Monthly Archives: February 2012

Review: Love Wins

I thought I would move this post over from the old blog.

Well here it goes.  The highly anticipated and eagerly awaited review of Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins.

I would like to be able to tell you that I approached this book without bias, but that would be a lie.  Honestly, I approached it with a lot of bias.  Bias against Rob, bias against the response of the piperites, bias against liberal christianity, and bias against all the buzz that’s been created on this topic.  Anyways, there was a lot of bias, but I was aware of it.  So, I tried to take that into account as best I could…

I’ll start my saying that the negative press against the book was blown out of proportion.  It was not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be.  It wasn’t nearly as heretical as I thought it would be, and it was more thought provoking, in the good way, than I thought it would be.

That being said.  I’d like to use a word that’s slightly less than heretical for the book.  I think if Rob’s questions continue to go down the rabbit trail that he’s leading on then the book is heretical.  That’s how I feel.  I also feel like there are points in the book where Rob is dangerously close and probably even crosses a line he shouldn’t.

I’d also like to say the book is largely unfulfilling.  Rob asks a lot of questions and it seems like purposefully doesn’t answer them.  It’s like the point was to be provocative.  Quick read, but you’re left scratching your head at points about what Rob actually thinks or what he thinks we should think…not my favorite kind of read.

So.  Here is my review of the book in a little different form.  Chapter by chapter.

Chapter One – What About the Flat Tire

Here is where it all begins.  Rob tells his famous Gandhi story, along with stories of teenage atheists who didn’t have enough time and people who might not have heard because of a missionary’s flat tire.  Or how does one get saved, baptism or a class or confirmation or born again or blah blah blah.  Rob’s not asking any new questions here.  And his desire for God to be loving is one that we all have.  He also tells stories where Christians did tremendous wrongs and asks if people should follow that Jesus?  That part was confusing.  I don’t think all mechanics are liars because one of them is.  I don’t think that Roger Goodell is a bad person just because Pacman Jones is…  Bad logic on Rob’s part, but I understand his point.  Sometimes we as Christians hinder the gospel.

Chapter Two- Here is the New There.

Again, nothing new here.  If you’ve read Surprised by Hope by NT Wright you got Rob Bell’s paraphrase in this chapter.  We need to care about the redemption of the world because the world is going to be redeemed.  People should have clean water and we should lower our effect on the environment.  I question Rob’s exegesis of 1 Cor 3 about flames in heaven and I’ve read that he doesn’t do justice to the age and age to come translating but I can’t speak to that on a professional level.

Chapter Three – Hell

This was a poor chapter.  Weird also.  Rob uses the fact that God was the God of Abraham Issac and Jacob to Moses to say that’s “an affirmation of God’s enduring and sustaining power over life and death” (page 66).  Hmm.  I always thought God was showing them the relational God that He was and how He was in covenant with them.

Then he says that Jesus only mean the city dump when he referred to Hell.  And, “ the next time someone asks you if you believe in an actual hell, you can always say, ‘Yes I do believe my garbage goes somewhere’” (page 68).

really?

Rob continues to say he believes in a literal Hell, it’s genocide and other terrible things that happen.  He has “a hard time believed that somewhere down below the earth’s crust is a really crafty figured in red tights holding a three-pointed spear, playing Pink Floyd records backward, and enjoying the hidden messages” (page 70).  None of us believe that Rob.  But thanks for trying to belittle the evangelical mindset.

Then it becomes clear where Rob is borrowing from CS Lewis.  On page 72 he says “God gives us what we want, and if that’s hell, we can have it.  We have that kind of freedom, that kind of choice.  We are that free.  We can use machetes if we want to.”

True.  Borrowing from the Great Divorce.  We get what we choose.  But, he doesn’t go the full step.  It’s not just hell on earth.  There’s a literal hell.

Rob also takes a passage from Ezekiel where he says that God will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her Gomorrah to mean that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah will be restored, just give it time.

Chapter 4- Does God Get What God Wants?

This is really the hinge pin of the book I believe.  Does God get what God wants.  We know that God desires for all to be saved, and that He gave Himself for all people.  So, does he get what He wants?

Well, if you ask Rob you don’t get an answer.  Maybe is what he says.  He could now, or he could later but we don’t really know.

I believe if you ask the orthodox faith, the answer is no.  We turn away and go after our own idols.  He choose not to accept grace and mercy and cast judgment on ourselves.  To me, that’s pretty clear in the biblical text.

