Saturday, March 26, 2011


I just spilled my fresh cup of Vietnamese Coffee, so let's start there.  The aroma of fresh cà phê sữa đá rose from my table as I gazed out of the widow on normality.  I'm thinking that this evening will be different that yesterday, but that kind of assumption always get's me into trouble, or let's me down in the end.  One by one, people are filing in to the sushi restaurant next door, to indulge on raw manna from Heaven.  It doesn't sound good to me tonight.  I haven't had much of an appetite today.  In fact, I skipped lunch all together.  That decision will haunt me as the evening progresses, but somehow it makes no difference to me.  I'll fill the void with coffee and eventually a bowl of cereal.  Cap'n Crunch did the trick in college, now granola satisfies the pallet with less damage to the heart and less elevated levels of statistics that only doctors know will touch the conscious.

So, I sit here.  I sit and wonder why things have to be the way they are.  Why do I spit in the face of God?  Why is it that when we approach the pinnacle of life, thinking that each "i'" is dotted and each"t" is crossed, we find that we don't even know our own language?    Maybe it's because we never dive in.  We poke and prod at the safety of the bank of life's river and wonder if a dip is really what we need.  But we don't.  We dip our toes in, feel the cool touch of the water and allow the euphoric wave of freedom to engulf us for just a few seconds.  Then we retreat to the banks furthest reaches and dry ourselves off, disgusted that we allowed even a drop of the river to settle upon our virgin skin.

Then we do something that is probably the most repulsive act our infantile minds can muster.  We race across the street, with the few dollars we have saved for redemption, to the home and garden refuge, buying the first can of poison we can get our hands on.  We pay our debt, race back to the river banks, and dump it in without a though otherwise.  Our fear did not only enable us, but infected each and every person that had the balls to dive in the first place.  And then we smile, thinking we accomplished some brave feet of salvation.  But the problem is, the world is still polluted and we thank our God in Heaven that we are not like those poor souls that feed on the disgusting poison that runs through our veins to begin with.

Why?  Because we never realized that we spilled a couple of drops on our shoes, as we ran across the street.  At the rivers edge, after we infected those brave enough to jump in, we took our shoes off.  We touched it.  We thought that the grass under our feet might just comfort us enough to believe that we are like them.  Dying a slow death on a bank of safety, thinking that we are totally immune to the toxins that break us down, little by little.  But because of our self made rationalization, it only hardens our heart and makes it more difficult to allow the life giving sanctification to run through our body, instead of the poison.  

I'm an adulterous man, just like any other.  I admit it.  I would plunge a knife into Uriah's heart if I had the chance.  I'm a drunken fool that babbles endlessly on a soap box that no one sees.  I would steal the laptop that you are reading this on, if you turned your back.  I'm the one that holds the nail, as those nasty Roman's drive it in.  I stand by and watch the final spear pierce His side.  Not only that, but I laugh.  But thankfully, my grace is different from yours, and it pulls me closer to redemption than I might think it does.

My point in this psychotic rant is that none of us are immune from the darkness of this world.  We love others, and then demand payment for services rendered.  We serve, and then thrown the proverbial bowl of soup back in the face of those we serve.  We love God, but flip Him our middle finger and spit at Him when life does not turn out all peaches and creme.  We embrace God's salvation, but then walk around like lost little children, crying for mommy.  The problem is that mommy was in that river that we poisoned.  She wanted us to jump in, but we were too scared, and she spent all that money on swim lessons!

Your grace is not my grace, and thankfully, mine is not yours.  God dishes it out according to our appetites.  Some of us gorge ourselves, taking all that we can fit into our lying mouths, and some of us are bulimic, vomiting up any bit of grace that God sends our way.  But that's who we are, as fallen children of God.  The mess we make for ourselves, we often have to lie in. And at times, God sends the cleaning crew immediately.  But that's the problem, isn't it?  The focus remains on us, the messes of life and the poison that we infected the river with.  I don't want anything to do with that anymore, but I'll probably drink from it later.  But as my prophetess friend told me today, "just step out of you and enter into all that He is."  I'm not sure why that sounds so appealing today.     

