"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 March 2006

JCS: What's the Buzz/Strang Thing Mystifying

Listen along!
103 - What's the Buzz
104 - Strange Thing Mystifying

Let me start off by saying that I love the disciples. A loveable band of misfits if there ever was one. Before you think I'm calling names, I think that descriptor definitely applies to all of the current disciples, i.e. the Church, just as well. There really is no other way to describe the disciples than clueless. They were in the very presence of God but look at this litany of goofy things they did: argued about who Jesus loved the most, cut off a guard's ear, didn't recognize Jesus when he came back (that might be defensible), almost drowned while walking on water, and not to mention a general disbelief about everything Jesus said/did practically. It just sounds a little too familiar if you ask me!

"What's the Buzz/Strange Thing Mystifying," along with "The Last Supper," captures this cluelessness so well and I love it. The disciples are all, "What's the buzz? Tell me what's happening?" They're concerned about the plan, what's coming up next, what's gonna happen. Then Jesus hits it right on the head: "Why are you obsessed with fighting times and fates you can't defy? / If you knew the path we're riding you'd understand it less than I." (Did Jesus not understand it? Hmm, I think he had to. His prayer in Gethsemane reveals he's not crazy about it, but I think he understood it.)

And then there is the one who gets it right. But she's not a disciple, she's not even a man; a total contradiction to everything the disciples thought they stood for. Mary Magdalene breaks out the perfume and annoints Christ, gives him comfort. The act doesn't go unappreciated as he addresses the disciples: "While you prattle through your supper--where and when and who and how / She alone has tried to give me what I need right here and now."

It's an interesting idea here: Mary meeting the needs of God. More than that, she does it rather simply. The perfume was no doubt expensive (thus prompting Judas' outcry), a gift worthy of a king. I think, in essence, what she was doing was worshipping. She acknowledged Christ's worthiness and then she responds through an action of worship. That, in all simplicity is worship: acknowledging God is God and then responding however we desire to that thought that is at once simple as can be yet more complex than we can fathom.

JCS differs a bit from the real version here. In John 12 we find Mary, sister of Martha and brother of Lazarus, annointing Christ's feet with oil and drying them with her hair (wow, what a humble act) and the timing is a bit earlier I think (JCS puts the event on the Friday before Maunday Thursday and John 12 is six days before the Passover, so those two could very well be the same days and I screwed it up). So, different Mary but the act and the motivations and the themes are all intact.

I love stories where it's the unlikely or the outcast who "gets" it while those who should know better are left, jaws agape, and learning a lesson they should have already known. This is a version of that theme that knocks it out of the park and I love it. It's a great insight into worship that I am finally starting to comprehend bits of. Wow, just love this stuff :)

The Rahab Connection

by Ben

I read Joshua, chapters 1-2.

We pick up right where Moses left off (kudos, of course, to Peterson's intro). Joshua is now in charge (listening to God) and is leading the Israelites over the Jordan river and into Canaan. He's careful though, he sends a few spies to check things out before they go charging in. These spies are met by Rahab, one of the female role models of the Bible. She, in defiance of her king and country, hides the spies in order to save their lives. By doing so, she spares her life and the lives of her family. The spies escape and report back to Joshua about what they saw in Canaan.

The interesting thing here is that Rahab is a prostitute. Besides being a Canaanite, she, morally, is separated from the people of God. However, her initial reaction is to help God's chosen. She could very easily have turned the spies in to the authorities (and not risked her own neck). For her kindness, the spies make a deal to spare her and her family.

For me, this short passage would be more likely found in the New Testament, rather than the Old. A right out forgiveness without a sacrifice...UNHEARD OF! Now, mind you, we don't get God's perspective on all of this, but we have to assume that His Will is being enacted by the people of Israel. Peterson suggests that in these, the history books, that everyday life is lived and explained without direct connection to God, because it is assumed.

Rahab=Prostitute=Hider of spies=Saved/Spared

Wow. Put your name in there and do the same thing:

Ben=Sinner=Follower of Christ=Saved/Spared

30 March 2006

Jesus Christ Superstar: Juuuuudas

Listen along!
101 - Overture
102 - Heaven on Their Minds

I don't really have any Lent traditions except one: Jesus Christ Superstar. My dad introduced me when I was but a lad and I've probably heard it hundreds of times since then. This morning I popped it in on the way to work and started to listen and enjoy but I found myself applying the critical analysis and interpretation that the dLog has been instilling in me. And I realized that there is a goldmine of dLog material in there! Especially when comparing and contrasting to the source and looking for what the two bring out in each other. So, that's going to be the focus of my dLogging through Easter. If you've never seen/heard JCS, this is your chance to pick up a copy (used CD stores always have them and it's available on DVD) and follow along. Great lyrics, wonderful music. And, like the Onion said, it "temporarily made Christianity cool." :)

One of the first criticisms levied against JCS by Christians is that it shows only one side of Jesus, his human side, while ignoring his divine song. Is this some vast conspiracy by Andrew Loyd Weber and Tim Rice to assert that Jesus was a great man and teacher, but not God? His miracles are in tact, along with the teaching, but is it completely clear that he's more than human? Not absolutely, but I think that's on purpose. The first and last words of the opera go to one man: Judas. Judas Iscariot. And, for that reason, I think that JCS could almost be considered the Gospel of Judas.

That's a scary thought, right? Evil ol' Judas! HIM writing a Gospel? Well, as Jesus told us, "He who hath not sinned . . ." What I think that JCS does wonderfully, especially in the first sung song ("Heaven on Their Minds"), is explain just what was going through Judas' head. Here are some highlights from the lyrics:
My mind is clearer now--at last all too well
I can see where we all soon will be
If you strip away the myth from the man
you will see where we all soon will be
Jesus! You started to believe
The things they say of you
You really do believe
This talk of God is true
And all the good you've done
Will soon get swept away
You've begun to matter more
Than the things you say . . .

I remember when this whole thing began
No talk of God then--we called you a man
Judas is clearly a divine-denier and if the opera carries his perspective, it makes sense that people would assume that about the opera. I think Jesus' divinity is there to those looking for it, but you just gotta keep POV in mind.

Looking through the gospels, it amazes me that Judas' intentions and motivations are never really stated. All we really get are variations on, "Judas went to the high priests and agreed to turn Jesus over to them and the priests rejoiced." No word on, "Judas considered what Jesus was up to and wanted no part of it . . ." or, "Judas saw danger . . ." or, "Judas was really, really broke . . ." Nothing. He just did it. And that's why I appreciate JCS here. It gives us a motivation. Judas has been with Christ from the start, but he never got it. The evidence? John 12:6 tells us that Judas, the disciples' treasurer, had his hand in the coffer; he was stealing right from under Jesus' nose. I can't imagine anyone in their right mind stealing from the Messiah, the Son of God and Son of Man. Stealing from a clever teacher? Sure.

The last two verses of "Heaven on Their Minds" clues us in to some more of Judas' possible motivation which comes from the politics of the day:
Listen, Jesus, don't you care for your race?
Don't you see we must keep in our place?
We are occupied--have you forgotten how put down we are?
I am frightened by the crowd
For we are getting much too loud
And they'll crush is if we go too far

Listen, Jesus, to the warning I give
Please remember I want us to live . . .
Israel, at that time, was under occupation by the Roman army. Judas believed himself to be reading the writing on the wall, the same writing the Pharisees were reading: Jesus' followers were growing in number and could be a force to be reckoned with should they chose to rise up against Rome. And since many of the Jews of the day believed that a Messiah would save them from their oppressors, this really wasn't too far off. However, they never comprehended the fact that Jesus was the Messiah and that was absolutely not his goal.

I think that it is important that, at least initially, Judas thought he was doing the right thing. He was afraid of what might happen to Israel because of Jesus. Why initially? The gospels make it clear that at some point, Satan enters him. Was Judas entirely opposed to that? Maybe not. Most of what Weber/Rice interject here is speculation, but it's well-founded speculation from what I can tell. There's no harm in humanizing Judas, he is a human after all. Judas represents so much about ourselves too: in the presence of God but denying it, doing what his short-sightedness dictates is right, and gladly kissing Jesus away. We all do it on a daily basis. Maybe hourly. Judas is certainly not a hero, but he's not the evil chariacture we imagine. He's us, we're him. In that way he's fascinating, he's a warning. And in some ways it's comforting to know that Jesus chose Judas despite knowing what would happen. Jesus chose us as well, to do his work. None of us are perfect but somehow we're all going to fit into his plan.

