love to have been a fly on the wall at that one.

You ever get the feeling that we try and complicate Christianity too much? Well, maybe Christianity IS complicated. But I don't think that Jesus is.

I woke up this morning and was reading various posts on blogs and news sites. Most of it was about theological stuff. Plenty of it is still on Rob Bell's new book "Love Wins." One of my favorite sites is from an old seminary professor of mine, Dr. Roger Olson.

Here's a link to a book review he did of Bell's book.

Here's a link to another post of his that really got me thinking about how confusing we make Christianity out to be in the U.S.

"New Fundamentalism?" I'm not even sure what the old fundamentalism was supposed to be...other than polyester suits and bad haircuts.

It did make me think back to the very first post that I did on this blog. (My friends were right. I was way too "Wordy" back then.)

My friend Brian & I had taken a road trip to Tennessee to see the music sites. We were in Memphis and I noticed a ton of church buildings everywhere. Then I started to read the names of the "Churches." I saw "New Faith Baptist Church." The next block had an "Old Faith Baptist Church." A block after that was the "NEW Old Faith Baptist Church." (You can guess where I am going with this.)

Should it really be that complicated?

When I was a baby, my Dad would hold me up with one arm while I stood in his palm eating a cracker. (Gotta find that picture somewhere.) I didn't have a complicated understanding of HOW Dad did that, or the reasons WHY I could trust him. I just trusted. He's my Daddy.

Then I grew up.

I learned that to be able to trust my Dad, I had to understand everything about him. I had to understand the specifics of how his arm worked in relation to gravity. I had to believe that my Dad had predestined me to stand in his hand...even though others argued that I was "Preveniently" given the choice to stand there. I had to understand what it was that motivated him to love me, and why he would hold me aloft in the first place. Later, I would take classes at Bethel Seminary to understand why I was given a cracker to eat while my Dad held me. (There were advanced classes in which crackers were to be used for particular denominations, and what they represented.)

I should state that while in High School, I developed a fixation with "Eschatology," the study of End-Times. I read a lot of books on prophecy that predicted when my Dad's arm would get tired, and what crackers & juice would be served in the new heaven & earth. I had heard that the "Rapture" (Or the "Dropping of the Arm in the Blink of an Eye.") would occur in 1988. I was pleased at this, since it was predicted to happen during a period of tough exams at Bethel.

All along, I was told by numerous people not to associate myself with others who did not stand in their Dad's hands properly. It wasn't good enough for them to simply stand there trusting. They had to have the proper concept of their Dads. I was warned to be wary of certain crackers that were used by other hand-standers. They could cause fits of the spleen if digested improperly.

The following is often what was done by me and my friends to those who were not proper hand-standers.

After I went into the ministry, I got beat up by a whole bunch of people who claimed that they were standing in their Dad's hand. For a time, I was very angry with my Dad for letting this happen to me. These people claimed to be hand-standers. They could tell me everything I needed to know for good, orthodox hand-standing. But when they hit me, I didn't see them standing in any hands at all.

So where am I now? Well, I think that learning about my Dad is very, very important. I should try to understand him. He's my Dad after all. However, I don't think that I really need to understand every little nuance about him to be able to simply stand in his hand. I know he loves me and that I can trust him. He is my Dad after all.

When it comes to other hand-standers...well, I guess I should keep my eyes open and watch you stand. I mean, you can tell me all about the proper techniques of hand-standing, and which cracker I should use & why. You can even tell me all about your Dad. You can break down your understanding of your Dad into tombs of literature that is very impressive indeed.

But I still have to actually SEE you stand in his hand to believe you. And that often takes time & patience on my part. So I won't judge least not at first...hopefully not for a long time. But I still have to watch you get in that hand, take that cracker and stand there with the palm open as he raises you up over his head.

Back to Matthew 18: "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But anyone who causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea...see that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." (Matt. 18:5-6 & 10-11)

Yes, that's me with my Guardian Angel, Molly. (Adorable, I know)

What is it about little kids & Jesus? They seem to know a lot more about innocent faith than adults do.

I don't wanna grow up. I prefer being a child. (If only I could go back again)



P.S. Is "Christianity" a religion? Or can it just be a relationship with Jesus?

