Love Wins…But What About the Gospel? (Part 1)


Author & Pastor Rob Bell

God loves us. God offers us everlasting life by grace, freely, through no merit on our part. Unless you do not respond the right way. Then God will torture you forever. In hell. Huh?

This quote on the back of Rob Bell’s new book “Love Wins” sets the proverbial stage for what’s contained within its two hundred or so pages. Over the course of those same pages, Bell questions over and over again some of the essential doctrines that most Bible-believing Christians have believed for nearly two thousand years.

Admittedly, I’m not a charter member of the Rob Bell fan club (or its president, for that matter), so I wasn’t exactly clamoring to scoop up his new book when it hit the shelves. However, after reading on some of the controversy and getting involved in it to a degree, I thought perhaps I would spend some time in reading the book.

Now, I’m not one of those who advocates that in order to have an opinion on a controversial book, that you have to have read the thing in its entirety. In all honesty, there’s already been a plethora of articles written on this particular subject and many of them have been informative, well-written, and done in such a way as to be constructively critical while pointing out error. However, the others are nothing more than poorly-written hit pieces meant to do nothing more than injure the individual who happens to be the focal point, Rob Bell in this case. That’s not the intention here. The intention is, as others have attempted to do, to offer a counterbalance to Bell’s side of the story and warn against false teaching in the church. I’m sure Bell has some good things to say but his readers need to be aware that treading on thin theological ground can and does have major implications elsewhere.

That being said, this piece isn’t intended to be an in-depth theological treatise on the finer points of substitutionary atonement (sorry…had to throw in a couple of big spiritual words for effect) or fiduciary symbolism (two words that I thought just sounded really good but mean absolutely nothing together…). In other words, and all kidding aside, I’m not a theological expert, I’ve never gone to seminary, and I haven’t stayed at a Holiday Inn Express recently. OK, so I reneged on the kidding part…

In the preface to Bell’s book, he states the following about God’s love…

This love compels us to question some of the dominant stories that are being told as the Jesus story. A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’s message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.” (preface, page VIII)

I would argue that, on the contrary, a true understanding of hell and exactly what Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross has really saved us from could be an essential ingredient to the salvation of many lost souls. Now, I’m no big proponent of the fire and brimstone approach to preaching to the lost but neither do I think it’s wise to avoid the topic altogether. It’s not something that I would throw in the face of a prospective convert just to twist the knife of guilt a little further or plant some kind of unnecessary fear within someone. As a good friend told me recently, just using a calm, matter-of-fact, humble tone with someone while breaching this topic may be the right approach.

Bell does go on to make a good point and one that should be heard by the entire Christian community:

Some communities don’t permit open, honest inquiry about the things that matter most. Lots of people have voiced a concern, expressed a doubt, or raised a question, only to be told by their family, church, friends, or tribe: “We don’t discuss those things here.” (preface, page X).

This is one of the things I find most troubling with some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Honestly, there are a good number of unbelievers who ask hard questions, not intending to actually get or even listen to an answer, but to prod, provoke, and pretend that they are only honestly searching. Those aren’t the folks I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the ones who are honestly searching for and struggling with questions of faith and belief. After all, many if not most of the heroes of our faith struggled mightily in following our God. On this point, Bell makes another good argument, pointing out that Abraham, for instance, bargained with God and that Job and his friends argue about the “deepest questions of human suffering” and that “God is practically on trial” in the book of Lamentations. Our God isn’t afraid of us questioning him, nor is it sinful for us to do so as long as our hearts are in the right place. Anyway, much applause for Bell on this point.

Bell closes the preface by saying:

There is no question that Jesus cannot handle, no discussion too volatile, no issue too dangerous. At the same time, some issues aren’t as big as people have made them. Much blood has been spilled in church splits, heresy trials, and raging debates over issues that are, in the end, not that essential. (preface, page X)

That some Christians in the past have abused and misused the Bible’s calling to defend the faith (Jude 1:3) is no reason to entertain theological error. The writers of the New Testament often exhort their readers to not only watch for false teachers but to have nothing to do with them (2nd Thessalonians 3:14). But let’s also not forget that the very next verse, in this case, also says to not regard those folks as enemies but warn them like a brother. That’s the purpose of this article, and this entire blog for that matter.

All Aboard!


It’s religion, not in our selfish attempt at obtaining salvation, but religion in humble reverence to a loving God that is keeping us from being polluted by the world. That’s why we worship Him in song, in the word, and in service on a weekly basis. That’s why we serve Him in deed throughout the week, at our jobs and in our homes and wherever it is that God would lead us.