Chapter 5 Dying to live

I don’t really know why this chapter was in the book other than to tell us that Rob went to an Eminem concert and Marshall Mathers wore a cross around his neck.

Chapter 6- There are Rocks Everywhere

Rob has trouble believing the supernatural, like many American Christians (myself included).

Here Rob talks about the inclusive exclusiveness of the gospel.  Every one must come through Jesus.  Rob does say that.  However, he says he can do it through all kinds of different paths.  Rob even says that the tomb is empty, that Jesus is what gets us into Heaven.  But, he doesn’t make it clear that we have to believe in Him, it’s just He does the saving.  If you’re a muslim or a buddhist, it’s ok Jesus saves you too.  Very weird.

Chapter 7- The Good News is Better than That

Here Bell says many people don’t love God because they can’t love a God that chances so much when people die.  All of a sudden he becomes wrathful and full of judgment.

This is why the Justice of God is something that has to be talked about in our churches today, and the fact that God is the Just Judge.  It just has to happen.

Chapter 8- The end is here

Love is why Rob wrote the book.

That’s the review.  I’m anxious to continue the conversation with many of you.  I paid for this book, so if you really want to borrow it you can.  But, I don’t recommend reading it.  I really don’t.  I don’t think it’s an orthodox way of thinking and I don’t think Rob gives any answers.

I’m pro questions.  I think we need to ask questions.  I think we need to talk about Hell.  I just don’t think Rob did the topic near enough

justice.

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Book Review: Sacred Marriage

I finally sat down and finished Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. I’ve meant to read this book a long time ago, like when I got married, but I just never got around to it.

The book was as advertised.

Gary goes into great detail to get his main point across, which is actually the subtitle of the book. What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?

I do believe all of our marriages would do well to understand this statement. We would do well to understand the covenant of marriage instead of the feeling that Hollywood is trying to promote.

Gary does a great job getting these points to come across. He mixes personal stories, other stories, Scripture, the church fathers and popular culture to try and propel us to the idea of marriage as a covenant. I don’t think there is any way for the reader to get bored.

Now, I read the book a couple of years into my marriage and I think that really helped me. A lot of the stories he told, I’ve seen play out in bits and pieces in my own marriage. I think this really helped me to find things to apply to my own marriage. It was a great reminder of domed the promises and some of the dreams I had for our marriage.

I have definitely seen the ugly head of selfishness reign in my own part of my marriage. Sacred Marriage was a great reminder for how easy it can be to be selfish in marriage. I think this is the big takeaway that I have from Sacred Marriage. I want to work harder to serve my wife and my family.

I recommend Sacred Marriage for anyone who is married or is getting close to being married. It’s a great book and a very thorough look at servanthood in marriage. Plus, Gary was a Chi Alpha student at Western Washington.

Also, I got this book from Zondervan to review.

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Emma and “Pee”

I’ve always heard that your child will tell you when he or she is ready to be potty trained.

I think Emma may be getting there…

Yesterday, I went home together the sound trailer. I was in the kitchen talking to Katie. We thought Emma was in the living room watching Up. Then, we heard her voice coming from another room.

So, Katie went into Emma’s room to try and find her. I went towards the living room looking for her.

Then it became clear what she was saying. Pee, pee, pee. She just kept saying pee over and over again.

Why was she doing that?

It’s because she was standing in the toilet. Yeah. Standing. In. The. Toilet. Had her boots on and everything. But some way, some how she had worked her way up and into the toilet. She’s just standing in the toilet yelling pee.

She’s smarter than we think, I think…

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Advancing the Kingdom

Advancing the Kingdom. A phrase that I heard this past year and have not been able to get out of my mind since then. I don’t think this was the first time I had heard it, and it wasn’t stated in any profound way, but it has stuck with me for a while now.

When Curt Harlow took the position at Bayside he and Kelly commented on their blog that they felt this was the best place for them to advance the kingdom at this stage in their lives. Man, what a beautiful thought and what a beautiful statement.

The Kingdom can be advanced (and should be advanced) everywhere. The kingdom needs to be advanced everywhere. The Kingdom is here and needs to be ushered in by God’s people. This is our task, to advance the Kingdom.

The beautiful thing about it is that it can be done everywhere. I was so struck by d fact that the Harlows said the place where they could best advance the kingdom. they were advancing the Kingdom before, they just found a better groove! I love it.

I’ve been trying to use this terminology in my discipleship relationships since then. Where is the place you can best advance the Kingdom given your unique giftings and talents? Is it in the realm of law and politics, the foreign mission field, grad school, some type of teaching, or any other number of things. Is it in a small town, college town, or a large city? Where do you fit in to best advance the Kingdom?

