"Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever." -Paul

31 January 2006


Read: 1 Thessalonians

Coming off of Philippians and Colossians, 1 Thessalonians is kind of a dissapointment. It's more of a personal letter to those in Thessalonica (or is it neke something? neke sounds better) than chock full of the Pauline wisdom of Phil. and Col. that I love so much. But, with the rest of the word there are definitely some nuggets as usual.

What I want to look at today is 1:5: "You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master."

I think there's a lot of value in what Paul is acknowledging here. It's hard sometimes to be able to conceptualize the WWJD? in everyday life so therefore there is value in looking towards those who do seem to embody a Christlike characteristics. Of course the temptation might be to make that person a personal Christ and thusly get yourself into all manner of trouble but with the right intentions in place, it could be a valuable thing.

One of my heroes, spiritually speaking, is Rich Mullins. Rich isn't God (although he's as close as I've seen here on earth). What I admire most about Rich is his humility, his poverty, his wisdom, and his contentment with those gifts that he did have. God is our true north but every once in a while we find those who point very closely to that north. Not perfectly, but still able to give us an idea where we're headed. If you've ever tried to follow a compass reading, it's pretty hard to just take a reading and go. More often than not, the procedure is to take the reading and look at what's in front of you. A certain tree or rock? Great, walk to that rock and then look for the next landmark on your degree heading. That landmark doesn't become your destination, it's a, well, landmark and by following those you get closer to where you're headed.

I find landmarks all over the place and I find that kind of fun. I've mentioned how I've been rewatching the Firefly series again and one of the things that I've really, really appreciated is Simon's relationship with River. Simon is by far an imperfect person with a complete lack of tact and awareness to a lot of things going on around him. But that is so easily forgiven when one considers the incredible sacrifices he has made to save his sister. Simon, for his sacrifice and his faults, is one of my landmarks right now. That kind of selfless living isn't easy by any stretch but it's a lot closer to "go for second place" command that Jesus gives than how I usually live my life. He, of course, only says that command that way in The Message.

So, thank you, Paul and the rest of the apostles for your examples. Thank you, Rich for the way you lived your life so selflessly. Thank you, Joss Whedon for making a story that has captured my imagination so amazingly and showing what a living sacrifice looks like. And thank you, Jesus for the sarifice you did make and for providing a very, very difficult but worth example.

30 January 2006

better than flossing

"God bless you and keep you,
God smile on you and gift you,
God look you full in the face and make you prosper."

Numbers 6 brings us the Aaronic Blessing. It's familiarity suprised me. Pastors Dave and Wendy use it to close out every worship service.

What strikes me is the wording. I guess I've been really thinking about the real meanings of words in relation to prayer lately. Particularly why we say certain things. Is it our conception of God that had motivated us to talk to Him as though He knew nothing about us? Perhaps the lack of a physical presence suggests to us a lack of spiritual presence.

In prayer, I find myself talking about the things going on in my life in great detail, as though God had no knowledge of the circumstances. Part way through, I catch myself and end up saying something like, "Well, you know what's going on."

I guess it seems to me that I am either telling everything or nothing when I pray. Perhaps that's why I've gotten into the meditation so much (keeps me from blabbering on).

And I try to avoid the "just" prayers that we've talked about, where I ask for God to "just do..." certain things in my life.

I don't want to say that I'm having a crisis of faith or that I've lost my belief in the power of prayer, because neither would be true. But I am having conflicting thoughts about how to pray.

In the past few weeks, I've received notice from Malone College that two people I know will be going on mission trips and in addition to asking for monetary donations, the notices also ask for whether I will be able to pray for those on the trips. This really got me thinking. Okay, if I pray only once for the trip, am I not being faithful to those doing the work? Or if I pray repeatedly for them, am I doubting God? Doubting His ability to care for them or doubting whether he was listening the first time or not?

It could be that I am overthinking all of this.

Maybe it is our physical and conscious act of talking to God about the goings-on of our lives is what pleases Him? Then again, He certainly doesn't need to hear from us (He doesn't really need anything). So, it must be that we need the connection. Perhaps this comes back to the idea of the spiritual disciplines. The discipline itself is not what is important, but keeping the connection to God open is the goal. Meditation, fasting, study, and prayer all serve as ways to connect to God. And as long as that connection remains constant, we are less likely to fall into sin. So, I guess if you believe that, it doesn't really matter what you pray or how you pray, but more just that you pray. In Wild at Heart, John Eldredge writes, "...most men have a hard time sustaining any sort of devotional life because it has no vital connection to recovering and protecting their strength; it feels about as important as flossing. But if you saw your life as a great battle and you knew you needed time with God for your very survival, you would do it. Maybe not perfectly - nobody ever does and that's not the point anyway - but you would have a reason to seek him."

29 January 2006


Read: Colossians 3-4

There really isn't a whole lot of meat to this last chapter of Colossians. I suppose it's the biblical version of shout-outs really. Basically, it's Paul's parting shots as he signs off in his own handwriting. Can you imagine writing that stuff out by hand? Dag yo! Colossians is even a short book, I can't imagine writing out Romans or BOTH Corinthians, ai pa pee!

