"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 May 2006


I read: Hebrews 10-11

The one huge downside of The Message is the lack of study helps. Reading today I came across a section where Paul was quoting from Jesus: "You don't want sacrifices year after year; you've prepared a body for me for a sacrifice. It's not fragrance and smoke from the altar that whet your appetite. So I said, "I'm here to do it your way, O God, the way it's described in your Book."

Where he heck did Jesus say that? So, I scurried over to biblegateway.com and looked it up. Psalm 40. Hmmmm. Psalm 40 is written by David. It's also been translated into a great song by U2 ("40"). But, there it is. Who knew? How bizarre? The words of the savior coming through the pen of a king of Israel. Truly bizarre but very, very neat. I gotta tell you: there's way more in the Psalms than I ever thought possible.

30 May 2006


Since Paul is writing to the Hebrews in this letter, it makes sense that he is constantly referencing rituals that they used in their worship of God--sacrifices and the like. One of the references in chapter 9 of Hebrews is to the High Priest, the head hancho of the priestly sect. In the Protestant tradition we really don't have anything that we can relate to in this way. Maybe our senior pastors, but that still doesn't quite cut it.

Anyways, one of the priests' jobs back then was to make the sacrifices that atone for sins. They had that responsibility and it was theirs alone. Then comes along Protestantism and Martin Luther makes his grand statement about a congregation of priests. We're all priests now, under Christ, and able to make our own sacrifices: our money, our time, our lives. Christ, then, is our High Priest for making the ultimate sacrifice, one that was needed once to clear our sacrifices from the start to the end. It's a convicting thing to know that all of us, no matter whether we have Mr., Miss, Mrs., Rev., Dr., etc. we are responsible as priests to God.

26 May 2006

My truth

by Ben

Hey all...first, an apology: I have been very bad about reading and posting recently, for which, I am sorry. I know how this affects my daily spiritual life, yet I have trouble getting myself to do it. This is especially true if I get out of my routine (which happens every few days). Anyhow, I am trying to make an effort to get myself back on track.

Today, I read Day 23 in Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life. I should be on like Day 37, so here's an apology to Rick about breaking my commitment. Anyway, the chapter was about how we grow to become more like Christ (exactly what I needed to hear today). Mr. Warren suggests that there are several parts in growing closer to Christ: "You must want to grow, decide to grow, make an effort to grow, and persist in growing."

I'm going to quote a lot of Warren here:

"The Bible says, 'Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.'

This verse shows the two parts of spiritual growth: "work out" and "work in." The "work out" is your responsibility, and the "work in" is God's role. Spiritual growth is a collaborative effort between you and the Holy Spirit. God's Spirit works with us, not just in us.

This verse, written to believers, is not about how to be saved, but how to grow. It does not say "work for" your salvation, because you can't add anything to what Jesus already did. During a physical "workout," you exercise to develop your body, not to get a body.

When you "work out" a puzzle, you already have all the pieces - your task is to put them together. Farmers "work" the land, not to get land, but to develop what they already have. God has given you a new life; now you are responsible to develop it "with fear and trembling." That means to take your spiritual growth seriously! When people are casual about their spiritual growth, it shows they don't understand the eternal implications."

Ouch. Sometimes the truth hurts.

25 May 2006

Okay, Plan B

I read: Hebrews 7-9

There are actually a few topics that I considered diving into in chapter 7 so I want to bring the one major rabbit trail before going into the main thought for the day. Melchizedek. This dude is very important to understanding this chunk of Hebrews but he's a pretty bizarre fellow. I recommend reading up on him and his appearance to Abraham and then checking out what Paul says about him in Hebrews. You want Bible conspiracy theory, you got it here with some scholars saying that Mel is actually Christ making a cameo appearance early on.

Anyways, there's a statement in 8 that I found very interesting: "The former way of doing things, a system of commandments that never worked out the way it was supposed to, was set aside; the law brought nothing to maturity." At first blush (what the heck is a first blush anyways?) this thought struck me as odd. "Never worked out the way it was supposed to." I'm sorry, I thought God was perfect and omniscent, shouldn't he know how things were supposed to work out? Shouldn't he be able to plan something that would work perfectly? Kind of a disturbing thought if those things aren't true, isn't it?