Now, I think I'll get some sushi.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Go to Hell

No, I don't want anyone reading this to go to Hell; not figuratively or literally. I just couldn't think of a clever blog title, and I knew this would get some attention. I guess it was inevitable. With all the talk about Rob Bell's new book and the theology of Hell, I have been asked by several people exactly what my opinion is on Rob Bell and Hell in general. So, I'm going to very briefly state my opinions on both and then don't plan on addressing it anymore. Personally, I think that most of the discussion on this issue is simply bandwagon jumping, in my opinion. When controversy comes along, it seems that everyone feels compelled to be a part of it. Regardless of your opinions of Bell and your beliefs on Hell, this issue has caused unjustified division in Christian circles. Without even attempting to understand where Bell is coming from, many well intended Christian leaders have attacked him with anger, criticism and in my opinion, flat out hatred. The Kingdom of God is no place for this kind of disunity, and if we took the time to listen, discuss and understand each other, we might find that we don't have such opposing beliefs. Surely not in the realms of heresy.

I'm basing this blog on the video posted below of MSNBC's host, Martin Bashir, interview Rob Bell about his new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. I encourage to read my thoughts and then give the video a look. A friend of mine asked my opinion on it, so this is my point of reference for the purposes of this blog. The first thing that catches my attention is how the media become devout followers of Christ when it benefits them most. In most cases, the media present themselves as antagonistic, angry and basically ignorant toward Christianity. In this case, Bashir seems to think he is a theologian, rather than the usual bias talking head. So, immediately I don't feel that there is much creditability in this interview.

Allegedly, Bell is being accused of being a Universalist, a theological doctrine that believes that all people will eventually be saved and go to Heaven, even after death. Hence, the Universalist typically does not believe in Hell and hold to the view that many different paths will lead to eternal salvation. Regardless of Rob Bell's beliefs, which I do not think are Universalist in nature, Bashir immediately tries to pigeon hole him and basically attacks him, rather than listening and understanding where he is coming from. I cannot say that I've read his book yet, but will after all the hysteria fades away. But from what I've heard, reading Bell's previous books and knowing something of Bell's theology, I think people are twisting his beliefs before understanding. Basically, what I believe Bell is doing is calling people to focus on the love of Christ FIRST and being urging people to be compelled by that only. Rather than scaring people into the Kingdom of God, Bell is choosing to see the opposite and brighter side of the spectrum. As for what happens to people who are "apparently" not believers, what he is saying is that none of know for sure, and it's not for us to judge. I believe that 100%. God is God and God will do what He wants with the eternal destination of their souls and their individual spiritual journeys. What Bell seems to be saying is that most Christians jump to assumptions, almost with joy, when someone dies and from an outward perspective, never accepted the truths of Christ. Why is it that we do this? If Hell is real, which I believe it is in a very real way, why is that usually our best selling point? If the God is love, and we show people love, we are in essence showing them God and that He alone has the power to save someones soul. In my opinion, when the Gospel is presented in it's pure form, without selfish motivations, it ultimately overshadows the reality of Hell.

It ultimately comes down to one thing and one thing only. We are NOT God. We don't save, judge or condemn anyone. As followers of Christ, we are called to present the truths of Christ, how our lives are transformed and different and love people unconditionally. God alone deals with the afterlife. I have chosen to leave that in His hands and believe that He gives EVERYONE equal opportunity to be with Him in eternity. None of know what happens to a person spiritually just before they leave this world. None of know what factors have developed over their lives. None of us know what seeds of truth have been planted possibly many years ago and have been left dormant. None of know what hurts and suffering people carry with them from the past. And nor of us know how God chooses to intervene, or not intervene just before a person crosses over to the afterlife, especially those who have never heard the truths of Jesus Christ. Let's leave all that up to God and show people why following Christ is a better alternative, regardless of eternal outcomes. Or do we really believe that it is? To me, that's a more sobering thought than the realty of Hell.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


"Everything is meaningless."  I'll warn you before you begin to read; this is not going to be a literary masterpiece.  If you usually enjoy my blogs, you probably won't enjoy this one.  It might be a little scattered.  It might be a little aimless.  You might feel like there is no point or purpose.  But, sometimes emotions are difficult to translate into words.  I'm experiencing this as I write this blog.  I've noticed this before, but this is the first time I decided to meditate on it.  I can feel intense emotions and feel as if the words should spill out onto the keys of my laptop, but there seems to be a barrier that I can't quite put my finger on.