29 March 2006

Rich Simplicity

I read: 1 Timothy

Ah, the last day of 1 Timothy, back to the OT tomorrow. I shall relish these lingering moments while I can . . . ;) Well, partially kidding. The OT is interesting, but the complete lack of grace makes it a little bit intimidating for me. Best enjoyed with a nice cool Wendy's Frosty if you ask me (check it out: I got 10 coupons for junior Frosty's for $1 yesterday, granted it took me 45 minutes to get in and get my food, but whatever!).

Chapter 6 of Timothy features one of those translations that Peterson does oh so well and makes The Message such a joy. Granted, it's the meaning behind the words that have the true value, but there is something to be said for the beauty of the written word when done well; these verses have that one-two punch like whoa. Observe:

A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough.

Wow. Just wow. A rich life is so simple. It's not winning the lottery, claiming a giant lawsuit, creating some new invention, getting a great job, or even being born into a wealthy family. Richness comes from being who God wants us to be. That person may be rich or poor, but it doesn't matter. We have purposes, we have destinies. When we can live in harmony with God and our neighbors we will find meaning and goodness beyond what we can even imagine. And we can enjoy the simple pleasures along the way: the soft sponginess of a piece of bread, that exuberant feeling of pulling off our shoes at the end of a long day. And that's enough.

It's kind of funny to me that in the last two months I've written about how I'm learning to get by on less as I did my job search. In, oh, a day or two I'm going to be getting my first paycheck. Wow. What a bonanza that will be. It's youth ministry money, so it's not a lot, but in comparison with any paycheck I've ever gotten, it's going to be a lot to me. So, all of a sudden I'm going to have to go from absence to abundance. And it kind of has me worried. Already the prospect of a paycheck has caused me to make some purchases which I've enjoyed, but I've not necessarily needed. Thus, the timing of this passage is a good reality check for me. I need to start weighing my desires as needs or wants and treating them accordingly. Especially since there will hopefully be some things to save for in the near future. But more importantly, my time and my money are not mine, they're God's and thus I should be serving him with both of these gifts he has given to me.

The poignancy of yesterday's meditation on goodness holds today. God gives us good things that don't cost a thing. God wants us to keep seeking those free things that are good. And when we do that, he takes care of the rest. In other words, God is good and God is good to us.

The Pentateuch

by Ben

I finished off Deuteronomy today by reading chapters 33 and 34.

To be honest, I'm kinda sad to be done with the Pentateuch. And in the style of Moses's last blessing to the individual tribes of Israel, I shall say goodbye to the Books of Moses.


Such power shown through words; God speaks and it happens. The fall and so many stories about the ways of humanity as we live in sin. It is such a task to take us from nothing to civilization.


The beginnings of a prophet and the rescuing of God's people. Through Moses learns to trust God, we begin to understand the meaning of providence. Passover, the Red Sea parting and closing, and then beginning again in freedom.


Learning to live under God - His laws and His plans. How to make a proper sacrifice, in order to please our God, to thank Him for His great mercy.


The Great Headcount. A census of Biblical proportions. Duties and distrust. Lessons and forgiveness.


Moses's last sermon. God has done much for us. Don't forget it. He knows you, knows what you are going to do, and yet, He loves you. Moses passes his torch to Joshua. Entering the promised land.

Farewell, Pentateuch. We shall meet again.

28 March 2006

"My Youth"

by Ben

I read Deuteronomy 29-32.

There are a lot of things in this section to write about, but none of them seem as important to me today as what has been happening with my youth (I say "my" but really they are God's :).

Anyhow, as many of you know, I've recently been thinking about the purpose(s) of youth ministry. Specifically, what is it that should be accomplished in the course of going through a youth ministry program (not a single event, but 6 years of youth ministry).

As part of my answer to this (oh so very large) question, on Sunday mornings, I have begun to ask the youth to do essentially what we do for the dLog: read a section of Scripture, be aware of portions that speak to them, write about it (journal), and take what they have learned with them. Similar to Eugene Peterson's "Read. Think. Pray. Live."

Here's my thought process:
It really all comes down to modeling ("on the catwalk"). Really, in order for the youth to understand or even believe that a life in Christ is possible, we have to model it for them. Okay, so...I try to be a faithful Christian (whatever that means), but how do I show it to them? Well, I do my best to read Scripture and journal about it daily, I try to maintain an active prayer life either through traditional prayer or meditation, and I talk about my faith with those around me. While all of those things are very personal, private things for me (and not easily displayed in a classroom setting), I want the youth to know what I do and how I do it. Ah! I've got it! Let's go through exactly what I do when I read and journal, or pray, or meditate, or converse about faith. But it can't be me teaching them. They have to uncover the experience for themselves. And all along the way, I can suggest to them that is how I stay spiritually full (insert visual of a cup here).

So, I'm beginning this process and I really can't be sure where it will lead. But I feel a strong pull on my spirit to let it take its course. Please pray for me to be willing to follow the Holy Spirit and pray for my youth to grow closer to God. Thank you!


I read: 1 Timothy

When I focused in where I did yesterday, I kind of regretted not focusing somewhere else. Luckily, today's focus chapter gives me that opportunity. Here's the key verse: "And don't worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it's good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you." Going back a chapter we also find this: "[These liars will] tell you not to eat this or that food--perfectly good food God created to be eaten heartily and with thanksgiving by Christians!"

Word of the day? "Good." Amazingly, it's not an easy thing for me to remember that everything God has created is good, but it says so right here and alllll the way back in Genesis when he made the whole freakin' universe and called it good! And why did he make things like this good? For our enjoyment! Our lives are to be vital, vibrant things, seeking the good in life and constantly giving thanks for all the good that we continually experience throughout the day.

My girlfriend loves food. I know I like a lot of certain foods but she loves food. We kid about it a lot, especially her cravings whether it's for Quaker Steak wings (which we ate last night [Yes, there are two QS&L's in Charlotte now!]) or lamb stew from Ri-Ra (which is pretty amazing) or a whole gallon of Rocky Road ice cream she finished off in 4 days flat (I think it's a gallon, whatever those standard size cardboard ice cream tubs are). I tease her a lot but her behavior is affirming the goodness of the gifts God gives us.

So, the message here is what? Glorify God and enjoy him. That's the chief end of man, after all. But don't stop there: enjoy his creation with all you've got. Of course, there should be self-imposed limits here (like eating all that ice cream in 2 days); moderation is always necessary, as is prohibition for you underagers who would possibly show this entry to your parents and say that I told them to buy you wine ;) But within our freedom of Christians, let's use it boldly and with a glad heart. If you don't believe me, check out what Solmon has to say in the 9th chapter of Ecclesiastes, one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible:
Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,
Drink wine with a robust heart.
Oh yes--God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
Dress festively every morning.
Don't skimp on colors and scarves.
Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.

Each day is God's gift. It's all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
This is your last and only chance at it,
For there's neither work to do nor thoughts to think
In the company of the dead, where you're most certainly headed.

27 March 2006


by Ben

I read Deuteronomy 25-28.

Wow. These chapters define the Covenant between God and the people of Israel. And some powerful stuff in there!

In Deuteronomy 27:9-10, Moses says, "Quiet. Listen obediently, Israel. This very day you have become the people of God, your God. Listen to the Voice of God, your God. Keep his commandments and regulations that I'm commanding you today."

He goes on to have all of the people of Israel go through a statement of beliefs, with the congregation (all of the people of Israel) answering, "Yes. Absolutely" after each statement.

This section to me reminded me of my own profession of faith at my baptism (i was immersed around age 12). This is also equivalent to the confessions made after graduating a Confirmation class. Basically, "okay, now you are a person of God, make sure you do the stuff we talked about."

Often, however, this is the moment in a person's life where they start to drift away from God. What the church sees as a graduation into their congregation (or beginning), many individuals see as a graduation out of it (or ending). God, through Moses, offers us the positives and negatives of these actions. I.e. God's blessings and God's curses.

Many of us often think that as soon as we accept God into our life, everything gets easier. We'll have more money, our work will be great, our family life won't ever have problems, etc. (There are churches founded upon this idea). The reality is that we still have choices to make. And having God on our side doesn't necessarily make these choices easier (in fact, they could be more difficult). However, with God, we have a path to follow. And through Christ, we have the very direct example. Yes, you will still have problems, but often, they are lighter because you aren't bearing the burden alone. And we can be sure that God's blessings are incredible.