Let me say before going any further that I don't claim any authority on this subject so I'm blindly groping here. Feel free to step in with the wisdom I don't have on this subject :)

Anyways, looking a bit forward into chapter 8 we get this: "If the first plan--the old covenant--had worked out, a second wouldn't have been needed. But we know the first was found wanting . . . " Found wanting. Who/what was found wanting? God? The plan? Us? Us. And the plan too. Not God.

Instead, I think God kind of knew the Law wouldn't work. It looks good on paper, but not the sort of thing that can be put into practice. And that's the point. Going back to my understanding of dispensations, salvation by the Law isn't an end to itself, it's God's teachable moment for humanity. It's the sort of thing that you have to do with a child, the real relationship works when grace is present.

God knew what he was doing and he did it in a very interesting way. It's a plan, his plan. It's also a process. As far as we haven't come in the last 6,000 years, we have at least come to a better understanding of God by his grace.

24 May 2006

'Nuff Said

Sometimes the word of God just doesn't need comment, it just needs heard:

"So come on, let's leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on 'salvation by self-help' and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgement. God is helping us, we'll stay true to all that. But there's so much more. Let's get on with it!"

Wow, that's so good. Let's do it again!

"So come on, let's leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on 'salvation by self-help' and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgement. God helping us, we'll stay true to all that. But there's so much more. Let's get on with it."

There you go, halfway to lectio divina ;)

23 May 2006

Staff Retreat

by Ben

Sorry all...no post from me today. I'm on a staff retreat.

Unplumbed Depths

One thing that really struck me my senior year of college was just how much knowledge is out there. There's a bunch that I had absorbed through classes but I was really struck by how, when I was deep into a course of study, there was so much there I had no idea. Every minute of lecture, every turn of a page, they all brought new information that I had no idea. After college I began to recognize the limitless chasms of knowledge in every area: rock climbing, WWII, comics, football, gardening, etc. It's all out there with just huge amounts to learn. There is just so much out there we don't know. Think about all the spy/war movies you've seen with commandos sneaking into an enemy base and hiding behind a door while sentries march by. What a huge difference it could make for that sentry if he knew one little fact, a sentence of four words: "enemy behind the door." Knowledge is a tricky thing.

Recently I've started to become just how much I have to learn about religion. Faith I've known for a while that I have only skimmed the surface. But then I attended a mini-lecture on the theology of confirmation. Wow. Talk about out of my depth! It really opened my eyes to the fact that confirmation isn't something that we just do because it's a good idea, it's something that's been considered, studied, debated over, and then decided upon before put into the Book of Order for the Presbyterian church. And the reasoning and Biblical backing behind it all. It's crazy.

And that brings us to chapter 5 of Hebrews. The opening verses (1-3) bring us this little nugget: "Every high priest selected to represent men and women before God and offer sacrifices for their sins should be able to deal gently with their failings, since he knows what it's like from his own experience. But that also means that he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as the people's."

I'm not going into anything about Christ really here but rather my, and our collective ignorance, of Judaism. Paul wrote the book of Hebrews as a letter to a church in Jerusalem, a bunch of Hebrews as it were. Christianity, to them, really didn't look all that different from Judaism. In content it was vastly different, the knowledge of an arrived Messiah is a little bit life-changing, but the form of their worship and everyday life probably didn't change a whole lot.

I think that today, with Jewish and Christian worship so far away from each other we really lose a lot of understanding of our faith that these very early Jewish Christians had. Unless we're Catholic, we don't really have a concept of a high priest. While I greatly enjoy contemporary worship, it takes us even further away from our Jewish roots. We both have a lot we could learn from each other and it's a shame that we don't have more interaction between our religions. Christ himself didn't come to abolish Judaism, he came to build on it. Christianity is the next level of bricks built on that foundation, not a fresh start.

So, here's where all of this gets tied together: we know so little about our Hebrew roots, it's a depth of knowledge that we haven't even begin to plumb in many cases but one that could be extremely valuable. And just like the sentry completely unaware of the enemy commando hiding under the grate, it's that tiny little bit of knowledge that could make all the difference in our understanding of our faith and religion.

22 May 2006

Samson's weakness

by Ben

I read Judges 15-16.