Anyways, it's those little details at the end of the letter that fascinate me. This was a real letter, handwritten by a guy to his friends. Well, more than friends, his family. Paul, the classic bachelor and, for all we know, orphan has found a tremendous family among those he was literally trying to kill off. It's grand irony, eh? But it's cool to see this and good to know that Paul, even the mega-Christian that he was, still depends on others and their prayers for him. What a guy.

I know I say it a lot, but thanks to you two, plus all the other readers out there (shout-out to ESM since he's posted!) who enjoy reading our ramblings. It's fun, no doubt, but this is how Christianity is meant to be experienced: in the company of others and in the presence of our Christ. It's good stuff :)

28 January 2006

stupid pharisees...oh wait, that's me!

i'm doubling up today because i feel like it.

that in and of itself is exciting to me.

tonight i read matt 22-23. 22 is another example of what i spoke of the other day in my xanga post. 3 times people try to corner Christ through our logic and understanding. and all three times they're soundly rebuffed, making clear to me again that God is beyond my comprehension (let alone trickery).

but what i was more keen on was in 23 where Jesus vents his frustration with the religious teachers. when i was younger i often viewed the religious teachers as an equivalent to the non-christian today. since then i have realized that they were actually much more akin to the church-goer...to the person who has embraced the church idea. and that they were far from all bad, but just poorly misguided. and so much of what Christ says in 23 i feel like are things i need to learn. live what you say. be consumed with the message not the minutiae. be authentic to your very core (genuity again).

this Bible reminds me i have so much to learn.

With Great Power . . .

Read: Colossians 3-4

It's funny but here I am again, reading and dlogging right after watching a TV show. This time it's Smallville, a quite good show that I just started watching this week after fascination that's lasted a year so far without me acutally seeing the show. Anyways, one thing I have noticed is that Clark/Superman has it so good. He can do whatever he wants! And he can do it well, not to mention much faster than any of us! At the start of the pilot he misses the bus but runs past it and beats his friends to school. When they question him on how he got there so fast, he simply tells them he took a shortcut.

But that's thing about Clark: he doesn't take the shortcuts. He does things with an amazing amount of integrity. Always. Guess that's what makes him Superman :) So often he has the choice of doing things the easy way, to do the minimum that would get by. Or to do the thing that would be kind of wrong but easily rationalized and no on would say anything. But he doesn't. Talk about integrity just coming out of his butt! It's an amazing thing. I think a certain other superhero said it perfectly when he epiphanized, "With great power comes great responsibility."

Stop and consider that for a moment in terms of Colossians 3:22-25. You're going to have to read it because it's just that good. Sure, it's addressing the servants of Paul's time (more like slaves?) and we're definitely not servants nor slaves so that's a good thing. But we're all serving someone: a church, a girlfriend, a car badly in need of maintenance, etc. What a wakeup call God gives us in this verse that our, "Well I'm tired today so I'll just do what I feel like and call it a day," isn't good enough. Man, what a kick in the pants. We have a huge responsibility, especially in ministry. We may not be wearing spandex and capes, but there are still lives on the line and that is huge when you stop to think about it. Bigger than huge even! (Yes, Ben, I'll be even more accepting of grander ideas with my language ;) )

"Being Christian doesn't cover up bad work." Our work has consequences that are going to echo through eternity. Even when we're not "working," same thing: we are responsible and we are powerful because of that responsible. Conversely, because we are powerful we must be responsible. And here's the kicker: it's not a burden, it's not a sacrifice; it's what God has blessed us with! Forget the tension between blessings and curses, this is all blessing and it's our broken perspective that turns it into a curse.

To conclude, as Paul and the Cub Scouts tell us, "Do your best."

The Dawning of a Messiah

one of the things i find interesting about Christ is his wariness about revealing his identity. but even as i write this, i have begun to think that he acted in the same way when he was in flesh on earth as he does today. Christ doesn't force his presence into anyone's life. he doesn't put a megaphone to his status. instead, he seems to be all about experiential acceptance. his invitations are constantly of joining him in the journey...and then, only after the travel has begun do you realize who you are accompanying...who is your guide. in matt 13-17 there's several different revelations by different people in different groups of who Christ really is. none of them involve him saying "this is me...duh!...now deal with it." instead, he lets his divinity spill over into his life. and, slowly, the disciples see and understand.

today i think is no different. presenting the Gospel is best done through the living. anyone can sit and theorize and quibble around a table at Starbucks. but it's difficult to disagree with the "genuity" of one's life. (i was made that word up the other day...it sounds better than "genuineness"). and so while i enjoy teaching and preaching, book study and theological training, i hope that my biggest efforts will be to carefully evaluate my every action, considered in the light a God who is "blazingly alive (15:31).

27 January 2006

Building a Mystery

(I really hate titleing something with a phrase or title from something else just because one word matches the theme but I did it anyways. HA HA HA! Hooray for inconsistency!)