Teach With Your Life

I read: 1 Timothy

There's a whole ton of great stuff in 1 Tim. 4 but I want to look at what is probably the most common verse in all of youth ministry, 1 Timothy 4:12, translated here as: "And don't let anyone put you down because you're young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity." The NIV translates it as, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." Not a whole lot of difference here except for one phrase: "set an example" v. "teach . . . with your life."

I love the idea of setting an example, of teaching with our lives. It's an absolutely enormous burden to bear but if we're not willing to shoulder it, we don't belong in ministry to begin with. And like any burden, it's one that Christ willingly takes on himself when we let him. It's at once the easiest and hardest thing we do in youth ministry, just living our daily lives.

How do we allow Christ to bear this burden for us? That's rather simple/difficult too. I know I haven't been even close to regular with the dLog (i.e. last weekend), but I have felt the power of daily reading and reflection when I've done it. And that's the first step: opening yourself up to the change. If you haven't noticed, the dLog has a new tagline from 1 Tim. 4:8: "Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever." I think that's a great example of why and how we are doing this project and why it's so important. (Joel: Ben and I voted on changing it and 2/3 was a majority. Don't worry, Bunogo! was a close second!)

If you have anything resembling an open heart, eyes to read, and a brain to process, there's no way that you can read God's words and not be convicted by all manner of life-shaping ideas and themes. The more we do that, the more Christ-like we become. As more of us is pruned off and more of Jesus is grafted on, setting that example isn't even a thought any more, we're walking in the "unforced rhythms of grace" as Peterson puts it so well. It's then Christ doing the heavy lifting of us and all we have to do is enjoy the ride.

24 March 2006

Retreat 2: The Second Going

by Ben

My apologies in advance for not posting part of this weekend as I will be on (another) retreat. (My mother said that I retreat more than the confederate army) This time, I will be going to Loyola of the Lakes with the session and deacons from Christ Presbyterian. I'll be back Saturday afternoon and will have a youth event that evening. Matt, as Joel and I will both be gone during part of the weekend, it is up to you to keep the dLog posts flowing! I promise to have a good post up very soon after my return. Have a blessed day all!

Leadership in the Church

I read: 1 Timothy

The third chapter of Timothy looks at what it takes to be a leader in the church. Curiously, there isn't a list of things that someone has to know or accomplish; no M. Div. or "know the books of the Bible in order, backwards" or anything like that. It's talking about standards of character: respected, committed to his family, level-headed, "know what he's talking about" (not know everything, just understand the words coming out of his mouth), not a partier, not obsessed with money, not a new believer.

My roommate in college and I got along great but didn't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. One of them was the personal lives of our government leaders. He just didn't see what fidelity in marriage has to do with leadership. Here, in this chapter, Paul makes it clear why keeping marriage vows are important in terms of a person's character: if you can't keep a promise to your wife, the one you love more than anyone, how can you be trusted to keep your promises to anyone else? Paul says the same thing here when he states that if a leader can't commit to his family, how can he commit to the Church?

So, for those of us in leadership, hopefully we meet the standards that Paul has set. Unfortunately, we're going to make mistakes. Another one of my friends is thinking about a church job. This guy is a great friend, a great person, loves Christ, and will make a great leader. But, like everyone else, there is sin in his life that worried me knowing that he wanted to be a Church leader. I still don't know if it was my place, but I wrote an email calling him on it; the stuff going on in his life could be a major distraction to the work he wanted to do, even if it wasn't anyone else's business. I felt like that email was laid on my heart to write, but I didn't feel great writing it. Luckily he took it graciously and we're still friends although I'm still waiting to hear what he might have to say in reply.

I relate that because I think that not only is this chapter setting standards for new leaders, but also for us existing leaders. We need to look at this list and make sure we're keeping up. We need friends who are going to look at this list and make sure we're keeping up too. When I first started hearing the accountability buzzword going around, I will admit I didn't like it. I didn't want the intrusion in my life. I know what I'm supposed to do. But as Ben and Morpheus put it, there's a difference between "knowing the path and walking the path." As much as I know in my head, it's amazing the rest of me can still disobey. But it does. And I'm thankful for being called out because I can't do it alone. We are the Church for a reason: none of us can do it alone. Simply stated, we need each other. We need each other for much more than accountability but this leadership position puts us in a place of power, and we all know that with great power comes great responsibility. Let's not shoulder that burden ourselves.

23 March 2006

Pray Pray Pray

I read: 1 Timothy (With a focus on the first paragraph of chapter 2)

"The first thing I want you to do is pray."

The visiting pastor in church this week made the point that every morning we wake up and aren't dead, that's a gift. And when we can swing out feet out of bed and put them on the ground 'cause our legs are still working, that's a gift. And it goes on throughout the day; every one of those actions is a gift and what do we do when we receive a gift? Thank the giver. That right there is reason enough to pray ceaselessly. Not that I do that, but at least starting out the day in prayer is a good start :)

"Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know."

Not too long ago I heard a guy on the radio talking about praying for others. He pointed out a few things, most notably this: The Book of Job is a story of a guy who has it bad, real bad. But here's the amazing thing, as this guy said, things turn around for him. When do they turn around? In chapter 42 (I think) he begins to pray for his friends. All of a sudden, he takes the focus off of himself and that's when things become good. Connection? Definitely. I can't help but feel if we spend more time interceding in prayer for our friends and simply thanking God for what we have, while sharing our concerns and worries with our friends who will pray for us, we'd be a lot better off.

"Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation."

I always find it funny to read this passage and not see what you expect to see when praying for our government. It's essentially, "Pray especially for our rulers and their governments so they can at least do the bare minimum as to not interfere with our lives." And that I'm all for :)

"This is the way our Savior God wants us to live."

'Nuff said.

oot & aboot

so i've got a retreat this weekend & am crazy busy getting stuff ready for it. hopefully i'll get to post tomorrow, but it's unlikely i'll be able to over the weekend. i don't think there's internet access there. oh crap...i dunno how i'll last three days without internet access.

22 March 2006


Wow, I feel like it's been a while since I've been here. And my shame is palpable :(

I read: 1 Timothy (in the old school Message that is on novel-like pages and doesn't have verse numbers, it actually made things kind of exciting!)

It's an interesting thing to me, but I still have these terrible feelings of, "You're going to fail," "You're only kidding yourself, there's no way you can actually do this job," and, "Those pants make you look fat." And I think that those statements (well, the first two) are true. Absolutely true. Hear me out though: I am going to fail if I think I can do this. I am not going to fail if I am clinging in a vice-like grip to Christ and to his Church. Here's the song I was listening to yesterday and this morning:

I throw up my hands,
Oh the impossibilities.
Frustrated and tired
Where do I go from here?
Now I'm searchin' for
The confidence I lost so willingly,
Overcoming these obstacles
Is overcoming my fears.

Never underestimate my Jesus
You're telling me that there's no hope
I'm tellin you you're wrong.
Never underestimate my Jesus
When the world around you crumbles
He will be strong, he will be strong.
That's "Never Underestimate My Jesus" by Relient K (at least I think that's the name of the song). And I think that's exactly what the current message is. Well, not current, it's been the same message for just about two months and a day now (i.e. since I moved down to NC): "Trust me, dummy." Maybe he's not saying dummy, but he might as well. It's not that I don't trust him, it's just that I don't know how to trust him fully. And I think that's what he wants from me and that this scary first couple of days (maybe couple of weeks) will be that way until I figure out that trust issue.

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten the verse: "I'm so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work" (1:12). Actually, I like it better in the NIV: "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service." I think that's a better description of where I'm at right now actually: trying to be faithful, appointed to his service (definitely via his grace), and very thankful to be here when I'm thinking lucidly. But, at the same time, he's making me adequate for this job. Not an easy process, I'm sure, but still a beneficial one, thank God!

Inactive Duty

by Ben

I read Deuteronomy 19-24.

Much of this section either dealt with laws about murder and punishment, who can do what, and what you should or shouldn't do. In reality, it started to remind me of Proverbs (in that there were short, one or two line directions about life).

The part that I'm going to write about today deals with Deuteronomy 24:19-22.

"When you harvest our grain and forget a sheaf back in the field, don't go back and get it; leave it for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow so that God, your God, will bless you in all your work. When you shake the olives off your trees, don't go back over the branches and strip them bare--what's left is for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow. And when you cut the grapes in your vineyard, don't take every last grape--leave a few for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow. Don't ever forget that you were a slave in Egypt. I command you: Do what I'm telling you."

