"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 October 2006

A New Elijah

by Ben

Hey all! I was reading one of the Princeton Theological Seminary Institute for Youth Ministry Lectures online (http://www.ptsem.edu/iym/research/lectures/downloads/1996/1996%20Maas%20Piper%20or%20Prophet.pdf).

Wow...it is so inspiring. Exactly what I needed today. Often, I forget why I do what I do. Yes, I know that I'm supposed to point to God, but I sometimes get down because I focus on myself. In this lecture, Robin Mass reminds youth workers that we are to be like the prophet John. We are to point to the light, not be the light.

Mass ends her lecture with the challenge to become like a new Elijah: "This new Elijah is not someone who will have to go looking for young listeners. They will come flocking - because they are looking for the light. And they are ready to do something about it."


30 October 2006

Introducing Megan!

Last night I was talking to my good friend Megan and from what she was saying, it sounded like she might be a person who might benefit from the mighty spiritual exercise that is the dLog. So, I invited her. Let me do some introductions:

Megan Lutz is a med student at Medical College of Ohio in Toledo, Ohio. When she isn't buried under a mountain of school work she enjoys outdoor activities such as rock climbing, running, and hiking. She is also a seeker of fine literature and movies in addition to being an avid salsa dancer.

Ben George is a Youth/Camp Director at Christ Presbyterian Church in Canton, Ohio. An English major/theater minor graduated from Kent State University, Ben also has an interest in the finer arts, including Firefly/Serenity which just makes him an all-around good guy. He is engaged to be married to a wonderful girl named Kate next April.

The errant Joel Harris is also a Youth Director for the Chapel in Green, Ohio. Joel has a love for the outdoors that stems from his father's interest and also Boy Scouts. He enjoys backpacking, canoeing, rock climbing, and running primarily. When not doing any of that stuff, he has a passion for pornography (well, ending addictions to it) and Africa.

Matt Wiggins is the lead singer of the phenomenal pop sensation Si6x. Besides just being another pretty face, he's a frequent contributor to the New Yorker's cartoon section and often competes in Stamford, CT's annual crossword competition (he has placed 6th, 7th, and 5th in recent years). In addition to all of that, he is working on his culinary degree and hopes to open a wildly successful penguin themed restaurant in SoHo in the next 5 years, owed largely to his fame in the popular culture.


26 October 2006

See me after class

by Ben

I read 2 Kings 5-8.

There are lots of miracles in this section! People healed of leprosy (while enemies contract it), a fiery army scares off the army of Aram, the mere sound of a non-existent army scares off the Arameans again (feeding the Samarians during a time of famine), and many predictions of the prophet Elisha come true.

All of this section is written without God being the subjective noun. He is mentioned, but never from an active voice. Example: When Elisha is prophesying, he says, "But the Lord has shown me..." No where in this section does the text show God to be active. We don't get anything like in early texts (Joshua), "The Lord spoke to Joshua..." We get our descriptions of God through the human characters as opposed to from the authors. This seems interesting to me. Anytime you have a change in style, I think it is worth noting. We do get explanation from the author regarding the miracles that happen, but these are merely attributing the success of prophecies, not saying anything regarding God carrying them out. This shifts the focus from God to the godly men or men of God, specifically Elisha. Several times within this section, Elisha is referred to as "the man of God."

On my way to work this morning (when I normally listen to Christian radio), I prayed aloud in the car (I haven't prayed aloud in a long time). I realize that I feel compelled to lead a life of service for God, yet I find myself conflicted at what that means. I have never been more fully aware of God's presence, yet there are times when I lapse and completely forget even to think about God. I wish I could be like Elisha is in this section- always viewed as a man of God. I know that it is possible that I am like Elisha (in another way entirely). Elisha may have been viewed as a man of God and struggled like I do (he was human). Yet, we don't get that side of him. David and Solomon seemed like authentic characters to me, at least they were portrayed that way. You see their strengths and their weaknesses. Elisha comes across to me as flat; we don't see all of his depth.

I feel like I'm analyzing a student's writing. For me, these stories of Elisha are nice (and often feel-good), but don't feel authentic to me, because of Elisha's lack of flaws. Why, oh why is it written this way! Part of me thinks of Paul's letters, written certain ways to inspire certain people. Or the gospel of John, written so unapologetically to build up spiritual connections. The writing styles say so much depending on their purpose. I wish I knew more about the purpose of this style of writing as compared with that of just a few books earlier.

I ran out of titles.

  1. "You realize, don't you, that their personal angels are constantly in touch with my Father in heaven?" "(Matthew 18:10) - This is interesting and very perplexing. Why does an omniscent God need angels to keep tabs on us? Or maybe angels are part of God's omniscence. Huh. But yeah, the "their" refers to those young in their faith who might be taken advantage of. Don't. Do. It.
  2. "If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, doesn't he leave the ninety-nine and go after the one?" (Matthew 18:12) - I think that one of the hardest things for Christians and non-believers today is to accept that we're "sheep." That word stings because of the negative connotation give to it by today's society that adores individualism. It's hard for me to take too. But, even the most individual of us are still following someone. So, it makes sense that you pick your shepherd well, especially one who will find you at the risk of the others.
  3. "Haven't you read in your Bible that the Creator originally made man and woman for each other, male and female?" (Matthew 19:4) - This is how Jesus responds to the Pharisees' question of whether divorce is legal. When you read this did you automatically think that it was some response to homosexuality? Funny how that works. But, oddly enough, I think that this makes a pretty good statement. Christians and conservatives make a big deal about the defense of marriage. Marry this statement with the parable Jesus tells a few paragraphs up about the servant whose debt was cancelled by the king but then he demands repayment from another servant, and you have a pretty good roadmap on how to deal with marriage first. Mainly, take care of your own problems first: make sure your marriage is on the level and that marriage is protected and sacred within the Church first. Then, if there's time left over after that, worry about what everyone else is saying and doing to marriage.