This story is another one that confuses me. Samson's strength comes from his hair. That I can understand. What I don't get is why after his new girl, Delilah, tries to find out the secret of his strength numerous times (and he knows that she is betraying him), that he tells her his secret. The women in Samson's life all nag him until he gives in. Both times ending in him being betrayed. Mind you, Samson gets his revenge on the Philistines, but that doesn't account for his giving in to these women who are obviously betraying him. It seems that even the strongest of men has a weakness.

18 May 2006

Gonna Getcha Getcha Getcha

I read: Hebrews 4-6

There's one thought that has been coming up a lot for me lately and I found it again in chapter 4, verses 15-16 of the letter to the Hebrews: "So, let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help."

This is the frequent thought: God is not the shy girl at the party standing in the corner with her back to us, looking over her shoulder to see if we notice her. God is instead the outgoing girl who runs right up, introduces herself and then hands over her phone number. Weird analogy, right? Yeah, but imagine if that girl already knows that she loves you and she knows that because she already knows you're going to marry her. Then you'd be pretty thankful that she did that, right? Save you a lot of work.

Exactly. God is so excited to meet us and spend time with us that he has come up, introduced himself, and extended his hand. If we don't know God, it's not because he hasn't tried, it's because we're standing there staring him in the face and pretending like he's not really there. And if we don't know him better it's because we've jammed our hands in our pockets and we're staring at our shoes and mumbling something about the weather.

Don't ever forget that he came for us. He came for us. The work's been done, we just need to shake hands back.

17 May 2006

As Long as It's Today

I read: Hebrews 1-3

So, you know how I talked about a verse I couldn't find yesterday? Turns out it was there afterall. Hebrews 2:13 if you were wondering.

But today I want to look at Hebrews 3:13, but not in The Message. Shock. Horror. Awe. I know. Honestly though, I think that the NIV nails it a little bit better: "But encourage one another daily, as long as it's called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."

I honestly love this verse. When can we stop encouraging each other? When it stops being today. Which will be, well, I don't really know when that will be. Thus we never should stop encouraging each other. Here's what I'm thinking for specific application though: as youth leaders we revel in the thought of finding something we can encourage our kids in. However, that verse doesn't go, "Youth workers, encourage your kids daily." Interestingly enough, I think that for us it's trying to say this: "Youth workers, encourage your kids daily and also encourage them to encourage each other daily."

After the overnighter I think that a very real concern for me will be building group unity and I think one of the best ways to do that is to get everyone involved in everyone's lives so that instead of just mom, dad, and the youth director bugging them, it's mom, dad, the youth director, and everyone else. And praying for each other. That's so huge, knowing that you don't even need to bother praying for your problems because 10 other people already are. If only we could be that faithful in prayer for each other!

But honestly, that's my goal right now. I don't think there's anything wrong with praying for something for ourself, nor do I think that God won't listen to a prayer for ourself. But truly living in community and praying for others while they pray for you is a much more exciting thought to me. A few months ago I heard a guy on the radio ask the question: "When did Job's trials turn around?" The answer: when he began to pray for his friends. Job had it hard, harder than anyone I have ever heard. I don't blame him for praying for himself. But it wasn't until he forgot himself and began praying for his friends that God began to restore his life. Now that's a challenging thought.

16 May 2006

A sticky situation

by Ben

I read Judges 14 today. A short one.

This is the story of Samson meeting a woman from Timnah (along the way he kills a lion that later has honey coming from the carcass). Anyway, in preparation for marrying her, he holds a feast, which many of her friends come to. At this feast, Samson challenges the attendees with a bet (over linen) that they cannot figure out a riddle:

From the eater came something to eat
From the strong came something sweet

The woman's friends get upset at not being able to figure it out, so they ask her to find out what it is from Samson. After much nagging (I can just picture the scene), he tells her about the lion and the honey. She tells her friends and Samson loses the bet. Subsequently, he goes out and kills many people in order to get the linen to pay off the bet. The woman then leaves him for the best man.

Oh...what a fun story. I don't really get much out of it other than entertainment. Especially as we approach a summer chock-full of weddings, I pray that none of the ceremonies are as eventful as this one!

My prayers go out to all of my friends who are preparing to be wed this summer!

