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Rob Bell writes, “So at the end of his time with his disciples, Jesus has some final words for them. He tells them to go to the ends of the earth and make more disciples. And then he leaves. He promises to send his Spirit to guide them and give them power, but Jesus himself leaves the future of the movement in their hands. And he doesn’t stick around to make sure they don’t screw it up. He’s gone. He trusts that they can actually do it.

God has an incredibly high view of people. God believes that people are capable of amazing things.

I have been told that I need to believe in Jesus. Which is a good thing. But what I am learning is that Jesus believes in me.”
So, what your view of people? Do you have the same regard and trust in them that Jesus and God do? Have you been failed too many times to still trust? What can you do to renew your faith in humans?

Rob Bell describes a session with a spiritual director. At one point his director said, “Your job is the relentless pursuit of who God has made you to be. Anything else you do is sin and you need to repent of it.”

I think this would help bring clarity to life. What are you doing? Does this help in your pursuit of who God made you to be? If not, stop. If it does, then go for it. It might mean a career change. It might mean a change in leisure activities. It might mean a change of habits.
But what it doesn’t mean is continuous, full-bore, nonstop activity. Later, Bell writes, “Jesus wants to heal our souls, wants to give us the shalom of God. And so we have to stop. We have to slow down. We have to sit still and stare out the window and let the engine come to an idle. We have to listen to what our inner voice and saying.”
When’s the last time you’ve slowed down in order to listen to God? Do you give yourself permission to be idle? Have you been still so you can know that God is God?

What is it that God wants to do in our lives? What does he hope to accomplish? What does he want from us?

Rob Bell gives a thought provoking paragraph. “It is one thing to be saved. To believe in Jesus. It is another thing to be healed. It is possible to be saved and miserable. It is possible to be saved and not be a healthy, whole, life-giving person. It is possible for the cross to have done something for a person but not in them.”
So, how do we then live? Unfortunately you and I have know too many people who are Christians, but are just unhappy. All of life is against them. Nothing ever goes right. How do we choose to allow God to not only save us, but heal us?

Rob Bell in The Velvet Elvis writes, “Missions then is less about the transportation of God from one place to another and more about the identification of a God who is already there. It is almost as if being a good missionary means having really good eyesight. Or maybe it means teaching people to use their eyes to see things that have always been there; they just didn’t realize it. You see God where others don’t. And then you point him out.”

I think Bell’s statement goes well with the book of Acts. God was always preceding his people. Pushing, or perhaps pulling, them to go where he already was. Peter had to see the Spirit come upon Cornelius and his people before he realized that God had gone to the Gentiles.
God also precedes us in our world. We just need to point him out when we get there.
Bell writes, “Tour guides are people who see depth and texture and connection where others don’t. That is why the best teachers are masters of the obvious. They see the same things that we do, but they are aware of so much more. And when they point it out, it changes the way we see everything.”

Rob Bell writes, “It is dangerous to label things “Christian”. The word Christian began as a noun, but we have turned it into an adjective. Bell laments:

“This happens in all sorts of areas. It is possible for music to be labeled Christian and be terrible music. It could lack creativity and inspiration. The lyrics could be recycled cliches. That “Christian” band could actually be giving Jesus a bad name because they aren’t a great band. It is possible for a movie to be a “Christian” movie and be a terrible movie. It may actually desecrate the art form in its quality and storytelling and craft. Just because it is a Christian bookstore doesn’t mean it is all true or good or beautiful. A Christian political group puts me in an awkward position: What if I disagree with them? Am I less of a Christian? What if I am convinced the “Christian” thing to do is to vote the exact opposite?”
I’ve struggled with this for some time. We’re admonished to attend a new movie, because it’s “Christian.” That if we don’t attend, more movies like it won’t be made. Yet, it’s a bad movie. The acting is bad. The story is cliche. The editing is poor. Instead, why can’t we make an excellent movie that Christians and non-Christians alike would enjoy. Why should we support mediocre efforts?
“The goal isn’t to bring everyone’s work into the church; the goal is for the church to be these unique kinds of people who are transforming the places they live and work and play because they understand the whole earth is filled with the kavod [glory] of God.”

Rob Bell argues that the Bible is open-ended. “It has to be interpreted. And if it isn’t interpreted, then it can’t be put into action. So if we are serious about following God, then we have to interpret the Bible. It is not possible to simply do what the Bible says. We must first make decisions about what it means at this time, in this place, for these people.”

The Bible is story and poetry. Commands, instruction written to others in different places, times, situations, settings. We can’t merely adopt their words as ours.

“To take statements made in a letter from one person living in a real place at a moment in history writing to another person living in a real place out of their context and apply them to today without first understanding their original context sucks the life right out of them. They aren’t isolated statements that float, unattached, out in space.”
And so we need to interpret. We need to decide what to do and how to do it. Too often, we try to do it all on our own. Bell notices the importance of community and how they shared and discussed these decisions together.
“The point is the ask, what is God up to here, now?
What in the world is God doing today?
How should we respond?
How did they respond? What can we learn from them that will help us now?”
We look to the accounts of the Bible for guidance. We look to the stories of its people to see how God interacted with them. Then we move to what God is doing with us.
I’ve recently finished reading Rob Bell’s The Velvet Elvis. In the first chapter he compares different ways of following Jesus. One way is the spring. A spring is flexible and stretches. Like a spring in a trampoline, our beliefs help orient how we live. They’re not necessarily the main point, but help us to make sense of our world.
In contrast to the spring is the brick. A brick is rigid and inflexible. Some people have their beliefs set in such a way that it becomes a brick wall. Everything is fixed. Each piece is in place. All the answers make sense.
However, Bell writes,
“Somebody showed me a letter from the president of a large seminary who is raising money to help him train leaders who will defend Christianity. The letter went on about the desperate need for defense of the true faith. What disturbed me was the defensive posture of the letter, which reflects one of the things that happens in brickworld: you spend a lot of time talking about how right you are. Which of course leads to how wrong everybody else is. Which then leads to defending the wall. It struck me reading the letter that you rarely defend a trampoline. You invite people to jump on it with you.”
This necessarily impacts how we might share Jesus with others.
“Have you ever seen someone pull a photo out of their wallet and argue about the supremacy of this particular loved one? Of course not. They show you the picture and give you the opportunity to see what they see.”
Which more characterizes you, the trampoline or brick wall? Are you defensive or inviting others to jump with you? Do you have any analogy that might be more appropriate?

As my wife so lovingly reminded me not long ago, “It’s not Easter anymore!” I had intended to take a break from blogging. I just didn’t intend for the break to last as long as it did. I was reading some books that just didn’t quite lend themselves to blogging. And I had lost a little steam along the way.

I still intend to blog. I have some things in mind and I’ll be posting regularly again. Have a happy 4th of July.