Monday, October 24, 2011

Love Wins

I just read the book. Literally, just finished. I'm not sure I should be writing about it now, I'm still processing it.  I did want to say a few things while it is still fresh.  First, I owe Rob Bell and my friend Lindsay an apology.  When I first heard of the book and what it was about I dismissed it.  I didn't go all John Piper and suggest that he had somehow died or become a servant of Satan, or whatever other nonsense was involved.  I was less than graceful in the way I talked about it.  I assumed I knew what it would say and judged Mr. Bell and his book before I ever read it.  I'm sorry about that.  I owe Lindsay an apology because she likes and respects Rob Bell (as do I, more now) and I acted like she should know better.  Turns out she does know better, at least better than me.

I wasn't entirely wrong about what the book says.  Bell says he isn't a universalist, but then says everyone goes to heaven.  He is not a universalist in terms of how. He seems to be a universalist in terms of who.  As in Jesus is the only way to heaven but eventually everyone finds him.  He also says that heaven and hell both exist here, simultaneously, and we can choose witch party we attend.  He reasons that at some point everyone, this side of death or the next, gets tired of partying in Hell and decides to knock knock knock on Heaven's door.  I don't disagree that there is a lot of heaven and a lot of hell here and I don't disagree that most of that is a result of the decisions we make.  There is some grey area here for me in that he describes rape as being hell, but he doesn't explain how the rapist chooses hell for himself and his victim.  What about her choices?  Some people don't choose anything, some people get hell here because of the decisions others make.  The book doesn't try to explain this or tell us what to do with it.

As I said above, Bell suggest that even after death we continue to have infinite opportunities to choose Jesus.  To submit to God's rule and live within His guidelines.  In Bell's view hell is like being sent to your room until you are sorry and agree to do what Daddy says.  The fire of hell exist to refine not so much to punish.  What I don't understand, and what Bell does an inadequate job of explaining is how that works.  Does God decide when you are really sorry and just bring you out of Hell? Do you have to somehow get a meeting with him to explain how sorry you are?  Does he, like I do with my daughter all to often, let you out before you learn your lesson just 'cause you're so cute he can't wait another second to cuddle you?  The process just isn't explained and that makes it difficult for me.

That being said, I loved the book.  I don't know why really, but I loved it.  I think Bell comes across a little snotty and condescending.  I think his arguments are thin and weak and wonderful.  It rattles me to think a point that was not well made and I don't really agree with could so closely reflect the heart of the God I know and serve.  I'm not a theologian and I don't want to be, but I've read and continue to read the Bible and I've experienced God in ways that just a few years ago I would not have thought possible for me.  I believe in the finality and power of the cross.  I have experienced God's relentless pursuit and unstable love.  I light of that I don't know how I can say that love doesn't always win.  It has for me, why not everyone.  I don't know enough to say for sure.  I have a feeling that Bell is mistaken about some things, but I hope he isn't.

The book is compelling because I hope its true.  Love is powerful and grace is big.  Love has conquered death and the grave.  The cross is sufficient and Jesus' sacrifice perfect.  Jesus came so that, through him, the world might be save - all of it.  Might?  Does God not know?  The Bible says it is God's will that none should perish.  Does he not get his way?  Is his will not perfect and unstoppable?  Just after Jesus says he came so the world might be saved he says those who don't believe in him are condemned already.  Condemned to what and for how long?  Verse 36 of John 3 says, "whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."  I have a headache.  I'm going to have to wrestle with this some more.

However, I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it.  No matter where I end up landing on this thing I think one thing is clear.  We have a job to do now.  When we focus too much on the next life we start to ignore this one.  We trivialize or dismiss the pain of others as temporary.  Viewing our faith as a ticket out of hell does the world a disservice.  We are called to live and love here - now.  No matter how it ends or who is there, we have a responsibility to advance God's kingdom and message here in any way we can.  Heaven is having a little party and we need to make sure as many people as possible have the opportunity to experience it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

No Acceptable Targets

I'm not in love with the term "social justice".  I love the idea (as it applies to the church.  It won't work as a economic or political model), just not the terminology. What is being given is not justice - its grace.

Since Jesus himself walked the earth the only entity with the power and authority to eliminate hunger and disease and death has been the church.  The extent to which those things continue to exist in our world is directly proportionate to our failure as Christians.  The only cure for fear and hunger and disease and loneliness is Jesus.  As Christians we fail when we deny love and compassion to any one for any reason.  If our buildings are not sanctuaries for the dirty and weak and hurting then we are wasting our time and resources.  We are called to love.

I have a small problem with some of what I've seen and read lately coming from Christian leaders on this front.  It seems that some have not stopped hating - they have simply chosen more socially acceptable targets for their hate and envy.  I've read some pretty nasty admonitions of wealthy conservative Christians.  I don't believe it is necessary to demonize people who fail to give and love like they should in order for us to give and love like we should.  I think a lot of really wealthy people need Jesus.  A lot of people sitting in pews of traditional conservative churches need Jesus.  A lot of people need Jesus.  When these people refuse to give, be it money or compassion, they are wrong.  It doesn't help for us to hate and judge them because we feel like they hate and judge others.  We can't be selfish with our compassion because we think they are selfish with their money. When we make the Southern Baptist or Wall Street the enemy we give ground to the actual enemy.  This is still definition by rejection.

