Posts Tagged ‘rob bell’

Like probably many of you I have met people who are fascinated, compelled, or drawn to Jesus, but some question or obstacle keeps them away. They may have heard from a Christian, “This is how it is – end of discussion. The Bible says it, so that settles it.”

Or they might have been taught that to follow Jesus, they had to go down a certain road and believe certain things, some of which they found problematic. What interests me is the power of questioning and the experience of solidarity in finding you’re not alone—of always wondering, “But what about that?” and then finding out, “Oh, other people feel the same way.”

Rob Bell wrote a book back in March 2011 called Love Wins.  You may have heard of it.  The subtitle – A Book about  Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. If you haven’t read or heard of this book – its not a book about hell, fire and brimstone.  It’s a provocative book that upset lots of fundamentalist Christians.  For me, that was a compelling reason to get myself a copy.

The first chapter of Love Wins poses this interesting question:

If a missionary got a flat tire, and missed meeting with a nearby village, would this really mean that the villagers missed the only opportunity to hear about God, and would not be saved? Would a flat tire mean that they are all destined for hell?

This of course raises a couple of far more disturbing questions like:

Is your future in someone else’ s hands?

And then the next question:

Is someone else’s eternity resting in your hands?

Perhaps Rob’s purpose here is that we get loosened up with the questions – that the questions pull out us out of ourselves and wake us up, like a triple shot flat white coffee. It’s okay. There should be no fear in the questioning and no hesitation in the asking. We can go there. The biblical tradition, particularly the Hebrew tradition, is actually filled with questions, all the way to Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Many people are afraid to question their faith, having been taught that this is tantamount to either rejecting or losing one’s faith. The best evidence against this line of thought is the Bible itself, in which both God and all the main characters ask many, many troubling questions.

Asking questions is, in fact, a means God often uses to help us rid ourselves of limited and wrongheaded notions about God, so that we catch a larger and expanded vision of who we worship. The bible is full of questions, and full of people who have many doubts and need answers.

By the way – if you’re still stuck or maybe uncomfortable about the two questions following the flat tyre question above then the answers are “most likely no – God has a Plan B.”

Perhaps questions are actually one of the ways we meet the Divine. Somewhere in here we find our own questions and we learn that we are never alone.
And the quest – behind the question is even more interesting and compelling than the questions.

May you, my brothers and sisters remember this week that the questions of life may be more important than the answers. May you recognize your quest behind the questions and may this take you to a place where you can sit in wonder and awe at what the Divine is doing in your life and how much he loves you.

Grace and Peace.

The Quest Behind the Questions

The questions that we ask
Follow the answers the we seek
They riddle the hours of our lives
As our days become our weeks

As we strive to understand
The complexities of life
We miss the here and now
As our worries lead to strife

As we wonder how the past
It teaching us the way
We miss the burning bush
As we rush past it every day

It is not the ‘why’ the matters
As we seek to know the reason
Don’t we just accept the sun
As it moves through every season?

Perhaps the ‘what’
Is the one compelling question
As it grounds us in the present
With it’s beckoning suggestion

That perhaps these questions comfort us
As we seek what keeps us safe
As our present hope is anchored
On our the object of our faith


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The popular pastor and New York Times bestselling author Rob Bell, of Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God, shows us how to pursue and realize our dreams, live in the moment, and joyfully do the things that make us come alive.

Each of us was created for something great—we just need to figure out what it is and find the courage to do it. Whether it’s writing the next great novel, starting a business, or joining a band, Rob Bell’s book How to Be Here encourages us us make those dreams become reality. Our path is ours and ours alone to pursue, he reminds us, and in doing so, we derive great joy because we are living our passions.



“Are you breathing? Are you here? Did you just take a breath? Are you about to take another? Do you have a habit of regularly doing this? Gift. Gift. Gift. Whatever else has happened in your life—failure, pain, heartache, abuse, loss—the first thing that can be said about you is that you have received a gift. Often” – Rob Bell

How to Be Here lays out concrete steps we can use to define and follow our dreams, interweaving engaging stories, lessons from biblical figures, insights gleaned from Rob’s personal experience, and practical advice. Rob gives you the support and insight you need to silence your critics, move from idea to action, take the first step, find joy in the work, persevere through hard times, and surrender to the outcome.

