What do You Know About Rob Bell?

I just started reading Velvet Elvis tonight. I have been hearing more and more about Rob Bell and wanted to find out for myself how good his material and writing is. I have been pleasantly surprised with how well this book has been written. He does a good job of integrating a large amount of information from a variety of fields of study – anthropology, sociology, theology, etc all the while stringing together his points with illustrations that pull it all together in a way that holds your attention.

People of all maturity levels will get something from it. It is conversational enough to draw in the unchurched and answer many questions that Christians and non-Christians have asked themselves. He has enough depth and well placed insights to give the mature Christian something to think about as well. This book seems like a guarded pendulum swing. Bell is pushing forth an understanding of Christianity and Christian movements that pushes the envelop of doctrine and some of the core tenets of our faith (the trinity, inspiration, virgin birth, etc) without having an air that “this is it.” He is humble enough to acknowledge that this is just one more piece of the theological discussion that needs to live on past this book and past all other books.

I am looking forward to reading more and also previewing some of his NOOMA videos. Do any of you have any opinions of his material or NOOMA videos? Have any of you used any of this material? What did you think? All input is welcome…as always!

How much spam has Akismet blocked for you?

I just broke 14,000 spam emails blocked by Akismet. I am guessing that many of you get a lot more than that. I am always amazed at what people type to try to get their link on the blog. Most of it is computer generated like when I get a comment like, “that’s great” to a post on the Peterson murder. How many have you had blocked?

N.T. Wright on Emotionalism

From his chapter on A World Reborn: Revelation in Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship:

We have allowed our proper dislike of emotionalism to deceive us into trying to ignore our emotions. But if Good Friday and Easter don’t stir our emotions, then the tyrant has indeed enslaved us. We have become like a garden paved over with stone slabs. Many people live like that; God help us, many of us even choose it, rather than face the terror and the joy of our own hearts, let alone of Calvary and Easter. But Easter is all about the garden in which stone slabs are made to look silly. Jesus weeps before Lazarus’ tomb; and then he calls him out into life. Jesus weeps again in Gethsemane; then he goes off to confront the tyrant and defeat him. Peter weeps bitterly after he has denied Jesus; and the risen Jesus meets him and loves him and commissions him. Mary weeps before Jesus’ tomb; and Jesus meets her, alive. John weeps because the plan of salvation is sealed up, and the world cannot be rescued from tyranny; and his tears turn to worship because of the Lamb who was slain. We can try paving the garden with stone if we like; but come springtime, come Easter, there will be grass pushing its way through.

To experience the full range of human emotions is to recognize the one whose image we are made in and who has experienced the same things himself.

The Disease of Convenience

I have often thought of Type II Diabetes as the “Disease of Convenience.” That is more to keep myself from eating the things that will take me that route than it is entirely true. When I am in a rush I tend to eat and drink things that are not the best for me. That is fine from time to time but to make that a steady diet leaves me sluggish, malnourished and always hungry. I am not diabetic and hope that I never will be. Its effects can be pretty devastating to the body.

I think there are some pretty significant spiritual parallels to the “disease of convenience” concept. Spiritually speaking the effects are the same – sluggish, malnourished, and always hungry to be filled but never consuming that which satisfies. If not held in check it can lead to an untimely demise. The source can also be the same. We can get in such a hurry that we leave out the important things. When we do that our lives will have a void that we can try to fill with the empty calories of a “quick fix.” We may pursue a new hobby, sport or television show. But without God we will never find satisfaction and true spiritual health.

God is the solution. The problem is God’s fix is not as convenient as the “alternatives.” That may be why so many people avoid God and try everything else first. Look at Moses. It took him waiting over 40 years of herding sheep before finding his purpose through God. You cannot be in a hurry with God. You cannot expect him to operate according to your timetable. 2 Peter 3:9 says, ” The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God’s pace is not always our pace. We are used to instant this and microwavable that. If you don’t like the show you are watching try one of the other 500 options. Not so with God. God does not operate out of a convenience mentality. He doesn’t pad and insulate our lives from all problems and inconveniences. Instead he actually brings our lives directly into contact with many of them. Why? Because he knows that convenience kills. What good is a pot that has not passed through the fire? What value is gold that is full of impurities? What good are our lives if make convenience the gold standard of making decisions? I am glad Jesus didn’t take the easy route. I am glad he didn’t ask himself, “which of these options would be most convenient?”

Knowledge + Service

Bible knowledge has sometimes been stressed over service but the two go hand in hand. One without the other is dead. You can know all about God but no matter how much you study, memorize, or even teach you don’t really know God until you respond with your heart through loving service. How many times have we taken Sunday morning or Wednesday night Bible class time to go out and help someone in need? That is as close to the heart of the gospel as sitting through a Bible class on the Life of Christ.

Because He First Loved…Living By God’s Example

God asks us to do many difficult things:

  • Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us
  • Take up our cross
  • Leave your father and mother for his sake
  • Humble ourselves

In each of those things and in many others we see how God, through Christ, did those things first and asks us to follow. He didn’t just throw out a bunch of “good ideas” and hypotheticals. He doesn’t call us to action while he sits idly by. We often think of the call of Christ being to “go” but what is stated more often in the New Testament is the call to follow. When you are following Christ evangelism wont’ be an issue. He will take you to those you need to reach out to but you have to follow.

He doesn’t send where he is not willing to go. He was willing to do it himself and blaze a trail for us to follow on. Being a disciple of Christ requires some difficult things but we always remember that the trail of discipleship has already been blazed. We just follow Him.

Thank you God for first doing what you ask us to do. Help us to take the call of discipleship seriously and live by the example you have set. Thank you for making your dwelling among us. Thank you for walking ahead of us. Give us the strength to follow in the paths you have already trod. Help us to love others as you have first loved us. Help us to pray for our enemies as you prayed for those who crucified you. Help us to take up our cross remembering that it is not the first time in history that has been done. Help us to put you first above all others as Christ put your will for his life first.. Humble us as Christ the king was willing to take on the roll of the servant. Lead us and help us to follow.

Fellowship: Differences Between Men & Women

Despite the last 30 years of trying to make men and women exactly the same it is still pretty obvious that we are different. This definitely shows up in how we fellowship with other Christians. Women are quick to talk about their feelings, their ups and downs, etc. They are certainly not afraid to be vulnerable. Men on the other hand learn from an early age that vulnerability is not positive, attractive, or beneficial. We don’t like to open up, share our feelings, or say “I love you” to another man. Studies have shown that women use far more words during the course of the day than men do. Most men just aren’t big talkers. The result is that our fellowship among men is often lacking.

So what can we do to get men to experience fellowship at its best? I think for men it comes down to shared experience. We don’t have much to say unless we have something we can relate to. Time constraints and busy schedules keep our iron from rubbing and we miss out on valuable fellowship. We don’t have a hard time talking about similar sports interests or who won the pennant. We made time to know what happened at the ball game. Shared experiences generate discussion and fellowship. One reason I enjoy things like Fantasy Football, service projects, and prayer breakfasts is because we really don’t have much to talk about unless we have shared experiences. First we have to make time for each other.

We certainly do not need to expect men to be like women. That is just not attractive to anyone or really very helpful. But we do need to find more ways to get men engaged in meaningful fellowship with other men. What have you found works well to get men to grow closer in their relationships with each other?