So, it's really not my fault that I didn't post yesterday. Blogger was done for a long time and then I was busy in the afternoon and then I had to finish Brothers In Arms (finally beat it, started it in July! Few months of hiatus). So, then I decided it was time to read/write. Got the Bible out, realized I had a headache so I decided to lay down for a bit and close my eyes. Roll over, feel the Bible under my shoulders, open my eyes and, what!? It's 4:40 am. So, I'm posting now. And I did another post earlier. And I wrote long responses to everything you guys wrote for the last two days. That counts for something, right? No? Okay, fine. You're right :)

Read: Colossians 1-4

Gotta love those four chapter books! Gives me plenty of time to go through them multiple times which is nice. Getting to know the stuff pretty well. Anyways, I want to focus on 2:2-3: "I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God's great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we've been shown the mystery!" No doubt this is more than just a little bit influenced by Joel's Xanga post (traitor! ;) ). I have to admit a little bit of doubt in what Paul is saying here. I think I know quite a bit about God but I still don't have the "confident and at rest" mind that he descbribes.

Could it be? I'm overestimating my knowledge?!

Yeah, definitely. It really doesn't even seem possible that one could know so much about God that it could silence the fears and doubts that everyday life seems all too willing to provide. But even me, who has a hard time conceiving of any of the mystery of God can admit that God has to be bigger than that because I have seen these people who have this kind of rest and confidence. There's plenty to acknowledge, many of them in much more dire situations than me.

Going a little bit futher back in the book, we hear this: "As you learn more and more about how God works, you will learn how to do your work" (1:10). Hmm. I think this and the other verses indicate a certain importance for knowing how God works . . .

You know, I have no idea how long we'll be doing the dLog. But I hope that one day we all can look back at this and smile at our naivete at this point of our lives. How we made everything so much more complex than it had to be and how we had grasped the roots of important truths but hadn't yet figured out the whole thing. We're glorious works in progress and I'm very thankful for the chance to be worked on in company with you guys and all of our other faithful readers out there. Thank you :)

Harold Wiggins 1928-2006

It wasn't a grand surprise or anything but this morning I got the call from my dad that my grandpa had passed away. In case you don't know, he has been suffering from Parkinson's for probably the last 20 years or so. The last week and a half he's been pretty much confined to bed and in the last few days he was pretty much in a coma-like state and hadn't eaten or drank anything. There was plenty of advance warning, I heard yesterday he wouldn't make it through today.

In a lot of ways I'm really feeling more relief than anything else. The man lying in that bed when I visited last really wasn't my grandfather. A husk, a shell, maybe. I don't really understand Parkinson's but I know it pretty much reduced his ability to take care of himself and communicate to effectively nothing. But as I said, he's had it for a long, long time, at least as far back as I can remember, it just wasn't this bad until a year or two ago.

One of the amazing things that I'll always remember about him is his pre-dinner prayers. Whenever we were all together for a meal he would always pray. I used to just assume he kind of said the same thing over and over but in the last few years I started paying attention a bit more. The strokes he endured might have made him mumble a bit more but every single prayer was unique with maybe a few familiar phrases thrown in, which everyone does. This Thanksgiving was the first time he didn't pray and I was asked to do it, being the "professional" and all I suppose. I don't know if it was his choice or grandma's, but somewhere that day I feel like a torch of some sort was passed and that's when it really became real to me that we were going to lose him before long.

One thing this experience has revealed to me is the strength of the character of my grandma. John 15:13 is what comes to mind when I think of her through this ordeal: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." She didn't literally give up her life for him, but there's no other way to describe the way she cared for him and loved for him over these last years. Her entire life was devoted to caring for him, trying to make him comfortable, and enjoying their time together. I think it broke her heart to have to acknowledge the need for hospice care. The last time I was with her she broke down crying confessing that she felt like there was something else that she should be doing. I can't believe she could even think that. She had gone so far beyond what most people would be capable of in terms of patience and perserverance. If I could ever be half the spouse that she has been I would count myself extremely lucky. I've never seen anything like her and I'm proud she's my grandma :)

The other half of my relief stems from the fact that I know, for him, things are much, much better. His abilities are restored and he's with our Lord. That's what we're aiming for, isn't it? It's hard to shed tears for him knowing what he's enjoying over there on the other side. I guess any tears now are going to be for missing him threatening to put me in a garbage can and hearing those prayers before meals.

Just before writing this I finished watching one of my favorite episodes of the show Firefly. In the episode of "Out of Gas" Captain Mal Raynolds and his crew are stranded on a ship without power and life support. True to his character and his stature as captain, Mal decides he is going to go down with his ship. One of the ship's crew pleads with him to get on one of the lifeboats so he doesn't have to die alone. He responds, "Every man dies alone." For some reason, maybe just in the context of today, this line resonates with me. I don't know how much I agree with it but there is no doubt we go to our ends by ourselves with the hope that there will be something on the other side. I have a feeling Grandpa was very alone on his journey, I really don't even know how cognizant he was of everything that was happening. But what makes this a gainful event and not one of loss is seeing him step across that river and up onto the bank while a hand extends to him saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Numbering the Call

I'm moving on into Numbers (another of the sarcastic "oh, what fun" books). But as you'll see, there are parallels to modern day.