Common Origins

I read: Hebrews 1-3

Have you ever read something and taken something away from it and found that, when you reread the passage, it's not there? I came away with this great thought that I assumed was in Hebrews 2 somewhere that Jesus had to trust in and rely on God with all his might to accomplish his mission here on earth, so how much more do we need to trust in and rely on God as just everyday, run of the mill, garden variety humans? But I couldn't find that when I went through it again. Weird.

So, here's what I did find: "Since the One who saves and those who are saved have a common origin, Jesus doesn't hesitate to treat them as family. . . ." Now what a cool thought that is. I've been thinking a lot lately about our relationships with God and how that really changes our faith if we can fully realize that so it's exciting to me to see this idea. Why do we work as a family? Because we have the same origin. That's obvious, I'm sure that we are all familiar with that idea. But what about the idea that "Jesus doesn't hesitate to treat [us] as family"? There are some mighty implications there!

I'm trying to resist busting out "We Are Family" but that resistance is thin right now.

The main implication: as bad as we want to be connected with God, he wants connected with us much, much more. That's his heart's greatest desire, to see us walking with him every step of the way. You don't go through all this trouble of creating individual plans of salvation for each of us, creating this grand salvation history, sending your son to die, and then sending your spirit to live in everyone should they desire if you don't really want every single person in the entire flippin' world to know who you are and that you love them. God's kinda crazy that way. But a good kind of crazy if you ask me.

It's an awful lot of work being God, but evidently we must be worth it :)

15 May 2006

Prayer Request

by Ben

I read Judges 11-13.

Not much jumping out at me today...some people fought some other people, a few different judges watched over Israel, the Israelites turn their back on God, then they come back to Him (multiple times), and Samson was born.

I'm putting this post up more for prayer. I've felt spiritually under attack in the past few days. There's nothing really wrong in my life; in fact, many things are going very well! But I've been tense, I'm getting frustrated easily, and I'm finding it difficult to connect with God. If you could, please pray for me. Thanks.

12 May 2006


I read: Hebrews

Warning: The long post has returned :)

Paul seems to be in a huge hurry to get this letter out. No fancy introduction about the grace and peace of Lord Jesus being with the audience here. Here's the start: "Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries." So, how's it going, Paul? Anything new, Paul? Nope, he has a message and it's here and now and it's time to pay attention.

At the risk of sounding theological, I want to bring up a fascinating idea called "dispensations." The opening to Hebrews that I just quoted is at the root of dispensations but one might also define them as the different ways that God relates to humanity throughout our history. For instance, the first dispensation is found in God and Adam and Eve. The dude is literally walking around in Eden with them. Then they're kicked out. The direct connection is lost, but God is still present and expecting people to live moral lives. This brings us through Noah and Abraham and then up to Moses. Under Moses we receive the Law and that defines our relationship with God as keeping rules and regulations and making sacrifices when we screw up.

Then there's the New Testament, a refrain of sorts: Remmanuel, God with us, again. The disciples walked side-by-side with God. Then we're separated for a short time as Jesus takes off and then does his cameo appearances throughout the final gospel chapters. And then we arrive in the one last dispensation that we're all still in: the sending out of the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

What an exciting time this is! Despite that 33 year blip, this is as close as we've gotten to God since Eden. The point of all this? God wants us near, he wants to be with us and he wants us to want to be with him. Certainly good news.

How do we know that he wants us near? He tries so hard. I don't think that God's Law Covenant failed (Paul addresses it later in Hebrews, so stay tuned!) and he decided that Plan B is sending in Christ. Not at all. Enter my speculation on dispensations that might be totally unfounded or, perhaps, unknowingly plagarized from someone else.

God loves cycles, he loves growth, biggest fan of metamorphosis ever. It's a very creative and patient creator who creates the life cycle of amphibians or the seed-to-plant process of our flora. Mammals go from two tiny litle cells to a larger combined cell to four to eight and so on. I might be labeled heathen by many for believing this, but there's very little doubt in my mind that God created evolution as his tool to bring life from nothing here on earth. Again, a process. And just like all of that, our relationship (as humans, but also individually) evolves with God. Observe:
  • God:Adam & Eve::Baby in the womb:Mom
  • Adam & Eve:Leaving the garden::Baby:being born
  • Pre-Moses humanity:God::Infant/Toddler:Parents (a pause to clarify: we live under our parents and begin to develop a list of good/bad but don't quite understand why something is good or bad, it just is)
  • Humanity under the law:God::Children/Teenagers:Parents (as we grow we begin to understand why our parents say things are good and bad and can begin to adapt to that with slip-ups occuring)
  • Humanity under grace:God::Grown children:Parents (at some point we begin to relate to our parents as peers, the laws of right and wrong aren't accompanied by grounding and forgiveness but by us making our own decisions)

