Saturday, January 12, 2013

Needle Rock on the Verde River, AZ

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Love Wins" & Baskin-Robbins

Love Wins and Baskin-Robbins

Like you, hell is disturbing to me. Like you, i dont want anyone to go there. Like you, i've been blessed by Rob Bell's ministry over the years. Like you, i like Rob Bell. I like the Nooma series. I like his focus on expanding the kingdom of heaven on earth via practical and holistic means. In regards to the book, there's more i like than not. But, i do not like his recent departure from the historic and biblical view of salvation. Contemplative or not, his ambiguity is potentially misleading.

Like Baskin-Robbins, there are a lot of different flavors within Christianity and everyone has a favorite. Personally, I like that there’s such diversity and liberty on the non-essential elements within Christianity. And yet to be labeled “ice cream” there are a few necessary ingredients. Likewise, to label oneself as a follower of Jesus implies a few necessary ingredients one of which is a biblical view on the doctrine of salvation. It was to Nicodmemus, that Jesus, not once, but twice said. “you must be born again” (John 3:3, 7). When the Philippian jailer asked, “what must I do to be born again?” The answer was “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Jesus and the Apostles were very straightforward with how one is born again. Bell isn’t.

As expected the book lives up to being a quick (198 pgs) but thought-provoking read. You'll find yourself saying, "that's a good point", "That too is a good point". You'll laugh, smirk, and at points you'll probably be convicted; i was. There are both "ouch" and "amen" moments. For the most part i greatly enjoyed it and say Amen to brining heaven to earth. However, I've actually been more perplexed with his interviews than the book itself. "Love Wins", btw, has over 300 questions. Thus we must be careful in distinguishing between the two. I get that he’s being artistic and working his trademark contemplative “Socratic” style, but herein lies the problem with the “we’re all just trying to figure it out together” approach that’s so popular within the emergent church movement. He’s not a kid in youth camp sincerely asking, “What happens to people who don’t accept Jesus as Savior?” Rather he’s a seminary-trained pastor of what’s considered an evangelical mega church. Tens of thousands listen to his podcasts and read his books. Not that we ever stop learning, nor ever fully comprehend all that is God, but shouldn’t a senior pastor have figured out and clearly espouse essential Christian doctrine? Yes, is the correct answer (1 Tim. 3:15).

When it comes to the doctrine of salvation, there’s no wiggle room (cf. John 14:6, Rev. 20:15). In my opinion, "Love Wins" mishandles passages like the story of the Rich Man & Lazarus in Luke 16. Likewise, the difficult passages such as Gen. 19, Mt. 25, Gal. 1, and Rev. 20 are not fully exegeted within their context. By contrast, in Matthew 18:9 you can practically hear the urgency in the intonation of Jesus pleading with his listeners to do whatever it takes to avoid hell. Bell doesn’t. In the end, the Gospel story, as it’s been preached for thousands of years, is a love story. Sure, its been mishandled and abused by various methodologies and messengers. Too many know Christianity by what it stands against rather than what its for. This bathwater, no doubt, needs to be changed but not the baby.

BTW, actually i still like Rob Bell; just disagree with how he's handling not "a", but "The" most important issue facing humanity.
Due to his vagueness, I should also add that, for the record, i'm not quite ready to label him a heretic. I am however, greatly concerned with how (thus far) he's handled himself in interviews regarding universalism (salvation applies to all) and the doctrine of salvation which is the Essential Ingredient to following Jesus-salvation.

As the angel said at that first Christmas, “I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). And so, may you “contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Sunday, November 28, 2010


"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." Psalm 116:15 is a verse you've probably heard before and its one that i've even quoted at funerals I've officiated. But, very little seemed precious to me on Oct 19, 2010 when my precious mother went to heaven. I've completed over 125 hours of post grad study, mostly in theology, read the bible cover to cover numerous times and so i know all of the right answers but now the verse seemed to haunt me. For most of my life the Grim Reaper has been kept at bay; it was always someone else. now it was me. Over the years ive even come across people who are angry at God due to a loss yet if it were ever up to us i doubt if we would ever want to lose anyone we love. Earlier this week i was cleared to mountain bike "beginner" trails and so it was on thanksgiving day that i chose to burn a few carbs on the promenade trail in the mcdowell mountains. I had it all to myself. Near a summit, just yards away, several harris hawks were enjoying the thermals and seemingly enjoying the trail and views along with me. i stopped to try and take a photo but they were camera shy and glided over the range, out of sight. But while stopped i chose to enjoy the view (all of the verde river basin, all of fountain hills, and most of Scottsdale). and the verse came back. My mom (Shirley) and i regularly talked about heaven and she had often told me that when she went to heaven to remember that i'd always know where to find her. There on that trail the verse went from my head to my heart as i owned that God was (and always is) in control. He knows all the whys and, whether i like it or not, He's always right on time. Instead of continuing to bemoan her graduation i began to marvel at how fortunate she is to be in the Celestial city and at how blessed I am to be able to one day join her. I know where the Promenade trail leads. But, more importantly I also know where the Jesus trail leads. Jesus always leads to Heaven. He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life (John 14:6). I know where she's at and i know exactly where to find her. I am one day closer.