In reading the first part of Numbers, it is important to get your outlook right. Sure, you could view it as "just a record of history". However, I think that there is much more to be learned from this book than how many men were counted off head by head, every male twenty years and older who was able to fight in the army, registered by clans and families of the tribe of Simeon. As you read, imagine being Moses, Aaron, one of the Levites, or any of the other tribe members.

Read Numbers 1-3.

So, in imagining that you were one of the above people in the book, how would you respond? You don't know much about the world around you. The words of God come from the mouth of one man, who yes, has done some amazing things (led you out of Egypt and through the wilderness of Sinai)...and who is this God character anyway?

When God spoke to Moses for the first time in this book he said, "Number the congregation of..." "You and Aaron are to register"

Later, in Chapter 3, he says, "Bring forward the Levi and present them to Aaron so they can help him. They shall work for him and the whole congregation at the Tent of Meeting by doing the work of The Dwelling."

You may be thinking, "woohoo, big deal."

But this is big stuff. God is putting out some serious calls here. Think of Noah, building a ridiculously big boat. This God person keeps asking people to step out of their comfort zone and to take on some mammoth projects. What nerve.

Guess what...God hasn't stopped doing that. It's just that most of us have stopped listening. We don't believe that what I call the "burning bush syndrome" can happen. We tell ourselves that God doesn't actually talk to people anymore and if he did, it would be so awe-inspiring, that we couldn't miss His sign.

That's what many Jewish people thought before Jesus came, and that's still how it's viewed today. Because God is something greater than we can fathom, we believe that he will always show himself in wonderfully amazing ways. Yet, this is the same God who chose to come to us by the means of a little, helpless baby. And saved us by the life and death of a condemned man.

When will we wake up?

When will we realize that we can't put God in a box? Will we ever stop trying to dominate the conversations we have with God?

It's time we shut up and listen. Oh, I'm including me in this too.

God is talking to us in very real ways. Our problem comes in that when we pray (often for the first time in a while), we don't "experience" God and we feel like we've been abandoned. We say, what is the point? If I'm not connecting with God, why should I continue to pray.

They are called spiritual disciplines for a reason. Yes, they get you into a habit of praying. But it takes time and repetition to feel close to God. Do you think you can understand the world through one session of meditation?

We are so used to instant gratification that when we don't get what we want, when we want it, we give up. These are the times when we most need to press on. These are the times when we most need to pray. These are the times when we most need someone around who will help lead us to God.

And although we feel like we're alone in this, we really all have these moments of doubt and questioning. Cheer up, you've got a lot of friends who have or are going through the same thing. At least 603,550 in all of the tribes of Israel.

26 January 2006

i flit away momentarily...

so i did not read in matt today. i did read Bible stuff, though...some of what you guys have written about. and some other parts as well.

and i just finished a post on my xanga site that i put a lot of thought into.

so i thought i'd put up that link as my entry for tonight.


To Commune

I finished reading Leviticus and there was little that stood out to me for writing a devotional, so this one may be more about recent experiences, rather than Scripture (forgive me).

Yesterday, I travelled to Pittsburgh to visit the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (where I might begin an M.Div program soon and East Liberty Presbyterian Church (which holds a Taize service every Wednesday).

What a great time. After visiting the seminary, looking through their museum, learning about their degree programs, and mulling over my future, the program staff of my church and I visited ELPC. Wow. What a church.

We learned about their programs, facility, staff...it was really a good staff-learning time. But the experience of the trip that I want to share with you came later, at the Taize service. I won't go into the details of what Taize is or how the services are run (http://www.taize.fr/en if you are interested). The main ideas of the service are time for silence and sung prayers.

(Lack of transition)

A while back, Pastor de Vries was talking about prayer and he said that most people pray "just" prayers: "God, just do this..." "Lord, just let that..." I realized that this had been true in my personal prayer times. We, as a culture, are so used to multitasking and always thinking or being told what to think, that we have a hard time sitting quietly. I challenge you right now to sit quietly (not moving) for a few minutes and try to empty your mind of thoughts.

And we wonder why young children have such trouble.

The Taize service was worship in a difference sense than many of us are used to. For me, it brought together the ideas of worship and meditation. It was the first dialogue I'd had with God in a while.

Go back and look at your diagrams of a dialogue from Communication 101, it shows that information flows both ways. We have to strive for this connection, to truly commune with God, in whatever way we can find it.

25 January 2006

Lines of Purpose

Read: Colossians 1-4

Moving right through the epistles, our next stop is Colossians, wheee! Right off the bat, Paul, through Rev. Peterson, says something interesting: "The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope" (1:5).

This is kind of a tricky metaphor. What I imagine is that we are like boats at a pier with our lines attached to that pier. We're kept out at sea with those lines by some force that keeps them taut? I don't know why but that just doesn't sit well for me. A boat tied up to the dock is kind of useless (except for sleeping in I guess). But a boat is fulfilling its purpose when it's out to sea. So, in a moment of heresy: Peterson, what the heck were you thinking?