And then, the part we're all waiting for: heaven, life in Christ's kingdom, being in God's hizzouse forever. That's our understanding of heaven really, the place we go after life and the next logical step of this progression. If it really does work that way, I think that is evidence of a God who knows what he is doing and has been very intentional all along. And that's why I'm glad he's in charge :)

(Disclaimer: I don't know if all this information on dispensations is necessarily 100% accurate [I might have created a few of my own in this list], but it's at least a good starting place to begin your own research if you're interested!)

11 May 2006


I read: Philemon

Short, short letter here, from Paul to a dude named Philemon who was keeping a church in his house. Here's what stuck out at me, a sentence at the end: "Because of your prayers, I fully expect to be your guest again." Prayers work. Faith is at its best when it's acting like the desired outcome has already happened. Combine the two and, as Obi-Wan Kenobi said, you're "more powerful than you could ever imagine." :)

09 May 2006

Get your broom!

by Ben

I read Judges 9-10.

I was really having trouble focusing today. Too many names of people to remember!

But one line stuck out to me:

"Then they cleaned house of the foreign gods and worshiped only God. And God took Israel's troubles to heart." (Judges 10:16)

Some days, you just have to stop, look around you, and clean house.


I read: Titus

"Take a firm stand on these matters so that those who have put their trust in God will concentrate on the essentials that are good for everyone."

Essentials? Worship. Fellowship. Evangelism. Mission. Ministry.

'Nuff said.

08 May 2006

Confusion over an ephod??

by Ben

I read Judges 7-8.

I'm really confused. Gideon seemed to be doing so well. Yet, after defeating the enemies of the Israelites, he asks for a gold earring from each person (that they got as plunder) and makes an ephod of it (yeah, I had to look it up too). This vestment, he places in his hometown. It says that "all Israel prostituted itself there. Gideon and his family, too, were seduced by it." The Interpreter's Bible says this:

"That it was a distinctively cultic object is certain, but whether it was an image, puch, vestment, or the like, cannot now be determined. The amount of material used in making it, the use of the expression put it in his city, and the fact that the Israelites played the harlot after it, are significant factors. The ephod in Ophrah was interpreted as the casue of the misfortune that later overtook the house of Gideon."

Then Gideon dies. What I want to know is WHAT HAPPENED???
Where did Gideon go wrong? He followed God...and yet turned his back!

I guess I shouldn't be surprised; we see this throughout the Bible and in our own lives. Why does this particular story bother me so much?

Models of Goodness

Before we begin, it's time to offer up a shout of praise and a prayer for guidance: my brother will be the interim youth director at JKPC over the summer! Must run in the family or something :) He has a while (just over a month) until he starts so prayers for God to prepare him and begin guiding him would be good things. And maybe that a certain Doug Fields book winds up in his lap too :)

I read: Titus

Currently one of the biggest challenges of my job is finding servants (we don't employ volunteers at QHPC; volunteers are folks with too much time on their hands, a servant is something who is purposefully serving a ministry [it's semantics, yet, but words do have meanings (and unfortunately some word habbits are hard to break)]). For instance, we have an overnighter coming up at the end of the week and I have yet to find a female leader. But under this new direction for youth ministry that is unfolding before our eyes and that we are apart of, it's not just our job to lead youth but to find leaders for us to lead who will in turn begin leading youth. This kind of hits home in the second chapter of Titus when Paul tells his protege, "Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and their children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives."

Not to contradict Paul, but I think that there's a lot more we can be teaching the young women in our lives than how to be good wives (although the qualities of a Christian woman will very easily translate into that). I think this is an especially relevant message for me today as I'm directing a group that is about 85% female and, well, I'm not. So, obviously, where I am giving Paul a hearty second is in the idea of finding virtuous women to help me lead the young women in my group. It's not easy, but it is necessary.

