Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell March 4, 2009

Filed under: books — beyondtheoutside @ 8:35 PM
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I finally finished Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell.
Overall, I loved the book. I can’t wait to start listening to more of his messages and reading more books, as well as watching those NOOMA videos 🙂

The end of the book did cause me to raise some theological questions, but other than that I mostly agreed with the book. Although there were parts I did not fully support, I still enjoyed that book because it was fresh and new. It was not the same old “christianese” that I hear oh so often. I got to see how Rob Bell looks at things. Velvet Elvis says things I have heard and know before but this time its life changing. The way Rob Bell sees things is in line with what I’m typically thinking.

Some of my favorite/most thought provoking parts of the book:
“Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective” (84)
“Paul quotes Cretan prophets and Greek poets. He is interested in whether or not what they said is true. Now to be able to quote these prophets and poets, Paul obviously had to read them. and study them. And analyze them. And I’m sure he came across all kinds of thing in their writings that he didn’t agree with. So he sifts and sorts and separates the light from the dark and then claims and quotes the parts that are true.” (87) I want to be like Paul-I want to read and study and analyze things. I want to find the light from the dark and quote the parts that are true 🙂
“Missions then is less about the transportation of God from one place to another and more about the identification of a God who is already there. (87)
“So the issue isn’t so much taking Jesus to people who don’t have him, but going to a place and pointing out to the people there the creative, life-giving God who is already present in their midst. It is searching for the things that already affirmed as real and beautiful and true and telling them who you believe is the source of all that.” (88)
(Speaking about missions…) “if God is not there before you get there, then there is no “there” in the first place” (88)
“So many of us have been conditioned to think of our faith solely as an issue of us and God. But faith is a communal experience. A shared journey.” (90)
“It’s not just that God is over here and real life is over there. If it is real, then it’s showing us God. It is not that passion and love and exhilaration are in one place and Jesus is somewhere else. Wherever you find those, you are finding God.” (92)
(speaking about church…) “This community was exploding with creativity and life-it was like people woke up on Sunday morning and asked themselves, “what would I like to do more than anything else? How about going to a church service?” I could not get my mind around this at first. This concept was so new and fresh-people who gathered because they wanted to. There wasn’t a trace of empty ritual or obligation anywhere in the place. I felt like i was going to see my favorite band. The anticipation. The fact that I would do whatever it took to get there. It didn’t matter how far away I had to park. The bond I had with the other people in the room. Not “I have to” but “I get to”. Not obligation but celebration. Not duty but desire.”(97)
“The thought of the word church and the word marketing in the same sentence makes me sick.”(99)
“Without pain we don’t change, do we?” (104)
“But the Hebraic understanding of shalom is far more than just the absence of conflict or strife, Shalom is the presence of the goodness of God. It’s the presence of a wholeness, completeness.” (107)
“For Jesus, however, salvation is far more. It includes this understanding, but it is far more comprehensive-it is a way of life.”(107)
This next chunk made me think harder than I ever have perhaps.
“When we understand salvation from a legal-transaction perspective, then the point of the cross becomes what it has done for us. . .But let’s also use a lightly different phrase: the work of the cross in us. This is Jesus’ death on our behalf once and for all, but there is the ongoing work of the cross in our hearts and minds and souls and lives. There is the ongoing need to return to the cross to be reminded of our brokenness and dependence on God. There is healing we need from the cross every single day. Which leads to forgiveness. The point of the cross isn’t forgiveness. Forgiveness leads to something much bigger: restoration. God isn’t just interested in the covering of our sins; God wants to make us into the people we were originally created to be. It is not just the removal of what’s being held against us; it is God pulling us into the people he originally had in mind when he made us. . .The goal here isn’t simply to not sin. Our purpose is to increase the shalom in this world, which is why approaches to the Christian faith deal solely with not sinning always fail. They aim at the wrong things. It is not about what you don’t do. The point is becoming more and more the kind of people God had in mind when we were first created.”
Another quote I had to wrestle with…”It is possible for the cross to have done something for a person but not in them.”
“First, no amount of success can heal a person’s soul…If you have issues surrounding your identity, those issues will not go away if you “make it”…It is easier to keep going than to stop and begin diving into the root causes…It is scary to hit the wall because you don’t know what it’s going to feel like. and you might get hurt.”
“usually we can go on. and that’s the problem. We put on the mask, suck it up, and keep going. . .We have to let the game stop.”
“I am not defined by what I am not. And understanding this truth is a huge part of becoming whole. I had to stop living in reaction and start letting a vision for what lies ahead pull me forward. ”
“Notice how many places in the accounts of Jesus’ life he gets frustrated with his disciples. Because they are incapable? No, because of how capable they are. He sees what they could be and could do, and when they fall short, it provokes him to no end. It isn’t their failure that’s the problem; it’s their greatness. They don’t realize what they are capable of…He trusts that they can actually do it.”
“There is this person who we already are in God’s eyes. And we are learning to live like it is true…It is letting what God says about us shape what we believe about ourselves…God wants people to see who they really are. ‘Let us live up to what we have already attained.'”
“When we stumble and fall back into old patterns, we call them what they are: old patterns. Old ways. Old habits of the old person.”
“Christians are people learning who they are in Christ. ..I heard a teacher say that if people were taught more about who they are, they wouldn’t have to be told what to do. It would come naturally. When we see religious communities spending most of their time trying to convince people not to sin, we are seeing a community that has pissed the point. The point  isn’t sin management. The point is who we are now.”
“Sometimes the rabbi would take honey and place it on the students’ fingers and then have them taste the honey, reminding them that God’s words taste like honey on the tongue. The rabbi wanted the students to associate the words of God with the most delicious, exquisite thing they could possibly imagine. ”
“We cannot earn what we have always had. What we can do is trust that what God keeps insisting is true about us is actually true.”
“And this is because the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join, it is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that they way of Jesus is most vividly put on display. To do this, the church most stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories or in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive to those who are the ‘un’ and ‘non’, they work against the teachings of Jesus about how we are to treat each other. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, and our neighbor can be anybody. We are all created in the image of god, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God. Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. As the book of James says, ‘God shows no favoritism.’ So we don’t either. Oftentimes the Christian community has sent the message that we love people and build relationships in order to convert them to the Christian faith. So there is an agenda. And when there is an agenda, it isn’t really love, is it? It is something else. We have to rediscover love, period, Love that loves because it is what Jesus teaches us to do. We have to surrender out agendas. Because some people aren’t going to become Christians like us no matter how hard we push. They just aren’t. And at some point we have to commit them to God, trusting that God love them more than we ever could. ” -I know that was a lot and it was long, but it is my favorite quote in the book. Next to it I have written “YES!!!!!!!” 

And lastly, my other favorite quote of the whole book:
“Suffering is a place where Cliches don’t work and words often fail.”


2 Responses to “Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell”

  1. jpreis1 Says:

    I am so proud of you! Now we have more books to struggle and wrestle through and talk about together!

  2. Shannon Says:

    I loved Velvet Elvis! It was recommended to me by a good friend and it helped me to be more excited about Christianity. I saw it in a new fresh way since I was very new to it and grew up Roman Catholic. I don’t think there is anything wrong with Catholics (LOL!) It’s just not alive enough of a service for me. Praise God for Non-denominational churches. I just love to worship the Lord…that’s what it should all be about.

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