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

27 September 2006


by Ben

Sorry for the dlog dlay!

I read 2 Samuel 16-20.

David's son, Absalom (who has taken over his throne), is tricked and killed in battle. David mourns the loss of his son, yet must be proud of his army (so they don't abandon him). He returns to Jerusalem and the men of Israel and the men of Judah are upset about how much time each group is spending honoring their returned king. Sheba, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, speaks up and leads a revolt against David (yes, another one!). David appoints his nephew, Amasa, to be in charge of his army instead of his other son, Joab. Amasa rallies the troops, while Joab takes some men out to chase after Sheba. Along the way, Joab kills Amasa and has the army come with him to get Sheba. They get Sheba's head (without a major battle) and return home. Joab is then reappointed as the head of the army.

I feel like I'm reading Judges again! There's no commentary on Joab's behavior!

He kills his cousin for what we can only assume is jealousy. His cousin has been appointed to the position that he once had. He kills him along the side of the road and covers up the body.

I realize that I merely want to see justice. It's like when somebody does something illegal (or even just inconsiderate) on the road right in front of me. I want to see them punished! This is one of those areas that makes me get frustrated. Anger burns in my heart as I think, "How can God let him get away with that!"

I went back to the Scriptures while writing, and found a commentary about this chapter entitled "Justice" (ironic, huh?). It reads:

"Once again Joab's murderous treachery went unpunished, just as it did when he killed Abner (3:26-27). Eventually, however, justice caught up with him (1 Kings 2:28-35). It may seem that sin and treachery often go unpunished, but God's justice is not limited to this life's rewards. Even if Joab had died of old age, he would have to face the day of judgment."

How soon do we forget that this life is temporary... I know that we all will have to face God and defend our life. Yet, in the moment, I shut down my theological thinking and focus on the moment and let anger and resentment eat away at my mind.

Father, please help me in these times to remember your will. To remember that there's more to this life. Help me to trust you. I know that I should not judge others in these moments, as I am just as guilty. I pray for your forgiveness - for me and for them. Though we both deserve your punishment, I want that you would not give it. Lord, be with all of your children today; help them to find you and to understand their relation to others through you. Thank you Father. Amen.

22 September 2006

Now That's a Good Question

By Matt

Out of the rhetorical teaching questions and into some legitimate ones that Jesus is asking those who are interacting with him, hot dog!

  1. "Why this gossipy whispering? Which do you think is simpler: to say, 'I forgive your sins,' or 'Get up and walk'?" (Matthew 9:4) - This is a trick question, 'cause isn't one just as easy as the other? I think so. But, as Jesus says, he'll do both just to prove he can. I think it's funny and strange how at time Jesus is hesitant to proclaim his true identity, other times he's brazen and almost sarcastic. I think a lot of it is just understanding the context and perhaps some of it is just from not being in the culture.
  2. "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick?" (Matthew 9:12) - Well, the sick, obviously! But who do we, as the Church, put our effort into treating? The healthy. I get very discouraged when I see programs cut or groups barred from certain rooms because the powers-that-be in a church are afraid it'll get dirty or broken or messed up. That's crap, absolute crap. When our comfort comes before the souls of those who need help, we're focused on the healthy and, in essence, have lost our true focus.
  3. "Do you really believe I can do this?" (Matthew 9:28) - On paper this might be rhetorical, but I think Jesus really wanted to know. Except that he would know, wouldn't he? I don't know. But, there's something to be said for saying something. I know Lisa loves me but she still tells me that and I tell her, even though she knows I love her too. There's something said for just the simple affirmation statements. What a simple way to pray: "I believe in you!" "I believe you love me!" "I believe that you sacrificed everything for me!" "I believe they, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Okay, maybe not that last one :)

20 September 2006

We are Annointed

by Ben

I read 2 Samuel 11-15.

This section contains David's lusting for Bathsheba, David's son's sister is raped by her half-brother, and David's son plots rebellion, sending David into hiding. I have been reading the Psalms outside of the dLog and I am beginning to make some connections between my readings. David's anguish and pleading in his prayers to God (as described in the Psalms) make sense when you see the situations he is going through. In many Psalms, he begs for Gods help from the enemies all around him. Yet, he remains firm in his faith and seems to always turn to God for guidance.

For most of us, prayer is a pretty tough thing. Sometimes it feels like talking to a brick wall; sometimes we embarrass ourselves and feel like we are telling too much to a God who already knows what we are dealing with; sometimes we just don't know what to say.