This is all about taking care of your neighbors ("neighbors" defined through the story of the good Samaritan). Yet, as I sit here, I struggle to find a modern day example that doesn't come off as contrived. I think that in order to apply this story to the world that we live in today, we have to note that few people grow their own food. And still, this story has meaning for our lives.

The foreigner, the orphan, and the widow all represent those in poverty. The Interpreter's Bible explains it in simple, yet profound terms: "The style of Deuteronomy reverberates with the phrase the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. It is nearly an antiphon to 'the mighty hand and outstretched arm" of Yahweh. As these alternate in a kin of double refrain, love for God and love for man are inseparable." Another commentary relates this direction to the Golden Rule of Jesus.

No matter how you look at it, the larger picture here is how to care for others, even through our inaction.

You lost a ten dollar bill? Let it go...someone who needs it more will find it and use it. As worried as we could ever be about our finances, someone else needs it more.

Now, you could argue that someone undeserving, who has plenty of money, could find the $10. But is that really for us to decide?

21 March 2006

There's a difference...

...between knowing the path and walking the path.

by Ben

I read Deuteronomy 16-18.

This section, after talking about how to celebrate Passover and how to properly stone someone, addresses the issue of prophets and the idea that someone can speak for God. This got me thinking a lot about God's Will and how we attempt to interpret it. It is an odd experience (no words can describe) to feel God's presence working in your life. I'll try to give you an example:

This past summer, at the camp that I direct, we experienced some very trying circumstances (some of the worst that the camp has ever faced). And although at the time, I was tense and worried about the camp (and my job), thinking that I was a failure, the situation has led to some amazing things. After the summer was over, I began to review the whole way that we approach camp, our theology in practice, and found that there were many areas that could be changed in hopes to bring kids closer to God (and prevent major problems).

This led me to another stumbling block: my own fear. I would have to suggest an idea to the camp committee that basically took the program that we've had for 48 years and turned it on its head.

[Side note - I once heard a description of how to approach change that went something like this: Imagine you have a junk drawer. In cleaning and organizing it, would you rather take the drawer out, set it on the bed, take out the things you don't want, throwing them away, and put the drawer back? Or would you dump the contents of the drawer out onto the bed, put the drawer back in, and pick out the things that you want to keep, putting them back into the drawer?]

Well, I'm apparently the second kind of person. The issue came in telling people who grew up with the camp the way it was that I wanted to make things very different.

But I'll tell you, God led me through it. I got a strong inclination about who to talk to first on an individual basis (just a couple of members from the committee) and as it turned out, they agreed with me! After some careful refining of the idea, we took it to the committee. And they jumped on board! God had turned a simple idea of "what can we do" into a group dream of "this is where we should go."

Since then, the committee has become a ministry and I've never seen such devotion to finding ways to show kids and youth who God is. Where in the past we were having short meetings about fundraising, now we are spending weekends developing program and activities.

God took my fear and a bad situation and turned them into an awesome dream and subsequently, an inspiring reality. Apply this to your life in whatever way you feel God pulling you.

A quote that I keep:
"A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but on that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin again after each stumble - because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out."

20 March 2006

I suck.

I really don't have any excuse for the lack of posts :( But I will assure you that I'm behind on two other writing assignments, one even being a paid one. I'm going to work hard to get back on track, but it's going to be even harder with my brother and his friend coming down for the rest of the week.

What's making things so trying? Started working officially today, unofficially yesterday. It's youth ministry, this is my thing, right? It's feeling very overwhelming right now. JKPC was a very easy gig comparitively, I knew the congregation, I knew the kids, I knew what was expected. Yesterday and today I have met more new people than I have ever met at once before. I'm being bombarded with the realities of being at a new church who, while not being wholly dissimilar from JKPC, still has their own way of doing things. Not reinventing the wheel, I suppose, just releaning how to make it roll.

To be completely honest, the overwhelmed feeling also has me feeling a little bit inadequate, like I'm in a futile exercise where I'm doomed to failure already. It's an attack, nothing unexpected, but I'm just a little tense right now and wanting to make everything perfect starting five days ago. So, dealing with that. I would definitely appreciate prayers that I settle down, find my stride, and start making in-roads with the kids, the parents, the volunteers, the staff, and whoever else is going to be apart of this crazy shebang. I know that this is where I'm meant to be, I know this is what I am meant to do. It should be an easy thing to be confident but it's not right now. I am working on it. I need to be reading and praying so harass me without stopping if I'm slacking. Check your email for my new cell # :)

Thanks, guys!

A time to pray

by Ben

I read Deuteronomy 12-15.

This section on the law didn't really inspire me, but it gives a good background on where we get rules for tithing and it explains further what animals are ritually clean or unclean (for eating purposes). Instead of writing a "forced" devotional, I'm going to take some time to pray for the readers and writers of the dLog. Let me know if you have any requests.

19 March 2006

The Word

Tonight I read II Timothy. I'm pretty familiar with II Timothy. in fact, of all Biblical literature, II Timothy is probably what i know best. but no matter how many times i read it, i still find it to be good. in a couple weeks i have to speak on chapter four, so i decided to focus in on that chapter for my devolog tonight. verse two is pretty familiar..."preach the word...be prepared in season & out of season. correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction."

if you do a careful examination of II Timothy, you'll find that more than anything else, it's about the Word and it's proclamation. Paul in his final thoughts and words is more concerned with getting out the Gospel than ever. and so to sum it all off he caps it off with these now familiar verses.

it really serves as a handy reminder to us dloggers...and an encouragement. i mean, Paul is saying that we need to preach & be continually prepared. and the only way to do this is through actually knowing the Word. which means reading and digesting and living. and so a reminder that this discipline is worthwhile for so many reasons.

Let's Play Ball!

by Ben

I read Deuteronomy 11. Yes, in four days I read one chapter. I'm still upset at myself about this. I wouldn't be posting tonight (3 am) if my evening devotional hadn't been about putting God first in our lives (talk about smack in the face).

The thing about it is that the hits just kept coming. While reading, I began to see that this solitary chapter seems to sum up the whole point of the Bible (maybe even life).

Paraphrasing: God has been good to you - REALLY good to you. So you need to listen and do what He has said. If you do, you will be blessed; if not, then you will be cursed.

The notion of choice seemed to be the glaring point of this whole chapter. We can choose to follow God, or we can choose to do anything else in the world. This was the second slap in the face (that I have been making choices in my life, many of which were not pursuing God when I know that I should).

If you get time, please read this chapter (Deuteronomy 11). I'm very interested to hear thoughts about this summary of God's Word.

As for the final realization during today's reading, I will directly quote Peterson's The Message, Chapter 11, verses 31-32:

"You are crossing the Jordan River to invade and take the land that God, your God, is giving you. Be vigilant. Observe all the regulations and rules I am setting before you today."

In applying this to modern day, we all have our Jordan Rivers that we must cross, but our problem comes in remaining vigilant. In losing our faith, we begin to neglect all of the regulations and rules God has given us.

So, how do we prevent a lapse in faith?

By building faith into our daily schedule (a "faith refresher"), be it prayer, meditation, scripture reading, or fasting, we are exercising our faith - or bulking up our belief muscles. In doing so, we will also begin to find answers to questions previously unanswered and questions that have yet to be considered. That is why we must pray, read, write, or do some form of spiritual exercise everyday. In order to be ready for "the big game," we have to practice. [The game happens in day-to-day life.]

So readers, lets start stretching, because we are on deck.

18 March 2006


so much for that whole Quaker thing. not only did i not post, but the #15 Pennsylvania Quakers lost to #2 Texas despite my showing up to work on Friday in Quaker garb. oh well.

i have had the chance to look at some pretty school verses recently, though, specifically while creating a lesson for Thursday night based on Rob Bell's "Rain" dvd. one of the things that really caught me (and has been affirmed in the rest of my life recently due to the welcoming weather) was how creation testifies to the God's presence. there's many verses in Psalms that mention this, but especially one that says "the heavens declare the glory of the Lord..." and then in Romans 1 it's reaffirmed saying that "men are withouth excuse" in their obliviousness to God because creation has declared his presence all along. i was recently reading on an atheist's website, and he posed the questions for converts of what was the final convincer, and one person responded that their final decision to change from being an atheist to a Christian was taking a science class and finally deciding that it was impossible for all of these "coincidences" to allow us to live, but that there must be a guiding plan.

another part that got me was talking about the word "cry". i did a search and found that it was all over the Bible. and then i started reading the places that it was showing up in and it was fascinating to me. because it seems like often when i've cried out to God recently that it's been somewhat silence. but his word promises that he actually is near the those who cry to him, that he draws close and comforts them. and this gave me a peace. maybe i'm crying to loud to hear his gentle whisper. i dunno. but i've got to believe that it's true that he's nearest in the midst of our pain, if we'll just realize.

so, yeah. these were some of my recent thoughts. i've also been thinking some about why is this so hard for me to do on a regular basis. and i realized that in some ways it makes some sense. any habit is hard to begin. any discipline takes some time to form. and so i'm gonna try not to beat myself up too much for missing, but i am going to keep trying to be faithful to this task. yeah.

