Friday, March 25, 2011

Why do Christians Love to Eat Their Own?

Jesus of Nazareth (Physical manifestation of God)
Jesus Christ Superstar (musical '71)
The Last Temptation of Christ (movie '88)
Bill Hybels (Pastor Willow Creek Church '75 to present)
The Shack (book '07)
Rob Bell (Mars Hill church, author teacher)

That list has two things in common:

1.) They were all vehemently criticized by a significant sect of Christendom. Killed. Labeled as heretical; destructive to our "fragile" faith.

2) They undeniably pulled me toward a relationship with our Triune God. Or helped me deepen my relationship and understanding of God and Christianity.

I should end this post right here. In fact if you'd like to stop here, that would probably be fine. This post is 100% true up to this point. You cannot refute how the Holy Spirit has moved in my life. Only God and I know the palpable sense in my soul that I experienced with each of those people or media above.

It's a funny thing. We Christians love to say how much we want to let God "out of the box" that we've put him in. We want to espouse that the Holy Spirit is everywhere. We just don't want to believe He can use something that's outside of what we label as heretical. Here's what I mean:

The Last Temptation of Christ has heretical parts in it. When I saw it I was so clueless on God I didn't know what heresy was. Yet the Gospel portrayed in that heretical movie still captured my heart. Somehow the Holy Spirit grabbed my soul even in spite of bad theology.

There is an internet firestorm blazing around Rob Bell and his universalism*. (*No hell; everyone goes to heaven.) I have no comment on that. I have not read his book (Love Wins) yet. I will. After reading it, I may or may not know definitively whether he's a universalist or not. In the mean time, I will not take any one's word for it.

Just for fun, let's say he is a universalist & this latest book is heretical. The Holy Spirit still used all his prior books to draw me closer to Christ. I would still highly recommend them.

Two things bother me about the Christian firestorm at Rob Bell.

1) Many people have made judgment calls without reading the book. Please stop.

2) The vibe of the criticism doesn't seem very kind. Honestly it feels to me like the way Jews treated Jesus. We seem in a great zealous hurry to nail the sign "King of the Universalists" over his head.

Please understand, I am a huge fan of sound doctrine; my life depends upon it. But right now are we more concerned about what Bell is saying about eternity...than we are about the people in our relational world who don't know Christ?

I mean God didn't give me the charge of policing or labeling Rob Bell. But I do think God's very concerned about the souls in my relational sphere and how He can use me in my neck of the woods.

I mean really--if my focus is Rob Bell--I think Satan's rightfully laughing.

And here's my own personal conviction--how much of my Christian beliefs are off from what God intends? Heck, what about the gap between the sound doctrine I espouse...and the actual choices I make? I can't imagine how many times in a day I miss when it comes to sound doctrine and God-honoring choices. But then again Rob Bell's a bigger fish to fry--now isn't he?

I encourages us to focus on heaven and hell as it pertains to the relationships God has placed us in.

And here's a closing thought: IF Rob Bell is a universalist, that doesn't mean he's not in a relationship with Christ. Zoinks!---we might spend eternity among (gasp) UNIVERSALISTS! ;-)

Love someone today. Pray for Rob. Last I knew he is still a brother in Christ.

Shalom, my friends.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Larry Sanders Show and Mortality

I'm watching The Larry Sanders Show, one of my favorite series of all time on IFC. Halfway through there's a scene with Gene Siskel. I realize, "Oh, he's dead." He's in the backstage hallway having a condescending conversation with John Ritter. "Oh, he's dead too; how ironic."

The last guest to come on the show within the show is Warren Zevon. "
You're kidding me? He's also dead. And one of my favorite musicians. What are the odds?...he died of cancer..."

As the show closes and the credits roll, I think about my friends battling cancer. I look over and see my terminal greyhound Cleo. I try to keep these heavy and oh-so real emotions at bay most of the time. But as I am sitting on the couch, the family in bed; I can feel the wave sneak upon me. It starts in the back of my head, comes over my cranium, warm behind my eyes, then sensitivity in my nose. Tears.

It's just me and the dog in the living room so I don't fight it. It's always safe to cry in front of a dog. Maybe that's one of the silly reasons we get so attached to them. Death comes and death goes. And now it feels like it's moving in for a season.

Sometimes I wonder if God designed tears to be a pop-off valve to keep us from blowing up. Sometimes I think tears help us offload some of the weight that we carry--the weight we're supposed to let God shoulder. And sometimes I think tears just remind me that I'm human and have my limits.

And sometimes tears are foreshadowing. I mean I only teared-up a little; I didn't sob. But when it's time to put the dog down. When all of my friends don't beat cancer. Then. Then, there will be real tears. Death has been, is and will be. And yes, my incomparable Savior has defeated it. But in earthly terms, we still have to weather it. Tears.

Here's to Gene, John, Warren, Cleo...and my courageous friends and their families.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Oakbrook Message: I Believe in You - Marriage

Click here for the PDF* manuscript of my March 6th talk at Oakbrook Church.

The free podcast will show up here on Tues.

*Click here to get the free program "Adobe Reader" to view PDFs.