I had no idea that the two strains of Judaism were Hasidic and Alkali. (Get it????) Hahahaha.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bell's Hells (Part 2)

  • a person who holds religious beliefs in conflict with the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church
  • a person who holds unorthodox opinions in any field (not merely religion)

Oops! I guess that makes me one. I guess it makes anyone who is not Catholic one, too. In fact, I guess that everyone is a heretic at some point in their life. Nice to know it's an inclusive term...and also one that is relatively pointless to throw at others.

Well, this is the second part of my contribution to the whole mess that swirls around Rob Bell and his "Love Wins" book. I'll even post the same video that got the thing going on my FaceBook page. After that, I'm going to go on a rant about things I have observed on this whole issue. Yippy!

In case you're curious, here is a link to the first portion.

#1. The title of this clip is absurd. Claiming that "Pastor claims hell does not exist," and then having an interview in which the preacher talks about the very real existence of hell, is akin to someone saying that I deny the existence of baldness, and then having me talk about my own hair loss for 5 minutes.

#2. Rob Bell believes strongly in the existence of hell. My friend Dan Hay is still hogging my copy of Velvet Elvis, so I can't give you every page number. However, I do recall that on pages 147-149, Bell writes extensively about the existence of hell. Bell just happens to believe that both heaven & hell are not merely places you go to after you kick the bucket. Bell believes that they are also current and present realities that confront the living.

#3. In Velvet Elvis, Bell makes an interesting statement. He says that "Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is also full of forgiven people." This should lead the reader to a couple of thoughts:
A) Bell believes that on the cross, Jesus' sacrifice brought forgiveness to everyone. The only question is wether or not people will accept that. If they don't, well, they have hell to pay. (For the record, I don't agree with him. I believe that Christ has extended forgiveness to everyone. Either way, you get the same result.) B) Bell is an "Arminian" when it comes to the whole "Predestination VS. Free-Will" debate. And that brings up a very important point...

#4. The vast majority of people who go into seizures when Bell opens his mouth are "Calvinists"... and often some type of Dispensationalist, too. (Not that all Calvinists are anti-Bell) It seems that he more hard-core you are on that issue, the more likely you are to find Rob Bell infuriating. (John Piper being a prime example of that. He's so Hyper-Calvinist that John Calvin is probably to wishy-washy for him.)

#5. Every person brings their baggage to the table when thinking about Jesus. We need to admit & acknowledge that. It colors our view of scripture. Our little, finite brains love to try and figure out the infinite God of the Bible entirely. We get him down to a nice, easy formula, and then go into fits when someone else has a different formula...and then claim that the other guy doesn't believe in "Truth."

This brings up another issue...

#6. For the record, I want to state what, in my opinion, is the most important quote in the Bible. (Again, it's just my opinion.) "Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) That's a pretty absolute statement by Jesus. Not much there for wiggle room.

I'm willing to be flexible on a lot of theology. Personally, I find the whole Calvinist VS. Arminian debate to be completely ridiculous. It doesn't do much in helping me love my neighbor as myself, so who really cares? However, there is one area that I will never bend on, and that's the centrality of Jesus. I take him at his word when he said that he is the only way.

I want to be clear though. I'm talking about the Jesus of the four Gospels. NOT the Jesus of the Book of Mormon. NOT the Jesus of the fraudulent bible that the Jehovah's Witnesses use. NOT the Jesus of the Koran. And NOT the "Santa-Christ" Jesus of the "Name it & Claim it" money grubbers who have turned Jesus into a divine vending machine and/or genie. NO, just stick to the Gospels, thank you very much.

If you follow that Jesus, then you are my brother or sister. If you don't, then you are not. Simple as that.

#7. So let's say that you & I are on the same page, scripturally speaking, when it comes to the Jesus of the Gospels. Well then, I'm willing to listen to what you have to say. I may not agree with all of it, but you're still my brother/sister.

In fact, a story applies to this: You heard about the 4 blind guys who were asked to describe an elephant? One dude grabs an ear and says that an elephant is like a sail. Another grabs a leg and says that an elephant is like a tree. And so on it goes. Which one was right?

They all were.