16 March 2006

this is an audio post - click to play

harassment is good

by jdh

thank you matt for harassing me. i do not have any reading to post on tonight as i need to seek sleep in preparation for a long day tomorrow. however, i would like to report that i am doing quite well, that my God-relationship is exciting to me, that i sense a connect & am eager for more. and that i commit now that i will read & post something tomorrow as a way of keeping myself accountable (i'm a quaker...if i say something, i gotta do it!). good to read what you guys have been reading.

14 March 2006

Jesus v. Moses: Round 1

By Matt

I Watched: The Ten Commandments Chapters 1-22

I'm going to be spending a lot of time with The Ten Commandments over the next few days in preparation for a DVD review and interview with a film historian for RELEVANTmagazine.com. This was all made possible by the reception of a free DVD copy which I've begun to watch in preparation for the review and the interview. While watching I was struck somehow by the similarities between Moses and Jesus and decided that while T10C isn't exactly gospel, it's very close and based on some good sources.

So, here goes the comparisons (and perhaps contrasts)
  • Answers to prayers of the oppressed - Both Christ and Moses were called for by the oppressed sons and daughters of Abraham, to bring them out from under the heel of the Romans and the Egyptians respectively. DeMille, in his unusual introduction to the movie, outlines the theme of freedom from oppression that is clearly an ulterior motive in the making of this movie.
  • Their names - They practically rhyme: Consant, vowel, s, vowel, s.
  • A plan of salvation - In keeping with the idea of both men being answers to prayer, God didn't just rub his chin and exclaim, "Oh how will I get my children out of this pickle!?" while throwing up his arms. Wrong. Moses and Jesus both represent an extravagant and extraordinarily plotted scheme to work his plans of salvation.
  • Inconvenient children - This one is a little harder to verbalize, but there is something about the humble beginnings of both men. Moses floated down the Nile in a basket, Jesus laid to sleep in a manger. But the significance of these humble origins is what sets them apart from our traditional heroes. And the fact that the respective rulers suddenly decide to kill all the male children makes this comparison even stronger.
  • Dual nature as kings and slaves - Moses went from king to slave (and then king again, I suppose), Christ came as a king built to serve as a slave. Again, the humility necessary for such a metamorphosis is incredible but also fundamental to who they are and a prerequisite for their missions.
  • Freedom bringers - Moses brought literal freedom (will bring, haven't gotten that far yet but I didn't want to forget this idea). Christ brought freedom from sin. Maybe that's why folks weren't as impressed with Christ's freedom. Hmmm.

But so what? When Christ asks Peter who people say the Son of Man is, I'm a little surprised that the name Moses doesn't come up. Was Moses a trial run for Jesus, Jesus 1.0? Was God experimenting with the idea of a Deliverer with Christ? Is it a coincidence that both were ushers to avenues of God's salvation: law & grace?

I have to imagine that I'm not the first to start making these connections. I'm interested in the possibility of looking for some commentary from the experts on this once I'm through with the review and interview with this. But, if you guys have run into anything that you consider pertinent, I'd love to see it!

The Good Life

by Ben

I read Deuteronomy 8-10.

First of all, let me say how great my Confirmation Class is: we had a lesson last night about Christ's sacrifice for our sins. The youth were right on board and seemed to take the discussion seriously. (I really felt good after the class) If anyone from the class is reading, I love you all!

For today's entry, we move from Christ's sacrifice, to our own. Take out your Bible and actually read Deuteronomy 10:12-18. I'll wait...

Okay. That passage sums up what God has been trying to get across to the Israelites throughout the whole of their journey through the wilderness. Moses (with a little help from Mr. Peterson) puts it very simply:

"Live in [God's] presence in holy reverence, follow the road he sets out for you, love him, serve God, your God, with everything you have in you, obey the commandments and regulations of God that I'm commanding you today -- live a good life."

These people, the Israelites, have been given every break possible. And in reality, God doesn't expect much in return. Ten simple rules and live a good life.

13 March 2006

Cleaning House

By Matt (I'm putting my name so Ben's youth will know this post isn't his; his are usually more frequent and better so you should be able to tell anyways ;) )

I received a harassing email today. Hooray! Thanks for that :) Now for that PHONE CALL, Sir Harris!

I Read: 2 Kings 19-25

After king after king being very stupid, we finally get one who knows what's up: Josiah. There is a little caveat to Josiah's story that I almost stepped past and never thought about. Why were there so many evil kings doing stupid, stupid things for so long? I'm sure part of it is that they knew what they were doing was wrong but they didn't care: it felt good, it was easier, it's what everyone was doing, etc. All the usual excuses. But, wait just a goldanged second, looky here at what 22:8 says: a priest is doing some cleaning and runs across what else but the Bible? so, incredibly stupid, sinful kings and the Bible being "missing"? Hmm. Connection?

So, Josiah. "When the king heard what was written in the book, God's Revelation, he ripped his robes in dismay" (22:11). Well, that's not all. He cleaned house. All the altars to false gods and graven images? Gone. All the temples to these dimestore deities? Razed to the ground. Interestingly enough, avoiding OT cliches, Josiah didn't really kill any of the priests until he was just about done. Guess he had enough.

But that's the point: once we know, we have an obligation to follow through. The word of God written down was not just a lamp to Josiah's feet, it was the roadmap for the rest of his reign! Clear out any vestige of pagan worship in Israel and restore the chosen people as God's people. This is one terrific example of the power of the Word and the example we should be following when we commit our lives to the speaker of those words.

I'm not advocating the death of false priests and priestesses here, believe me. I am screaming that God doesn't want his Revelation stuck in a back room to be brought out occasionally. He wants the run of the house, of the country, and God is one picky guest. He expects a clean house.

So, now we know what is in God's word for us. What is our response? What cobwebs do we need to be clearing, what walls need washed down and repainted? What is it going to take before God is testing the bed and opening his suitcase as a guest in our house?

Hate it!

by Ben (I'm putting my name in so that my youth know which posts are mine)

Read Deuteronomy 6-7.

I shouldn't have waited to read and write today; I did work first and now I have very little time to do this entry before my Confirmation class. My apologies.

There were many things in this short section that could have served as dlog fodder, but I decided that the idea of God telling people to "hate" something seemed like the most intriguing. This is because we, as Christians, grow up with mom, dad, or whatever parent figure, along with the rest of society (especially the church) telling us that we shouldn't hate. Maybe dislike, but not hate.

So, what is God's beef that He wants us to go against everything that we're taught?

He’s talking about idols or other Gods. Simple enough – love the Lord, your God. I can do that…

…as soon as I finish my work and get some food (not to mention checking my e-mail and talking to people on AIM).

There are so many things that distract me from God. In today’s society, we don’t need to worry as much about actual idols (I don’t see me running off to bow to Buddha). Instead, we celebrate things like money, technology, and relationships (really everything but God). There are so many times that I have missed out on reading scripture or praying because I was too busy with something else. Too busy letting other “gods” lead my life. Even though I work at a church, I sometimes do not spend time with God. How foolish of me. How can I expect to lead a flock – “pastor” – if I have not focused on which way to go. Learning the path can only be done through spending time with the one who made the path.

Here’s the challenge: Don’t think about how much time this will take. Sit quietly and get comfortable with God. He created you. He knows you. He loves you. Any thought on your mind should be brought to Him. Show Him your concerns, but then listen for His response.

12 March 2006

Practical God

"on that day tell your son, 'I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.' This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the law of the LORD is to be on your lips. For the LORD brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand."

i love how practical God is with us. he knows how soon we forget. he understands that we're physical leaners...we learn by doing, not just by hearing or even saying. and so he often gave the Israelites practical object lessons to remember the things that he had done for them. and this verse comes out of an example of that in Exodus 13. a day to remember what God had done to deliver his people. so he tells them to eat unleavened bread. and to tell the stories of his greatness to the younger generation. because he should be forever on our lips. these words just really got me...