What I do like about the verse is the idea that our purpose is given to us by God. I'm rather unsettled by what could happen to me at this rather tenuous point in my life: one car accident that is or isn't my fault and I'm going to be carless and broke. One major illness or accident and I find out that my stupid freaking health insurance that I pay way too much money into doesn't cover me out of state and I'm broke. I've really got nothing to fall back on and disaster could strike at any moment. But, beyond all that, God has a purpose for me and it's my hope (and perhaps faith as well!) that he has that purpose for me that will keep me stuck to him somehow. Maybe not sitting idly though. Maybe I need God the tugboat more than anything :)

24 January 2006

Jesus the Rebel

religion can become focused inward upon itself. rigid religion is just as much a plague as unrestrained hedonism. the danger of religion comes when it is caught up in the structures that make it function, rather than the people or the heart that make it tick. at the beginning of chapter 12 in matt., the pharisees freak out because they observe first the disciples and then Jesus breaking their understanding of sabbath. the disciples were guilty of providing for their basic needs. Jesus was guilty of serving others. what is the point of sabbath? i think for most of the world today, the concept of sabbath is a totally foreign object. we pack our schedules too full and run our lives to fast to ever set aside entire days for one-on-one time with God. however, the sabbath was (and is) a big deal to God. and, as such, the pharisees were astounded to see this man breaking what was set aside as a good day...and day to breath deeply. but i love how Christ responds. i think of it as saying "love surely never catches a breather."

i want to be so passionate in my loving that nothing can halt me. that no distraction is compelling enough. that no excuse is satisfactory enough. so focused that i love without trying...as a natural overflow of who i've become.

love and holiness

Continuing on with Leviticus...I read through Chapter 20. Again, feel free to skim if you're trying to follow along.

I'm going to start by focusing on Chapter 20, verses 7-8.

"Set yourselves apart for a holy life. Live a holy life, because I am God, your God. Do what I tell you; live the way I tell you. I am the God who makes you holy."

This could be one of those times that I take the verse out of context and make all of us feel guilty. We'll see, I haven't decided yet how I want to write this.

But I'll give you some background: this verse comes after reading all of the (tedious) ways to make sacrifices (Ch. 1-7) and all of the things that require a sacrifice (Ch. 10-19). Chapter 19 especially focuses on what acts should not be committed and many will sound familiar:

"Don't steal. Don't lie. Don't deceive anyone. Don't swear falsely using my name, violating the name of your God. I am God."

Others seem obvious, but apparently nobody told Jerry Springer:

"Don't have sex with a close relative..." Which goes on to define all of the possible definitions of "close relative".

Still, others are listed that may be outdated (word choice?):

"Don't eat meat with blood in it...Don't wear clothes woven of two kinds of material...Don't pollute yourselves with any animal or bird or crawling thing which I have marked out as unclean for you" (by the way, pigs make the list).

So, that's all it takes to be holy, huh? Well, look deeply at Chapter 19. It's a real expansion on the Ten Commandments. The real question comes in as "What set of laws should we follow?"

I go back to something that I learned about the commandments as viewed from the New Testament. Look at Mark 12:28-34. It was once shared to me that the Ten Commandments could be summed up with one word: Love (meaning love for all). If you truly feel a loving care for all, you will obey the commandments without need for a right vs. wrong thought discussion. What I find interesting here is the response from the religion scholar in verse 32. He says:

"A wonderful answer, Teacher! So lucid and accurate - that God is one and there is no other. And loving him with all passion and intelligence and energy, and loving others as well as you love yourself. Why, that's better than all the offerings and sacrifices put together!"

Jesus follows this by saying, "You're almost there, right on the border of God's kingdom."

It seems to me that God cares less about the sacrifices or offerings that we make and more about the reason for the action. If we can keep a continual sense of love in our soul, we won't have to think about what we should give up to God. Our natural action will be to sacrifice whatever is needed in order to serve God's Will. The same is true of the actions we should avoid; these "unclean" behaviors won't even come into question because our love for all would prevent us from even considering sin.

How to maintain a continual sense of love? This I cannot give and nor can the 5 step program to a deeper faith. We have to consistently seek God, both individually and in groups. Only he can help us to attain a true sense of love.

God, be with me as I strive to do your will. Give me the ability to open my heart to love all around me. Help me to use the gifts you've given me to help others. Amen.

23 January 2006


Read: Philippians 3-4

Focusing in on chapter 4, the standout thing here is just how amazing of a guy Paul is. Joy without ceasing, contentment irregardless of circumstances. I think Rich Mullins said it best in his song "My One Thing": "Everybody I know says they need just one thing / And what they really mean is that they need just one thing more." Of all the things that drive me the craziest about myself, my need to consume definitely takes a spot in the top 3. There are probably very few days that go buy where I don't buy something; sometimes necessary things like food and lightbulbs and stuff, but most of the time Taco Bell, comics, DVD rentals, games, etc. And it's always, "Well, if I just buy this New Avengers #3 variant then I'll stop." But it's a self-delusion of the highest sort and then #4 shows up on eBay . . .

Since I've recognized this I've gotten better but still, my packrat compulsions and ultra-consumer mindset are very frustrating. Happiness doesn't come with getting, but giving. And I know that. And I know that, as Paul says, "the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or empty" is knowing that "I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am" (4:12-13). The knowledge is in my head but it gets bottlenecked on the way to my heart.