Monday, May 31, 2010

in awe in Turkey

Any preconceived notions I might have had about Turkey; i.e. shish ka bobs, hookah, muslim calls to prayer and burqas were proved terribly wrong. Not only was the country full of great food, and breath taking scenery (see my albums on facebook), but many of the young people were as hip and stylish as anyone in Malibu or Manhattan. The country of course is home to vibrant and diverse culture and cuisine (Arab, Mediterranean, European) yet, it was absolutely mind blowing how surrounded I was by biblical, religious, and spiritual history.
Ararat, The plains of Shinar (Nimrod), the Hittites, Antioch, Constantinople, Ephesus, Colosse, Galatia, etc… How did we forget? Over time, and due to many conquests, genocide, and persecution this Biblical world has nearly perished from our collective memories, forgotten by all but a few historians and tour guides. Yet, not completely. Standing in the ruins of Ephesus reminded me that God speaks through history. The spiritual investment by Paul & John here resulted in the evangelization of the entire province of Asia (see Acts 19:1-10, 20; 1 Corinthians 16:9). In Miletus I was reminded of how heavy Paul’s heart must have been as he said farewell to the elders of the Ephesian church when he said, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there” (Acts 20:22); they tried to kill him there btw. These guys were spiritual studs. They were willing to lay down their lives and their luxuries for the Great Commission. They are still around. I was blessed to meet several gentle but bold leaders who knowing the risks involved told me, “Yes we are willing to die for Jesus.” May we not only recover our spiritual memory of what God has done, but may we also make the most of the present. Carpe diem. “…making the best use of your time because the times are evil.” Ephesians 5:16

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Haiti: 5 loaves and 2 fish

In January i was invited to serve as a relief worker in Haiti. I can speak for both pastors Terry Crist and Tom Moffett when i say that It was both exhausting and exhilarating. I still have a lot of mixed emotions not to mention a heavy heart. There was the frustration of bureaucracy and the joy of delivering food. There was chaos and desperation that I’ve (no hyperbole) never seen before. We were in two food riots, their capitol is in ruins (imagine seeing the white house and U.S. capitol destroyed), and yet we also saw the power of the Church. God brings order out of chaos and while it is never pleasant, as leaders I’ve noticed that often He will put us in situations to help alleviate the chaos. For me, there were two notable highlights. First, in order to reduce the risk of disease, Tom and I dug a latrine at a refugee camp. Without asking, within minutes we had a small army of Haitian volunteers helping us make our own gravel, pushing wheel barrels, and using their hands as shovels.

Sometimes ministry is like Jesus feeding the 5,000. We are told that upon seeing the desperation of the crowds that Jesus "had compassion" (Mt 14:14) and instructed His disciples to feed them. I get the theology but for the first time in my life I finally related to Philip’s analysis in that we were in a glass half empty, make that three-fourths empty scenario. It was simply overwhelming, yet as Jesus taught by example, you have to start somewhere and with something. You have to start with what you have; 5 loaves and 2 fish. God is always able to work miracles and bring a little heaven to earth with what little we can offer. No matter how overwhelming it may seem to you simply start with what you have.

Secondly, on a lighter note, immediately across from the destroyed capitol and palace there was another refugee camp where people were washing themselves and rummaging through debris for whatever they could find. I came across a group of Haitian boys lazily kicking around worn out soccer ball that you could practically see through. I went up and asked if I could join them and got in a few good kicks. Because I was the only white guy around they started calling me "Beck-ham" and started laughing when I miss-hit a header that sent the ball into the street. It was a blessing to see their big smiles at my ineptness. Sometimes, a handshake, a “good morning” to a stranger, even a smile can minister to someone. By doing so God will multiply our loaves and fish in ways that will bring some heaven to earth we may never see.

Friday, November 20, 2009

a Leper's Thanksgiving

Recently I was watching an episode of “No Reservations” (a program on the travel channel) in which Anthony Bourdain (the host) was in Columbia. Throughout the episode the Columbians were expressing and showing Bourdain how “thankful” they were that things there had changed…that things were so much better from the years when the drug cartels had operated without restraint. At a party Bourdain made a comment that I thought was obvious, yet insightful, “people who’ve been through hard times really know how to party” he said.