Our girls are facing challenges that we, as men, can't even begin to fathom. As guys I know we tend to focus on the guys in our group but, in some ways, we can be doing the girls a much greater service by providing the example of what a Christian guy looks like. Perhaps just as important is modeling what a romantic relationship should look like, whether or not we're in one at the time. In many ways, creating a higher expectation of how they should be treated by a guy can perhaps prevent many of the mistakes we see girls that age (and unfortunately much older) make by giving them hope that there are guys out there that will treat them for who they are: sisters in Christ and daughters of God.

So often it's our humor, wackiness, athletics, video game skillz, etc. that allow us to hit it off with the guys. But maybe it's the respect and tenderness with which we treat the women in our life that will most impact the girls who we are leading in a way that the games and the fun never will.

03 May 2006

Bulletin: Possible Tsunami

Hey, guys, just wanted to post a quick message about a prayer request. A pretty big earthquake hit in the south Pacific not too long ago, the same kind that could trigger another tsunami. In the possible path of the tsunami is Fiji, where most of my mom's family lives. So, prayers for safety for everyone in that region would be appreciated. Thanks!

Pure to the Pure

I read: Titus

I really did want to get back into the OT after reading 1 & 2 Timothy but my copy of The Message here doesn’t have the OT, a problem I intend to remedy soon (by buying a new copy, not gluing pages in). So, I decided to keep on trucking through Paul’s letters to the young church leaders. Titus is a very short book so it almost feels like cheating, but there is good stuff here nonetheless.

What I want to take a gander at is 1:15: “Everything is clean to the clean-minded; nothing is clean to dirty-minded unbelievers. They leave their dirty fingerprints on every thought and act.” I have a vivid recollection of my first encounter with this first in a short essay by John Milton against the censorship of books (yep, they were fighting those fights way back then) and he quoted this first as an argument that those with the hearts and consciences to read what some might consider objectionable should have the right to read it.

I still have yet to figure out if I agree with that statement or if that’s even what Paul intended. Theoretically, could possibly mean that someone of pure enough heart could view pornography and there wouldn’t be a problem with it? I guess the sin in viewing pornography is where the heart and mind go, not the images. The scary part of that is that I know my reaction would be lust but I claim to be a believer and Paul is equating my reaction with that of unbelievers.

I guess there are no conclusions with this post, just questions. Is Milton’s interpretation valid? Is Paul using hyperbole of some sort to prove something here? And this is where comments come in handy I think :)

Testing, testing...1, 2, 3

by Ben

I read Judges 6.

This section is all setup for Gideon. Gideon is similar to Moses in many ways. He is called by God to save the Israelites. He doubts his own ability. Here's where they differ: Gideon needs absolute proof from God; he asks God three different times (in this chapter alone!) for signs that he should obey the command that God, himself, gave him. All of that testing doesn't seem to sway God or even make Him angry. He just performs the signs (just like the miracles performed for Gideon's parents and grandparents).

I guess I am surprised that although Gideon tests God so much, that we are supposed to like him. Deuteronomy 6:16 says, "Do not test the Lord, your God." This sentiment is echoed by Jesus in both Matthew 4:7 and Luke 4:12. Yet, here we have an example of a man we are supposed to learn from doing that very thing.

Any thoughts on this?

02 May 2006

The Prophets


i'm back.

i really need to get with it.

so i'm going to study the prophets.

my companion will be a friend, Abraham Heschel, a Jewish scholar from the mid-twentieth century. prophecy is an interesting literary style because of it's sometimes dual meaning. what's important to first understand (and what i hope my Jewish friend will help me with) is that all prophecy had specific relevance to the time to which it was written. there were (relatively) immediate implications and responses to all the OT prophets. understanding this cultural context that surrounds the content is essential to expanding our ability to grapple and apply the scripture.

Heschel is brilliant...i highly recommend checking some of his material out. i'll be using his "The Prophets" book as a companion as i read through the OT prophets.

i leave tonight with a verse that i think sums up my interest & challenge in this study. the prophets understand that worldly desires were ultimately unfulfilling and often-times distracting. they remind us as such:

"Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories, glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord Who practice kindness, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the Lord"

Paul, reflecting later, reminds us...
"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

all boasting...all glory...it's all God's. and the prophets are the voice reminding us constantly of his due.

A Leading Lady

by Ben

I read Judges 4-5.

