For those you who recall the controversy about the doctrine of Hell and universalism that was spurred on by former mega church pastor Rob Bell’s 2011 book Love Wins and wonder what ever happened to him here is the scoop. Recently Rob Bell sat down for an interview with The New York and shared that the controversy following his book played a large part in why he left his church Mars Hills Church in West Virginia in September 22, 2011.
A church that he had founded in February 1999 and stated originally he had left due to, “”Feeling the call from God to pursue a growing number of strategic opportunities, our founding pastor Rob Bell, has decided to leave Mars Hill in order to devote his full energy to sharing the message of God’s love with a broader audience.”
The New Yorker article, titled “Hell-Raiser,” wrote that Mars Hill saw a 3,000-person decrease in membership and received a great deal of negative criticism and accusations of heresy and universalism over the book, which questioned the existence of hell and the exclusivity of heaven. Kristen Bell, Rob’s wife, said in the interview that “there was a cost … and part of the cost was we couldn’t keep doing what we were doing at Mars Hill.” The New Yorker wrote. “Congregants reported that friends and family members were asking why they were allowing themselves to be led by a false teacher.” You can read the article at The New Yorker (here).
I have been reading of late the book “Through Gates of Splendor” by Elizabeth Elliot which is a book which tells the story of Operation Auca, an attempt by five American missionaries – Jim Elliot (the author’s husband), Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian – to reach the Huaorani tribe of eastern Ecuador. All five of the men were killed by the tribe.
I was intrigued by a quote from the journal of Pete Fleming. Most have heard of Jim Elliot who first heard of the Huaorani in 1950 from a former missionary to Ecuador, and afterwards indicated that God had called him to Ecuador to evangelize the Huaorani. This is where He began corresponding with his friend Pete Fleming about his desire to minister in Ecuador, and in 1952 the two men set sail for Guayaquil as missionaries with the Plymouth Brethren. For 6 months they lived in Quito with the goal of learning Spanish. Here in Chapter 2 titled “Destination Shandia” Pete is quoted:
“Language is a tyranny of frustration,” Pete once said. But learn it they must. During those months of study Pete wrote in his diary: “I am longing now to reach the Aucas if God gives me the honor of proclaiming the Name among them….I would gladly give my life for that tribe only to see an assembly of those proud, clever, smart people gathering around a table to honor the Son-gladly, gladly, gladly! What more could be given to a life?
These words came to be prophetic as a few years later on January 8, 1956 Pete was killed by the tribe he longed to reach with the gospel as a search party found his body floating in the Curaray River. He was the last member of the team to join, largely because of concerns of his wife. They had only been married 18 months when all five of the team were attacked by a group of Waodani warriors and Fleming was killed along with the other missionaries.
According to reports, Fleming was speared by Kimo, a man who later became one of the first Huaorani converts to Christianity. God honored his prayer as I continue the reading of the book I sense a compelling by these missionaries one being Pete Fleming, to share the gospel at whatever the cost. Paul states this truth in I Corinthians 9:16: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.”
Recently as a LibraryThing book reviewer I was given the task of reading the delightful book “Breakfast with Bonhoeffer: How I Learned To Stop Being Religious So I Could Follow Jesus” so that I could provide an honest but critical review of the book. Being an avid reader of the classical works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer I jumped at the chance to read anything pertaining to his work. One chapter that struck a chord with me that I found heartwarming was the chapter titled “Community”. Part of the reason I think the chapter was ingrained in my memory is due to its movie illustration of the cinematic character Samwise Gamgee from the epic trilogy Lord of the Rings. Know I must confess I am a Lord of the Rings fan boy!
We are exhorted in Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ”. Bonhoeffer states, “If we do not experience others bearing us, then the group we belong to is not Christian….And if anyone refuses to bear another’s burden, then he denies the law of Christ.” Author Jon Walker gives a perfect example of bearing the burdens of another in Samwise Gamgee in his book. He states:
Although Frodo gets most of the credit, he never could have completed his journey through Mordor had he not been accompanied by Sam, his loyal and faith friend. In truth, Sam is the real hero of the story. He does everything he can to ease his friend’s burden, providing sacrificial service through the harshest conditions. Sam listens, he serves, he encourages, and he confronts by speaking the truth in love.
As the two begin to run out of food, Sam eats less in order to give Frodo more. When he realizes they probably won’t return from the journey. Same presses on with Frodo even though he knows it will most likely cost him his own life. When Sam thinks Frodo is dad, he takes the ring intending to finish the journey on Frodo’s behalf. When he discovers Frodo is alive, Sam gives the ring back to Frodo, instead of insisting it now belonged to him. In fact Sam is one of only two people who give the ring up voluntarily. When Frodo can’t go on, Sam picks him up and carries him up a mountain. Sam wasn’t concerned about credit, and never thought twice about sharing Frodo’s burden.
For those who are movie buffs and have seen the film series I think we can appreciate the visual illustration of what it means to bear another’s burdens found in the fictional character Samwise. In many ways bearing the burden’s of others is how we become more like Christ.