Luke (17) records the account of ten lepers who met Jesus and had a life-changing encounter with Jesus; they were all healed! Lepers were alienated in every way. They couldn’t participate in the synagogue or festivals, had to cry out “unclean”, and maintain a distance of 100 paces from the clean. In addition to this, while a misnomer, leprosy (in some ways like AIDS in the 90s) carried a bit of a spiritual and moral stigma with it. They were outcasts.

Surprisingly, out of the ten only one returned to thank Jesus. Have you ever wondered what happened to the other nine? Me too. Luke doesn’t reveal their reasons and so we can only speculate, but…let’s speculate. Maybe:

· One waited to see if the cure was real.

· One said he would see Jesus later and thank Him then.

· Another decided that he had never really had leprosy.
- One thought he probably would have gotten well anyway through a new holistic process.

-Still another said, “I have so much to do. Jesus will understand.”
-One said, “Actually, I wasn’t as bad as the others.”
-Another said, “I should’ve never had leprosy in the first place”
To me, what’s most interesting is that Jesus actually takes notice of their absence. I mean, Jesus, i.e., God noticed! God noticed that nine didn’t give thanks.
But one was different. The Bible says, “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed…” Most English versions translate the verse as saying that he saw he was healed. The Greek word used is “eido” and it’s a little broader than visual sight and means to know, see, and/or perceive. The thankful one took the time to note that he had been blessed. He realized that something wonderful had happened to him. He was sensitive to the power of Christ working in his life. He “saw” that he was healed, he turned back and glorified God.

His perception had entirely changed.

In addition to all that we have to thankful for this Thanksgiving, I want to also encourage you to “see” all that God has done in your life. Visit again in your mind the place where you first met God and His mercy and grace and in addition to everything else, be sure to give thanks for how He’s saved you. Because of Jesus, you’ve come so very far. Because of Jesus we see differently. Because of Jesus we should know how to party. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Left Behind in Argentina

Its true...several Sundays ago (Aug 2) they forgot about me and i got left behind all by myself at a Christian campground.

i had a lot of different feelings about it. i have often wondered what it was like for Adam to have the whole planet to himself and it simply wasnt the same without the people. when i realized what had happened; seeing the final bus leave and no one at the cottage beside me i walked over to where we ate etc. To a degree, it was very serene being there all by myself. Not even
"Smiley" the dog was to be found. On the way back it was truly like a movie set for "Lord of the Rings". It was getting dark, the trees didnt have any leaves and i heard a hawk or something screech just like a Ring Wraith :0 i quickened my pace just a little. when i got back to my lodge I was amused to find that a cat had some how found a way in!! it was just sitting there on the couch enjoying the fire and i thought, i might as well too. i put some wood on the fire, played with the cat some and watched the flames. i was thinking that a campfire is sort of like ancient television in that you just sit there watching the different hues in the colors, listen to the sounds of the wood crackling, and enjoy its warmth.

At this point i realized that it was official: i'd been left behind! i actually practiced my message (that i gave on Aug 8/9 at CoG), did my devotions, journaled, prayed out loud, and took a nap. i let the cat stay in and every now and then it would climb on to my lap as if to say, "its ok". About two hours into it the people who supervise the place came over and asked in spanish, "why are you still here?" i used every spanish word i knew and they returned a few minutes later with some mate, dessert, and a phone. the only phone numbers i knew were jorge's home number and that of the church and no one answered at either. the only consolation i had was knowing that I Knew that Jorge Knew that i was supposed to speak at church. So, i surmised, at Some point Someone would notice that i wasnt there! but then i had a mini panic attack and thought "but maybe they will think there was a mix up and that i was at one of the other sites...castillo or rivadavia!" :O being tired from praying and preaching to the cat, at that point i contemplated just taking a long hot shower and going to bed. i'm serious.

but right about this time, as i was taking off my shoes, the cat looked up from the sofa at me and meowed as if to say, "its going to be ok." Now i know that this part sounds cheezy and as syrupy as a the ads for a marriage conference but here's what's interesting-i had no food for the cat. all it wanted really was my attention-my time. at that point the Holy Spirit hit me like a mike tyson punch or an andy roddick serve..."Hey Bobby, I just want some of your time. I just want some of your attention, that's all" And so there, in Maximo Paz, all by myself except for the cat, which i named "Tiggerina", and God i spent some time just sitting by the fire and listening to God. Approximately one hour later Mariano showed up.

"And He (Jesus) said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile." Mark 6:31