May 5, 2009
This is the second part of my notes/comments on Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile by Rob Bell and Don Golden.
After a long excursus on the Israelites suffering in slavery in Egypt, the authors begin discussing Jesus. On page 68, the authors write, “And so central to the vision of the future, and the identity of the needed leader of the new exodus, was that this leader would be a son of David, but a new son of David who used power purely and properly. No violence.” Then later on page 88, they write,
“The only way to break that cycle is for someone to absorb it. A true leader of a new exodus would have to resist ever using power in the form of violence against another human being. Isaiah called the one to come a suffering servant [Isa. 52:13-15]. Someone would have to have the courage to put away the sword, forever, regardless of the consequences for his own security. No matter how tempting it is to pick it up and start swinging, someone would have to say, ‘Forgive them, Father, because they just don’t get it.”
The descriptions of Jesus given here make him sound like a passive, peace-loving hippie. Which he was not and is not. In Matthew 10, Jesus warns his disciples of what is to come. He tells them that they will be persecuted, that they will be hated. And in verse 34, Jesus says, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
The passage in Isaiah that the authors quote is a prophecy about Jesus coming as a servant who suffers greatly for our sin—which is very true. But I would like to point out that this is the same God who is spoken of just a few chapters later in Isaiah in a very different way. “I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered on my garments, and I stained all my clothing” (Isa. 63:3b). In fact, throughout the Bible, the wrath of God is spoken of nearly 200 times—often in very violent terms. Isaiah 13:9 says, “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, Cruel, with fury and burning anger, To make the land a desolation; And he will exterminate its sinners from it.”
This is not needless violence (like in slasher movies); this is a righteous violence against those who reject Jesus as their Savior and substitute for our deserved punishment. Paul asks if we should say that “God is unjust in bringing his wrath upon us”? And he promptly answers, “Certainly not!” (Rom. 3:5-6)
I would also like to briefly point out that while Jesus did come to earth the first time to suffer and die, when he returns again, it will be a very different story. Jesus does not “put away the sword forever.”
Rev. 19:11-16 “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robed dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He reads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on his robe and on his thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS’.”
The Jesus described here will not be pushed around. He is a warrior. And his wrath will be satisfied.
Later in the Manifesto, the authors write: “When people are manipulated with guilt and fear, when they are told that if they don’t do certain things they’ll be illegitimate, judged, condemned, sent to hell forever—that’s violence” (105).
I have issues with this statement. I believe that people must submit their lives to Christ. And if they don’t, they will be sent to hell—forever. And, honestly, I do not believe it’s violence to tell people that. God’s righteous wrath against us in our sins was satisfied by Jesus on the cross. However, this only applies to those who accept Jesus as their sacrifice. Accepting Jesus’ atonement for your sins is something you must do to avoid condemnation. Period.
April 10, 2009
A look at some of the statements made in the new book Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile by Rob Bell and Don Golden
I would like to begin this with an explanation for why I am doing what I am doing. As believers, we are called “to test the spirits” (1Jn. 4:1) and “examine everything carefully” (1Th. 5:21). John tells us to “make sure no one deceives you” (1Jn 3:7). This is the basis for my study and critique. To do anything less would be (in my opinion) a failure to respond to the call in Jude 3—“to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”
At the beginning of this book, the authors go through the story of Moses leading his people out of slavery in Egypt. They go on to discuss when God talks to the people at Sinai.
“It’s believed that this is the only faith tradition in human history that has as its central event a god speaking to a group of people all at one time” (page 29-emphasis added).
Later in the book, the authors talk about the Eucharist:
“What the Eucharist does is particularize the exodus story in time and space. Exodus is the ultimate picture of salvation” (page 161 emphasis added).
I would first like to say that the central event of my faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 12:2 command us to fix “our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” Faith is about Jesus, not Moses. It was on Mt. Sinai, that God gave the ten commandments—the basis of the old covenant. Hebrews 8:13 says, “When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He made the first obsolete.” I am in no way saying that the Old Testament or the law is not important, but it is certainly not the central event of a faith in Jesus Christ.
The ultimate picture of my salvation is not the exodus, but a God who sent His only son to die for someone completely unworthy of his grace. It is Jesus, hanging on a cross that was intended for me.