Today in my devotional reading I read John Piper’s meditation on Philippians 1:21: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” which is found in chapter 12 of his book “A Godward Life”. As many people do we ponder more what are going to die with our lives and spend very little time pondering out death and how it is gain for us who have Christ. Piper gives a few reasons why death is gain.
(1) The spirit will be made perfect. (Hebrews 12:22-23)
(2) We will be relieved of the pain of this world. (Luke 16:24-25)
(3) We will be given profound rest in our souls. (Revelation 6:9-11)
(4) We will experience a deep at homeness. (2 Corinthians 5:8)
(5) We will be with Christ. (Philippians 1:21—23)
As the small list of reasons in not exhaustive or complete in any respect it is enough to make our hearts burn and know that to have Christ and to die in Christ is gain.
In John Walker’s new book “Breakfast with Bonhoeffer: How I Learned To Stop Being Religious So I Could Follow Jesus” we have a great devotional read that I find as a great introduction to Bonhoeffer’s theology and thought in the context of practical application. John Walker writing style in this book is what I would consider warm and simple to make it an easy read for anyone. Each chapter in the book consisted of a personal crisis in the author’s life then he reflects on God’s word peppered with a quote from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer which then culminates with some practical application which in the end results in perseverance through the crisis of faith.
Much of the biographical dilemmas the author experienced were during the research and writing for his other books “Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship” and “Invisible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work Life Together“.
While experiencing these trials of faith the author would spend time reflecting on his personal crisis of faith in his Christian walk and then reflect on God’s word and pour over the classic writings of Bonhoeffer and see how they applied to the struggle at hand.
What I found refreshing and inspiring was the author’s openness when discussing his own personal struggles with divorce, miscarriages, depression, suffering and grief. I found myself encouraged, entertained and inspired many times as Walker reminds us of the relevance still today of God’s Word and the writings of Bonhoeffer. But also as I read the book I wanted to read more of the primary sources written by the martyred German Lutheran pastor, Bonhoeffer.
If your going through some crisis “Breakfast with Bonhoeffer” will remind you that God is with you in the midst of the storm and that total reliance on Christ is the only way. If one is looking for a more in scholarly in depth study of the writings of Bonhoeffer this would not be suffice. In the end I would also recommend this book to those who have maybe heard of or wanted to read Bonhoeffer but have not and would like to get a more practical introduction into his works and thought on living out the Christian faith.
I wanted to share something I found helpful and useful. Check out this excellent chart below on pride vs. humility in marriage (from Love that Lasts by Gary and Betsy Ricucci) which I found on the Crossway Blog. Scripture says that “Pride comes before the fall” (Prov. 16:18). Failure to sacrifice out pride before the altar of the Lord can cost us dearly in our marriages which in turn affects our ministry and all other areas of our life. One must constantly keep it in submission to God’s word.
|PRIDE VS. HUMILITY
|Pride loves to talk, reveling in every self-exalting form of self-expression.
||Humility asks questions and loves dialogue.
|Pride is quite content with what it already knows.
||Humility has never found someone if couldn’t learn something from.
|Pride assumes I already understand everything I need to.
||Humility assumes there is always more to learn about everything.
|Pride assumes I don’t need help.
||Humility assumes I need others.
|Pride sinfully judges others by assuming they will respond negatively or unhelpfully if I am open.
||Humility would rather be open and vulnerable than closed and independent.
|Pride uses conversation as a broadcast time.
||Humility uses conversation with a spouse to explore new worlds.
|Pride doesn’t need a spouse, just an audience.
||Humility puts energy and effort into listening.
|Pride denies what the gospel reveals about our seriously sinful condition (Prov 10:19; Gal 5:17).
||Humility treats a spouse as a fellow traveler on the road to biblical wisdom.
||Humility that leads to intimacy takes an interest in one’s spouse as a gift from God.
||Humility believes what the gospel says about our desperate need for God and his grace– after we’re saved as well as before.
In his new book “Taking Jesus at His Word: What Jesus Really Said in the Sermon on the Mount” author Addison H. Hart takes on a journey through the message of the Sermon on the Mount. Addison Hodges Hart is a retired pastor and college chaplain. He is also the author of “Knowing Darkness: On Skepticism, Melancholy, Friendship, and God” and “The Yoke of Jesus: A School for the Soul in Solitude”.
This book on the Sermon of the Mount is more of a meditation on the sermon than a scholarly work of interpretation. It primarily provides Hart’s own personal devotional reflections and thoughts as he states he has spent years meditating on the Sermon of the Mount as he would listen to the text, think upon it, meditate on it and then take notes. Hart writes that the Sermon on the Mount is a guide for believers who desires to live their lives with the character of God’s kingdom and righteousness. The author advises that we should take Jesus at his word as Christ’s message was making the kingdom primary.
Even though the book provides areas that provoke thought the books weightiness in impact was diminished to me primarily by some of his interpretive theological ideas concerning sin and hell. I found disturbing that He alludes to Hell as not an everlasting place of torment to not be taken literally but figurative. Another was his questioning of the historicity of the book of Jonah. With these statements peppered with the book I believe he undermines any attempt to take Jesus at his word.