Yea! We have a woman leader in Israel! Deborah!

It's interesting to me: a few days ago, someone asked me if a woman would have had much authority in the time of Jesus, and yet, I look to these chapters in the Old Testament and one particular woman was written about as a prophet and a judge. "The People of Israel went to her in matters of justice" (C4. v5).

I don't know why this stands out to me so much. I guess I've grown up with the sense of a patriachal religion. Sure, there were a few lead females, but nothing to write home about. Yet...here, tucked within the pages of Judges is a lead female that not only does some great things, but gets a song written about her (all of Chapter 5). Whoa. Here's to you Mrs. Robinson. Excuse me...Mrs. Lappidoth. Way to go!

Eat This Post

I read: 2 Timothy

"You're going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food--catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They'll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you--keep your eye on what you're doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God's servant."

2000 years later and nothing has changed. Welcome our new spiritual junk food, a phenomenally selling book and a movie that will be out before too long. Yep, The Da Vinci Code. Normally I welcome stuff like this, stuff that challenges the Christian status quo, that invites discussion. Not this book. All I've got to say is this: if you're going to write a book of fiction, write a book of fiction. Don't label it as truth on the first page when throughout there are factual errors in every area, faulty logic, and ill-obtained conclusions. And then there's that Gospel of Judas thing going on too. It never ceases to amaze me that people are willing to go anywhere to learn about "Christianity" except the three places that make sense: Christians, the Bible, and church.

Concurrent with all this spiritual junk food, however, is solid teaching. It's out there to be chewed, swallowed, and digested as Sir Franic Bacon would advocate. Knowledge of the spiritual junk food is beneficial in many ways, but it's even more important that we commit to learning and staying on top of the solid teachings that are all around.

01 May 2006


by Ben

I know that this is strictly a devotional site, but I have to say that my Confirmation Class tonight was one of the most spiritually affirming points of recent days. Thank you Confirmands and God for your love and support!

There and back again

by Ben

I read Judges 1-3.

These Israelites just can't keep it together. They go back and forth between following God (when they have a tangible leader) and then going astray. God's anger and pity go back and forth for the Israelites because of their flippant faith (say that 5 times fast!).

It is disheartening to know that I am just like the Israelites. To think that as close as I am to God right now, that as early as tomorrow I could turn my back on Him. It makes me feel remorse...for my past lack of faith and for my future times of not trusting.

God, I pray for the ability to see and trust you always. Let your will be done even if I don't know what it is. Father, help me to seek you.


I read: 2 Timothy

There's a great quote from M*A*S*H where Klinger (the guy from Toledo who wears dresses all the time) is having a discussion with Colenol Potter (the head of the M*A*S*H) about love. I forget what it is Klinger says but this is Potter's response: "Listen, when you love somebody, you're always in trouble. There's only two things you can do about it: either stop loving 'em, or love 'em a whole lot more." I love that quote. Love is a wonderful thing, it's a beautiful thing, it's a crazy thing, it's a fun thing, but it's not an easy thing. To be blunt: it's a dangerous thing. A very dangerous thing.

Today, while reading 2 Timothy chapter 3, I found something that echoes this same sentiment in what Paul wrote: "Anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there's no getting around it." As Christians we're called to follow Jesus and love him (there's the love) and, just like Potter, Paul spells it out: because of that love, we're in it deep. What is the trouble with loving Christ? That we aren't going to be the same as when we're started. And the things about us that are going to change are not going to be the easy things: our lusts, our selfishness, all those things we keep hidden. We have to reorder and reprioritize everything we hold dear. Our friends and family are at risk: following Christ definitely has the power to divide us from those we love most. Finally, we're going to be at odds of the world. The world has done everything it can to get rid of Christ and that includes us as his followers. He said so himself, if they come after him, they'll be coming after us. Sounds like trouble to me.

But when you're in love and it's reciprocated, you might be in trouble but you're not in trouble alone. You have that person who is in just as much trouble as you are. And if you both commit to loving each other more, that's a grand and beautiful thing. If that's human love, imagine what it's like with God: he's loved us more from the start, he's just waiting for us to try and catch up. And when we do, we not only discover more of his love, we find the love of every other believer. More love for anyone to handle and way more love than the trouble could ever hope to touch.