Rob Bell vs. Joel Osteen

Jesus Wants to Save Christians

Religion in the United States has seemingly never been more polarizing. Christians have gotten a bad rap and in some ways it is deserved.

There are some big personalities speaking for Christians in America. Joel Osteen. Rick Warren. Pat Robertson. Glenn Beck? It’s just like different versions of the same voice.

There’s one voice that I wish was speaking a little louder.

Rob Bell.

From the Mars Hill site:

Rob Bell is the Founding Pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church. He graduated from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

He is the author of Velvet Elvis and Sex God, and is a coauthor of Jesus Wants to Save Christians. He is also featured in the first series of spiritual short films called NOOMA.

I was introduced to Rob Bell through his NOOMA videos and I’ve been listening to him since. Velvet Elvis is one of the best books on Christianity that I’ve read, not because it is cool, but because it is true.

He puts scripture into context (and man, is he ever versed in scripture), he uses wonderful analogies to make points and he challenges his audience to think critically about their faith. I like that.

This week, I listened to the audiobook Jesus Wants to Save Christians, the terrific book he wrote with his friend Don Golden. How can you go wrong with chapters named “Swollen Bellied Black Babies” and “There’s Blood on the Doorposts of the Universe”?

Bell is a voice of Christianity that is tolerant and aware, but also extremely well-versed. He uses scripture in a relevant way that puts it into the context of the age in which it was written to help us understand it and apply it today. Some of the voices I listed at the beginning of this post can be a bit extreme and some of the best intentions can get lost and they can drown out people like Rob, who really need to be heard.

Sundays

Communion Table

Today was about as typical of a Sunday as it could be. And that’s really one of the main reasons I love Sundays. They are predictable, sure; but there is a comfort to them like an old pair of sweatpants or your favorite chair.

We woke up and went to church early for a priesthood meeting, I ran around trying to fix computer issues I was having, and we had lunch with some good friends and an awesome 8-year-old.

We napped. I mowed. I showered.

It was a good day. Sundays usually are. And now, as I close out the first weekend of my Every Day in May project, I’m happy. I’m going to go hang out with my wife and dog and enjoy the rest of my weekend.

Velvet Elvis

Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell

I was a little hesitant to follow up reading The Shack by reading Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell’s manifesto on “Repainting the Christian Faith”.

I’ve been following Rob Bell’s work since I first saw one of his NOOMA videos, which really do a great job of making Christian ideas accessible to a wide swath of the public. Even his sample videos on the site do a great job of getting across the messages of the videos.

I had a decent idea of what the book might be, but I was still really looking forward to reading Bell’s thoughts on Christianity in long form, rather than in 10-minute video consumption. Even despite what I thought the book might be, I was so thrilled when I read it.

Sometimes, it’s tough to be a Christian. There are people and organizations that don’t exactly give Christianity the best face. However, when reading through Rob Bell’s book, I got a glimpse of what Christianity could be.

Through the pages of Velvet Elvis, I took copious notes in the margins, underlined passages and phrases that I loved, and overall just soaked in the ideas that I appreciated most.

Now, this book will not be for everyone. It treats Christianity and Scripture as a flexible, living, breathing organism rather than a rigid set of rules. This form of Christianity is not for everyone. But I found a lot to agree with and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Shack

the-shack

The Shack has been sitting atop the bestseller list for much of the past year. William P. Young’s book has been lauded by many around me and after Alli finished it, I thought I would give it a shot. 

The story centers around a man named Mack who has lost his faith in a lot of ways. His family has encountered a huge tragedy (of which I won’t reveal) that he refers to as The Great Sadness. He receives a note in the mail from what seems to be God, inviting him to spend a weekend at the site of his greatest tragedy.

The result of this is a fascinating encounter with God — perhaps the greatest depiction of God that I’ve ever read.

I don’t really want to reveal more. What I’ll say is that The Shack is a very rare book. It is a well-told story of fiction that contains more truth than you expect. You’ll find yourself nodding in agreement, smiling and weeping as you journey alongside Mack.

This was a good book for me to read right now. I’ve had some issues lately that have caused me to question my own spirituality. It’s never been about doubting God’s presence, but more about what my own purpose is as a child of God…what am I called to do?

I’d recommend this book to believers and seekers alike. Each person will gain something different from it, but each person will find whatever they need. If you’re someone who has trouble describing or depicting God, I’d suggest you read The Shack. It might help you on your own journey.

Merry Christmas

From the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2:

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Merry Christmas.