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The obligatory Rob Bell post

I’m pretty opinionated here. Which is why I’m always a little surprised I don’t get negative comments. I mean almost never. In fact, the only truly angry comment I’ve ever received was for this post way back in May of 2008:

image courtesy of

Is it just me, or does watching a Rob Bell video remind anyone else of “The Chris Farley Show” of SNL fame? Here’s what I mean:

Do you remember the story,

when Jesus walks up to those dudes,

and says,

“Follow me,

and I will make you fishers of men?”

and then,

the dudes, like

drop their nets,

and follow Him?…

That was awesome!

Now before anyone shoots me a comment about how Rob Bell is just the coolest, most relevant dude of the 21st century, and shame on me for making fun of him, I’m not dissing the message, just the delivery. I only say this because I once shared this observation with a youth pastor friend of mine and he looked at me like I had just said, “Jesus sucks!” And let’s be honest…he does kinda talk like that! Thoughts?

image courtesy of

Even though I made a disclaimer that I was not dissing Rob Bell’s message, I still got the following comment from your friend and mine, Anonymous:

How can you crack a joke on Rob’s excellent video series if you’ve never even met him or even watched any of them? Maybe you were just having a little fun, but it defies all logic and makes you look like a ignorant babbling fool! I need to get back to my Nooma videos, you know, something that will actually add value in my life!

The ironic thing is, I expected a comment like that. Because some fans of Rob Bell are so completely, rabidly devoted to him that they go around looking to defend him from any and all detractors. At the other end of the spectrum, you have people who believe Rob Bell is the anti-Christ and a heretic leading countless followers to the fiery pits of hell.

And speaking of hell… (Excellent segue, katdish)

Rob Bell has a book coming out on March 29 entitled Love Wins which is causing quite a firestorm. Here’s a video trailer for said book:

“Millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message, the center of the gospel of Jesus is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus. So what gets subtly taught sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But what kind of God is that? That we would be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good? How can that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news?” – Rob Bell

Predictably, many in the Christian community were quick to challenge Bell’s (presumed) declaration that a loving God would not send people to hell. Justin Taylor penned a blog post entitled Rob Bell: Universalist?, which John Piper tweeted prefaced by the words: “Farewell, Rob Bell”. It pretty much snowballed on twitter and Christian blogs after that point.

I’m not going to defend either side of the argument here. Do I believe there’s an actual, physical hell? Yes, I do. Do I think the entirety of Rob Bell’s teachings should be dismissed because I happen to disagree with him about certain interpretations of scripture? No, I don’t believe that either. Because this is what I know to be true:

Rob Bell is not

Justin Taylor is not

John Piper is not

Francis Chan, Erwin McManus, Pete Wilson, Vince Antonucci, Alan Hirsch, Matt Chandler, Matt Smay, Neil Cole,Tim Keller, Mark Batterson, Brennan Manning, Donald Miller, Mark Driscoll, Ed Stetzer, Andy Stanley, Charles Stanley, Rick Warren, Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Lee Strobel, Joel Osteen, T. D. Jakes, John Calvin, Oswald Chambers, Martin Luther, C. S. Lewis…

are NOT

Jesus Christ

And their books and writings may inspire you or enrage you. They may cause you to question your faith or confirm what you’ve always believed to be the Truth, but they

are NOT

The Word of God

The Bible is.

And you have the same access to it as anyone else.

Equip yourselves to defend

The Gospel of Christ


“The only thing worse than the joke you don’t get is the explanation that is bound to follow: an explanation that, while it may help you see why you should have seen the humor that you so lamely missed, is little likely to make you laugh. It may provoke you to muster a sympathy snicker so as to avoid more of an already tedious and misdirected lecture. It may inspire a mild giggle of recognition, but it will hardly ever raise a real belly-laugh, which was the original desired effect. And so, here I go — me and a dozen thousand other people — trying to explain a joke that we would do better to learn to better tell. I am setting out to explain again why Jesus is the only true hope for the world, why we should put faith in Him, and what all of that won’t mean. I am collecting the information, selecting from what I hope will be usable as evidence, arranging my findings into arguments, framing it for presentation and recognizing that, while it may be fine as far as it goes, it doesn’t go far enough…

So, here I offer what is possibly the worst thing that can be offered: an explanation of a joke. And, what makes this more inexcusable than the fact that this is that, is the added fact that this is an explanation of a joke you’ve already gotten. I offer it anyway. I offer it in the hope that it might somehow encourage you to live out your lives and, by your living, tell the joke that I, in my writing, so feebly attempt to explain.

Love one another, forgive one another, work as unto God, let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts. Make it your ambition to lead quiet lives. Obey. Greet one another with a holy kiss. No one will argue with that.”
~ Rich Mullins

Editor’s Note: In case anyone’s interested, I thought I would let you know that I belong to an independent, non-denominational Christian Church. If you’d like to know what we believe, you can find out at our website. I figured if this turned into a theology debate, you may as well know where I’m coming from. Not that I necessarily want this to turn into a theology debate, mind you. Just didn’t want y’all assuming I was a Baptist. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

What’s in His Name? (by Kelly Langner Sauer)

Kelly Langner Sauer is a wife, mother, writer, poet, photographer and a self confessed rambler. Her photos are, much like her writing, often beautiful, soulful and breathtaking. I am so pleased she agreed to write a post for me in the midst of the joy and chaos of new motherhood. Here’s Kelly:

Her name was Bethany.

It was such a big deal that her name was Bethany. It still stands out in my mind. I get into names.

She said that God had given her that name.