Being here is really the only place we can be.  May you this week remind yourself how to be present if only for 10 minutes, and notice the lack of striving.  May the present gift you back your life in all its fullness.


Grace and Peace


Being Here

Have you walked to the edge of today
Only to find that tomorrow
Is still a unformed dream
Of history about
To repeat?

At the edge of today did you
Achieve all that you had hoped
While regret held you back
From your dream of the

If tomorrow’s friend never called
Would the end of today
Be any different than
The past failed

It seems always the same
Forever unchanging regret
Betrayed by hope
Abandoned through

Perhaps then the present
Is the only gift of today
Worth opening now
And spending time

For the one friend today
Yesterday and forever
Is here now with
His arms wide

Introductory content adapted from GoodReads.com 

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In the book, Velvet Elvis, Repainting the Christian Faith, the author, Rob Bell has this to say about light – “Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it could be.”

Darkness only occurs in a shadow, shadows are caused by light. Light therefore must be the absence of darkness. Pure and simple logic really.

The concept of “light” appears numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments. God created light (Genesis 1:3 ). However, a careful reading of the Scriptures reveals that the physical entity that we call “light” is actually only the second form of light in the universe, since everywhere the Bible declares that God Himself is light.

Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light.” In Psalm 104:2 , the psalmist testified of the Lord who “covered himself” in light.

Photo by Karen Jordan

Photo by Karen Jordan

In John 8:12 Jesus, said, “I am the light of the world.” Such expressions make at least two things abundantly clear. First, the origin of light rests with God. Second, in some sense God Himself is the very essence of light.

We need to let the light into our lives. Light is life and healing. Everthing has cracks, Everything is made to let the light in.

There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. ~ Leonard Cohen

There is an old Maori proverb that says if you turn your face towards the sun your shadows will fall far behind you. One of the meanings of this proverb is you always have a choice to focus on the light or on your own shadows. Light is life. Choose it.

This week, may you let the light come in and begin healing in your heart. May you recognise that the cracks don’t need papering over. The cracks exist to let light in and then let light out. What will you do with this light?

Light is Life

Sunrise proclaims light
As the shadows retreat
Quietly back into
Their original disguise

Waters reflects on
Shadows of yesterday
As today’s light heralds
Hope of a brand new day

Yesterday is no more
As the winds of change
Gently ripple the water
To magnify the light

As the sun warms your face
Of a restored hope
May your shadows always
Fall far behind you

Always remember
As day follows night
Darkness is only
The shadows from light

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I’m not very good with criticism or ‘constructive feedback’. I’ve noticed that I may hear nine really good things, but it’s the one critical comment that will eat away at my soul. I usually tell myself that it’s really nothing, that “you just have to laugh about it,” and that those small paper cuts really don’t hurt. But they do.

Over time, these small afflictions or wounds build up and we experience “death by paper cuts.”

So what is the solution – not the band-aid solution, but the real solution – forgiveness.

Rob Bell, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About God says that we are called to forgive by going through three steps:

1. Name it. We shouldn’t just ignore it or minimize it. By naming why we are hurt we can disarm the wound’s secret control over us.

2. Accept it. Realize that you are hurt and don’t throw the pain back or nurse it secretly on the side.

3. Absorb it. This is the most painful part – what Tim Keller equates with a form of death. It’s really awful to absorb the wrongs others have done to you, but on the other side of that death is new life; resurrection that will empower you to love more like Christ.

The cross says the pain stops here. The way of the cross is a way of absorbing pain, not passing it on, a way that transforms pain from destructive impulse into creative power. When Jesus accepted the cross, his death opened up a way for the redeeming power of love ~ Parker Palmer

May you this week, come to realise that death by paper cuts can lead to new abundant life and a new hope. When you suffer from the paper cuts of life remember that there is One who has suffered before. May you come to know that forgiveness of others brings healing to you.

Death by Paper CutsDesperation

Another GroundHog day
Undigested dreams in my gut
Will I survive another day of
Death by paper cuts

I’m careful with my words
Use Howevers, not buts
But some people breath
Death by paper cuts

They won’t stop you cold
No sledgehammer and nuts
But if they surround you’ll suffer
Death by paper cuts

Heaven would be such relief
From all earthy doors slammed shut
But look for the resurrection after
Death by paper cuts

The created cosmic pattern
When life is your rut
Seek the abundant life after
Death by paper cuts

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When we read Genesis chapter one we usually see only one story there, but there are actually many stories. Why don’t we see these multiple stories? Is it because we don’t open our eyes? What is it that we fail to see?