On page 179 of the Manifesto, the authors write, “Jesus wants to save us from shrinking the gospel down to a transaction about the removal of sin and not about every single particle of creation being reconciled to its maker.” This passage points directly at Colossians 1:20, “and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” I looked up the Greek word for “all things” used in this verse. The word is pas and it is used over 1200 times in the New Testament. This is what I found interesting. The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon says this of pas:
“The words ‘world’ and ‘all’ are used in some seven or eight senses in Scripture, and it is very rarely the ‘all’ means all persons… the words are generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all sorts—some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has not restricted His redemption to either Jew or Gentile.”
This does not point to God reconciling “every single particle of creation” to Himself.
On page 168 of the Manifesto, the authors say, “It is the way to a universal religion adequate to the challenge of saving human community and the ultimate renewal of all things.”
The Bible is clear that not everyone will be saved [reconciled to Him]. Those who do not put their faith in Jesus and accept His redemption will be condemned to eternal punishment (Mt. 25:41). Likewise, “The heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). God is not going to restore the present earth; He is going to create a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1).
There are more points I would like to make, but I will save those for another note…
November 1, 2008
A Psalm of Despair
God, how can you do this to me? You bring me to this hell and leave me. When I am supposed to be preparing for the future, I am bogged down in the present.
You led me into deep waters and left me here to drown. I’m sinking and you turn away. I cry out to you, but you act as if you cannot hear me. O Lord, save me from this hell. I’m being pulled under. Why am I under your wrath? Why do you turn from me? God, I need you and you’re too far away. Fear is eating me alive. I want so desperately to succumb to it. I don’t understand. I am lost and utterly alone.
God, where are you?
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” Psalm 13:5
-April 28, 2008
I love the Psalms, because they are so real. David expresses his joy, his frustration, his anger—and his devotion to God. I wrote my “psalm” when I thought I was at my breaking point. After pouring my thoughts out to God, I was reading the Psalms and came to Psalm 13.
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him, and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”
What I love about this Psalm, is that David is so frustrated with God and confused. But ultimately, he trusts and worships the God who saves him. He doesn’t see the resolution to his problems, but he has faith.
Over the summer, my sister introduced me to the song “Even Now” by Foolish Things.
“Trouble came, broke your door. Crushed your name, robbed you poor.
You feel He’s gone, or fast asleep. All’s gone wrong, you’re in too deep.
He hasn’t left you out to dry
You haven’t left his watching eye
So children sing it when you don’t see how
My Father’s worthy of my hope
The feeling’s gone. You’re wondering, if you heard Him wrong, if he’s listening.
The same old fear. The same old haze. Is God not here? Is His hand raised?
Could this be part of any good plan?
Seems to be you’ve fallen out of his hand
When you’re broken don’t know how to mend
When your tunnel’s still dark at the end
His children don’t know why but trust their Father’s at their side
So hold His hand, hold up your hope
September 18, 2008
I recently stumbled upon a site that informed me that Brian McLaren had recently created a cd of music that he had created in order to, inspire people of faith to live as agents of God’s love and justice in our world, in the way of Jesus. This cd is entitled Songs for a Revolution of Hope, Vol.1. (Meaning we have more fun to come with vol. 2) I, of course, decided to look at some of his lyrics, and have decided to share my comments on some his songs here on my humble blog. As a whole, his album reeks of emergentness, but I will limit my comments to individual songs.
In “11-57” (a song that talks about our “suicidal system,”), McLaren says, It must be redirected and we must be retrained…to reclaim our true identity in harmony and care with saving love for everyone to free all creatures everywhere from the suicidal system. Hmm. Where to begin. First this implies, that we (as humans) have the power to make things right in the world (without God?). Saving love for everyone. If we could all just learn to love each other, that would solve every problem this world has ever had. To free all creatures. Like not just humans, but free the trees? and the squirrels? and the termites? Cause that doesn’t sound like panentheism at all. Also, in this song, McLaren rhymes defection…direction…reconnection…resurrection all in one line. And that just really bugs me.
Then there’s “Canticle of the Sun.” I’m just gonna let you read the words.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Sun,
Who brings the light of day;
He’s beautiful and radiant, like you!
Be praised, my lord, through Sister Moon,
Through all her sister stars
They’re luminous and wonderful, like you!