I woke up to a morning that was unusually dark, cold and breezy for this time of year.  Spring had already begun to make itself known over the last couple of weeks, the groundhog didn't see it's shadow, so I had assumed winter had packed it's bags, said it's goodbyes and bid us farewell.  Don't get me wrong, I actually like winter, and the unexpected cold snap is somewhat welcome.  But as usual, a drastic change in the weather means a drastic change in my overall mood.  Melancholy, meditative and a bit reflective is how I would classify my disposition as of late.  I feel in no ways apathetic or unmotivated.  There seems to be a lot going on upstairs, but the door's locked for right now.  I've carried this mood with me throughout this week.  "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven." 

You might say that this blog is meaningless, and you might be right.  I'm wondering that myself right now.  But life is like that sometime, isn't it?  One moment our life purpose seems clear and distinct, and the next we might question for what purpose we even exist.  It reminds me of the apparent dichotomy between the Old Testament books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.  Most of Proverbs and all of Ecclesiastes were written by Solomon, and could be considered some of the deepest literature ever written.  Proverbs begins and ends with structured wisdom and the sage advice of someone who seems to have a firm grasp on the meaning of existence.  Both books are attributed to the Biblical genre of "wisdom" literature, but it's literally almost as if the author finishes Proverbs and then mockingly screams out to you, "Just kidding!" as Ecclesiastes begins.  "Meaningless!  Meaningless!" says the teacher, "Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless." (Ecc. 1:2)  OK, but what was that whole book of Proverbs about then?

The book goes on to emphasize the injustices of life and the seemingly constant battle with pain and suffering.  In a very candid method, Solomon reveals his deep conviction that the exhaustive pursuits of life are without reason and inevitably amount to nothing.  Overall, you get the impression that he sees only complete meaningless of life and the impossibility of understanding the nature of our existence.  Ultimately, one is left with an apparent duality of emotions when compared with the book of Proverbs.  "Lean not on your own uderstanding."

But is there really a tension between these two books, philosophy and theology?  I don't think so.  What I think Solomon reveals to us in these two amazing pieces of literature is a tension that exists in most of our lives.  We often settle into a rhythm of life, in which we think we have all the pieces to the puzzle.  We begin linking piece after piece, all the while believing that the picture is being revealed.  Our pace increases as the number of puzzle pieces decreases, and we feel the confidence of eventually accomplishing our goal.  But what happens if we get to a point of realizing that several puzzle pieces are missing?  What happens when we realize that the image revealed is not what we thought it was going to be?  And what happens if someone trashes our puzzle?  "Meaningless.", but "Does not wisdom call out?  Does not understanding raise her voice?"     

"All share a common destiny."  I'm beginning to realize that life can be like this for some of us.  We chose certain paths in life, made turns that seemed right at the time, and continue racing through life, anticipating that the goal will eventually be revealed to be what we've always anticipated.  We grow and we learn.  We build, we develop and we acquire.  We fill our minds with endless knowledge, all the while thinking that the more knowledge we file away, the closer to the finish line we will eventually end up.  But does more knowledge always equal more understanding?  Do more pieces always complete the puzzle?    

"Give me neither poverty nor riches"  When you think about, there is really not a huge difference between the acquisition of knowledge and the seemingly meaninglessness of life.  In fact, each one could easily exist in complete independence of one another.  We fill our minds with more and more wisdom, but without a clear grasp of the mundane realities of life, our endless pursuits will only equate to frustration and a lack of fulfillment.  More wisdom does not always equal a clearer understanding of life, and our grasping of this truth is very critical to our understanding of ourselves and the mysteries of God.  But isn't that what faith is all about?  An incomplete puzzle, with missing pieces?  An image that we cannot fully make out, but nonetheless are aware of its clarity and reality?      

Reality is that there are times when all the puzzle pieces are just not there.  No one stole them.  They weren't misplaced.  You weren't ripped off.  in fact, there's a good chance that the pieces never existed in the first place.  And yes, the puzzle will remain incomplete, the image will not be realized and we might just have to start a new puzzle.  But one thing I've learned over the years, is that the early stages of putting together a puzzle are the most enjoyable.  As you get close to completion, it becomes less of a challenge and you begin to see what the picture is going to be already.  Sure, you get the satisfaction of finishing, but the challenge and pursuit begin to fade as reality begins to set in.  You acquired a lot of pieces, and they fit together perfectly, but what you are left with is just a picture that was separated into hundreds of parts for no apparent reason, other than putting them back together again.  "So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun."