"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 July 2006


by Ben

I read Psalm 6-25.

I felt led to do a larger chunk of reading today. It was interesting to watch David's emotions over the course of the Psalms. Yet, all the while, he still trusts God. He may be in dispair or have been attacked, but he calls on God. And when something has gone well for him, he praises God for bringing him through adversity.

Wow. I want that kind of faith. I want for God to be the first thing in my life. To look to Him first in times of need and to immediately praise Him for the good things He gives me. I was thinking earlier today that I have trouble seeing the wide range of my sin. Don't get me wrong, I know where my trouble spots are, but I wasn't seeing the breadth of my sinning against God. Today's reading is beginning to help me see that in my lack of constant connection to God, I am sinning. I, like the world, still only look to God during times in the extremes: when I am desperately in need or when I am obviously blessed. I have to remember to keep God with me throughout all of my life. The spiritual disciplines help me to remember that. If only I could keep up doing them on a regular basis!

Matt has been talking a lot about our relationship with God as being the primary focus of Christianity. I have to agree...if we took our connection to God as serious as we take our friendships and intimate relationships, the way we look at life would be a lot different. As a child, I remember my parents telling me that life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to what happens to you. The quality of the 90% changes a lot depending what you base your life and actions on. I know that in the past two years, I've been closer to God and as part of that, my actions (and reactions) have been more positive to the 10%. However, I have a long way to go. I'm trying to imagine what I would be like if I walked as closely with God as He wants me to. Think about that for a second, He wants us to walk with Him (and not just for a little bit either).

We know what we have to do to walk closer with God. Yet, why don't we do it? Are we afraid? Sure, we're afraid of losing what we have (look at all the disciples had to give up). We're afraid of the unknown that comes with following Christ. However, God has told us what will happen and that He'll take care of us.

This is the especially difficult part for us Christians. a) "God hasn't been specific enough about my future." b) "Can I really trust God? I mean look at this time in my past. Where was God then?"

We are not much different than the Israelites turning their backs on God (seemingly every day). This could bring us back to the discussion of the Holy Spirit being with us now, but I feel led to take this discussion back toward the idea of our connection to God. God wants us to be with Him. In his book, Running on Empty, Fil Anderson suggests that the responsibility for our relationship with God is up to God. He goes on to say, however, we have to create opportunities for God to speak with us. This means taking time away from the other (very much important) aspects of our lives in order to be with God. What does that mean for you? I don't know. It is up to you to figure that out. Just take the time. Right now, because you may not get to later.

27 July 2006


I read: Hosea 1-4

I mentioned Hosea a couple of posts back ("Playing the Field" ) and my fascination with this story I hadn't yet read. Here's the basic idea: God calls a prophet, Hosea, marry a whore and then start a family. Her name is Gomer (her parents must have hated her). Tigers don't change their stripes very easily so it isn't long after marrying Hosea that Gomer goes back to being a whore (Pretty Woman this ain't). This unfaithful relationship is pure analogy: Hosea:Gomer::God:Israel. It's a very beautiful analogy though and it plays off a favorite and recurring theme for me lately, understanding Christianity as a relationship, not as a religion. So, I have been eager to jump into Hosea to say the least.

However, jumping in proved that the water is a bit murkier than it looks from the surface. I'm always fascinated at the depth of God's analogies, whether it's the symbolic acts God perpetrated with the Israelites or Jesus' parables. There's always layer upon layer to peel away and look deeper. So, it shouldn't have surprised me to start reading Hosea and found those same layers here as well.

The first thing we see in the first chapter is Hosea following orders, marrying Gomer and then starting a family. And boy does he start a family: three kids in so many years. The children are named Jezreel (a good Hebrew name), No-Mercy (what?!), and Nobody (and you thought Gomer was bad). I'm going to admit, I don't really get this. The names are symbolic but I'm finding that Hosea is probably more about Israel and God than about us today and God. However, there is definite application that goes both ways. I am going to have to do some research.

So, that's some fun for today. Not many thoughts, just me trying to make sense of Hosea's thoughts :)

25 July 2006

Robust Community

I read James 1-5

Normally this would have gone up yesterday, but Blogger was down when I went to post so it's coming up today :) Also normally, I should post about chapter 5, but something smacked me upside the head when I read chapter 3 that I decided to write about that instead: "You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor (3:18).

The mission trip that we went on exactly one month ago opened my eyes to the extreme divisions along age lines in my group, and also how destructive it could be to someone new who has that as his or her first experience of Christian community. Nothing was overtly hostile, maybe a few rude interactions, but indifference can say a lot too. So, I've been thinking about the situation a lot and trying to come up with ways to deal with it since it evidently has not been dealt with before.

So, as I get to the point where I will be dealing with this stuff sometime when I get back next month, this verse is especially important to me as it lays a foundational understanding of what it takes to create a community that "lives right with God." It takes, foremost, hard work. A community doesn't just get along. Living in community is not something that just happens in the absence of conflict between individuals. Living in community only happens when everyone involved works to prevent conflict and encourage mutual respect and love. More than that, we are called to treat each other dignity and honor that arises from our status as God's children, the status that equalizes all of us in his eyes as brothers and sisters in Christ.

So, get ready, Quail Hollow Youth, we're going to be reading this one a LOT in the coming year :)

Alone Time

by Ben

I read Psalm 5 and ate breakfast with God today.

24 July 2006

Shake the devil off

by Ben

I've really felt under spiritual attack today. For those who don't understand what I mean: I'm not doubting God or His power. I still have the belief structure I did yesterday. What I mean is that I have noticed a strong pull away from God through the events of the day. (yes, this even happens at the church) I don't feel that I should bore you with the details of what happened. These weren't major things (no one died, I haven't had any relationships end); they were just minor things, but combined they were drawing my attention away from God and making me angry at those around me. I forgot to trust God's providence and that He can pull me through anything.