Each dude brought their perspective on an elephant based on the experience and truth that they, in their own limited way, had learned. And so it is with the God of the Bible. So why all the fuss? Isn't there enough room at the table for a lot of expressions and experiences of Jesus?

#8. Rob Bell brings a lot of this grief on himself, and only has himself to blame. It would be handy if he would state plainly what he actually believes. He likes to ask a lot more questions than he likes to answer. (Still, I would say that there is place for that, too...even if it bugs me.)

Maybe he is falling into the mistake that a lot of famous preachers fall into. Maybe he likes the sound of his own voice. Maybe he likes controversy. Maybe he says things knowing full well that it will get people all worked up. If that's the case, then I'm disappointed in him. But he would hardly be the first to do so. (Try checking out the promotions for John MacArthur's new book, "Slave." He strikes me as a guy who really, really likes his own hype.)

"Conspiracy", my behind! :P

#9. If you don't know who Dr. Greg Bourgond is, shame on you. I said that I was willing to be flexible on a lot of stuff, and I will even go after...hopefully in a gentle way, others who I disagree with. But if you trash talk this guy in front of me, you better duck. (And I think that my book-hogging friend, Dan, would agree.)

You can check him out on your own.

Anyway, some time ago I asked him about Rob Bell. Dr. B told me that when it comes to Christian leaders, there are three basic types. Elephants = Billy Graham, Rick Warren. Guys who you pretty much know all about before they enter a room. Lions = Bill Hybles, John Piper, Benny Hinn. (OK, just kidding about that last fella) Guys who are hard-charging for God. Lizards = Rob Bell. Guys who can squeeze through the cracks in the wall to get in where no one else can.

Every single one of them is needed by the church, and used by God for his mysterious purposes. Without them, we would be missing parts of our body that we need to be whole. It hardly means that we have to agree on every single issue...but we all (Should) have a passionate love for the Jesus of the Gospels.

Pastor Scott at Living Waters told me that when Christians fight each other, Satan loves it. In fact, I would argue that this in-fighting is a nonsensical luxury that the American church has. Most of the Christians around the world either think that our behavior is stupid, or they are simply trying to survive the day from persecution. The American church has an unhealthy tendency to eat it's own. (I know that from personal experience.) We need to knock it off.

#10. Finally, a thought about Hell. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people out there who actually LIKE the idea of Hell. They might not say it openly, but just do a little pushing and you'll see it. They like the idea of punishment for naughty people, because they assume that they won't end up there. They like the idea of secretly being able to judge others because their hands are clean of "That" particular sin. (I can say this because I am very guilty of it. I admit it.)

We want to see justice, and we should. But we should be rather careful about taking on the roll of God. Go back to Genesis 3. Trying to be God was what got us into this mess to begin with. Let God do his thing however and in what ever manner he chooses. Let's not beat each other up over things that could be discussed in a polite manner over a cup of coffee.

It's just a thought.



P.S. Here are some links to other blogs and articles that I find very informative. Enjoy. (I find this one to be particularly good, and it expresses how I feel about the big picture.)

This is the original blog post that got the whole stink going.

This was a great response to the post above.

P.S.S. My usual routine is to find a music video that helps illustrate the point I was writing about. In this case, I think I'll just have some fun. And since we're talking about Hell and such, well you'll get the joke...I hope.

Feel free to bang your head.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bell's Hells (Part 1)

There has been a lot of buzz on the internet and elsewhere over the new book by Rob Bell, "Love Wins." A bunch of my friends got into it over a post I put up on my FaceBook page a few days ago. I promised a couple of them that I would blog about it. Here it is. I should also state that this post is the first of two on this subject.

Before I begin, I want to set down a little context for all of this. So here goes...

I just finished working for two months as a Long-Call substitute teacher for a friend who was recovering from surgery. I wont name the school, but suffice it to say that it's students are rather difficult. As one person who works there put it, "This is the dumping ground for the Minneapolis Public Schools system."

That might be a bit unfair, because there were plenty of good kids there who will ultimately do well. Unfortunately, many, many of those kids will most likely have a hard life...and that's putting it mildly. Sad to say, but for many of them, I could see the writing on the wall. I've worked with "At-Risk" and "Special Needs" kids for 10 years now. I've done this long enough to see where some chosen paths lead you too...and it's not a happy ending.

