Posted by: robertartemenko | May 1, 2011

HugeGOD Headliners: Love Wins and Heaven is for Real

HugeGOD encourages cerebral Pilates … feeding the imagination, making our spirit’s lithe and hungry for our HugeGOD.

Two current bestsellers will contribute to this exercise.

(I) Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent

Today Show Matt Lauer interview with Todd and Colton Burpo ==>

There are a number of “white-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel” books out currently. Guess there have always been. This one’s different given the age and innocence of the traveller. Colton Burpo was not yet four when a burst appendix was mistaken for the flu and he nearly died. It was during this ordeal that he says he visited heaven, sat in the lap of Jesus, met his miscarried sister and witnessed what he described as a peaceful yet densely peopled landscape, very colorful, with “lots of animals.” You can read the rest of the detail and surrounding circumstances. There is NO forensic evidence here that this really happened nor proof beyond reasonable doubt that the “pearly gates” have something behind them. That proof is left to the student. I don’t know if this is true.

What I do believe is that it is hard to imagine a hoax, or the mindset that would draw in a four-year old and his siblings, being promoted and sustained by yarn spinning parents … would-be co-conspirators scheming their way toward a book and national media attention. This would reveal an all too new and fantastic category of flim-flam or sleeper cell. That said, were God to let slip a view of Heaven, it seems this approach could be a perfectly tuned innocent channel – a four-year old toe-head with flat-top. No, we have no pictures from a Predator UAV guncam nor Anderson Cooper satellite linking  reports back to us “keeping them honest.” No, just a kid without a Flip or cellphone who woke up and talked about what he saw.

Maybe it’s crass to say, but if there is no opportunity for my experiencing loving friendship and sonship with the creator God in Heaven, I am ready to pack it in now. On the other hand if heaven is real, if HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, I am really pumped. 1 Peter 1 talks about our receiving the “goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.” Heaven and that salvation are intimately connected, and exercising thoughts of both is a meditation, a form of hyper-thought. Focusing outside of  our normal track of how-much-space-do-I-have-on-my-DVR or got-to-get-to-the-ATM-tonight, toward the metaphysical issue of existence requires engaging a higher plane of consciousness. The Burpo experience brings that home as we witness a family experiencing things that families do, except all of a sudden they begin sparking as they intersect with the raw high voltage from another world. Just the idea of “another” world, another Kingdom, another order and existence – is enough to begin to short-out normalthink.

It’s good to stew and simmer in a whole other vision of where our life might be going – different from where Oprah or the New York Times might be pointing.

A lap for all of us to sit in, friends that love us eternally who don’t ever get “stage 4” anything, having bodies but without arthritis, minds without sadness, hearts without sorrow and tomorrows that never end – and we don’t want them to end because we are excited about every new dawn – in fact there are only dawns because night, darkness and death have been overcome.

We need to think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

(II) Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell

MSNBC Martin Bashir interview with Rob Bell==>

Rob Bell is creating a real mess. One reason we are to avoid discussing “religion and politics” is that we harbor reservoirs of orthodoxy, of-baked-in-opinion-turned-axiom, prone to prompt unavoidable and intense disagreements.

Without saying he is right or wrong, I believe Rob Bell does us all a great service by journeying back to the question of how Huge our HugeGOD’s love is. Inherent in his presentation is a prayer for us similar to Paul’s in Ephesians 3: 

 “16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ”

Rob Bell is not changing the Gospel, so much as engaging in healthy periodic introspection to assure that we have not constrained its “width, length, height and depth” within mainstream evangelical theology. I believe in the absolute truth of the Bible as inspired and communicated by the perfect Holy Spirit to finite and imperfect humans. Over time, we humans have created models of what the gospel is, how it works, what’s in bounds and out, and the degrees of freedom for interpretation. You can even find “gospel” flowcharts on the internet. While this is not the standard media for theological discussion and education, it does point out that there are evolved and well-defined maps to heaven and hell. As important as these alternate destinations are, it is good that orthodoxy defines clear pathways. The point is that we need to be sure that since (1) God is Huge, (2) God is Love,  (3) God “desires all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4) and (4) God is infinite and mysterious,  that we in no way crimp the grace, mercy and love of God. God Himself declares in Isaiah 55 that His  “59ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts.”

This is a dilemma.

We got to get this right. This has to be clear. Bait and switching on the rules would lead to chaos. We can’t be giving any head fakes regarding heaven and hell, it’s just too important an issue.  And yet as important an issue as it is, should we not permit ourselves to wrestle and think over our “models” periodically. This is dangerous for sure. Scary.  Are we shaking the pillars of our faith – are we re-negotiating the “nonnegotiables,” are we putting Jesus-as-the-only-way on the block, the reliability of the Word? I think not. He expected us to move forward, otherwise He would not have said in John 14, ” I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

God welcomes our ongoing pursuit of Him, our continuing to discover new elements and dimensions of His awesomeness. There is no moratorium on divine revelation. He is still engaged with us through the Holy Spirit. He wants to be better known, to be in close fellowship, to be friends – in fact to connect continuously, as implied in 1 Thessalonians: ” 16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually;  18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

What is great about Love Wins is that it draws us in to its assertions and vision of the Gospel and requires us to think. To think about who God is, His purposes for us, what His love does, why heaven is good or hell is bad, and whether we actually begin participating in them here on earth before we pass.

Is Love Wins heresy?

Well, you’ll need to do a few things to determine that : (1) read the book and don’t speculate on hearsay, (2) determine what you believe about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and why – and what your sources are and then (3) examine the variances in the light of different (a) sources and authorities, (b) application of scripture and (c) rationale used. All this plus most importantly pray for wisdom and discernment for yourself.

A quick scan of the FAQs on Rob Bell’s Love Wins’ website is no substitute for reading the book, but it might have you back off from throwing another torch on the bonfire. He is violently challenging our thinking, but he is not degrading our Father God or Jesus Christ. If any thing, he seems to be questioning whether God’s grace might be more expansive and inclusive than less.

Frequently Asked Questions on Love Wins website==>

I can’t help but think about Jonah. The first association is his being swallowed by the whale, but remember this was all about going to be God’s spokesperson and threatening doomsday for a “rogue nation,” an “evil empire.” After finally finding his way to Nineveh to deliver the reprimand, Jonah gets all upset when God doesn’t blast these bad boys. He goes off and sulks – he says he is so angry he could die. God knows what’s going on in his head and questions Jonah 4, “11But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

 I do not know if Rob Bell is right or wrong. But if the King of Nineveh in Jonah 3 could reasonably ask if God might have a little more mercy than seemed apparent, I do not think it is unreasonable for a godly teacher to do the same.

 “9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”



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