However, I found that when I tried to pursue God or seek His wisdom, that the pressure to turn my attention away from Him increased. In my reading today, which was Psalm 4. I found these words:

"For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by stringed instruments.
Answer me when I call, O God who declares me innocent. Take away my distress. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
How long will you people ruin my reputation? How long will you make these groundless accusations? How long will you pursue lies?
You can be sure of this: The LORD has set apart the godly for himself. The LORD will answer when I call to him.
Don't sin by letting anger gain control over you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.
Offer proper sacrifices, and trust in the LORD.
Many people say, "Who will show us better times?" Let the smile of your face shine on us, LORD.
You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and wine.
I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe. "

"Take away my distress"
"Don't sin by letting anger gain control over you"
"'Who will show us better times?'"

I pray for joy in this time of spiritual struggle. God, I praise you for my inability to easily find you. I am reminded of Anna who prayed for years to see God and had to wait until near the end of her life. I pray for the ability to trust you. I offer myself to you. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

21 July 2006

Back into the Wilderness

by Ben

Just a short note that I will be out of the office today. I'm going to take a look at how another camp runs a program like Wakonda's (kinda like camp window shopping). So, no official post today, but I did read Psalm 2. What a political mess! Anywho...have a great day!

20 July 2006

Back to it

by Ben

Hey all...sorry again for the extended absence. Matt, I will be going through the back-dlog entries to catch up on my reading! However, for my return post, I will include some musings and prayers from my summer at camp:

Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

Give me the strength to trust you. I love you and i know that you have done so much for me. I praise you for leading me here, to this sacred place. God, thank you for giving me the opportunity to be around such incredible Christians. Help us all to trust you. And to give you thanks when you do lead us to glory. I ask for your hand to be upon all of the counselors and kids who come to Wakonda - may they always seek to do your will. Abba, help me to serve your kingdom. Regardless of where I end up - I know it will be for your glory! Father, help me to always remember that; it is not about me!


Now, on with today's reading:

Psalm 1 (New Living Translation)

I thought it was appropriate that I get back into the habit of daily Scripture reading with the Psalms. Yes, I must admit that while at camp my daily reading slipped a lot. I still did my devotional, but I failed to keep up reading and journaling. But in getting back to it, I thought that the Psalms, which are filled with people who run the full range of emotions, yet still seek God, would be the most appropriate for me right now.

I am hoping to do my daily reading in the Lectio Divina approach to Scripture. That's how I began today and came upon the phrase "bearing fruit each season without fail." While focusing on this phrase, I came to the understanding that my goals in life have often been out of alignment with God's purposes. For too long, I have been loving and following God because of the benefits that I've been told I will receive. Such as in this passage, I totally miss the part that says "they delight in doing everything the Lord wants; day and night they think about his law." There's a shift of perspective here. They "delight" in doing what the Lord wants. Sometimes I delight in it, but those times are often when things are either going well or I can see the positive results coming my way. When things are tough, I barely trudge through. In my prayer time today, I thought, "I really want to be able to bear fruit each season without fail." I think that God is showing me that even if that fruit is spiritual growth in others, that my focus should not be on the fruit, but in what allows me to bear it and that is my connection to Him.

I've been reading "Running on Empty" by Fil Anderson over the course of the summer. Mr. Anderson speaks a lot about having a wrong view of God and subsequently having wrong motivations in regard to spiritual activity. The book reads like my biography. I teach, preach, and share the good news and yet, I can't seem to act out what I am talking about. I work at my spirituality, but with the intention of better showing others how to do it. I read Scripture, but with the intention of looking for verses that would impact other people. While these goals may be noble, they aren't what God is asking of me. I haven't been seeking God. I have been seeking information.

God, I pray that you forgive my blindness. I know that I need to be comfortable just being with you. Help me to stop using you and start seeking you. Thank you, Father, for the gift of understanding. Allow me to be able to just be with you. Thank you, God.

13 July 2006

Playing the Field

I read: James 1-5

One of the things that has been on my mind a lot lately is the idea that Christianity is more about relationship than religion. Sure, that's fine to say and know, but being able to believe it and understand what all that entails is a very difficult thing to do. I also think that it is a big matter in God's mind as, the more I look for mentions of it, the more I'm finding. I'm really intrigued to start reading some other books in the Bible that deal with it more specifically. But, for today, I found just a bit more tucked away in the 4th chapter of James and that's what I want to contemplate at this time.

"You're cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the wolrd every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn't care? The proverb has it that 'he's a fiercely jealous lover.' And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you'll find . . . Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quite playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet."

In the book of Hosea we meet the prophet of the same name. His book is one of the more interesting of the prophets: God commanded him to marry a prostitute. Not only to marry her, but to have children with her. From what I know, his wife wasn't very true to him either. At all. But that's what makes the story even more remarkable: Hosea:Prostitute::God:us. As James puts it so aptly, through Eugene Peterson, we cheat on God. We play the field, keep our options open. Which might not seem like a bad idea, except that we can know from the Bible, from our teachers and elders in the faith, and from our own experience that God's way is always the best way. But so often we're the dirty, skanky lover, reappearing with the morning mumbling and sputtering that we're sorry, so sorry and that it'll never happen again. Then 24 hours later we're doing it again.

God's love is a true love, a changing love and the scariest and best thing we can do is to open ourselves to that love and let God begin to change us. How does he change us? Not by manipulation or altering our genes, but just by loving us and showing us the best way possible.