We can learn a lot from David. It was understood that the king was appointed by God to be in his position ("God's annointed one"). We are the same way. We may not be kings, but God has made it possible for us to be where we are right now. And in order for us to stay connected with God in this fallen world, we must pray and read and maintain the other spiritual disciplines (some call it re-enacting the Holy Drama). David shows us that no matter where we are at in our lives that we can turn to God (AND HE WILL BE THERE!).

19 September 2006

Eggs and Trust

I read 2 Samuel 6-10 while having breakfast at a local diner.

Some important story points:

David recovered the Ark of the Covenant. He defeated some more people, and ended up getting into a war with the Ammonites while he was trying to be nice.

The main point for today: Reading and eating today were very relaxing - hooray for getaways from the office! Also, and I think this is even more significant, is what happened after eating:

The waitress brought my bill and I pulled out my credit card. She informed me that they don't take any cards. PROBLEM!!! I don't carry cash. I mentioned that there was an ATM down the road and she said she'd check with the manager. She came back and said that he wasn't too worried about it and that I should bring in the money whenever I get time.

Wow. No scrubbing the dishes, no leaving my driver's license whilst I run and get cash. No, just good, freshly toasted trust. What a nice surprise on an early Tuesday morning!

18 September 2006

Sinning for the Right (not Conservatives)

by Ben

I read 2 Samuel 1-5.

With Saul dead, David's power begins to grow. In these chapters, we see the last of Saul's followers either killed or deciding to follow David. An important note: David doesn't do any of the killing of Saul's followers. He doesn't even order their deaths.

In fact, he does the opposite. When a soldier returns from the battlefront and tells David that he killed Saul (in order to prevent him from being taken or killed by the Philistines), David has him killed for betraying the Lord's anointed one. Later, when two men come to David, having killed and taken the head of Saul's main follower, King Ishbosheth (who had laid claim to the rest of Israel), he orders them to be killed for murdering an innocent man.

I guess this section is a prime example of why we shouldn't sin even when we can see the benefits for others from that sin. It reminds me of something I heard in a story the other day:

A boy is caught stealing apples in order to feed his sick mother. Tragic, yes...but it can be difficult for us to see it as that the boy is hurting the vendor by his action.

In the story, the boy is let off because a nearby cobbler (makes shoes, not made of apples) pays for the apples taken. Sound familiar? Someone else has paid for our apples. To explain further though, the cobbler tells the boy not to steal again, but instead to come and ask him for food when it is needed. Similarly, we should not continue to sin (even if it helps someone else); we should seek God's providence.

13 September 2006

Nerve, Love, and Cowards

By Matt

Finally got to the end of that long sermon Jesus was doing with all the rhetorical questions, thus only two out of three on those today!

  1. "Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt?" (Matthew 7:2) - No, I rather suppose I shouldn't actually. But I do. I find it very interesting that all of humanity has such a hard time understanding that sin is sin and no sin is better or worse than any other. All sin boils down to one thing, not showing love to God or neighbor. The consequences of each sin may be different in severity or longevity, but the act is the same in God's eyes. Still, we try to create hierarchies that allow us to feel better about what we've done. We're all sinners and we all need to get right with God before we try to tell someone else how to get right.
  2. "So don't you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?" (Matthew 7:11) - This is an interesting question for me at this time. Last night, on a whim, I picked up C. S. Lewis' A Grief Observed. For those who don't know, this book is basically just Lewis writing in his journal after the death of his wife, Joy. Obviously he's distraught but the lengths and depths of his despair are profound and surprising. Here we have one of the foremost Christian apologists, a great writer of immense intellectual capacity who has written some of the best fiction and non-fiction dealing with Christianity and he has the nerve to call God the "Great Vivisector" and "Cosmic Sadist." You can feel Lewis' great sadness and loss when he says these words that are only the more shocking because they come from him. By the end of the book, however, he comes back around to seeing the love that God has for him, even in the tragic loss of Joy, even though it's hard and at first he doesn't want to see it. The simple answer to Jesus' question is: yes, God's love is unsurpassed and unsurpassing and there's no question he loves us, even if it will eventually kill us.
  3. "Why are you such cowards, such faint-hearts?" (Matthew 8:26) - Again, another question that hits hard after yesterday. The doctor's appointment brought much better news that the rather half-informed nurse imparted to Lisa the day before. Cancer is the least likely of the reasons for the cyst being there and that's great news. Yet, even though I knew in my heart that if she did have cancer that it wouldn't change anything important, I was sill afraid. Afraid for a lot of reasons. But look at the list that doesn't change: God's love for her, our love for each other, her family's and friends' mutual love . . . what else is more important? We have that assurance all the time and that's why we have no reason to be cowards and faint-hearts.

12 September 2006

What Not to Wear

By Matt

I barely made it through a page today before I reached five Q's. Jesus is all kinds of question asking in the beginning of Matthew and, curiously, four out of five deal with appearances. Let's get to the questions! (Most verses are approximate thanks to The Message's numbering system.)

  1. "It's obvious, isn't it?" (Matthew 6:20) - Jesus is again being rhetorical, this time referring to the fact that our "treasure" is in constant danger of being destroyed (true story: a few days ago I was throwing some trash in the dumpster when I found a shoe rack, an item I was very close to purchasing last week at Wal-Mart but I was to cheap too; while I was walking back to my apartment some guy exclaimed, "You found some treasure!" It was weird.). So easily destroyed? It's not permanent, that's why. Unlike what God gives us, which is permanent, should we chose to accept it. So, Jesus, the answer is yes.
  2. "Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch?" (Matthew 6:27) - Nope, not that I'm aware of. Cue the Eccelesiastes keyword: meaningless!
  3. "All this time and money wasted on fashion--do you think it makes any difference?" (Matthew 6:27) - Nope? This one kind of hit me a bit. If you look at me it's pretty obvious that I'm not the most fashion-forward kind of person but I have been buying more clothes than usual lately. I guess that I'm just trying to assemble a wardrobe that actually fits me and that I can use to go to work. Luckily 90% of everything I've bought has been on sale, so hopefully I'm off the hook :)
  4. "They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color or design quite like it?" (Matthew 6:29 - "They" and "it" here refer to the wildflowers of the field. God made them naturally beautiful. So, is Jesus' implication here that we're made beautiful as well? I'm not quite sure. Maybe the message is this: it's what's on the inside that counts. Where have I heard that before?
  5. "If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers--most of which are never even seen--don't you think he'll attened to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?" (Matthew 6:30) - Aha, there's my answer I was looking for. It's not about being beautiful in any case, it's knowing that God takes pride in you, he watches out for you, and he does everything for your benefit. I think that's a tad bit more valuable myself.
In wanting to finish up this page chapter I read the last verse:
"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."
What an important verse for me today. Two weeks ago Lisa went in for an ultrasound to find out if there was anything weird going on since she had some symptoms of ovarian cancer. She finally heard back from the doctor yesterday and the news isn't as hopeful as we would have liked, she has a mass on one of her ovaries. We're going back in today to hear more and hopefully it's going to be better than it sounds right now. It's so hard not to immediately jump to conclusions about what's going to happen and it's so hard to remember that, as the verse in question 5 says, God attends us and he does everything for our benefit.

As you can imagine, prayers would be appreciated right now :) Thanks!

Faith - an every day thing

by Ben

I finished off 1 Samuel by reading chapters 23-31.

We learn more about David and Saul's interactions. Even though Saul hates David (and chases him throughout the country) David does not return the anger. Twice David allows Saul to live, when all those around him think he should finish him off. David stands firm on the ideal that Saul is God's annointed one.

The tension between Saul and David continues even to Saul's death (he was killed by the Philistines). There's a neat little commentary regarding Saul in the Student's Life Application Bible. It reads:

"Saul's death was also the death of an ideal - Israel could no longer believe that having a king like the other nations would solve all their troubles. The real problem was not the form of government, but the sinful king. Saul tries to please God with spurts of religiosity, but real spirituality takes a lifetime of consistent obedience.

Heroic, spiritual lives are built by stacking days of obedience one on top of the other. Like a brick, each obedient act is small in itself, but in time the acts pile up, building a huge wall of strong character - a great defense against temptation. We should strive for consistent obedience each day."

I think if there is one lesson that all Christians need a refresher on, it is this one. We often think that we've "got our prayer time in" or "done our spiritual work for the day." This isn't a 9-5 or even 9-noon (on Sundays) kinda thing. We have to work at fighting sin. We have to strive to follow God's path. Every moment of every day.

11 September 2006

Getting Rhetorical

By Matt

I picked up on 4 questions for today, all of them fairly rhetorical so I'll be the jerk who answers them anyways :)

  1. "Is that going to get us anywhere?" (Matthew 5:38) - When I wrote this out on my pad of paper after finding it, I wrote, "Is that going to get you anywhere?" However, "you" isn't the pronoun Jesus uses; it's "us" instead (ever notice there's an "us" in Jesus?). Maybe the more amazing thing in this question is that God is counting himself as one of the humans. If "eye for an eye" isn't going to work for humanity, it's not going to work for divinity.
  2. "If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus?" (Matthew 5:46) - No, I guess I shouldn't.
  3. "If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal?" (Matthew 5:47) - I expect that Jesus is talking to northerners here ;) But seriously, this question and the one above it point out how silly our attempts at love can really be when all we're doing is loving at the bare minimum level. Our call is to "love extravagantly."
  4. "Do you think God sits in a box seat?" (Matthew 6:5) - This one makes absolutely no sense out of context so I'll back it up. Jesus is talking here about people who go into great theatrics during prayer to make sure God notices. The answer to the question here is no, God doesn't sit in the box seat. If you're up on stage, here's up there with you. If you're sitting in the seats, he's there too. We don't have to play to the box seats, God is with us whether we're calling to him silently or out loud.


by Ben

I read 1 Samuel 18-22.

Instead of going through the reading for today, I will be taking prayer time for the victims of 9/11.

07 September 2006


By Matt

I read: Matthew 3-5

Papa's got a brand new bag. To change it up, I'm going to go through the book of Matthew and look at the questions that Jesus asks. That's all. I'm going to stop when Jesus asks a question, write it down, repeat it here, and then think it through on here. I might do a couple questions or a couple chapters, just see how much I end up reading or where I feel like stopping. Keeping it real, keeping it loose.

  1. "Will you baptize me?" (Matthew 3:13) - Don't look it up, it's not realyl there. Matthew doesn't record what Jesus really said to John or how the exchange took place, but you know there had to have been a question there. So, I'm counting it. Anyways, John protests, Jesus should be baptizing him! But no, Jesus has bigger plans and responds by saying, "God's work, putthing things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism." Huh. I don't even begin to understand what the significance of all that means. I know that God worked hard to create this salvation plan that he's enacting through Jesus but I don't know why baptism is so integral to it. But, if baptism is that important to Jesus, maybe it should be that important to me.
  2. "If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?" (Matthew 5:13) - Ah, the infamous salt and light talk. Jesus wants us to be salt, to make things tasty, to all people. I've never tasted salt that has lost its saltiness so I kind of wonder how it tastes, like nothing? Probably. Is it still unhealthy if you eat unsalty salt? I have no idea. But salt here is a good thing, a very good thing. And there's a simple answer to Jesus question: they won't be able to taste our godliness (maybe that's a rhetorical question actually). So, obviously, the message here is: don't lose your saltiness!
  3. "If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you?" (Matthew 5:14-15) - Again, I think this one is rhetorical, but still significant. Just like a candle, we have a purpose: to shed light, to illumine the dark places around us so that others might see why we shine so bright. And if we do find ourselves placed under a bucket? Burn all the brighter until that bucket lays in ashes around us.


by Ben

I read 1 Samuel 15-17.

Saul has messed up and God has turned His back on him. God's got a new man for the job of King of Israel and we meet him as the young shepherd boy, David. David is a pretty good kid, decent harp player, and although the youngest of his family, he gets some pretty quick promotions. In chapter 17, we get the full David vs. Goliah match.

The whole time while reading, I kept hearing Rufus Wainwright in my head. Separate from the dlog, I have been reading the Psalms and I am looking forward to pairing up the two images I have of David. Too often, I forget that the big names of the Bible were once children (in reality, some of them were children when they did what they were famous for). I guess that only strenthens Paul's charge to Timothy (and all young people).

06 September 2006

God the . . . Gardener?

By Matt

I read: Hosea 13-14

This is kind of weird, but I ended up finishing out Hosea, more specifically chapter 14, with another new image of God, another metaphor for our relationship with him. But this one isn't really a human-to-human relationship, we're talking a gardener-to-garden relationship. Check it out:
I will make a fresh start with Israel.
He'll burst into bloom like a crocus in the spring.
He'll put down deep oak tree roots,
he'll become a forest of oaks!
He'll become splendid--like a giant sequoia,
his fragrance like a grove of cedars!
Those who live near him will be blessed by him,
be blessed and prosper like golden grain.

Catchy, eh? Now that might not seem to gardener-ish, but check out this from James 1: "In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life."

Catchier, eh? And here's the good news: when we let the gardener do the gardening, and not us plants, we will experience growth and bounty like we've never imagined. What's the bad news? Hope you like the smell of fertilizer . . . ;)

I’m a Saul Man

By Ben

I read 1 Samuel 11-14.

In this section, we begin to learn more about Saul, the new king. He is brave and knows how to rally troops. Sounds like he should be a decent, albeit fierce, king. But chapter 12 brings us Samuel’s farewell address and a warning of Israel’s sin in asking for a king in the first place. God is not happy. Well, Saul gets the Israelites into a battle with the Philistines, and his son Jonathan is instrumental in defeating them.

Saul makes some really stupid decisions throughout this section. He seems like a good guy, trying to do a good job, but just doesn’t always use his whole brain. A few times, while in a hurry to get into battle, rushes through the important part of seeking God’s blessing (sounds like most of us in our everyday life). And then, he decides that it is a good idea to motivate his troops by saying, “Let a curse fall on anyone who eats before evening – before I have full revenge on my enemies.” Jonathan, who hasn’t heard his father’s declaration, eats some honey and gets into all kinds of trouble for it. Saul is ready to kill him (literally) and the people ask for him to be spared.

As I am looking back through what I have read today, I noticed that the upcoming chapter 15 is titled “Saul Fails to Obey.” Man, don’t you hate it when the prophets are right?

I guess I feel like I could be Saul. I’m not saying that I necessarily relate to him or agree with what he does, but the way that his story leads up is almost a Hollywood script:

(::Read in the movie guy’s voice::) A young farm boy, while on an errand for his father, meets up with a mysterious prophet, who tells him that he will become the king of all Israel. Through war and family conflict, King Saul is faced with impossible decisions that could bring about the end of his nation. Coming to an Odeon near you!

Okay, so maybe it is more of a Disney plot, but this coming-of-age story has more behind it. The Student’s Life Application Bible has a commentary on Saul that helps us to understand the point of this story:

“During his reign, Saul had his greatest successes when he obeyed God. His greatest failures resulted from acting on his own. Saul had the raw materials to be a good leader – appearance, courage, and action. Even his weaknesses could have been used by God if Saul had recognized them and left them in God’s control. His own choices cut him off from God and eventually alienated him from his own people. From Saul we learn that while our strengths and abilities make us useful, it is our weaknesses that make us usable. Our skills and talents make us tools, but our failures and shortcomings remind us that we need a craftsman in control of our life. Whatever we accomplish on our own is only a hint of what God could do through our life.”

05 September 2006

God the Mother?

By Matt

I read: Hosea 11-13

I hate to say it, but God comes across as kind of bipolar. The last few chapters of Hosea have been God railing against the people of Israel and Judah, just absolutely pissed off. Then you get to chapter 11 and it's an incredible about-face:
How can I leave you to be ruined like Admah,
devastated like luckless Zeboim?
I can't bear to even think such thoughts.
My insides churn in protest.
And so I'm not going to act on my anger.
I'm not going to destroy Ephraim.
And why? Because I am God and not a human.
I'm The Holy One and I'm here--in your very midst. (11:7-9)
Wow, like I said, quite a change of tune right there. But that's not the most amazing thing about this chapter even! I began reading Hosea because I was fascinated with the idea of God the lover as being an analogy for our relationship with God, but right here, smack in the middle, I ran across the other big analogy: God the parent.

How many people hesitated there when I said "God the parent" instead of "God the father"? God the father is what we're used to hearing and we see it played out in many different ways throughout the Bible (the father of the prodigal son, for example). But, what struck me about this chapter, is that the imagery that surrounds God is not that of a father (well, it could be I suppose), but of God the mother. Observe: "Then I lifted him, like a baby, to my cheek, that I bent down to feed to feed him." Doesn't that sound fairly motherly?

I find this interesting because so many of the images we have of God are masculine. However, I think it's safe to say that God isn't tied down to one gender and it's apparent that he has traits common to both genders, these verses being a good indication of that. In fact, I'd say we get a fuller picture of God when we can imagine him both as mother and father. But none of this is the point: God loves us with an unconditional love to which our own relationships with our parents can't even hold a candle. It's a fierce, protective love that he has for us, no matter how we've wronged him. When he sees us, he doesn't see a sinner but rather the child that he brought into the world for whom he cares very much. You want to talk about good parenting? All of us have it from the very best.

Israel's Sins

by Ben

Hey all! Vacation was great, but I'm glad to be back at it!

I read 1 Samuel 8-10.

Israel wants a king. God has taken this as a rejection of his leadership and uses the prophet Samuel to appoint the new king, Saul. What follows is a neat prophetic way of proving that Saul should be king. However, I want to focus on the warning given to the people of Israel (1 Samuel 8:10-18). Through Samuel, God warns Israel about the negative things that a king will do (a hefty list). They shrug it off and say, "Even so, we still want a king."

And again, Israel turns their back on God.

A few posts ago, Matt spoke about Hosea's list of Israel's sins. When I read the Old Testament, I can understand the frustration that God must feel with each of us. Thanks to Christ, we don't have to suffer God's wrath. We get the caring parent, not the disciplinarian. Part of me just wondered what would modern day be like if Christ hadn't died for us. Would we live like the Israelites of the Old Testament - sinning, being punished, and then asking for forgiveness? Would we think more about our sins before we commit them?