The Hebrews style of writing is prolific with a style of poetry unfamiliar to most readers of the Bible. This poetry is nothing like the poetry we are used to reading today and therefore it is hard to grasp and see.

The most common form of Hebrew poetry is called parallelism. Parallelism is when the writer says one thing in two or more different ways. Genesis is full of this poetic form.

Often we overlook what the Bible is telling us because we are not recognizing what the poetry of a passage is attempting to convey.

Let’s look at Genesis.

The first creation story is found in Genesis 1.1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew word “bara” is a verb and is usually translated as “create” as an intended and purposeful action.

In Genesis 1.3-13 we have the first three days of creation. These are the days of separating. On the first day God separated light and darkness. On the second day God separated the waters above from the waters below forming the sky and the seas. On the third day God separated the land from the water forming dry land.

In Genesis 1.14-31 we have the second set of three days of creation. On the fourth day God filled the light with the sun and the darkness with the moon and stars. On the fifth day God filled the sky with the birds and the sea with the fish. On the sixth day God filled the dry land with the animals and man.

Notice the correlation between the first set of three days of separation with the second set of three days of filling. The seventh day – rest.

This is pure poetry in motion. There is so much more.

Most modern western thinkers view the Genesis events in step logic. This is the idea that each event comes after the previous forming a series of events in a linear timeline. But, the Hebrews did not think in step logic but in block logic. This is the grouping together of similar ideas together and not in chronological order. Most people read Genesis chapter one from a step logic perspective or chronological, rather than from the block logic so prevalent in Hebrew poetry.

The story of creation is so much more that a sequence of events, there is so much here that is unseen, but can be seen if we have eyes to see. There is separation, filling, rest, breath, humans created as both physical and spiritual, seasons, days, years, and eternity.

May you slow down so that you don’t miss a thing, may the eyes of your heart be enlightened. May you be fully present right here right now. may you come to see the reality of God is at hand upon us, among us, near, here. May you come to see that everything is spiritual.

The First Poemitw0001s

One- light then dark
Two – sky then water
Three – land then sea

Four – sun, moon and stars
Five – birds and fish
Six – animals and humans

Seven – rest

Finally here’s an excellent about the poetry of Genesis – enjoy!

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Rusty Nail

The New Testament teaches that the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the Christian faith.  The resurrection established Jesus as the powerful Son of God.  God has given Christians a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Christians, through faith in the working of God are spiritually resurrected with Jesus so that they may walk in a new way of eternal life.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  ~ John 11:25-26

Everybody believes something, and everybody believes somebody. Jesus’ resurrection is an invitation to a different way of living – an eternal life. It’s easy to lose focus on the life in the rats and mice of the here and now.

Eternity is here and now, it just goes on for longer.  God placed eternity within our hearts. It’s what we long for, what we made for. Jesus rising from the dead invites us to this life.

Jesus invites us to trust resurrection
that every glimmer of good
every hint of hope
every impulse that elevates the soul
is a sign, a taste, a glimpse
of how things actually are
and how things will ultimately be
resurrection affirms this life and the next
as a seamless reality
and saved by God
~ Rob Bell

This Easter may you glimpse this seamless reality of eternity, how things are and will be, the life between the now and the not yet. If you seek it you will find it.  May you trust and embrace the message of Easter. Jesus rose and is alive and is reaching out for your hand. Will you take it?

Rusty Nail

Rusty nail on a dusty roadimage
There’s a scar in the palm of your hand
There’s an empty cross and a vacant tomb
And a love that I’ll never understand

I guess my leaving you was much too hard
For your old soul to stand
So here I am, I’m right back here again
And I’m reaching out for your hand

~ Derek Lind

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Surrender is when people stop fighting . In war, a white flag is a common symbol of surrender, as is the gesture of raising one’s hands empty and open above one’s head.

I was listening to a video clip by Rob Bell the other day (and no I’m not a universalist – I just like his style) and he talked about how most of us walk around with white knuckles, desperately holding onto to things and people.  He advocates that we should walk around with open hands, because only in an open hand can we release things and have things placed.  Perhaps this is what happens when and after we surrender.