I guess that's why, going back up a few verses, Paul advises us to pray about everything (4:6-7). But this falls back onto the problem of me being horrible at praying regularly, let alone continuously. Perhaps one of the unforeseen lessons that will come about from this move is the limiting of my consumption and the realization that I actually can get by without that #3 variant (although the cover to #4 is sooooooo cool! ;) ). It's a tough thing to pray for God to change you because it never feels good so I'm always hesitant to do it. Kinda like me and getting my blood drawn: I know I need it but I still hate it, no matter how much good it will do me.

Obstinate comes to mind :)

But thank you, God, for seeing past all of that and seeing me as your son who is trying, maybe not hard enough, but still trying. Thank you :)

Jesus who?

one of the things that i find slightly perplexing in the Gospels is Jesus' hiding of himself. when miracles are performed, when questions are asked, when heavenly authority is readily apparent in this man, he rarely claims his rightful title. often times i've wondered why this is. while i'm sure there's many reasons (in fact, i remember hearing a variety of them in my bible/theo cognate) a new one struck me tonight as i read matt 10 & 11. John the Baptist sends his discples to this Jesus character to find out if he's the real deal...the Messiah John was clearing the way for. and Jesus replies rather indirectly...yet powerfully.

"Go back and tell John what's going on.

The blind see;
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side."

seems to me the easy answer for Jesus is "yeah...i'm your man." instead, he points to the overflow of his action. he replies "what does this tell you? you decide." he doesn't ram himself down the throat of the questioners...but rather invites them alongside. he does this continuously...think of the disciples, of the rich young ruler, of the crowds that followed him. his message was a constant "lay aside your life...join in mine...and together let's see what will happen." toward the end of 11, he says it this way:

"Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. keep comapny with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

today i try and sort through what evangelism looks like. i've seen and tried a million sure-fire "fishing rods"...pointed questions and pressure, megaphones messages, tactless tracts. but maybe it's much easier than the Romans Road. and at the same time more difficult. maybe if i can simply free my feet to the "unforced rhythms of grace"...then a life so compelling will spill out that others will lay down their burdens and join us in exuberant dance toward freedom.

22 January 2006

C'mon, Get Happy!

Read: Philippians 2-3

I never really realized it before, but chapter 3 of Philippians is probably the happiest, most encouraging of any of the epistles and, dare I say, the entire book! It even starts off with this: "And that's about it friends. Be glad in God!" (3:1). A big point that Jerry made on our mission trip last summer is that we're supposed to enjoy God, in fact it's one of the cheif ends of man it's that freaking important! But I am fully aware I suck at it. Thankfully Paul decided to outline how to do it in this third chapter.

How do we enjoy God?
  • By staying clear of the "knife-happy circumcisers" (3:2). The folks who are going through the motions of faith, the ones more interested in how they look then what is really in their hearts.
  • Dump everything that isn't Christ so that you can embrace Christ without all the other junk in the way, and let him embrace you back (3:8). It's hard to hug someone if you have anything in your hands that you're holding on to. Plus you might poke the person you're trying to hug!
  • Eyes on the prize! "So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us" (3:15). God is directing all of us somewhere; we can enjoy God on the journey by staying on the path he sets for us and not wandering off on our own adventures. And when you can't see the path? Pray for Lasik (3:15)!
  • Encourage others who are running along side you and invite others in who are on dead-end paths (3:17). Gotta love the line about making "bellies their Gods; belches are their praise" (3:19).

We've got it so good and don't even know it most of the time! Thank you, God, for wanting us to enjoy you and for giving us the means. Even the means are enjoyable when we take the time to do them!

21 January 2006

Three easy steps...

"Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life--to God--is vigorous and requires total attention."

i hate marketed plans for a God relationship. i despise three easy steps or seven key principles or ten guaranteed practices. maybe it's because i'm young and rebellious. maybe it's because i'm cynical and skeptical. maybe it's because none of them have ever worked for me. it's not that i haven't tried them or looked for them. actually, despite my despising, i think i still look desperately. because i'm lazy and i want easy answers. but i know my search is futile. and hopefully, by God's grace, i am wasting less time looking and spending more time living. what a beautiful reminder to me today that i need God in my all-the-time. that my relationship with him is "vigorous and requires total attention". brilliant.

because if we break God into three easy steps (which i am obviously contending is in actuality impossible), then i think we will have severe problems ourselves. two chapters later, blind men approach Christ and beg for healing. Christ asks them simply, "do you believe this can happen?" and they clamor that they do. and he replies simply, beautifully, "become what you believe". become what you believe. i am a rather firm believer in the idea that your perception is your reality (at least in many circumstances). that we do truly become what we believe. and so if we simplify God then we nullify the grandeur, wonder and mystery that is God. if we take our faith from a seven course feast and instead package it as a happy meal, to go, then we surely can't fool ourselves into thinking that we're not missing out on something. much more than something. and so i will relinquish my right to know all the answers and find them fast. i will be ok with being hopelessly lost in the dark occasionally, if not often. because in my confusion i find hope that God truly is much larger than my intellectual capacity and more powerful than my understanding. and that a god who could be within my grasp would be a tiny god indeed.