Planes, pains, and spiritual vehicles

Not gonna have a post up today (sorry all!). Am supposed to pick up Kate and her mom from the airport...their flight has been delayed several times. Not an excuse, just a what's going on in my life kinda thing.

Also, took the youth ice skating today. Btw, if you do this activity and haven't competed in the olympics, don't pretend that you can do a triple toeloop. My bruised knee is proof!

Another side note: I really like Taize-styled services. We had our second one tonight at CPC and I really feel spiritually fed by it more than our Sunday morning services. There is something very powerful about the simplicity and quiet nature of the candlelit communal experience.

Anyways, that's all for now. I pray you all are well!

11 March 2006

Oh, I wonder as I wander...

Hey all...sorry for the delayed post (busy day!).

I read Deuteronomy 4-5.

Short, yes, but this is where we get into the nitty-gritty of God's commandment. 10 of them to be more precise. But before we get to the obvious, Moses has some other important things to say:

"Just make sure you stay alert. Keep close watch over yourselves. Don't forget anything of what you've seen. Don't let your heart wander off. Stay vigilant as long as you live. Teach what you've seen and heard to your children and grandchildren."

This passage could easily be found under "Rules for a Youth Worker 101" or some other title at Borders. Read the passage again. The obvious connection comes from Matthew 26, where Jesus asks the disciples to keep alert while in Gethsemane. Or really, any time that Jesus talked to...well, anyone.

This quote could very well have been said to any one of us a week ago. It's unfortunately timeless. I say unfortunately because it means we haven't gotten it yet. Like all of us at the dlog have talked about recently, we continue to turn against God, even mere moments after He has shown His love for us.

I particularly like the line "Don't let your heart wander off." How accurate. When we sin as Christians, we are letting our hearts get away from their true passion, while they search for alternatives.

Well, this section also contains the ten commandments. Simple enough. But truly look over them Chapter 5:7-21. How many of us can get through the whole list without an issue? (If you think you have, go back to the bit about coveting, or honoring your parents, or keeping the Sabbath)

So, even though we all know these simple ideas and say that we strive to follow God's commands, we can't seem to keep even basic rules. (btw, "rules" is used here, not to designate what we can't do, but more to show what we should do in order to honor God)

What are our excuses? Why do we continue to let our heart "wander off"?

At the end of this section, Moses tells the Israelites, "So be very careful to act exactly as God commands you. Don't veer off to the right or the left. Walk straight down the road God commands so that you'll have a good life and live a long time in the land that you're about to possess."

God said it (and we know how powerful his words can be..."let there be..."). We know it. Let's do it.

10 March 2006

Worship God

I Read: 2 Kings 17-18

18:27: " . . . they'll be eating their own turds and drinking their own pee . . . "

That's really in there. I'm not making it up.

I think chapter 17 of 2 Kings might be the longest chapter in the Bible devoted to one idea: "You shall not worship any other gods." It's a curious thing that God would be jealous of meaningless hunks of wood or metal, or whatever else we turn into our gods today. Worship God. It's at the same time a very simple command and a very complex idea. Our God knows who belongs to him, all of us, and he wants us there in his presnce every second of every minute of hour every of every day. That's a crazy thought. God. You. Me. Us? It's wild. But he meant it so much that it made his top 10. Pretty high up in that top 10 from what I hear. Must have a thing for us humans and our attention. Kinda makes you feel loved, don't it?


I read Deuteronomy 1-3.

Woohoo for moving away from the number of rams sacrificed! On to Moses's last sermon! Wait, the first third is just a recap of where the Israelites have been...bummer.

But Eugene Peterson adds detail that gets me excited to read this book:

"This sermon does what all sermons are intended to do: Take God's words, written and spoken in the past, take the human experience, ancestral and personal, of the listening congregation, then reproduce the words and expereience as a single event right now, in this present moment. No word that God has spoken is a mere literary artifact to be studied; no human experience is dead history merely to be regretted or admired."

What a cool lead up!

Anyway, the first bit is just a recap of where they've been and what they've done. However, there are some very interesting pieces of wisdom contained therein. In Chapter 1, verses 29-33, we get a real picture of faith or the lack thereof (yes, I just used therein and thereof in back-to-back sentences; get over it). "...God, your God, carried you as a father carries his child, carried you the whole way until you arrived here. But now that you're here, you won't trust God, your God..."

Much like what Matt was talking about with the kings, the Israelites, who've been led through situation after situation, still don't trust God. And also like the kings, this applies directly to us!

Moving on, to Chapter 3, verses 23-25 contain Moses trying one last ditch effort to get into the promised land. He begs God, trying to reason with him (not to mention flattery):

"God, my Master, you let me in on the beginnings, you let me see your greatness, you let me see your might -- what god in Heaven or Earth can do anything like what you've done! Please, let me in also on the endings, let me cross the river and see the good land over the Jordan, the lush hills, the Lebanon mountains."

We cannot understand this experience. We, through the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, do not have to worry about God accepting our apology. Just like Moses, we sin, true. However, our sin is forgiven if we ask.

God does not allow Moses to enter and makes it clear that is how things are going to be. It makes me wonder if that was Moses's secret intention all along. "If I just do this, God will let me in."

This feelings is a bit more familiar to us. "If I just do this, I won't have to worry about eternity." Reality check: no one act of generosity or Christian brotherhood will get us into heaven. In truth, this shouldn't be our goal anyway. We should strive to live a Christian life...continually. We are a work in progress. We always will be. Our progress should be in the acts that we do...realizing that none of these are final.


Hey all. I intend to do my reading and post for today later this evening, but this post is merely a youth worker asking for ideas. In the coming weeks (starting the 19th), my youth Sunday school class will be diving into reading and connecting the stories of the Bible (radical, I know) and I am looking for a creative way of visual record-keeping. Some suggestions so far: painting or drawing 1' x 1' blocks representing each story; dressing the youth up as the characters, posing them in recognisable story reference positions and taking photos of them (maybe edited on computer) (also my favorite idea so far); hiring someone to create something for me. Any ideas? Just looking for thoughts.

Really, the whole thing comes down to that the kids (and I think kids in general; I know my generation didn't at that age) don't know the stories or how they connect. My hope is that going through the stories, explaining how they relate into the larger story of the Bible, and having visuals to remind them will give the youth a better understanding of why the Bible is important. It is one thing to know the general ideas of the Bible (be nice, help people out) and a wholly different thing to understand why. Thoughts?

09 March 2006


So, I'm not really as hot to trot for 2 Kings any more :)

I read: 2 Kings 14-16

More kings not doing the good things and their lives ending in tragic circumstances with a cryptic footnote that their lives are continued in more detail in the Chronicles of the Kings, which I'm assuming is the book we know today as Chronicles. Oh joy to that one :)

So, I got to thinking: really, why is this stuff even in the Bible? How is this enlightening or encouraging at all? I don't get it. But then I remembered, the kings are the line of David and the line of David is the line of Christ.

Our Messiah comes from a family tree this screwed up? Yeah, there are weird families out there but not many where one branch is trying to cut off the one below it. It's wild.

Ah yes, Jesus is human too. And being human is having a weird family. Now I get it :)

Mere Christianity

so did not read in the good book today.

but am reading a good book, because i have a group meeting thing on it friday morning @ 6 with kids from my old youth group.

Mere Christianity.

found the first part to be somewhat dull, but it's picking up.

will hopefully hit this up strong tomorrow, but wanted to at least be true to putting up a post & letting folks know where i'm @.

Hot Damn and Halelujah!

God has seen fit to direct me to Quail Hollow Presbyterian Church as their Youth Director :D

So, one prayer request checked off the list; thanks for making that prayer :) New prayer request: that I don't screw it up ;)

08 March 2006


I read: 2 Kings 11-13

Most of 2 Kings can be summarized like this: "There was a king and he was either a) completely evil or b) semi-righteous but still tolerated some idolatry. God wasn't really that happy. Some dude comes up and kills the king and then becomes king. There was a king and he was either . . ." You get the idea.

Tedious. Why do we even need this in the Bible? It's so superfluous thing. They wouldn't have to print the Bible on such thin paper if they cut out some of these "expendable" parts of the OT!

But then you stop and think: God forgives them every time. They never learn. They do it generation after generation after generation. Just continuously spitting on God's face. Then you realize who that reminds you of. And then you're kind of glad it's in the Bible because it makes you look, well, not as dumb.

