Thinking Out Loud

November 14, 2017

Thoughts After Sutherland Springs


Stephen and Brooksyne Weber posted this as a footnote to their Daily Encouragement site last Monday morning.1 I want to bring these “eleven theses” to the forefront here. The introduction suggests some of these things may now be politically incorrect to say. I’ll leave that to you to decide.2

To read the full article click this link. Also click “next message” for some additional thoughts on the church massacre in Texas that were posted the next day.

  • We believe the growing culture of death is a factor in the further corruption of the world. When pre-born life is disregarded it has a permeating effect in ways we don’t realize. Yesterday afternoon we passed the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Reading, PA and practically sensed the hellish, demonic spirit around the place. Yet our government funds this!
  • Graphic violence in movies, TV, video games and elsewhere cheapens life and has a desensitizing impact.
  • We wonder to what extent there is now among the sinfully disturbed a sense of competition and claim to fame for these acts of sheer evil.
  • Social media provides platform to spread this.
  • Previous generations were aware of the horrors of hell which had a restraining impact on evil. Now the notion of hell and judgment is so politically incorrect and offensive to many, and scoffed by others.
  • In the meantime spiritual and Scripture teaching is diminishing and organized groups like the ACLU, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and others are working overtime to further diminish Judeo/Christian influence in America.
  • Mental illness and more funding for treatment is being bandied about, as it often is following these heinous acts. Of course something is wrong in someone’s head to do something like this but we feel it is incrimination against scores of people who have some mental illness issues but still have a restraint against an evil act like this.
  • We wonder to what extent drugs, both prescribed and illicit are a factor in these matters and the Biblical prohibitions against intoxication.
  • It’s sad how events like this are quickly politicized with various factions providing simplistic answers to attack the other side.
  • Both official law enforcement and the concerned citizens who got involved (being called heroes) remind us that there are many decent people who have a role in restraining evil.
  • Today we listened to a news conference in which they concluded with with a soul-touching prayer. genuine faith overcome even in the midst of the hardest situations.

~Stephen & Brooksyne Weber


Update from Sutherland Springs: The following item is scheduled to appear in tomorrow’s link list. Here is a preview:

  • The pews have been taken out, the carpeting has been removed, and the inside of the building has been painted white from floor to ceiling as a memorial to those who died that day. CNN sent a reporter into the church building.

1Although I edit a daily devotional page, that tends to have a work focus at least partially. Daily Encouragement is the one I try to read each day just for my own time with God.

2Although we’ve repeated it here many times, I have to once again remind us all that this problem is unique to the United States and is not beyond its power to change. Such a “beating of swords into plowshares” would be a tremendous feat, greater than anything else the U.S. has ever accomplished.


Photo: New York Daily News (click to link to story)

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October 16, 2011

Rob Bell Pens Response to the Responses

In keeping with our policy of all Rob Bell news all the time, here’s the latest:  HarperCollins will release a paperback response to the critics in February 2012 simply titled The Love Wins Companion.

Bit of a cover similarity, don't ya think?

Here’s the 411 from the publisher:

For anyone who wants to delve deeper into Rob Bell’s bestselling Love Wins, the expansive and accessible Love Wins Companion offers scholarly support and critiques, resources for individuals, groups, and classes, and brand new material by Rob Bell himself. As Love Wins continues to become a touchstone for thousands of readers worldwide, controversy surrounds the book’s arguments. Author Brian D. McClaren wrote that with Love Wins “thousands of readers will find freedom and hope and a new way of understanding the biblical story,” yet USA Today observed that “Bell has stuck a pitchfork in how Christians talk about damnation.” Here, in The Love Wins Companion, Rob Bell offers commentary on the positive and negative attention his groundbreaking book is receiving, delivering a crucial supplement to one of the most important books since the Bible.

For those looking to go deeper with Rob Bell’s bestselling pioneering book Love Wins, this companion offers:

  • Insights and commentary by theologians, Bible scholars, scientists, and pastors
  • Deep analysis of all relevant Bible passages on heaven, hell, and salvation
  • Detailed chapter summaries, discussion questions, and Bible studies for individuals, groups, and classes
  • Excerpts from works throughout Christian history illustrating the variety of teachers also debating the issues Bell wrestles with
  • New material by Bell on his mission for the book and how people can take the next step

June 21, 2011

God Wins: A Preview of Mark Galli’s Response to Love Wins

[Job: ]
You [God] asked, “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?”
It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me. …
I take back everything I said,
and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.
(Job 42:3, 6)

Yesterday Christianity Today published a preview excerpt from the forthcoming book by it senior editor, Mark Galli, written in response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins to be published in July under the title God Wins: Heaven, Hell and Why The Good News is Better Than Love Wins.   Having only this small section to work with, I couldn’t help but read it with my brain echoing the cadence of Bell himself.   If you read it that way, you’ll see the similarity.  What follows is an excerpt of an excerpt, so you may wish to click the link now; otherwise when you arrive, what follows actually takes you into the second page…

There are questions, and then there are questions.

