03/03/2019 Over all of my years of “church life”, I have not been the one seen in a Bible class.  Often invited, nagged by conscience, and enticed by controversial topics, I have steadfastly been “just too busy”, not interested enough, or “an hour is long enough for me”.  For some reason – I suspect a Holy Spirit involvement – I succumbed to the study of Rob Bell’s What is the Bible?  Now wrapping to conclusion, the text look has brought insight, disagreement, and, most importantly for me, a focus on understanding my faith.  The author’s view that the Bible offers an “ancient library of poems, letters, and stories” disturbed me, especially that word “stories”. Part one of my faith focus lies in the Bible as the literal Word of God written through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Reinforcing that solid foundation in the early class weeks really allowed me to HEAR the class commentaries and LISTEN to the variety of points brought forth. 

And now the class ends – time to highlight the gain I took away.  As I said, the Bible = Truth.  That is my core, my belief, my faith cornerstone.  If I doubt any part, if I pass off any event- the flood, Jonah and the whale, the men in the fiery furnace, Daniel in the lion’s den-then my foundation cracks.  How can I believe in a resurrection and ascension if I choose not to believe other events?  And belief creates faith.  That became clear in the late chapters, “What About All That Wrath?”, “What About Sin?”, and “Is It the Word of God?”.  To me, much of modern theology is based on an “emergent” approach. People can pick and choose what to accept as true in the Bible and, so long as a person believes in Jesus and His death and resurrection to atone for sin, heaven will be home.  Much more exists in this line of thought.  The “What About All That Wrath?” chapter crystalized part two of my faith.  God IS a gracious, forgiving God, BUT He is also a JUST God.  Only Christ could live a pure human existence, be crucified and in so doing, carry our innate sin with Him in death.  In His descent to Hell, He conquered sin, death, and the power of the devil – made death a open door instead of a clank on a cell in eternal damnation.  He rose, freeing us to a pure relationship with God the Father IF we but believe.  Non-belief, no faith leaves mankind with works to earn heaven – and that cannot be done.  God is just.  Death can be an end or a beginning – it’s a choice. 

Born in sin, we can feel hopeless in life.  As Bell says, “If we let sin define who we are.”  If we live thinking we are always under God’s wrath, not His great capacity of love and grace, then guilt clouds our journey.  Jesus came, parted the clouds, and allows us to always see and know, in all of creation and in every relationship, the love of God present in our every day.  Ever present in the Bible, the Word of God.  As Bell further states, the word of God is “the heavens and the stars, the mouth of a baby, your conscience, the words of poets and philosophers.” As I like to think, God is present in “the nooks and crannies of life.” 

Well, escaping the “box of chocolates” analogy, Rob Bell gave me a shoelace to tie.  One end dangles God’s wrath, His justice.  That plastic coated, easy to get through the holes sin that keeps the binding loose.  The other end wraps with God’s grace and love tugging to tighten the slip.  In between the ends lies the lacing, the entwining of justice and love around this book called the Bible.  The solidity of our journey lies in how tightly we lace life to that profound book of truths.  Sin’s going to be there.  God’s love is always there.  Both will wrap our lives, and our choices determine the pull to strength or weakness.  My prayer is that we make the resulting bow a snug knit with God through faith in Jesus Christ and through hearing, seeing, and feeling the Holy Spirit in every breath we take. submitted by Dave Smith