Like Joel and Matt, I am working in and through The Message. However, I will be working in the Old Testament (frankly, because like many people, I don't really remember what happens after Exodus - oh, I can still sing the song of the books in order, but ask me what they were each about and I'm lost). So I'll be starting in Leviticus.

Unfortunately, Leviticus has gotten a bad wrap as the first of the "Rule books", but as Peterson puts it in his introduction (yes, I really like the intros), "this holy God is actually present with us and virtually every detail of our lives is affected by the presence of this holy God; nothing in us, our relationships, or environment is left out."

"Holy refers to life burning with an intense purity that transforms everything it touches into itself."

Today, in reading through Leviticus 1-7 (skim it if you'd like, but only read if you want details of how to make different sacrifices properly), I realized again how much I take Christ's sacrifice for granted. The people in this book had to make many different offerings as sacrifices for every wrong they committed.

"If you sin by not stepping up and offering yourself as a witness to something you've heard or seen in cases of wrongdoing, you'll be held responsible."

Or if they touched anything ritually unclean, or committed one of a thousand different acts - they were held accountable and they had to make many offerings to God.

We have it easy. "Father, forgive me." That's it. And many of us group our sins together. "Father, forgive me for...everything I did wrong today." Take a moment to let that sink in. Imagine feeling convicted enough to first of all, tell your sins to others; secondly, to have to give something valuable of yourself up as an offering; and thirdly, to have to do it for every iniquity, regardless of scope.

I'd never get to work. Let alone anything else I had planned.

Today's reading reminds me that I am sinful. We all are. But we have it pretty good spiritually. True, you could argue that if we did have to follow the instruction list of Leviticus for every sin, we might place more weight on our personal holiness...in fact, I agree with you. But in a modern way. Find what you hold to be important in your life and offer it up to God. For me, it is my time.

I have recently been doing some exercises in spiritual meditation. Unfortunately, it was cutting into my regular prayer time. The other day, while reading something by Anthony de Mello I came across a revelation (at least, to me). He said that it is important to have separate time for both prayer (with words) and communion with God (without words). This realization has equated to me setting aside more time in my day (a definite, but needed sacrifice), so that I have individual times for both. This offering is meager, but is a struggle for me. But looking at what others have done reminds me of where my devotion should be.

19 January 2006

insidious creeping

so i like the word insidious. it sounds like what it's saying. as i was reading in matt 6 & 7 tonight, i was thinking about how all of this stuff seems pretty basic. and yet that's just the point. it's the little decisions and tiny things that i do every day that add up to glorious amounts of God-worship. my life isn't defined by the job i do or by the title i have. it's not determined by the parents i have or the place that i live. it's the nitty-gritty living of every decision every day that speaks to who i am and who i am becoming. many of these things are simple principles that i know and nod my head in agreement with. but when i look back and evaluate my day...when i magnify my life, does it continuously nod in agreement as well? and in this magnification i am reminded that i have much to learn.

Live Generously

"In a word, what I'm saying is, grow up! You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you." matt 5:48

at least three different times this phrase "live generously" shows up in matt. 5. it caught my eye the first time, so i was definitely tracking by the end. living generously is such an others-focused practice. it's self-deconstructing. which i think i need a lot of. i make and mold myself to be of the greatest importance all the time. living generously is living with all that i am aimed toward others. instead of showering myself in my blessings and gifts, i get to drench someone else with the goodness i've received. how extraordinary is that!? and then, when the blessings seem like trials, i will surely be surrounded by faithful witnesses both to the good that i have received as well as reminders of the life i'm living toward. thrilling!

18 January 2006


Read: Philippians 1-2

I've decided to stay with Philippians for 4 days, 1 for each chapter, but focusing on a different chapter each day. Didn't quite make it as far as I'd like to go in the book tonight, but these are long chapters. Could you imagine writing these things out by hand like Paul did? I'm exhausted with a page of writing. But also, thank God that he had to write these by hand. Why? Consider the blog entry: how long would Philippians have been if Paul's hands wouldn't have eventually worn out!?

Anyways, what really grabbed me tonight is in 2:5-8. Peterson even titled the chapter after this very idea: "He Took on the Status of a Slave." I don't claim to be an expert on world religions but I'm pretty sure that Christianity is fairly unique in this one respect, the idea of the supreme being or deity humbling himself. Yeah, there's a lot of self-exaltation in the Old Testament but the depths of humility in the New Testament are unsoundable. It's really a tremendous thing: God wanted us to be with him so bad that he came to us. God. Us. It really makes no sense. You'd have a tough time convincing me it was a good idea, mortal or immortal. God's crazy, folks. But seriously, it's such a novel thing and it is one of the things I love about Christianity: the uniquness of the humble God begging us to listen to and love him.

