Two Faces of God and Rob Bell's "Love Wins"

Rob Bell's "Love Wins" was recommended to me. While looking for the Book in Singapore, encountering 'out of stock', was happy to find it in a friend's book store. She gave the book to me and asked me to write a comment on it. So here is my comment on the book. But before that, I would like to put things in context and talk about the character of God.

God is Both - Love and Just
God is both love and just and hence I use the phrase "The Two Faces of God" to proved the context. There is the face of "LOVE" and there is also the face of "JUST" which requires God to punish the wrong doing and evil. One side is Heaven and the other side is Hell. Both belong to God and God has both. The forms the two extremities of doctrines about God and salvation of man. Within these two extremes, we shall find degrees of love and hell combinations about the salvation of man.

In the past, there are preachers who stress on the punishment, hell and brimstone. If you don't receive Jesus Christ as you savior, you shall be condemned to hell and fire eternally. Repent now while you have the chance. Don't be too late. They believe in scaring people by fear so that they can be saved. It works for some and does not for some others. It is not too popular now. There are people who feels there is a need to revile this aspect of the gospel. Hell is not to be taken or spoken lightly. It is a serious matter.

God cannot ignore the plead and suffering of those who were murdered and abused. God have to punish the evil doers and save the victims. God have to give the victimized something much better in exchange in order to be fair. 

There is continued popularity to stress on the 'Love' side of God. It is more agreeable and appealing. Love is not easy. Talking about it is easy. But doing it is very tough. Nevertheless, love in practice touches the heart, and draw out a willing conversion that last.

Either extreme, love or just, is wrong, because God is both. There is justice in love and love in justice. Love is not about a giving it and spoiling the loved ones. Love is not giving drugs/alcohol to the drug/alcohol  addicts who ask for more. Love is saying no to such requests for continued bad addictions.

Similarly, 'Justice' is not about just punishing the violator but will take into consideration the circumstances and motivation that leads to the violation. While Adam, the first, sinned. The 2nd Adam, Jesus Christ, provided us a 2nd chance back to God (Actually, it is more. Adam is created in the image of God where as Believers are rebirthed by the Holy Spirit as Children of God with the God's kind of Zoe life). I think this is the background doctrine of Rob Bell's Love Wins... Love must provide a 2nd chance and love wins eventually. Page 109 of the book says .. "history is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God."

When is Man's 2nd Chance ?
Orthodox doctrine tells us that man is given the chance of salvation by believing in Jesus in this life only. If he misses this he shall end in hell eternally (Heb_9:27  And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment).

Hell is Temporary and Postmortem Salvation
Rob Bell believes 'Hell is Temporary'. He spent a number of pages 91-92 to explain the Greek Aion of Kalazo as a period or an age and not eternal. He cited the parable of the Goat and Sheep. However, the Greek word used in the parable was "Aionion" and not "Aion of Kalazo" and Aionion means eternal. It would be great if Rob Bell can cite the Greek version of the Bible that he used. Someone even argue that if Hell is temporary, then the Heaven is also temporary since the same Greek words were used.

Temporary Hell is Not a New Concept - Purgatory?
Bell's concept of a temporary hell is not new. The Catholic has it all along in the concept of "Purgatory". If one has paid the debt of sins in purgatory, he will be set free to go up to heaven.

So Bell believes that even when man missed out the opportunity to receive Christ in his life, he may have a 2nd chance to receive Christ in hell. He will remain in hell until he repent and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior. So, we can say that Rob Bell is not a pure "universalist" which is a believe in the salvation of all men no matter how.

Is Jesus the Only Way? How about those who never heard of Jesus?
I personally believe Jesus Christ is the only way - He is the ONE who paid for our Sins and be Resurrected for our Rebirth. The salvation bought and brought by Jesus transcends time.