I often think about this subject. That is, how many in our society, including Christians, view religion in a negative manner as displayed in the above photo. As I wrote in a previous post, I understand the mentality. Our culture is, unfortunately, replete with numerous examples of man’s attempt at justifying himself and doing things for his own glorification rather than God’s. That’s the kind of religion that Christians are talking about when they speak of the word “religion” in a negative manner.

Where I have a problem with this whole line of thinking is that I don’t think many Christians completely understand what they’re saying. They’ve hopped on the bandwagon because, as I previously posted, it’s the “in” thing to do in Christian circles, i.e. it’s become kosher.

Where I’m coming from is simply this…Most folks that we come into contact with on a daily basis don’t attend church regularly. Even though we rightly say “It’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship”, they may not understand our participation in the whole religion bashing thing. I’ve actually run across non-Christians who sort of wonder about that whole attitude that many believers have and it kind of makes them do a double-take or make that trademark Tim Allen grunting noise. Those are the folks I try to think about before I start to participate in the whole “religion is bad” discussion.

The picture of religion I try to keep in my mind is the picture that Jesus himself painted for us in the scriptures. Religion is someone who volunteers to mow the yard of a neighbor who can’t do it for themselves. Religion is providing a safe place for a friend of your child to visit who may not have such a welcoming home to return to. Religion is saying a kind word to a worker at a store who may have dealt with rude customers all day. Religion is being there for a friend or family member who just lost their spouse or child even if you have no earthly clue what to say to them. These things are what Jesus meant when he talked about “pure and faultless” religion (James 1:27).

AWOL


You’ve heard that elections have consequences, right? Well, is there some unnamed contaminant in the water in the Midwest that causes some politicians to temporarily (or otherwise) lose their ability to do the work they were elected to do? Is there something in the makeup of a Midwestern elected official that blocks the signals between the neurons in their brain from being able to travel from one cell to the next when they think about maybe showing up for work? These are the questions that plague those of us who actually value showing up for work and doing what we’ve been hired to do.

I can certainly understand being opposed to certain legislation and not wanting to vote on it, even it if it is heavily favored by the vast majority of those voting. However, what I can’t understand is purposely abdicating the responsibility to voice my opinion in the form of a vote when that is what I was elected to do in the first place. This is what rubs people the wrong way about this whole situation, regardless of party affiliation.

Part of the consequences of being in the minority when you’re in office is that there may not  be much you can do to stop legislation that you do not agree with. If that’s the case, the responsibility of being in the minority is that you either do what you can do, within the realms of the law, to stop the legislation by whatever means are available to you, i.e. by filibusters and other procedural tactics. Instead, these scofflaws from Wisconsin and Indiana just decided to skip town. No votes. No serious debates in their respective legislatures. Just a packed suitcase, a full tank of gas, and a friendly governor in a neighboring state who’s not willing to enforce the law and jettison your illegal rear end back to whence you came.

I know…You’re probably saying to yourself, “You’re an anti-union neocon!” Well, honestly, I’m not a huge supporter of unions. I do think they’re largely unneeded but I also think there are places and situations where they are not only acceptable but probably completely necessary. I’ve been a union member before and, if the appropriate situation presents itself, I may be a union member in the future. Though unlikely, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for me. Regardless, this particular issue really has nothing to do with being pro or anti-union, Republican, Democrat, or whatever the particular stripe. This has to do with one thing…The rule of law and showing up to do what you’ve been called to do. Plain and simple.

Still Alive and Kickin’ It Old-School Style


Okay, so that title is really only a weak (and failing) attempt at trying to be cool. Anyway, I just wanted to send a shout-out to the faithful few, and I mean FEW, regular folks who actually read the tripe I post on this blog.

I’ve been busy since November with life events in both my work and personal life that needed attention, so I haven’t done much writing but I’ve got a few “attempts” in the can and will hopefully finish one or two that are at least close to resembling something worth posting very soon. If you just can’t get enough of me, I plan on being back in the swing of things soon. I know, I know…You’re probably already aware of how I just have to fight the groupies off with a stick constantly but I just can’t let the fans down.

Grow Up!


I probably should never write a blog post when I’m in a pissed-off mood but here goes anyway…

The whole Arizona shooting thing and the fallout from pundits, politicians, and posers against who’s supposedly at fault…Here are a few points:

  1. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party folks are NOT at fault in any way. If you think otherwise, your political ideology has blinded you and you’re incapable of putting more than two brain cells together to come up with a cogent thought. Grow up!
  2. Using a target or crosshairs in a political ad has been going on for decades. There’s nothing wrong with it.
  3. Military or “violent” terminology, in the same way, is completely acceptable. Even Jesus used such language, saying that the violent take the kingdom of heaven by force.
  4. One of the shooter’s friends described him as a liberal and others have described him as apolitical. If you think conservatism had anything to do with it, you’re as ideologically as blind as a bat. Two of his favorite books are “Mein Kampf” and “The Communist Manifesto”. Dude played both sides of the fence as far as I can tell, if he even had a side to begin with.
  5. He didn’t listen to or watch political talk radio or TV. If you think this played a part, go back and re-read the second sentence in point #1.
  6. Nancy Pelosi once again proves herself to be completely clueless. This was not an “accident”.
  7. Newsflash…The shooter WAS COMPLETELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ENTIRE ACT.