In Love Wins, there are lots of questions—eighty-six in the first chapter alone. The book you are currently reading will address a number of them, because they are good questions. But before that, the first thing we need to do is think about the very nature of questions. Because there are questions, and then there are questions.

There are questions like the one Mary, the mother of Jesus, asked the angel when he told her some astounding news. Mary was a young woman engaged to marry Joseph when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. “Greetings, favored woman!” he bursts out. “The Lord is with you!”

Suddenly finding herself in the presence of a messenger of God, Mary is naturally “confused and disturbed.”

“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” Gabriel reassures her, “for you have found favor with God!”

And then he drops the bombshell: “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.” This Jesus, he says, will be very great, will be called the Son of the Most High, will be given the throne of his ancestor David, and will reign over Israel forever in a Kingdom that will never end.

That’s a lot to take in. Most mothers just want to know they’ll have a baby with all ten fingers and ten toes. But what exactly all this means—Son of the Most High? ruler like King David? reign forever?—seems not as perplexing to Mary as one other detail. “But how can this happen?” she asks. “I am a virgin.”

Mark Galli

That’s her question, and it’s a good one. A virgin getting pregnant without the help of a man—well, this sort of thing doesn’t happen every day. It’s an honest question, prompted by natural curiosity and driven, not by fear and doubt, but by wonder: how is God going to pull this off?

Mary asks one type of question; the other type was posed by Zechariah a few months earlier. He was a priest married to Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, an old man at the other end of life and the reproduction cycle, when the angel Gabriel appeared to him.

It happened in the Temple, as Zechariah burned incense in the sanctuary. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared before him. “Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear,” Luke’s Gospel says.

“Don’t be afraid, Zechariah!” Gabriel reassures. “God has heard your prayer.”

What prayer? For a son? For Elijah to come to herald the Messiah? For the Messiah to come? We’re not told what Zechariah’s prayer had been, only that it has been heard. This is what Gabriel told him: Zechariah and Elizabeth would have a son whom they were to name John, and this John would be an extraordinary man.

Again, Gabriel piles on the attributes. John will be great in the eyes of the Lord, will be filled with the Holy Spirit—even before his birth—will turn many Israelites to the Lord, will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah, will prepare people for the coming of the Lord, will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and will cause the rebellious to accept godly wisdom.

 Again, that’s a lot to take in. And the thing that bothers Zechariah is the thing that bothers Mary: biology. “How can I be sure this will happen?” he asks the angel. “I am an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”

His question seems like a logical one. But it is not a good question. Gabriel chastises Zechariah, telling him in no uncertain terms that he, Gabriel, stands in the very presence of God. Of course he can deliver on this promise of good news!

“Since you didn’t believe what I said,” Gabriel continues, “you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born.” The consequence for asking a bad question: Zechariah is made mute. No more questions. Only silence.

So what’s the difference here? The questions are so similar. Why is Mary’s treated with respect while Zechariah’s is an occasion for spiritual discipline? Why does the angel seem indifferent to Mary’s natural curiosity and angry about Zechariah’s?

 The difference appears in one little additional clause Zechariah adds to his question. Mary simply asks, “How can this happen?” Zechariah asks, “How can I be sure this will happen?”

Mary’s question is about God. Zechariah’s question is about himself.

Mary’s question assumes God will do something good and great, and seeks to know how it will unfold. Zechariah is not at all sure that God is good and great, and seeks proof.

Mary wants to learn more about the goodness of God. Zechariah mostly wants to be self-assured.

As I said, there are questions, and then there are questions…

continue reading; main link, jump to page two of five

go straight to page two

Related on this blog: Francis Chan’s response to Love Wins

May 7, 2011

Controversial Book Enters Wider Christian Culture

It’s one thing to get the joke that follows.   It’s a whole other thing when you actually hear the key character’s voice in your head.   From Sacred Sandwich:


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