But the way salvation is obtained is different from different periods of time (this is known as the Dispensation Doctrine). Very early in the Bible, we have this man Enoch saved before the 1st coming of Jesus. Enoch walked with God and God took him away Gen 5:24. In 2King 2:11 we have Elijah being taken to Heaven without dying. The OT saints like Abraham, Moses, Jacobs etc were all saved into heaven before the coming of Jesus Christ. None of them go through the "sinners prayer" to be saved. Their salvation is based on the certain future crucification of  Jesus for their sins.

In Act 10:22, we have the story of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, an upright and God fearing man who seek God and had an encounter with Angel who told him to get Peter who would told him how to be saved. The reason to get Peter was more for Peter's sake to show him that God accepted not just the Jews but the Gentiles as well for salvation.

What does this mean? It means that anyone, throughout history, who desire and seek after the true God, God will reveal Himself to them and receive them. In Jesus' birth, we had the wise men (not just 3, 3 is inferred from the 3 gifts. They have a large group of followers and servants with them) who presented gifts and worship Jesus the baby as God. How could they know? Did not God show them? Are they not saved?

The love of God perhaps can be seen in a new light in the way He punished Cain for the murder of Abel. Cain was not sentenced to death like we would expect but Gen 4:11-12 ESV  And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand.  12  When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." God even gave him a special mark for protection! Is God trying to give time for Cain to repent? But Cain went away from the presence of God. When will Cain repent? We cannot be kinder than God and need to understand the evilness of evil. Some, like the devil, will know not repentance.

What Should We Do in the Meantime?
While some man may seek God. There are many who will not. There is the presence of evil spirits that deceive people through all generations. Even so, we are grateful that God leave enough evidences in the created world for men to discover Him and seek Him.

We cannot leave the salvation of men to chance, to the influence of the evil spirits, but to follow the command of Jesus in Matt 28:19-20, to go to make disciples of all nations. We shall leave the outcome to God and leave all other unknown to God, trusting that God's love and justice will prevail. Even Rob Bell is busily engaging people and telling them about the saving grace of Jesus Christ.


Ps 5 Living Righteously in A World of Temptations

Today I read Psalm 5. One good way of seriously studying the Bible is to rewrite every verse in your own words. You can do that easily nowadays by reading the multiple translations that are available. You can also go one step further by digging into the original Hebrew or Greek words with the concordances that are available. You must do that when you discover different translations seem to be giving different meaning. It helps you determine the correct translation. The final purpose of course is to really understand what the verses are saying.

Paraphrasing yourself is a form of meditation (Some people think that meditation is some mysterious thing of keeping quiet and waiting for the Lord to speak. That is only one form. The right form is to read, re-read, think about each word, think about the concept, think about the examples, think about your past experience, imaging into the future, etc and rewriting in your words about the learning you have gained).

Then divide the verses into clusters and give each cluster a short tagline capturing the key idea of the cluster of verses.

Finally, give a title to capture the essence of the passage. It is also helpful to pick a key verse for it.

Here is the result of my study on Ps 5 shown in a mind-map format:

In a world full to temptations it is important that we live righteously. The temptation is even greater at this present time of economic and social instability. It is always so easy to give in to the temptations, bend the rules a little, and trying to gain some added advantage. Others are doing it so why not you. This Psalm warns us against taking such short-cut. It is better for us to put our trust in God and live according to His righteous ways. It may seems silly to others who are boasting about their successes in some devious short-cut ways, but in the end, we shall discover who will stand the test of time.

Recently, there are also many con schemes going around. They come in greater varieties and forms, from e-mails to phone calls, with seemingly authentic website and call-centers, and step by step way of luring people deeper into their trap. This verse is also a great warning for us.

It is better to follow the Lord's righteous and straight path. There will be protection and blessings along the way and at the end.
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.
Lim Liat copyrighted 11 Aug 2011


Handling Betrayals

Betrayal is one of the most painful if not the most painful thing that one encounters in life. You have given your love, trust, services and sacrifices for him/her/them and yet they take all the good and favors that they received from you and turn against you. They slander and shame you. They distort the truth and lie to others about you. They destroy your good reputation that you have built for years.

How shall you react when you encounter such painful and shocking betrayals from those you have trusted and loved?