Humility itself is fairly amazing. I think it's on my mind because of a conversation I had with Lisa yesterday. We were being all mushy on the phone (it being three years and all (woohoo!)) when she thanked me for something that implied I was doing something sorta well that she needed a bit more practice with. It really meant a lot to me; not the fact that I was "right" and she wasn't, but something else that I couldn't put my finger on. I was seriously in tears though, just not sure why. But after some reflection I decided that what had really affected me was the humility and vulnerability in what she had said, that she was willing to be open and bare her soul even though it didn't cast her in the most flattering light. God, I love that girl :)

Anyways, that display of humility really inspired me to want to do better in everything I do now too. I forget where I read it but I read about a woman who came to her pastor and told him she wanted to divorce her husband because he didn't meet any of her needs. He advised her to spend the next four weeks doing everything he asked her and more, even going so far as to anticipating what he'd want and doing it in advance. She probably thought this pastor was nuts. But, she tried it anyways and reported back to the pastor after the four weeks that it was the best thing she had ever done. When she humbled herself into serving him she found that he started to reciprocate until he was doing the exact same thing she was. Their marriage was saved. It's a hard first step to take in any relationship we have, earthly or heavenly, but it's an infectious one in a good way. (If anyone can tell me where that story is from, I'd be unbelievably thankful!)

I think that this passage demonstrates that one of the keys to humility is to be ready to serve. Higher up (2:3 or thereabouts, no verse numbers in The Message) Paul admonishes us not to "push [our] way to the front." When we expect to serve and not to be served we will find a readiness in others to serve us and others as well. And, folks, that is the Kingdom we're all working for, or at least a good idea for the Church right now :)

17 January 2006

How It's All Going to Turn Out

Now that I'm finally going to be making an effort to read consistently again, I decided I need a place to start. Lately I have enjoyed poking around in the shorter epistles that don't really get mentioned (except James, people seem to remember James). Honestly, I was hoping to find something a little bit happy in tone with more than a little bit of encouragement to soon-to-move me. Peterson's intro to Philippians made the book seem like a slice of happy so I dove in.

Read: Philippians 1-4

Thought: I guess what I was really looking for was a pat on the head and a, "There there, it'll be okay." I'm not terribly apprehensive about moving but I do realize the enormity of the task ahead of me of cleaning and packing followed by moving and unpacking. And the whole not having a job thing. I'm not freaking out but I'm not calm about it either and just having some acknowledgement that it's all in God's hands is what I was looking for.

Philippians was a good place to look, thankfully! This is where you get the verse about praying about everything and worrying about nothing, who knew? But that's not where I'm going to focus today. Right now I'm looking at 1:18-21 (from The Message).

The crux of that passage is that we, or rather just I, do not have to worry because the ending is written already (there's that good predestination Presbyterian doctrine!). Maybe not in the predestination sense really, but more in the God wins and thus I don't have to worry about losing. The win/win situation is a good theme for this paragraph as Paul relates that his choices are "life versus even more life! I can't lose." We have the phrase that if live gives you lemons we should make lemonade (or lemon meringue pie if you're my brother). Paul takes it a step forward and says that our stumbling blocks should be our pulpits with which we preach what God has transformed in and out of our lives for our benefit and thus the benefit of others.

But that's not the amazing part to me. The amazing part is how quickly we ignore all of that and wallow in our own self-pity and take as sacred our rights to vent and whine. I don't want to make the inevitable "look how bad Paul/Jesus/etc had it and they didn't complain" comparison because I know I still have a long, long way before my life comes anywhere near looking like Paul's, let alone Jesus'. But my whining in comparison with the promise of life that we have? There's no comparison.

I'm not advocating closing ourselves up and denying what we feel. But for every second of venting, let's take another second to examine our situation and see where God can work and has already begun to work. And in the second after that let's figure out how we can use what he is teaching us to teach others.

I did it...the Book has been cracked...

Ok...so actually my title is a little premature. i haven't actually opened it yet...but i'm about to. so here goes nothin'...

"and then God did something thoroughly amazing. totally unconventional. the Author who had woven a deep story of wonder, grace, love, justice, and relationship stepped into the middle of this story. of his)(story. entered into the story and became the hero."

these words from my friends the Sheppard brothers have gripped me ever since i first heard them. and this is what the NT is all about, right? God translating his strength into our weakness. His eternality into our finiteness. and in the joyful event of a seemingly inconvenient birth becoming the God-man, Christ, Immanuel, God-with-us.

so this is where i'm starting. in matthew. i've long wanted to read through the NT in the message. strange perhaps for a boy who's traveling to princeton in a few short weeks. but there's something untainted and enthusiastic about this vernacular retelling. and fresh. and fresh is something that this man could use some of right now. the stories i've heard since my birth reawakened.

"I'm baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama--compared to him I'm a mere stagehand--will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out."

the author has entered his story...as the unknown hero. oh to see what he will do.

And We Are Now Three!

Members, not years. Everyone give a big hand to Ben George!

Because Matt said so...(i have titled this post)

yes, the mundane musings and ramblings of two twenty-somethings. how original...there's not many other people doing this, right? so what, you might ask would be compelling to you to return?

hold on, i'm still thinking.

well, if we think of anything, you shall be the first to know

Howdy, Folks!

Welcome to the DevoBlog, the only blog devoted to the great Akron, OH band we call Devo.

Ha ha, not really.

This will be, hopefully, the start of some frequent devotional journaling from Joel Harris and Matt Wiggins. Feel free to harrass uswhen you don't see any updates from a day or two. If all goes to plan, this will be the start of something good.