Monday, September 24, 2012

Velvet Elvis

The upside of being sick...I finally finished Velvet Elvis (Bell, Rob (2009-02-26). Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith (Kindle Locations 2401-2406). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.) I started it a few months ago. I'd pick it up and read a chapter, then set it down for a few weeks, and then pick it up and read another chapter. I'm relatively new to the world of Rob Bell, I hadn't read anything by him prior to this past June. Now that I've read a few of his books, I'm finding plenty of resonance with a lot of what Rob has to say...but, I also find a few things he's proposing to be a little tough to swallow.

I really think Rob is promoting some good ideas in saying Christians could probably be doing more for the Kingdom by being "pro-Christ" and less "anti-(fill in the blank with your favorite hot button lifestyle issue)." The Church has spent a lot of time in the past few decades being anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-drugs, etc...often in ways that drive the wounded farther from Christ. If I've been understanding what Rob has to say in his writings, it's that being pro-loving your neighbor, pro-being a peacemaker, pro-social justice, pro-taking care of the poor, pro-taking care of each other, and pro-Christ will do a lot more to attract people to Christ than being anti-anything ever will.

I do think Rob may be swimming in some muddy waters when he starts talking about Heaven and Hell. If I understand what he's trying to say, it seems like Rob is pretty confident that Heaven will be right here, when the earth is restored to the way it was when God saw that "it was good." I think Rob is trying to convince his readers that this physical planet will be the location of Heaven. I'm not sure I buy into that.  His main points are the scriptures that talk about God making all things new. I think there's plenty of scriptural support for Heaven "being" someplace else and Rob doesn't really take the time to address those as he typically only uses scripture that supports his stance. Does it ultimately matter where Heaven is...I guess not. One of the points Rob brings up time and again is that Believers should be more focused on "thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven," the concept that we are to bring Heaven to earth in our daily lives, rather than focusing on Heaven being a place you do after you die. That's something I think we could all practice a little more.

It's Hell where Rob finds himself in trouble with many Christians. He doesn't come right out and say it, but it seems Rob either believes there is no Hell or that Hell is a temporary place and ALL people will eventually make it to Heaven. Smarter people than I have read his books and addressed this issue. I find resonance with one, in particular, a review of Love Wins, by Athol Dickson. All I can say is read that review and it's pretty much what I think, too.

One area where I've enjoyed taking in what Rob has to say is in regards to suffering, "Suffering is a place where clich├ęs don’t work and words often fail…when we join each other in the pain and confusion, God is there…it is in our suffering together that we find out we are not alone. We find out who really loves us. We find out that with these people around us, we can make it through anything. And that gives us something to celebrate." In my own recent trials, it became clear to me very early on that Christians aren't practiced in supporting each other in our suffering. We often offer pithy Christianisms when silence would be the best option. Hugs, shared tears, and just being there quietly can mean a whole lot more to those who are in pain than any quote or saying you can come up with about God's plans.

I have a least one more of Rob's books left in my "to read" list, and I may go back and re-read a couple of the ones I've finished. There's plenty of good to cull from them, even if you might have to set aside a few things that could be questionable.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Time after Time

If you're lost, you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I'll be waiting 
Time after time

Time After Time
by Cyndi Lauper

I changed the station on the radio in my car the other day. What can I say, it happens from time to time. Hearing the same songs over and over can sometimes get a little repetitive and it's nice to treat my ears to something new. As I was cruising around town, listening to The Coffee House, I heard Everything But The Girl cover Time After Time. It was a nice rendition, but I'm still a little partial to Willie Nelson's version of the song (the original is pretty good, too.)

As I listened, I was struck by how the chorus so acutely portrays the situation so many of us find ourselves in at some point or another in our relationship with the Father. How softly does He whisper to us, "if you're lost, you can look and you will find me, time after time. If you fall, I will catch you, I'll be waiting, time after time." He's always there, no matter how distracted or unfocused we get. It's no excuse to get lost, but it's good to know He's there, time after time.

Abba, I come to you with my brokenness. I thank you for being there, time after time, for catching me when I fall.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Prophet, Priest, and King

But my closet's a shrine to and old friend of mine
Here i talk all the time with a prophet priest....
I pull out boxes and brooms
And i gush like a groom
For it's here i commune with
A prophet, priest and king
Prophet, Priest And King - Smalltown Poets

The message at church this morning was just what I needed to hear. The pastor has been off on sabbatical for a few months and I'm looking forward hearing his heart as he shares over the next next few months.

As he spoke to us today, the song Prophet, Priest, and King kept popping into my mind. It's highly likely you've never heard it. I don't remember if it was ever on the radio or not. It was on Smalltown Poets "debut" album back in 1997. I put "debut" in quotes because some of the members of the band had released an album, under a different name, prior to this "debut."

Their song ties into the sermon...loosely. As part of the message, pastor explained the 3 offices of the old testament leaders:

  • Prophets - they represented God to the people
  • Priests - they represented the people to God
  • King - was supposed to work for the common good of all the people
It's these three offices that we're all called to participate in as members of the body of Christ. It's this message that has been working it's way into my heart over the past few months. I'm called to represent God to my fellow man. I'm called to represent, and life, my fellow man to God. I'm called to work for the common good of my fellow man. We, as believers are called to be prophet, priest, and king...that's quite a challenge.

It's enough of a challenge that, as I process the message, I have to remind myself to take things slowly. I can be my own worst critic. I'm impatient. I cringe when I fail. It's sometimes hard for me to just ask, "God, where do you need me today?" because I'm looking at where I think He should expect me to be. The problem is, that's not where He's looking.

When the Israelites asked God for a King, he met them where they were at. Even though it was NOT what He wanted for them, He still worked with them, redemptively, in the place they were at, not where He wanted them to be. He understands our brokenness...and will work with us where we're at. I just have to keep reminding myself of that truth.

Abba, I offer you my brokenness today. I offer you where I'm at and ask that you work in me to help me as I strive to be you to my fellow man, to life my fellow man to you, and to work for the common good of all mankind. Father, mold me into the prophet, priest, and king you want me to be.