It is only natural that you feel angry.

It is only human that you want to strike back. (Brene Brown in her book "The Gifts of Perfection" p 44 hurting back , cruelty is never brave -- it's mostly cheap and easy, especially in today's culture)

If you are non-believers, those are commonly acceptable thing to do.
However, because you are believers, you have a inner witness that you can't do those things!(See the verses at the end of this post). While they are faithless, we have to remain faithful to our God.

How difficult is it? Who can vindicate us? Who can comfort us? What can we do?

Read Psalm 4. Here is the mind-map:

We are concern about when our honor will be restored. It seems a very long time... 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, even 10 years. Lord, when will you vindicate me?

God understand our anger. He tells us it is ok to feel angry. But we need not sin with our anger. We just need to learn to turn things over to Him and be silent and calm to let His comforting love fills our beings. We need to take time to learn and to feel His comfort. He says, "Offer me your pains, your anger as a sacrifice to me. They are righteous sacrifices because they are real and authentic and you are doing it the right way - not taking revenge into your own hands but to trust your God that will take care for you".  The Lord will shine His light and favor upon you. They are mocking you now. But the Lord God will show them.

As your faith raises with meditation in the goodness of God, you will slowing feel the joy of God coming in. It may take days, months or years. But continue in this trust.

May you lie down and sleep in peace.
May you be filled with greater joy than their grains and wines that they have stolen from you.

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Additions after receiving comments from Facebook:

Prevention of Betrayals: 
Matthew 10:16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

But love and trust are vulnerable things... you open yourself up for the risk of betrayals. But true love is not possible without free-will. With free-will comes the possibility of betrayal.

Handling and Punishment for the Betrayers:

Lev 19:18 "'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Deu 32:35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them."

1 Sam 26:10 As surely as the LORD lives," he said, "the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish.

Ps 94:1 O LORD, the God who avenges, O God who avenges, shine forth.

Pro 20:22 Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!" Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you. and in 24:29 Do not say, "I'll do to him as he has done to me; I'll pay that man back for what he did."

Rom 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

Eph 4:27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

1 Thes 4:6 and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.

Heb 10:30 For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."


Kingdom Principles Discussion 02 Work the Principles

The previous discussion is  Kingdom Principles Discussion 01.

This discussion is on KP#1 Kingdom Principles - Work Them

The Parable of the Unjust Steward
The morale teaching of the parable of the unjust steward Luke 16:1-9 is for us to wisely apply the Kingdom Principles to influence this present world for the glory of God establishing His Kingdom on earth.

The updated mind-map is:

The Kingdom of God Invades the World mind-map:

The Discussion Questions:

See also:  Our Calling of Life - Destination or Journey and Journey of Life

Next: Kingdom Principles Discussion 03 The Golden Rule for Business.

Index Page: Kingdom Laws & Principles

Lim Liat copyrighted 6 Aug 2011


Overcoming Attacks - Learning from David

What do you do when you felt the whole world is coming against you or your world is collapsing? Learn from King David. Stay calm and put your trust in the Lord. The Lord does not answer according to your intensity of your scream or the degree of your panic but according to your faith. In Psalm 3, David taught us the right way to get deliverance from the Lord.

Here is the mind-map for Psalm 3. This map is derived first from studying the verses in details and then coming out with appropriate titles in your own words through reflections on what you have read. This is a good way of really studying the Bible.
Follow the above steps. A key step is point 5 Giving the Command to call forth the destruction of the enemy. The request has already been in point 2 and God has heard and will answer it. Many people fail to command what they ask for to take place. If you are praying for healing, after the request and standing on the promises of God (e.g. Ps 103 ), command the sickness to leave and be at peace. If you lack financially, request of God, and stand on the promises of his blessings (e.g. Mat 6:33, Joshua 1:8, 3John2), command the blessings to come and be at peace and even better, be giving thanks for the answers that have been sent forth.  Remember also that "if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself." 2 Tim 2:13. God answers you not because you have done well but because He is a good God.

Lim Liat copyrighted 5 Aug 2011