So why do I begin with that information? Well, Rob Bell's new book, Love Wins, is all about the subject of Heaven & Hell. About a month ago, a publicist put out two paragraphs from the book. Bell himself, put out a very brief video on the book. Within a day, you would have thought that Twitter had exploded. No one had read the book yet, but everyone seemed to have an opinion that was based on absolute fact.

I'm still waiting for my copy of the book to come into the bookstore, so I haven't read it yet either. I prefer to make up my own mind, rather making assumptions based on solid "Hear-say" and gossip. (Especially when most of those spreading the gossip have their own agendas.)

For The Record:
This particular post will be mostly a defense of Rob Bell. (I'm not going to defend the new book. Like I said, I haven't read it) I want to state what it is that first attracted me to Bell and much of what he talks about. The next post will be on areas where Bell...and a few others truly frustrate me.

But let us first start with the very video I put on FaceBook that got this ball rolling with my friends. Please pay careful attention to the last minute & a half of it.

What initially drew me to Bell was his emphasis on "Orthopraxy" and personal piety. We in the West, and America in particular, are pretty good at emphasizing "Orthodoxy" above all else... and it is important, don't get me wrong. However, the American church is pretty horrible at orthopraxy. (We pretty much limit it to voting for "Pro-Birth" candidates.) Our piety is pretty much used as a way to call a distinction between "Us" (The Righteous) and "Them" (those vile, unwashed sinners). If you don't believe me, please look into the book "Un-Christian" from the Barna Research Group.

What I liked about Bell was his insistence that those who follow Jesus should not be looking for an escape hatch from this world. Instead, we should be working for the kingdom right here & right now. He speaks about how "Christians" should actually live out the gospel everyday in the way we interact with society, our neighbors, the world. He talks over & over about how Jesus emphasized that God's kingdom was already crashing into THIS world. (My Seminary professors would phrase it as the "Here now, but yet not fully" kingdom.) Bell preaches about a robust faith with an active people who serve God in this world, and not just the one to come...and not just by telling people that they need to be saved.

Now, go back to that interview & video. Bell speaks about how we can choose heaven and hell every single day. I've read enough of his other books to know that Bell does not believe that heaven & hell are merely places that you go to after you die. They are also present & current realities.

This makes perfect sense if you take Jesus at his word when he speaks of the kingdom of heaven being among us. It also makes sense if you believe Paul when he wrote to the Ephesians that "our struggle is NOT against flesh & blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world." (Eph 6:12)

Maybe because of our logical, rational, scientific mindset, the role of spiritual warfare isn't taken seriously enough in America. (At least not in my opinion.) Some treat it as a spiritual circus, and make fools out of themselves..."Seeing demons on doorknobs," as one of my professor put it. Others relegate it to some intellectual construct that can be defeated if we simply vote a certain way, or sign the proper confession of theology.

Heaven/the Kingdom of God and Hell ARE indeed current realities. 1 out of 6 people on this planet do not have access to clean drinking water every day. 800,000,000 people go to bed hungry every night. 1 out of every 10 Americans doesn't even have access to health care. Right now, most of the Middle East is in upheaval because of corrupt & brutal governments. I could go on, but you get the idea. Yes, I absolutely believe in a heaven & hell in the next life, but let us not ignore the painful fact that HELL IS HERE RIGHT NOW, too! It is very much a current reality for many, many people. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has GOT to be more than simply "Pie in the sky when you die."

Satan is having a field day watching people all over the world, both Christian & non-christian suffer. (Satan HATES & DESPISES humans, because The Father cares so much & so deeply about them/us) What Bell emphasizes is that Believers can & should serve God by making a difference, in HIS name, right here & right now. NOT a "Social Gospel" to earn brownie points with God to work our way into heaven. Simply a response of gratitude and love for what Jesus did for us on that murder-post known as the cross. That is a message that I need to hear every day.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus spoke of Believers being salt & light in this world. It's not supposed to be an option, and there is more to it than handing out tracts. Jesus said "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16) So, Believers have a roll in attempting to alleviate some of the misery in this world in the name of Jesus. The result is that God gets the glory. Bell is BIG on this point...and I like it.

Go back to the beginning of this post. Remember that I told about my most recent school experience? Well guess what I got to see a glimpse of every single day? Hell. Hell on earth. Hell in the lives of kids only 12 & 13. Broken, dysfunctional families. Poverty. Abuse. Homelessness. I got to see some kids who will most likely spend the best parts of their lives in prison because of the stupid, idiotic and evil choices that they make as a result of growing up in the midst of all of that.

We cover up the reality of evil, of sin, of demonic forces actively working in our society. We put pretty tinsel and lights on it. We put up glossy photos of beautiful people selling us products at the mall. But the evil is still there. It just looks respectable now. But I got a chance to spend 2 months watching it in all of it's brutal & ugly glory. I do believe in a Hell in the next life. But I got close enough to the one in this life over these past two months that I really don't want to see anymore.

Bell is right. We often choose hell. But we could do better. We could choose to follow Jesus. We could choose the kingdom...we could choose heaven. So I ask you; what are you doing about that? Are you handing out tracts? Are you holding up signs on street corners telling people that they are damned? Are you telling people that they are vile, filthy, evil, disgusting, filthy sinners?

OR, are you telling them that there is a better way? A way that was prepared for them? Are you telling them about a God who cries and weeps WITH them? Maybe a God who actually cares enough NOT to WANT to send them to Hell. A God who humbled himself and became a human for the very purpose of being mocked, spit on, humiliated and brutally murdered, so that this very God's justice could be satisfied and so that this same God could provide a way for YOU and every single person on this planet to spend eternity with him enjoying the new heaven & earth...and that this eternity can begin right now? Are you feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting the prisoners in Jesus name while you tell them about his love? Is THAT your message? Because I've read enough of Rob Bell's books and seen enough of his videos and listened to enough of his podcasts to know FOR A FACT that that is EXACTLY what he is preaching to people.

I might not agree with everything he says, or how he explains it, but he IS my "Christian Brother." That's good enough for me.

And how he says I should treat people who are made in the image of God, I need to hear that too, because I tried to remind myself of it everyday when I worked at that school. Seeing what I saw, that thought was the only thing that kept me sane.



Sunday, March 6, 2011

Eugene Peterson has a Message.

A few years back I was looking for another bible to add to my collection. I wanted to get one that didn't include all of the chapters and numbers in it.

Most people don't know that the chapters in the New Testament weren't added until the 1200s, and the verses weren't added until the 1550s. I mean, it's not like Paul sat down to write to the people in Ephesus and began with "Chapter 1, verse 1; Howdy, peeps in Ephesus! This is your old buddy, Paul...Chapter 1, verse 2..." No. Those verses and chapters were added centuries later...and we've been cherry-picking our verses to beat each other up with ever since.

ANYWAY, so I was in a local christian book store and I stumbled across Eugene Peterson's translation of the New Testament called "The Message." It kept the verses & such way off to the sides, and was written in contemporary English. I bought it, and have loved it ever since.

Needless to say, Mr. Peterson has received a bit of flack because of his translation. If King James English was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for us. Yeah...

So today on NPR, Mr. Peterson was interviewed about his new memoir titled "The Pastor." I could write about it, but that would spoil it for you. I'll just post the link and you can listen to it for yourself. Don't worry, it isn't a long story.

What a nice guy! A very gentle, gentle man. Not bad for a guy that Bono considers a hero.

Apparently, he wrote "The Message" so as to engage the folks at his church. Often times we treat the Scriptures as some dry manuel. But the bible itself states that it is alive...God Even though we often have a hard time understanding the contexts under which the individual letters and stories were written, the fact is that these words were shocking at the time...and still are if you DO read them in context. Peterson's version in the Message goes quite a ways to restoring some of that. I wouldn't use it as a study bible, per se, but for feeling the beauty of the words and ideas, it's excellent.

Anyway, I figured that I would repost the story here, and just let it be at that. But then I thought, well, maybe a little more.

#1. Here is an bit that you might find interesting. Mr. Peterson is being interviewed by the folks for U2's online magazine.

#2. Here is a video in which Peterson speaks about how we sometimes treat the bible as less than the living document that it is. I think that his soft-spoken and graceful personality comes across quite well.

Wow. This was an easy post.