In the end Hart does make the point within the pages of this book to provide interesting thoughts and ideas on how a Christian would actually believe and in turn practice Jesus’ teaches found in the Sermon on the Mount. I found this refreshing as he sheds light on the practical application necessary for the kingdom message of Jesus to be fleshed out in us. You can read more about the book in a blog post by Addison Hodges Hart and an excerpt on EerdWord.
In his new book “Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture” R. Paul Stevens takes his readers along a journey spanning through the Old and New Testaments exploring the theological meaning of every sort and type of work. The author R. Paul Stevens is professor emeritus of marketplace theology and leadership at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, and a marketplace ministry mentor.
This marketplace theologian takes the reader through more than twenty biblical accounts of various familiar character profiles in the bible and brings out the purpose of their work and how it fits into God’s plan for the world. It chapter covers bible personality and then examines what his vocation was and how it fit into the scheme of God and how God is glorified in our work. Out of all the delightful stories in this book the one of the many worth commenting on is that of Joseph. His account in the scriptures reads like a modern day soap opera. We see Joseph begins his career as a shepherd following in the footsteps of his father. Then Joseph after being sold by his brothers into slavery ends up in Egypt with a new job working as a slave in house of Potifphar. Then finally Joseph is elevated to the highest position in the land right under the pharaoh and this is where he finds his calling and final vocation. He is trusted with the task of caretaker of all of Egypt’s produce in order manage it so that they may be able to survive the foreseen famine that was to come to Egypt.
But his vocation served to not just protect Egypt but a people and not just any people but God’s chosen people. His family being the sons of Jacob and the people of Israel would be cared for by his vocational position and duty in Egypt. Thus through Joseph’s vocation God lovingly and graciously preserved his people from dying under the famine. In this story and throughout the pages of this book R. Paul Stevens reminds us that God is first constantly at work and that as people created in God’s image we to are coworkers with God as he accomplishes his purposes.
I believe in this volume R. Paul Stevens brings forth through his reflections of these well known Bible passages a biblical based theology of work to deal with the question that many who work may be wondering, “Why work? What is the point anyway?” I found this book very refreshing in aiding the laborer in finding God at work in his work and in turn realizing that our work does matter. I would recommend this is a great addition to any library as study help to assist in further understanding the Christian theological aspects of our daily labor.
|Slave master is sin (20)
||Slave master is God (22)
|Free from righteousness (20)
||Free from sin (22)
||Fruit? Santification (22)
|The final end? Death (21)
||The final end? Eternal Life (22)
|The master pays wages (23)
||The master givesgifts (23)
|The wage is death (23)
||The gift is eternal life (23)
According to Paul there is no middle ground or third alternative; one is either a slave of sin or a slave of God. In this instance then the apostle describes the act of regenerative conversion as an exchange of masters in Romans 6.
I find in the gospels that Jesus’ own teachings affirm this same idea when he says in Luke 16:13, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Serve in this context is the Greek word (douleuo) which is the verb form of (doulos = slave) meaning to be a slave, serve, do service. Therefore the implication is that there is no impartiality when it comes to whom we belong to an who is our master.
Here we have a breakdown of the parallels here. The idea of slavery goes through a complete transformation when God becomes the master. Now with this act of regenerative conversion and exchange of we are urged and inclined by Paul to now serve God as instrument. This is stated in Romans 6:13: “Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness of God.”
Thinking of our mortality is a theme that I think many times we don’t give enough thought to. In the reading of Psalm 39 we see King David is seen contemplating the brevity of life. Particularly in verses 4-6 we see that David realizes how fleeting his life really is. In verse 5 David makes the analogy that man’s days are like a few handbreadths. A single handbreadth is the distance of one’s hand with their four fingers together. Therefore David is implying that our days are very short.
Many times we presume that things will continue as always and that tomorrow will follow the same pattern as yesterday. All this without realizing the frailty of our life as James the brother of the Jesus said life is like a vanishing vapor (James 4:14). The Old Testament Prophet Isaiah makes the analogy that man’s life is like the grass of field it will wither and fade away (Isaiah 40:6-8).
The word of God gives a number comparisons and exhortations on how short life can be. Jim Elliot wrote in his journal while in the mission field attempting to evangelize the Waodani people of Ecuador, “God, I pray thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. … I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.” This teaching is made accessible to us so that we can become good stewards of the life we have been blessed with. So that we would use it in a way or manner that glorifys God and makes his name great in all things.
- II Samuel 14:14 – Like water spilt on the ground
- I Chronicles 29:15 – Like a shadow, it will not stay
- Job 7:6-7 – Like a weaver’s shuttle, or the wind
- Job 9:25-26 – Like a swift messenger, a swift ship, or a swooping eagle
- Job 14:1 – Few days, like a flower
- Psalms 78:39 – Like a wind
- Psalms 90:9 – Like a sigh
- Psalms 103:15-16 – Like grass, leaving no memory
- James 4:14 – Like a mist or the vapor from a pot
The Need to Remember How Short Life Is
- Psalms 90:12- Causes us to act more wisely
- Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 – Gives us a more balanced view of life