This notice brought to you by a supposed domestic terrorist.

Turn of the Century


It’s not often that I’m inspired to write an article about a song. This particular song, however, is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard and it perfectly portrays, along with the lyrics, the emotions of the characters described within it. The song is “Turn of the Century” by the progressive rock band Yes and was first released on their 1977 album “Going for the One”.

The song, as my personal interpretation goes, describes an artist working at making a sculpture, apparently with his wife as the model. As he works on his masterpiece, she falls ill and eventually dies “in the still light of dawn”.

As the artist finishes grieving for his beloved wife, he sets back to work at finishing the sculpture of his wife, inspired by the memory of her. He becomes absorbed by the work of his hands and he wonders if she can still hear and see him. He longs to touch and hold her again. He dreams of the future when he can again be with her, remembering how things once were.

That may or may not be a proper interpretation of the lyric but it doesn’t really matter to me all that much. Anyway, besides the great love that the story describes between the artist and his wife, it reminds me of loved ones who’ve passed on from this life. Though we sorrow temporarily while we’re here on this earth, we don’t sorrow as those who have no hope. We sorrow temporarily, with the hope of seeing our loved ones when we pass from this life to eternity with a loving and gracious God and our savior, Jesus Christ.

Below, I’ve included a video for this beautiful song and the lyrics as well.

“Turn of the Century”

Yes

from “Going for the One (1977)

Realizing a form out of stone
Set hands moving
Roan shaped his heart
Through his working hands
Work to mold his passion into clay, like the sun

In his room, his lady
She would dance and sing so completely
So be still, he now cries
“I have time, oh let clay transform thee so”

In the deep cold of night
Winter calls, he cries “Don’t deny me!”
For his lady, deep her illness
Time has caught her
And will for all reasons take her

In the still light of dawn, she dies
Helpless hands soul revealing

Like leaves we touch, we learn
We once knew the story
As winter calls he will starve
All but to see the stone be life

Now Roan, no more tears
Set to work his strength
So transformed him
Realising a form out of stone, his work
So absorbed him
Could she hear him?
Could she see him?
All aglow was his room dazed in this light
He would touch her
He would hold her
Laughing as they danced
Highest colors touching others

Did her eyes at the turn of the century
Tell me plainly
When we meet, how we’ll love, oh let life so transform me

Like leaves we touched we danced
We once knew the story
As autumn called and we both
Remembered all those many years ago
I’m sure we know

Was the sign with a touch
As I kiss your fingers
We walk hands in the sun
Memories when we’re young
Love lingers so

Was it sun through the haze
That made all your looks
As warm as moonlight?
As a pearl deep in your eyes
Tears have flown away
All the same light

Did her eyes at the turn of the century
Tell me plainly
When we meet how we’ll look
As we smile time will leave me clearly

Like leaves we touch, we see
We will know the story
As autumn calls we’ll both remember
All those many years ago

The Cat’s Butt


In a move sure to please the local coffee drinkers in Calgary, Canada, “The Bean Stop” is  bringing a stimulating new beverage choice to their selective drinkers. The new steaming beverage is called “Kopi Luwak”, better known in some less politically-correct areas of the world as “cat poop coffee”.

I first reported on this intestinally-produced drink in November 2008. The long and the short of it is this…A cat eats coffee cherries, craps out the bean, and some skilled worker collects the kitty leftovers to make something that someone, somewhere is going to drink.

I’m thinking this drink could’ve only originated from someone who was drunk or stoned. I can’t imagine anyone saying something like “Hey, look…The cat just took a dump in the sandbox again. Let’s cook it up and make a drink out of it!” I’m thinking that guy probably spent his adolescence getting swirlies and wedgies.

The owner of “The Bean Stop”, Ken Cutler, said “This will appeal to two groups of people. Coffee connoisseurs and there’s probably a group of people who will have a cup just to say they had a cup.” He added, “It’s such an unusual, odd and unique product.” Boy, that’s an understatement there Mr. Cutler. “It’s got both a fruity and an earthiness, it’s almost got a natural sweetness to it which is very unusual.” Yeah, that says it all right there. I’m just sayin’…