Where there is hate and envy and judgement in us it has to be purged - not redirected.  We have to destroy those things in ourselves no matter what form they take.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Time can make more rubble out of dreams than anything.
In a quiet neighborhood where she's living without wings.
The boredom stirs a rage inside her soul
A rage that reaches out and takes control.

Everyone has questions, but no one wants to know
How far the rage inside someone can really make them go.
-Noah and The Whale; Wild Thing-

In this world there's a whole lot of trouble, baby,
In this world there's a whole lot of pain
In this world there's a whole lot of trouble
but a whole lot of ground to gain.

Why take when you could be giving?
Why watch as the world goes by?
Its a long enough life to be living,
why walk when you can fly?

When you spend your whole life wishing
Watching and wondering why.
Its a hard enough life to be living,
why walk when you can fly?
-Andrew Peterson; Why Walk When You Can Fly-

I feel a restlessness.  In my church and small group - among my friends.  There seems to be an expectation of bigger things.  I believe God is moving.  It is a whisper - a stirring call into deeper water.  I can hear it when I'm quite - feel it when I breathe.  God is doing something.  Isn't that exciting?  Don't you want to be part of it?

God is calling us to life.  He wants us to live.  We have dreams and passions - we want so much more.  Those things come from Jesus.  We were created to live big and love deeply.  We are called to leap out into the wide open.  To many of us are sitting on the edge watching life fly by.  You have been given wings.  Being afraid to use them will do nasty things to you.  You'll get bored and apathetic and angry.  I've been there.  It is so dangerous.  

If you are bored with life you need to spend some time with Jesus and find out what it is you are passionate about.  I believe we all have something.  For me its flying, for some its walking with High School kids or accounting (weird, I know) or photography or being a mommy.  I don't know what it is for you, but you need to.  You have a passion - you have dreams. In the name of mature responsibility you may have buried them, dig them back up.  Remember.  

If you know what your passions are but are afraid to pursue them I can confidently say that you are being called to let go of that fear.  The time for waiting and wishing is over.  It is time to for action.  The kingdom of God is moving.  Take hold of it.  It is difficult but it is life.  

You have a choice to make.  Do you want to sit and watch or do you want to fly?  I promise you can fly.

Note:  I hate this post. I almost delete it every time I think about it.  Its so inadequate.  I'm afraid it won't motivate - that is doesn't accurately convey what's at stake.  It needs to be more.  I feel it more than I can express.   I'm also struck by how bad I am at living it.  I'm not fully surrendered, I feel like when I do fly I'm afraid to venture too far.  I like to fly but the sky is deep and wide - there are unknowns.  At an airshow lately they were giving balloon rides, the problem with a balloon is that it is difficult to control.  You cut loose and the wind takes you were it wills.  They had the balloon tethered to the ground.  I remember wondering why anyone would want to fly like that - its not even really flying. Yet here I am flying tethered.  I trust so little.  

God, help us cut the tether.  Help our unbelief.  Give us courage.  Lead us into the wild blue places of adventure and love and life.  Take us with you.  Cut us loose.  Set us free.  

Monday, October 10, 2011


A friend wrote a short post on regret.  This was my response:
I know this going to surprise you, but I only half agree. Regret as a verb is impossible to live without outside the parameters you set, but I don’t think that’s how most people mean it. I that context I believe most use regret as a noun. That definition is:
1. A sense of loss and longing for something gone.
2. A feeling of disappointment or distress about something that one wishes could be different.
I think by that definition it is possible, if not improbable, to come to the end of your life and have no regrets. It is my goal to live my life in such a way that on my last night on earth I know that I have not been a slave to fear, that I loved and risked and dreamed and jumped. I’m a jerk, so I’m going to spend a lot of time being sorry for things I do and say, but I’m not going to live in that guilt. I’m going to have sex with my wife and play with my kids and smoke cigars and drink whiskey with my friends. I’m going to pray and play and fly. I intend to come to the end of this knowing that I lived the best l could. I’m going to know I failed and I’m going to rest in the unending grace of Jesus.

I guess its only fair to tell you that my response finds it origins in Noah & The Whale's album Last Night on Earth.  I love it, it been the soundtrack of my life lately.  This is going to get quote intensive, but hang in there because they are all awesome.  This is a selection from the first 3 songs on that record.

The night outside is five below
His heart is pumping blood
On his lips a perfect smile
His eyes begin to flood

The night outside is five below
The moon is in the sky
His heart is full of perfect joy
He whispers his goodbye

Because tonight's the kind of night
Where everything could change
-Tonight's The Kind of Night-

He took apart his own life, left it on the shelf
Sick of being someone he did not admire
Took apart his old things, set them all on fire

He's gonna change, gonna change his ways
And it feels like his life can start
And it feels like heaven
-Life is Life-

On my last night on Earth I'll look to the sky
Breath in the air and blink in the light
On my last nigh on Earth, I'll pay a high price
To have no regrets and be done with my life

I'm don't know what the writer of these words believes, but they sound like gospel to me.  They are about second chances and fresh starts.  They are about dreams and courage and opportunity.  There is hope here, where does that come from if not from Jesus.  We serve a God that loves -  that is in the business of restoration and rescue.  If we don't believe in fresh starts and second chances then we've missed it.  Jesus loves without limit and forgives recklessly and completely.  He is present and he his powerful.  He is compassion and hope and promise.  He removes guilt and shame and regret.  He is good and holy and he loves you.  Tonight's the kind of night where everything could change.