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Wind
And Sister Cloud and Storm,
They bring flowers from Mother Earth for you.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Bird,
You gave him wings to fly
He sings with joy and soars up high for you.
Through Sister Water, Lord, be praised,
She’s humble, useful, too
She’s precious, clear and pure, O Lord, like you.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
Whose beauty glows at night
He’s cheerful, powerful, and strong, like you.
Creepy. It sounds very…naturey. Don’t get me wrong, God should be praised due to his amazing creation, but I’m not about to start calling Lake Michigan, Sister Water.
“Lets Confess It”– Now I’ll confess that I haven’t listened to this song, but there are enough words in it to be a rap song. Just to give you some comparison, I feel that hymns tend to be rather wordy. The word count of all 5 verses of “Be Thou My Vision” is 168 words. “Let’s Confess It” has 397 words. Perhaps he should learn to summarize.
“Chant”–I’d like to say that I’ve always found chants (as in the Gregorian type) to be kinda scary and not super pleasant to listen to. But, you know, whatever floats your boat. However, this “Chant” by McLaren comes with the following directions:
You can use this chant form by putting a passage of Scripture in singable lines. Any line that is printed or projected at the left margin is sung on a single tone until the last word, where melody goes down a full note and then back up to the original note. Any line that is printed or projected with indentation (or perhaps with a different color) is sung on a single tone, but then at the last word, the voices rise by a minor third interval and then back to the original note. Of course, there are many other forms of simple Scripture-singing too – and new forms waiting to be invented as well.
I get it now.
“Hymn of Remorse”–We covered your colorful earth with grey cement. We cut down trees and stripped the soil wherever we went. We scarred the hills for gold and coal… We paved paradise and put up a parking lot… The noise of traffic is drowning out the songbird’s song. Your voice within us telling us that we’ve gone wrong. Holy political agenda, Batman!
“Love and Justice”–The factories breathe acid/and leak into the stream. And every day the earth gets hotter/ who will stop it? Ooh, ooh, this one’s about global warming. When will we wake up from/this self-destructive scheme, So everything can change … God’s kingdom coming! Cause if we could just stop global warming from happening, we would usher in the kingdom.
“If We Don’t Have Love”– the chorus of this one is Hey-Hey, Ho-ho. We have nothing if we don’t have love. Hey-hey, Ho-ho. We have nothing if don’t have love. Can’t you just picture McLaren hip-hopping across the stage…
So in conclusion, I probably (make that definitely) won’t be buying this album. McLaren, don’t quit your day job. On second thought…
May 10, 2008
President Kemper, Dean Sweet, Distinguished Board Members, Administrators, Faculty and Staff, 2008 Graduates, Parents and Family of Graduates, Friends and Students of the college,
Thank you for giving me the honor of speaking at this ceremony.
I’ve been at Grace for a few years now. I have developed some amazing friendships during my time at Grace. I’ve had friends who have come and gone—and come back again. Some of my friends were able to graduate after a mere 4 years of college. Others, like myself, are working on this whole “super senior” title. I figure, it can’t be too bad, it kind of makes me sound like a superhero, and superheroes are pretty cool.
The experiences I’ve had at Grace Bible College are ones that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I still remember my freshman year trying to explain to people that we hadn’t had any snow days—but we had, in fact, had two squirrel days. To those of you still unsure of what this means, on two separate occasions, a squirrel decided to jump into our generator and kill the electricity on the whole campus, thus cancelling school. Then there was the time when one of my friends fell into a random sinkhole that appeared in the middle of the quad. There were trips to the tire swing and late night runs to Taco Bell. Studying for Bible tests during lunch and hanging out at a Blue Stage on Friday night.
I learned a lot through my classes too. I will never in my life forget how to write a paper in MLA format. I know how to label all kinds of crazy chords, and even how to write a song using the 12 tone method. I will never forget Vygotsky or how to write a Madeline Hunter lesson plan.
It was through Grace that I had the opportunity to go to Israel and eventually Costa Rica. These trips helped me to realize the importance of not just believing in Christ, but truly living every moment of my life for him.
In the passage of scripture that was just read, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Jesus says that WE are the light of the world. We are not to hide this light and be ashamed. But rather, in this broken, depraved, dark world, we are to let our light shine for the whole world to see. Paul says that we are to “live as children of light” (Eph. 5:8).
