Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Two Books

I am currently reading two books that have me thinking about all sorts of things. The first is Rob Bell's Love Wins. I have been a fan of Rob Bell's since high school when I first watched several Nooma videos at a bible study. Just last summer I showed the Nooma videos to my high schoolers during Summer Nights. When I heard a few months ago about Rob Bell's new book I was really interested to read it. Everything I heard made it sound like he was now a universalist. "In Christianity, Universalism can refer to the beliefs that all humans either may or will be saved through Jesus Christ and eventually come to harmony in God's kingdom" (Wikipedia page on Universalism). I wasn't familiar with this theology and so I was curious to see how Bell dealt with scripture. I am only 100 pages in - so I still have a ways to go. In the beginning, I liked the way he continued to pose question after question. Questions that Christians have wondered for centuries. At what age is a person held accountable for their response to the gospel? Who really knows the heart of anyone but God? If you really have to pray a specific prayer to accept Christ into your life then what about the criminal next to Jesus on the cross who simply asked Jesus to remember him? I liked how Bell posed that each individual's journey to coming to faith was different. Ok. Fair Enough. But then he started getting into things that were a little off base biblically. He talked about how the words "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" weren't in the bible. Ok so maybe those exact words aren't in there...but what else could Jesus mean when he said "Follow Me" than to be in relationship with him. It's hard to be with some one, spend time with someone, follow someone, and not call that a relationship. I think Jesus absolutely invites us into a relationship with him. He also doesn't like to talk about a future reality. He wants to only deal with the here and now. "To say it again, eternal life is lessa bout a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life lived now in connection to God" Bell, pg 59. There are some theologians who place to much emphasis on life after death. There are others who place more on the here and now. But I believe it's both. I believe eternal life with Jesus starts immediately when you accept Christ here on earth and continues after you die. "For it is my Father's will that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" John 6:40. It's here now and it's later and then. It's forever. Bell in the beginning of his book also goes back and forth about why is it only those who accept Christ that go to Heaven? If he's asking that question then he must also wonder why Jesus even came. Jesus came to bring the dead to life. Jesus came to make a way for us - after all he tells us he's "the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through him" John 14:6. Why would God send his only son to come and die for us? To reconcile his people. To put all the brokenness and messyness and sin of the world on his shoulders. He came and lived the life we should have and died the death we should have. What about all of that Rob Bell? Are you undercutting the work of the cross? Now to be fair I'm only on page 100 - I've got more reading. But this is where he has me right now. If in the end it doesn't matter who you were, what you did, what you believed...love will win and you'll be Ok...then why did Jesus have to die?

Here's the other book I'm reading, Robert Coleman's The Master Plan of Evangelism. I've only read the first two chapters of this book, but again and again I find myself thinking about Jesus's plan of ministry. The book talks about how Jesus loved the crowds, cared for them, healed them, loved them, wept with them...but ultimately Jesus spent his time with his twelve disciples. Recently I wrote down a list of kids that I feel "responsible" to love and minster to in middle school and high school in South Tampa. The list is incredibly long and filled with teenagers who desperately need the love of Christ and desire to grow closer to him. Jesus - who was fully God - chose twelve. It is a comfort and helps me direct my time. I'm still figuring this thing out. The thing that blows my mind the most though is the ones that Jesus poured into for three years...not that a pastor poured into, that Jesus himself poured into - of those twelve - one betrayed him, one denied him, and all abandoned him. If this doesn't show the power of free will then I don't know what else does. In John 6:66 it says, "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." I know the feeling I get when a kid stops coming to youth group or a bible study. I can't imagine what it must have felt like for Jesus to have some of his disciples walk away from HIM. That is crazy. The had love and truth directly in front of them - life to the full - and they turned away. I am continuing to navigate the time that I spend with teenagers and how best to pour out myself to them. July 1 marks the second anniversary of being the youth director at First Pres. God has done incredible, amazing things. He has shown me the power of his Spirit in ways I have never seen it before. I am anxious to see what year three holds - trusting in his power and grace. Leaning upon him for where to go, what to say, and what to do.

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