I’m more and more convinced that this mindset is critical to live the Christian life to the fullest. I’m more and more convinced that people in the so-called marketplace have some of the greatest opportunities to advance the kingdom. And when I say advance the kingdom, I mean way more than just send money around the world. We can advance the kingdom in our lines of work, in our relationships and in many other ways other than just missionaries.

All that to say that missionaries are incredibly important as we advance the kingdom. It’s important to go places that the gospel has never been and continue to tell the story around the globe to people that desperately need to hear it. I just can’t believe that’s the only way for people to be missional.

So, what are your thoughts on advancing the Kingdom? Are there ways for you to work this type of language into your lexicon?

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Church Discipline

There has been a little spike in the blogosphere over church discipline lately. Well, mostly the church discipline of Mars Hill Seattle and because of that the practices of the one and only Mark Driscoll.

Evidently, the leadership of Mars Hill tired to excommunicate a young man recently because he had what they would have called an unrepentant heart concerning his current sexual sin. The leadership team asked his small group to stop hanging out with him and there was a big mess over the whole deal.

Now, I don’t necessarily want to just talk about the ins and outs of church discipline. What I’m really confused about was the fuss that was made by so many “christian” bloggers. All they had was his side of the story and they set out to demonize Driscoll and Mars Hill based on one side of the story. Don’t they understand how hard church discipline is? How hard it is for a church to actually enact biblical church discipline in “tolerance is king” America. It’s not easy and they did not make the process any easier. Majorly frustrating, in my opinion.

Now, I do like Driscoll and Mars Hill (and Justin Holcomb for that matter). But I think the blog world got a little ahead of themselves in this one and didn’t do anyone any favors.

I skimmed Mars Hill’s response that Justin Holcomb posted. You can check that out here http://marshill.com/2012/02/13/a-response-regarding-church-discipline

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Book Review: Radical Together

I read Radical Together by David Platt this morning.  Pretty quick and insightful read.

I never read Radical, but Radical Together is about communities of faith being radical.  Taking the committment to being disciplers of all nations seriously in a community of faith. I really enjoyed his style and his sense of conviction over the biblical truths he was sharing and had shared with his own faith community.  

Platt’s writing was lined up with a lot of other things that have been going on in my walk with God.  He talks about killing the American Dream (see Dick Brogden) and that the gospel is about more than just salvation ( see Scot McKnight and N.T. Wright).  

David breaks this idea down into six different categories.  I’ll list them and give a brief thought on them.

1. Tyranny of Good.  The biggest enemy of the church is doing good things and not doing great things.  Nothing revolutionary here from the leadership standpoint.  This is a leadership axiom shared by many people.  But what is revolutionary ist he questions they were asking.  Is this the best thing for the Kingdom worldwide?  How can we be the best stewards of our finances?  Great questions that can be answered many different wasys.

2. The Gospel Misunderstood.  For this one you can see my last review of Scot McKnight’s book.  Pretty much the same idea just not worked out as much because it’s just a chapter in a shorter book.

3. God is Saying Something.  I really appreciated this chapter.  He talked about letting the Word preach itself.  And always coming back to the Word.  Spoken Word is not something that is dying in our day, it’s something people are craving and we should continue to go to it.

4. The Genius of Wrong. Building the Right Church depends on using the wrong people.  Here, his point is that the people of the church should be doing the discipling.  Pastors are on staff to shepherd the flock and teach them to train others.  Not to put on the whole show so people can bring their friends and say, “just listen to the pastor.”  

5. Our Unmistakable Task.  Live for the end of the world.  Evangelize the world so that Jesus will come back. Share the good news, even in the hard places.  

6. God Who Exalts God.  We are to live selfless lives.  We should give up our lives, not sip our lattes.  

 

I found Radical Together to be a great book, very encouraging though it was hard hitting.  I hope that the church can continue on the path that the gospel has set out for us.

I will say one of the things I’m taking away from the book is to try and spread our charitable giving more around the world and the idea of foster care is continuing to grow in my mind.

 

Also, I received this book free to review.  

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Book Review: King Jesus Gospel

I got a tip to read Scot McKnight‘s The King Jesus Gospel by Jeff Saferite at a minister’s meeting some time last semester.  I’ve liked Scot’s stuff in the past and got it on sale in a kindle edition, so I went for it.

I’m glad I did.