Surrendering is not merely a once-and-for-all experience. It is continuous, day by day. When our soul struggles to live and preserve itself, that is a call to a deeper relationship with God.  It means more opening to Him with hearts, hands and arms wide open. Surrendering is not just the act of denying the self. It is an interruption of the motions of the life to connect with God.

Don’t seek God in temples. He is close to you. He is within you. Only you should surrender to Him and you will rise above happiness and unhappiness. ~ Leo Tolstoy

By surrender we find rest in our souls (Matt. 11:28-30). Our soul  exists for God – He put it there – to contain Him, to be filled with Him, and to express Him. His resurrection life and power  passes through every battle that we may experience.  We have access to this divine power in surrender and letting go.

I have a lot to learn here.  I’m still walking around white knuckled.  I need to open up and trust God more.  It’s not easy – but I know it’s important.  One day I’ll get there.

So what about you?  What does surrender mean to you, and what do you need to hold less tightly and open your hands to?  Here or somewhere this week will you share your thoughts?  You may just help someone let go and receive something.


In these timber trenches
In darkness, I dig in
God protect me in these killing fields
And save my soul, from sin

In this war I am blind
And deaf from friendly fire
Protect my heart with Your shield
Be my Jehovah Jireh

These trenches are my prison
The enemy marches near
God, my rock of ages past
Break me out of here

So I wave my flag of dirty white
At Your feet, I fall
To my Jesus and my King
I surrender all

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No Wonder?

Since departing Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids,  and relocating to Los Angeles, I haven’t heard a lot from author and poet Rob Bell.  Last week he released a new video, reminiscent of his Nooma series.

In this video Rediscovering Wonder, we find Rob Bell strolling through some back alleys in what could be his local neighbourhood.

One of the interesting points about the video, though, is that it seems to be a direct response to his critics. Since the release of Love Wins in early 2011, Bell has sustained several attacks by his critics. The constant criticism leveled at the book Love Wins brought with it accusations by some of heresy, including claims of universalism and complete rejection of classic Christianity. I bet most of these people had never read the book.

While I didn’t necessarily agree with all his points in Love Wins, what I do recognise is that Rob Bell has an exceptional gift in communicating in person, through video and in the written form.  He is without doubt one of the most brilliant communicators of all time.

The last time I read of such criticism, and calls for heresy was probably in the Bible – just before Pilate decided that Jesus should be crucified.  Interesting isn’t it?

Whatever your views of the work of Rob Bell, this video clip challenges us to rediscover our sense of wonder and awe.

I’m not even going to try to come up with a poem this week on wonder.  There is no need.  This video about wonder and awe is pure and simple poetry in motion.

So what about you my friend?  What is your response?  What will you do differently to embrace wonder and awe?  Here or somewhere this week share your story.  It may just help someone rediscover wonder.

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Love Always Wins

Rob Bell in his book Love Wins addresses one of the most curly issues of faith – heaven and hell.  Bell asks the question, would a loving God send people to eternal torment forever?  Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is quite hopeful. Eternal life doesn’t start when we die – it starts right now. Really?

Bell has attracted a lot of criticism about this book and his overall theme of universalism – the belief that all people will eventually be saved, given enough time.  There are a lot of reviews, good, bad and very ugly about what Rob Bell has to say about heaven and hell.  It seems to me that most of the people who claim that Rob Bell is a heretic are the same people who have never read his book.

I’ve read his book.  I think it’s great.  I’ve asked these questions, and I still don’t think I have the answers.  I do believe God has the answers, and that God is love, and that love wins.  I have many favourite parts of the book but this quote struck me:

May you experience this vast,
expansive, infinite, indestructible love
that has been yours all along.
May you discover that this love is as wide
as the sky and as small as the cracks in
your heart no one else knows about.
And may you know,
deep in your bones,
that love wins.

This book really got me thinking. here’s my reflection:

Heaven on Earth

in between the now and the not yet
we live here on earth
waiting for heaven
where on earth is heaven

in between today and tomorrow
we live on earth
day after day, some days
seems like hell on earth

perhaps eternity
is set in the hearts of men
perhaps the kingdom of heaven
is within us

perhaps, just perhaps
heaven is a place on earth
not now, but here
sometime, someday

a new heaven and a new earth
one day, in God’s time
because God is love and
love will always win

Finally, here’s a video clip about Rob Bell’s book (by Rob Bell), view it, read the book and then judge for yourself.

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