Now, that being said, I don’t recommend that you put on your Sunday best and go tell random people that you’re part of the “children of light” and you want them to shine with you. That has just a little bit of a cultish feel to it.
But I also caution you. Do not dim your light in fear of offending someone. Do not water down your message. In a world that is so unwilling to state its belief in absolute truths, do not forget that your life, your light, should be a proclamation of the one and only true God, who sent his son to a cross to die for our sins, so that whoever believes in him, shall not die but have eternal life. That’s what our light must say. Philippians 2:15 urges us to “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which [we] shine like stars in the universe.”
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. This last semester of school, my student teaching, was the hardest semester I’ve ever had. I was angry with God for the situations he had placed me in. I questioned God and his plan for my life. I wrestled with feelings of failure night after night. Through this time, there was part of a song by Aaron Shust that continuously came back to me. “All of my plans, all of my dreams, I lay then down before your feet. All of my time, all that was mine, I now submit to your design.” This has become the theme song of my life. I trust that even when it was hard, when I felt a total lack of purpose, if my light made an impact on even one child, then that is why God placed me there. I still have tons to learn. God is revealing more of his design to me daily. And I am daily learning how to be that light that I was called to be.
Fellow graduates, as we enter this next stage of our lives, ask yourself if you are shining like stars in the universe. Are you living a blameless and pure life? Are you submitting to Christ’s design for you? He knows what he’s doing with our lives—which is a good thing, cause I sure don’t. When you are discouraged, confused, and broken, trust in him. Lean on him.
When I was in high school, we used to end every youth group with a song we called the benediction. The words seem fitting. “My friends, may you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior. My friends, may you grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
To God be the glory, now and forever! Amen.”
-Ryanne van der Maas, Grace Bible College, 2008 Commencement
March 26, 2008
I hereby declare Wednesday, March 26, 2008 to be National Sinkhole Awareness Day. (A privilege granted to me by the fact that March 26 is Make Your Own Holiday Day). On National Sinkhole Awareness Day, I ask you to take some time to think about the reality that there are sinkholes in this world (especially in Wyoming, Michigan), and they are dangerous. Do not remain ignorant to sinkholes!
February 27, 2008
I recently was going through a book entitled Velvet Elvis, with the intention to do as the author said I should: “Test it. Probe it….Don’t swallow it uncritically.”
And so I did.
I decided to focus my reading on Movement Five—Dust. In this section, Bell focuses on “Jesus, the Jewish rabbi. Bell gives some historical background on when Jewish children usually began their studies of the Torah and what they studied. The following is directly quoted from the text:
“By the way, when Jesus’ parents found him in the temple area, how old was he? Twelve. Notice what the text says here: ‘They found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.’
Jesus later says to his disciples, ‘Remember, everything I learned I passed on to you.’
Did Jesus go to school and learn like the other Jewish kids his age?”
So Bell seems to indicate that these verses lead to the conclusion that perhaps Jesus had learned from other rabbis. After the quotes, there were footnote numbers, so I looked these up. The footnote for the last quoted verse says, “See John 15:15.” So I grabbed my Bible and looked up the verse. This is what my NIV said, “For everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” I thought it was a little strange that the verses didn’t match up with what they were saying, so I looked in Velvet Elvis to see what translation the verses came from. It said the TNIV. So I looked up John 15:15 in this version. “For everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
It turns out that the verse in both translations emphasize: “everything I learned from my Father” and yet Bell forgot to put that phrase in his book. Maybe this is because the actual verse does not implicate that Jesus learned from the rabbis. What got me the most is that in Velvet Elvis, Bell has put this in his text as a quote—complete with quotation marks and everything. If I hadn’t taken the time to look up the footnote, and then the verse, I would have thought that John 15:15 said exactly what Bell quoted it to say.
But it doesn’t.
February 18, 2008
I decided that my first post should be something pretty amazing. So I am going to write about this amazing story that I discovered earlier.
Apparently, during this tsunami, a baby hippo got swept away and was all alone–until it met this tortoise. The tortoise apparently has adopted this hippo and now they are the best of friends. The hippo is named Owen and the tortoise is Mzee. (I totally think they should remake Milo and Otis using this story). Anyway, I think that this had to be one of the greatest stories ever. And its totally true.