McKnight set out to define the gospel.  Or at least to tell us that the way we have been defining the gospel is wrong.  We’ve become more soterian than gospel oriented.  That is to say that our talk of gospel has only focused on the idea of salvation.  Jesus came to save and that’s it.  Jesus died on the cross to save us, but that’s it.  Jesus wants to save the world, but that’s it.

The problem is that when this is the view of the gospel, life for Jesus after the cross doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that Jesus was raised from the dead and that He is our soon coming King.  In my opinion, and in Scot’s, this misses the point of the gospel.

Yes, salvation is important.  But the idea that Jesus is the Messiah, the King of Israel is a point that the American church is missing.  We have to see the gospel in the bigger picture of Israel’s redemptive history and understand that it is unfolding in the greatest redemption story of all time with what AG doctrine calls our blessed hope, the coming of Jesus at the end of “time.”

A quote that I loved from Scot goes as follows, “If the gospel isn’t about transformation, it isn’t the gospel of the Bible.” (page 27)

Ultimately, the gospel is about transformation.  It’s about moving “the saved” to “the discipled.”  It’s about making disciples of all nations.  It’s about the resurrection and life in the Kingdom, now.

A great read by Scot McKnight that I would highly recommend!

minor side notes.

1. I found his discussion on why Matthew included three groups of 14 people in his genealogy fascinating.  I had never seen that explained like that before.

2. I really enjoyed his discussion on what could be considered the major heresies of today.  Which included: individualism, consumerism, nationalism, moral relativism, scientific naturalism, new age, postmoder tribalism, and salvation by therapy.

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Article on Piper and Masculinity

I found an interesting article over on Christianity Today’s her.meneutics. Yeah, it’s the womens blog but I still peruse it from time to time.

Anyways, the article can be found here

I’ve been struggling through this inner turmoil on the subject and really enjoyed the blogpost. Honestly, I’m a Mark Driscoll fan and enjoy a lot of Piper’s stuff too. I do have concerns over over defining biblical manhood and biblical womanhood. Mostly because I don’t know that the Bible has a tremendous amount to say about the two. I think most of what the Bible has to say about biblical manhood (and subsequently biblical womanhood) is that you should live out what we call the three anchors at XA at UVA. A real devotional life, live in real community, and have real responsibility.

Those are true for men and women.

I guess my bigger issue is taking any idea we have and throwing the word biblical in front of it “just for good measure.”

Anybody else feel this way or disagree with the article?

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Wahoo Through and Through

After watching the Super Bowl and hearing Chris Canty say Wahoowah in front of 100 million people, I’ve been thinking about being a wahoo myself.

Ok, let’s be honest, I was thinking about it before then and that’s not the reason I was thinking of it, but I thought it was a good intro…

Anyways.

I’m a wahoo. Through and through. This morning I found more evidence for this. Evidently I only buy orange and blue hygiene products. Yup. That’s right.

Toothbrush. Orange and Blue.
Deodorant. Orange and Blue
Razor. Orange and Blue.

None of that was done on purpose but I must be more attracted to the products that use the colors of my beloved wahoos.

Weird huh?

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Winter Retreat

Well, we just got back from our Winter Retreat. The Winter Retreat is the District wide (and now reaching outside our district….helloooo pendel). Around 400 students attended and we had a great weekend at the Dulles Hilton.

If I had one word to describe the weekend it would be solid. We had a very community building, bible teaching, solid weekend.

Alicia Chole was our keynote speaker. It was my first time hearing and seeing Alicia,though I’ve heard a lot about her books. I think she did a fantastic job giving us some of the ins and outs of what it means when Jesus says, “Come, follow me.”.

Funny side note. Last year Mario had us stand up and say, “I am Jonah,” this year Alicia did a message on Judas and I was afraid we were going to have to stand up and say, “I am Judas.”

The breakout sessions were well attended and ranged from prayer, the nations, money, relationships, and biblical global justice. I had the privilege of teaching on money and feel like it went really well. It was my first time teaching on it and I was pleased with the questions and the feedback I got.

I feel like the band and the main sessions were energetic and energy giving. I l Ike some of the steps we took to make them a big deal and keep the excitement high. It felt like the ante was upped, and that’s a good thing.

Overall, a great weekend that was well worth all the time put into it.

As for me, I feel like I walked away with more of a desire to surrender all to Jesus. This probably came from the first night as we talked about moving cross-ward as we followed Jesus. I’m a work in progress and there are definite areas that I’d like to surrender more to Jesus in. So, that’s been my prayer since Friday night!

If you went what’s your takeaway from the retreat?

If you wanted to see what people were saying during the retreat check out a twitter search for @xawr12 .

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