Could it be? The first second-person dLog entry? :)

Youth Specialties Conference 2006!

Tangent: I was supposed to meet today for Quail Hollow to determine the "next steps" this morning but the meeting got postponed due to illness of the Assoc. Pastor. I think this job is in the bag so another 24 hours isn't a big deal but I woud kinda like to know for sure that I'm employed :) But, a part of the job that I'm assuming (which is a bad thing to do but I the right signs are in place) I'll get is continuing education money. So, I got to thinking about where that could be wisely spent . . .

Last year I know Joel went to the Pittsburg Youth Specialties conference and Ben and I wished we could go. So, I went to youthspecialties.com to check out when/where the conferences would be held this year. CHARLOTTE FREAKING NORTH CAROLINA and CINCINATTI FLIPPIN' OHIO. So, it'd be cool to all go to the same one and hang-out and what not so I was thinking maybe we could get together some sort of consensus on Cincy or C-lot and begin developing plans accordingly.

If we do Charlotte I could make sure you guys have a place to stay for free obviously :) The drive is 7-7.5 hours and not bad. And best of all, you could escape Ohio at the end of November/beginning of December. And since I'll know the host city by that point, we'd know the cool places to go when we're not doin' the learnin'. So, my vote is for Charlotte but I'm definitely open to Cincy should you guys want to do that. I realize that Joel has a bunch of folk at his church that probably want to go too so that might be a big consideration.

Anyways, let me know what y'all are thinking and we'll go from there!

The Moses Connection

(Warning: this entry is more tense than most of mine and may make little sense)

Polishing off Numbers today, I read Numbers 28-36.

Today's reading contained much of the same old what animals were sacrificed for what sins and what families received what inheritance. However, there was a glimmer of lesson in it that came across in chapter 32.

After taking some new land, some of the Israelites notice that the countryside is ripe for livestock (and let's just say that they have a few). These folks talk to Moses about setting up some communities and using what is there.

Moses gets a little heated saying, "Do you mean that you are going to leave the fighting that's ahead to your brothers while you settle down here?" He compares it to the demoralization of the Israelites that happened at Kadesh Barnea and that God would get angry and force them into the wilderness for more time. Bummer.

So, the petitioners backpedal. They try to strike a deal saying that they'll set up communities for the women and children, and that when the time comes, they'll fight right alongside their bretheren.

This satifies Moses and he allows them to do it.

Everybody follows God's will and is happy. Yet, I can't seem to get past that Moses' blood pressure sky-rocketed for a full 9 verses. What snapped? Why now? Compared to some of the other grumblings of the Israelites, this was a minor request (and maybe even a noble one).

I guess I'm trying to get into his head right now, trying to understand what it was like to be Moses. In one ear, he's got God telling him what he (and the Israelites) need to do; in the other, he's got a whole bunch of tired, angry followers who want nothing more than to stop traveling. At this point, God has told him that he's not getting into the promised land and yet, he has still followed God's commands.

I think I had a Moses day yesterday. (Out of context, that might sound like a good thing)

At work, I was told that I needed to be more accountable for my hours (apparently, the office wants to make sure that I'm doing my job), which angered me at first. "It's youth ministry. Most of the work I do doesn't happen at the office." "Results can only be seen by the kids."

Well, these responses only helped to fuel my anger. They did little to solve the issue. They merely got me into a thinking pattern of justifications for what I do. Talking about the situation with my mother and my girlfriend (pity those who have to hear me complain) didn’t help; I grew in resentment of the accusation that I wasn’t doing my job – partially, because I felt that I was doing more than I should be (laundry list of reasons), without proper payment.

In fact, the anger even continued this morning as I woke and prepared to come to work. (For those who don’t know me, I rarely hold onto anger.)

I’m not really sure where to take this entry from here. I guess the issue is being resolved. I have modified my schedule, which will help benefit the office (to know where/when I’m in) and me (to prevent me from working just when there is work to be done [i.e. always]). However, there is a lingering tension. I am bitter, possibly because it is still fresh in my mind.

Like Moses, my temper flared. I guess part of me wonders if he just went back to “normal” after the dispute was settled. Another part of me thinks that my situation isn’t settled, that there is still more left to say.

I Miss the New Testament

I read: 2 Kings 8-10

These are the kind of chapters that make me start to question that whole NT v. OT God thing. Massacre after massacre in the name of God. I like a bit of the ol' ultra-violence as much as the next guy but taking out a whole temple-ful of all the Baal worshippers in Israel? At least we can know God is serious.

I really can't wait to finish 2 Kings and read a good ol' fashioned grace-filled epistle :P

07 March 2006

The Plagues

I just finished reading all about the Plagues & the Passover. I'm reminded of someone (I don't remember who) that taught me about the significance of the plagues. That they all were an affront to a different Egyptian god, progressing to the most powerful. ie, they actually worshipped the river, so turning it into blood was the first example of this. Toward the end, the plague of darkness was obviously a show-up to the Sun-god. The final plague, on the firstborn, was an attack on the Pharoah himself, who was viewed as a god. Anyway, i love contextualization and understanding the culture behind the scriptures (which is perhaps why i get into ancient languages and commentaries so much). so it was swell to remember all of that.

06 March 2006


I read: 2 Kings 5-7

The Sunday School class I sat in on yesterday at Quail Hollow Presbyterian was discussing the book The Jesus Code by Scott McKnight. Yesterday, the chapter they were covering was focusing on miracles and the question of why Jesus did miracles. 'Cause he could? 'Cause he felt compassion for the afflicted who were often the target of the miracles? Both, I suppose. I think that under "'cause he could" there are a couple of sub-categories as well. The Hebrew word for miracle (and this goes back to 10th grade theology class so I hope this is right) actually translates more as "sign." What this stuff that Jesus was doing was, in many cases, a sign of who he is and his divinity.

I remarked a few days ago on this very page how a lot of what Elisha has been up to lately in 2 Kings is reminiscent of Jesus' miracle glory days and it forms a prequel of sorts. It still does as Elisha is still up to his old tricks and a few chapters ahead, Jesus is up to his. What are these signs pointing to? That the majesty and awesomeness (word?) of God are in harmony between the New and the Old Testaments. The amazing things that God did, has done, and continues to do are eternal and infinite. And that's a comforting thought :)

Reading & Running

so believe it or not, i actually have been doing a lot of Bible reading recently, i just haven't had any tinme to post it on here. in the last week i've read Genesis and half of Exodus, as well as the book of James. last night was James...i was only going to read the first twelve verses for a study i was looking at, but i was so caught by what was being said that i just up and read the whole book (it's only five chapters). what an amazing book. it's been quite awhile since i read James. i don't really know how to some up what i learned from it. but mostly i was excited that in no way did it feel like a chore, but it was something i was excited to do. not much else to say at the moment...but maybe more later.

04 March 2006

Max Lucado's Cure for the Common Life

I received this book as a gift from my mom a few weeks ago and was intrigued to begin it. I am not familiar with a lot of Lucado's work at all, but I have brushed up against it in sermons and children's messages. And every time it's show evidence of a brilliant man who is adept at distilling God's words and wisdom into readily-comprehensible caveats; a skill I envy and our Example employs so easily. So, to say the least, I was excited to take a gander at Cure for the Common Life.

What a great book. It's a simple read, I breezed through most of it in an afternoon and some time yesterday. It's written in a self-effacing, witty, and thoroughly wise and eloquent manner throughout. Lucado's handle on scripture provides backup for nearly every point he makes, at least once a paragraph! He speaks the Word with truth and beauty and grace. Really like his style.

Essentially this book is about finding your "sweet spot" in life, almost like a "what am I here for" answer book. In Lucado's definition, your sweet spot resides in the intersection of your passions/gifts, what you can do to honor God, and where/when you live. In a lot of cases this book is great for self-discovery of one's (spiritual) gifts but Lucado's main focus is on our work, our occupation, whatever it is we do to pay the bils. It's a unique topic in the Christian non-fiction world, as far as I know, but it does apply to much outside of careers.

The one refrain that pops up continuously through the book is that God packed our bags with specific skill sets to be used through our lives for other people. It's a wonderful thought: God himself knows what he wants us to do and how he wants us to do it so he provided us with the right tools from the beginning. And when we are able to use those tools where and when and for the right why, we are in our "zone," our sweet spot.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is searching for their uniqueness, their gifts, or who is frustrated with their work. And even if you're not, it's a great book in case you end up in one of those positions or know someone who is. Lucado is infinitely readable and the book is a treasure to seek out and enjoy.