She said that she had known God intimately, the way I wanted to know Him.

She said that God had taught her to surrender fully and completely.

She said a lot of things.

But she never mentioned the name of Jesus.

Just over a year ago, I received an email from a reader, asking me about the poem I have posted on my blog by S. Lewis. (The poem was written and given to me by a dear college friend during a very rough time in my story, during the beginning of the end of my misconception of God.) She identified with my then-description of myself as Gomer, Hosea’s wife.

And she referenced something I had said in a recent ramble-post, something I was chewing on, something I had scribbled out without too much thought, something about God calling us to do things sometimes that the rest of the world couldn’t endorse.

I had been talking about His calling on my life to love someone. I had been talking about His leading me out of “church” and into Himself.

I was neck-deep in a Flickr addiction at the time. Closed off to my husband. Putting off my daughter. Battling every day to do better before I inevitably gave in and gave out and gave up. Pushing God away for the guilt of it all. The crushing guilt.

At first, Bethany’s email was another distraction. A flattering distraction. I pursued the correspondence, looking for more affirmation, looking for her story.

I got her story all right.

And then some.

She said she was a member of what many have termed a cult.

She said she felt she could talk to me because it seemed I was the kind of person who was willing to listen.

She said God had told her it was all right.

She gave me the website for her organization.

After looking at it, my husband and I agreed with the many.

And we weren’t so certain that God was behind her invitation to engage her in conversation about her “church.”

In fact, I was certain that I was not to engage her. God gave me permission only to speak the name of Jesus.

Billy Coffey wrote about the thin places this week. The places where dark and light collide and mix into inky halflight, the places in our world where there is a crack into another world, the places in ourselves not yet yielded to God in this war between principalities and powers in the strongholds of the spiritual.

I was living in a thin place when Bethany wrote to me.

I had been too willing to pursue knowing God because it was the right thing to do, too willing to leave off Jesus because speaking of Him made me uncomfortable. Embarrassed.

I was living on the edge, and I had no response to her “have you ever surrendered your whole life to God?” I had no answer for her, “I have done that, you can too, if you’ll just do what I did.”

For two days, my husband and I talked. And talked. And talked. Our conversation was long and deep. We talked about spiritual warfare. We talked about who I was in God, about my misdirected passion. We talked about my failure. I named it as the sin it was. We talked about grace. We talked about Jesus.

Her name was Bethany, a name given to her by the spirit who possessed her.

Her testimony was her surrender, her “higher” right, her knowledge of “God.”

My testimony was Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

I had no answer to her story, to her argument, to her deception.

I had no justification for my own sin, my lack of surrender, my thin-place-dwelling.

She needed nothing more than what she had found.

I needed everything. It was a choking, desperate need for redemption.

This is how I learned about the Gospel. This is how I encountered the Truth who is the Way and the Life, the Word who became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, the Lamb who was slain for my justification, from whose hand I can not be removed. This is how I began to speak the name of Jesus, to discern the Holy Spirit from the subtle lies of other spirits.

Bethany had obtained the ultimate surrender. She had become a slave to her god. She was moved by a spirit. She had fellowship with something more powerful than herself.

I had not surrendered everything to God. I still haven’t. I still struggle to offer myself willingly to Him, to let go of the things in me that would identify me as a slave to righteousness. I don’t always recognize the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life. I don’t always feel the nearness of God-fellowship that I want.

But I know this: I am justified in Jesus. Because of Him, I reckon myself dead to sin and alive to God. I am already crucified with Christ, yet I live. My faith is not something I have dredged up through trying to have more faith. It is the gift of God. My redemption comes by this faith in the Son of God who became sin for me.

I still sin. I still fail Him, fail my family, fail myself. I am every day desperate in need of a Savior.

Her name was Bethany, “house of figs.”

Jesus cursed a fig tree once for bearing no fruit.

My name is Kelly, “warrior.”

Kelly Anne.

Anne meansgrace.”

His name is Jesus. Immanuel.

“God with us.”

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.

Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

“As it is written:

‘For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Romans 8:31-39

(Image © Informal Moments Photography)


To read more from Kelly, I invite you to visit her at This Restless Heart and follow him on the twitter at @arestlessheart.

The Devil is in the Details

Excerpt from Duma Key by Stephen King:

How to Draw a Picture (Part 2)

Remember that the truth is in the details. No matter how you see the world or what style it imposes on your work as an artist, the truth is in the details. Of course, the devil’s in there, too – everyone says so – but maybe truth and the devil are words for the same thing. It could be, you know.

In the larger scheme – the big picture – Jesus is the truth. He is the Truth, the Light and the Way. No one comes to the Father except through Him. He is the God of all things. He created the universe and He created the smallest grain of sand on the most remote island in the South Pacific. He is not encumbered by what encumbers us: time, worry, doubt, pride, sin.

The more we allow God into our lives, the lighter our burdens become. But that doesn’t stop us from choosing to carry them ourselves. We fight God. We push Him away. “I’ve got this God. I’m good.”

When this attitude begins to slowly seep into the details of our lives, the devil prepares to set up long term residence. He loves being in the details. Once he’s got his foot in the door, it’s difficult to uninvite him. He is patient, especially when we are not.

When our prayers seem to hit the ceiling and fall back into our laps, the devil waits for us to invite him in by way of doubting God’s providence.

But here’s the thing – he has already been defeated. The only way he can get a foothold is if we give him an opportunity to do so.

To the Pharisees Jesus said:

“If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

(John 8:42-47)

Do not believe the father of lies. Remember to whom you belong. You are a child of God.