What do you do when one of your favorite authors, someone who has had a great and positive impact on your life, writes a new book… and that book sparks all kinds of controversy? What do you do when someone you admire, someone who inspires you greatly gets labeled as a “heretic?” Here’s what I do – I buy the controversial book and decide for myself. Pastor and author, Rob Bell, recently released Love Wins, which critics have blasted as “universalism theology” saying that Bell writes basically that “there is no Hell.” Before I can comment, or judge for myself, I have to read the book.
I guess the thing that really makes my ill to my stomach is that I can't find this book in Hot Springs. Two Christian bookstore, and both no longer stock any "Rob Bell merchandise" on the shelves, although you can special order it. And one "mega chain" bookstore, which computer shows 8 copies in inventory, but somehow all 8 copies have been misplaced and no one at the store can locate them. Hmmm... and again, I am thankful for Amazon, where it is actually $10 cheaper than any of these stores!
What an interesting title, though… Love Wins. I heard this phrase a number of years ago, and picked it up. There is actually a beautiful art piece in my house, painted by my friend Mauri, that says, “Love Wins!”
Actually a couple of months ago, as I was studying Psalm 40, and outlining my current teaching series “40” which will wrap up on Resurrection Sunday (Easter), I came up with the title for the Easter sermon – “Love Wins!” This was before I even knew the title of Rob Bell’s latest book, and I thought it was a pretty encouraging coincidence until all the controversy started about the book. And I began to wrestle with “should I change the sermon title? …do I want to distance myself from all the Love Wins controversy?” And then God took me back one more time to His Word:
“I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth-- Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the Lord.” –Psalm 40:1-3(NKJV)
Through prayer, meditation, and fasting during our Focus40 journey, I have been overwhelmed by God as He has reminded me of the horrible pit that He has brought me out of. I have fallen in deeper love with my God who has established my steps and put a new song in my mouth! As I look at my own life, I am an example of how BIG God is, and how much He does love His creation… how much He really loves His children! God is love, and love does indeed win!
My prayer is that on Resurrection Sunday, April 24, we celebrate with exuberant joy that the Resurrection happened… and that resurrection happens! God has brought us from the pit of despair to the mountain of praise, and we will shout and sing and tell the world that LOVE WINS!