(Yes, this dLog entry was almost a book review but it's the meaningful stuff I read today!)

03 March 2006

Jesus: The Prequel

I Read: 2 Kings 2-4

Suddenly in the middle of reading about Elisha I was struck with some serious deja vu. Something about a widow taking in the prophet and her son dying and the prophet laying on him and healing him? Waitaminute . . . I just read that same story about Elijah a few days ago!

But then I realized something else. We have a resurrection. And who is the most famous resurrector/reusrrectee combo ever? Jesus and Lazarus of course! But way back when, Elijah did it with the widow's son and then in the next couple of years, Elijah was doing it too.

And then Elisha does something else a little bit curious: a guy brings him 20 fresh loaves and he tells his disciples to split it amongst themselves. They say there isn't going to be enough but, miraculously, there is! Sound familiar? Of course, Jesus feeding the 5,000 by similar means.

What's the significance of all this? I'm not sure exactly. For me it just might be that I never knew those stories before. There is now a certain harmony I can see between the OT and the NT though. And when Jesus ask the question, "Who do they say I am?" and Peter responds, "Elijah," that doesn't seem as random as it does at first blush.

Oh yeah, the other little nugget in tonight's reading comes from 2:23-25. Elisha is out doing his thing when a bunch of little kids make fun of him for being bald so he curses them and a bear eats them. That's enough to ruin your day. The point of that story? May hair might be receding and thinning but mention it and you will be eaten.

Fast! Real Fast!

For those who will be fasting sometime soon, here is a devotional for those doing the 30 Hour Famine (yes, I cheated...this is what I wrote to say to the kids tonight):

Why are we going without food?

Well, the 30 Hour Famine is about saving kids’ lives. By raising money, we help feed those who cannot get food. By fasting ourselves, we get a “taste” of what it is like to be hungry.

There are other reasons we fast, especially at this time of year as we go into the season of Lent. In fact, there are many others fasting along with us across the world during this time, although not necessarily for the 30 Hour Famine. They fast to celebrate Lent.

Did any of you know that Lent has a history in the church as being a time of penance (self-sacrifice)? Some people did this in order to re-enter the church after a period of denying the faith. So, why do we “celebrate” it? The National Presbyterian website says that “Lent/Easter is a journey to Jerusalem where we hear Christ’s commandment (Maundy, as in Maundy Thursday, comes from the Latin word for commandment) of love and service, and encounter the depth of pain and suffering of Christ. We celebrate the rising of Christ along with our own dying and rising from the waters of baptism at the Easter Vigil. Throughout the season of Easter we continue to remember our baptism by encountering the mystery of a life in Christ and breaking bread together.

Wait, I still don’t get it. And I think some of you trailed off too.

Okay, during Lent people traditionally give up things like chewing gum, pop, or bad habits like chewing their nails. As great as those things are, they don’t quite match what the spirit of Lent is after. If we are to encounter the “depth of pain and suffering of Christ”, we need to strive to do more than miss our favorite television show (as painful as that may seem).

That is where fasting can come in. Fasting allows us to connect to God in ways that giving up bad habits doesn’t even touch. When hunger pains get bad (and in 30 hours, they aren’t really that awful), we can ask God to help us. Our suffering is not even a percentage of the torment that Christ experienced when he was tortured and killed for our sins.

Yet, our attempt is what is important here. In striving to understand the suffering of Christ, we see the amazing gifts that we have been given. How simple it is for us to run down to Wendy’s to pickup a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger and an order of nuggets or to call and order a pizza that someone else will bring to our front door!

We have so many choices in our society and they are all placed at our fingertips. We often take the ease of our world for granted. I said we, because I know that I do every day. However, it is not enough just to realize that we take things for granted; we must do what we can to help those around us who do not have it so easy. And that is part of why we “do the Famine”. In raising money, we help to provide food for those who do not have any access to nourishment.

Before we get too far along, here are some warnings about how we fast:

Read Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.

The important part there is in verse 16: “When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it…If you go into training inwardly, act normal outwardly.”

The point here is that we are concentrating on God. If we are concentrating on God, we won’t be making a show out of it. Throughout the course of our Famine, we’ll be taking time to hear lessons and scripture, praying, and watching videos that will refocus us away from thoughts of our hunger and back to where our hearts and attention should be: God.

Now, to close this lesson, I’m going to ask each of us, youth and leaders alike to take some time to heed the call of Matthew 6:6.

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”

Call it prayer, call it meditation. However you want to look at it, take it seriously.

02 March 2006


I read: 1 Kings 1

A cat at the house where Campaigners took place tonight has wreaked havoc with my allergies and the Claritin I took after the fact expires 2/06 so I have no idea if it did any good. My nose is runny and my head feels not so good. Thus the sole chapter. But man, if it isn't a doosey.

Another king (Israel wins the award for most kings in least amount of time I think) is on the throne of Israel and winds up in a bad spot wondering if he's going to die. He sends out his men to question Baal about the matter. God speaks to Elijah and Elijah intercepts the kings men and hits them with this poignant question to take back to their master: "Is it because there's no God in Israel that you're running off to consult Baal Zebub god of Ekron?" (Akron!?)

Doesn't sound too applicable, right? We're not off at the altars of Buddha and Vishnu, are we? No, I suppose not but how many altars do we bow at before God? For instance, as bad as I'm feeling right now, I took the time to update my webpage for a good half hour tonight, probably longer. Had the energy to do that but reading my Bible is suddenly a chore. Not by those same standards it shouldn't be, bucko.

It's not a fun thing to admit but I'm just as guilty as that king for most of the time. Right now even. Whie I doubt if we can get it perfect, at least beginning to recognize our metal-and-wood gods that we create for ourselves might be some worthy introspection. It's a prayer at least :)

01 March 2006


I read 1 Kings 20-22. Dryer than dry. There really wasn't any content here that was worth mentioning it. Oh well, that book is done and on to 2 Kings tomorrrow!

A Virtual Tour?

Today's entry has nothing to do with what I read...I just didn't feel inspired by it. So, I'm going to take you on a tour of my desk:

There are several piles of work that I put off, some pens, some candy, a camera, the book "The Basics of Biblical Hebrew" -which I have yet to get past the Hebrew Alphabet chart, along with an array of other random items needed to get youth work done (which of course includes food and games).

Some of those are the objects of the work, things needed to do the work. Then, there are the reasons for the work: of course, I have pictures: my girlfriend Kate, my youth group members, the Camp Staff, Matt Wiggins!!, and pictures from recent trips. Also posted are quotes, cartoons, and other forms of inspiration in order to get me through the day. Though admittedly, I rarely actually re-read them. So, I will now share with you some of the items that say the most to me.

A blue post-it note that reads, "Our true identity lies first and foremost in being members of God's people - adopted before the creation of the world, created to be holy and blameless."

A white index card with a short scripture: "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word [...] I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:9,11"

A short devotion for youth workers based upon Ephesians 1:3-12, that has this section highlighted: "Is it frustrating to have people think we should grow up and work with adults? Sure. Would it be nice to have people speak of our calling with the same regard they do of those who are physicians and attorneys? Definitely. Do we have good reason for wanting to level the parent who says to us after a mission trip, 'It must be nice to go on exotic vacations like this'? You better believe it. But let's forego trying to win the fights that just don't matter. We're among the eternal people of God. We're connected to Abraham, Esther, Isaiah, Mary, Peter, Aquilla, and Priscilla. We're connected to God's people escaping the edge of the sword in Afghanistan, Sudan, and Columbia. We're connected to the Ephesian believers of the 1st Century. Our participation in the mission of God among young people connects us to God's redemptive plan to reverse the curse. We're all part of the adopted family of God. We're all called to join God in placing everything together under the authority of Christ (v. 10) so that 'through the church, the manifold witness of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities' (3:10). Now that's a fight worth having!"

Other articles are titled: "Beating the Martha Syndrome", "Youth Ministry Lies", "The Right Kind of Kids". Still, one of the most powerful things is a short note written by Alex, one of my youth, in orange magic marker on a torn piece of paper: "We love Ben!"

These items, although they have little monetary value...and if I died today, would most likely be thrown away without a thought, are the little pushes that get me through the day. These are my visuals every day. But these items themselves mean nothing, without a purpose behind them. These items connect me to the youth that I pastor and the God that I serve.

God give me work
Till my life shall end
And life
Till my work is done.