Wow, that's a tangent from the question :)

25 October 2006


  1. "What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?" (Matthew 16:26) - Deal or no deal? No deal! As for the second question, in reality we can and do trade our souls for many, many things: love, acceptance, friends, power, materialism. Perhaps a better question (I hope this is just me questioning Peterson and not Jesus!) would be, "What could you ever trade your soul for that would be a fair trade?" The answer to that is nothing. And it doesn't end in a preposition either.
  2. "How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this?" (Matthew 17:18) - Wow, Jesus sounds fed up. I think so many times we have this image of Jesus being this yes-man weenie. Sure he overturned tables, but he's as patient as the day is long. He's not, and we get a glimpse here. I think it's a credit to Peterson's translation that we get this hard-edged of a Messiah, but I can't imagine it's not accurate (double negatives are a no-no). I'd be frustrated if I was dealing with me, let alone millions of me :P
  3. "Then the children get off free, right?" (Matthew 17:26) - This one is so very rhetorical I have to ask myself what I'll do with it. Did Peter lie to the tax man? I don't quite get it. But it's interesting to me that Jesus is quick not to raise the rancor of the tax men, not "upset them needlessly." This Jesus, he picks his battles well. Even then the IRS was intimidating, even to God! ;)

I don't believe my eyes!

by Ben

I read 2 Kings 1-4.

Elijah is taken up to heaven alive! His servant Elisha is made to be his successor.

This section gives us Elisha who seems to have a lot of similarities to other major figures from the Bible. He heals a boy in the same way as Elijah. He feeds a hungry multitude in the same way as Jesus. But let's put these miracles aside for the moment.

This immediately brings to mind when Jesus asks the disciples who people say he is. Peter's answer of the Christ gets him off the hook. However, many of us today are still trying to figure out a question that has already been answered. We look at the Bible, and the history of Jesus, and some of us are still prone to say: "Nope. Don't think so. Couldn't be true."

No matter how much proof there is for God, the Bible, and Jesus (woot, all three youth group answers), some people just don't want to believe. You have to want to know the truth. Some choose to remain willfully blind to the truth of the gospel. This is even more incredible to me than seeing Elijah taken up into the heavens.

23 October 2006

Questions Right off the Bat

  1. "You find it easy enough to forecast the weather--why can't you read the signs of the times?" (Matthew 16:2) - It doesn't take Jesus very long to cut to the question chase in chapter 16. Not without cause, however; some Pharisees and Sadducees are on him about proving himself to really be the Christ when he tells them this. Evidently the evidence is in plain view, they're just not getting it. Jesus' next statement is interesting: "An evil and wanton generation is always wanting signs and wonders." A thought that has been on my mind lately is that today we are smarter and more enlightened than previous generations, but why does it seem like we have more problems and more distractions? I think there's something to the homespun wisdom that you don't find in the cities or the universities; something that goes on the basic conceptions of morality and not overanalyzing or outseeking for answers and truth. Bob Dylan once said, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," and, like Jesus' statement, it is profound. Why do we need to know the weather? So we can dress ourselves accordingly. Step out in the morning and assume it will get warmer as the afternoon goes on and colder once the sun goes down. There's a possibility of rain at any time so have a rain coat or umbrella in the car. If it's cold enough, it might snow. And let me tell you how jealous I am of the snow that Columbus got today :(
  2. "Why all these worried whispers about forgetting the bread? Runt believers! Haven't you caught on yet?" (Matthew 16:7-8) - I don't want to say this for sure, but I'd say that Jesus is getting a little fed up. "Runt believers" is a pretty nasty thing to say to someone, that they're small and deformed in their faith. Yikes. I wouldn't want to hear that, especially from Jesus. But then again, the Disciples can be pretty dense and self-seeking. Just like anybody else, I suppose, so maybe this is a glimpse into Jesus' frustration with us. He loves us, but he's probably almost as frustrated :)
  3. "What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?" (Matthew 16:13) - You have to wonder about this question, or any question that Jesus asks. Why? Because he knows the answer. I wonder if after the reproach the disciples just got he was looking for a way to build them up again. The disciples answer this one right, but then there's the next one:
  4. "And how about you? Who do you say I am?" (Matthew 16:15) - Peter nails it on the head and answers correctly: "You're the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God." How does Jesus respond? "God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn't get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on the secret of who I really am. And now I'm going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church . . . " So, when Peter gets it right, he gets it really right. That's impressive and commendable. But also, check this out: I managed to tie this all back to the beginning question. Where does true knowledge come from? Not from our opinions or the opinions of others, but from God himself. If we want to be enlightened and wise, it won't come from a Ph.D. program but from the source and originator of all knowledge himself, God almighty.

The Neverending Story

by Ben

I finished out 1 Kings by reading chapters 17-22.

Elijah is a central influencing character in this section. Later, the prophet Micaiah takes this role. Both of these men do their best to let the reigning kings know what is going to happen and yet, the kings go against God's will.

This section is stylistically a mix of historical account and creative storytelling. I read it and felt as though I was reading about King Arthur and the Knights of Camelot. The writing had the same feel to me (possibly because of the similarity in plot between the death of King Arthur and 1 Kings 18:42-44). I think it is great to be able to read the Bible so many different ways.

I've been thinking about this recently after attending the most recent College of Wooster Lay Academy of Religion lecture. They had a professor in to speak about a feminist criticism perspective of Genesis. For clarification (because so many people get it wrong): feminism is not the pursuit of women overpowering men; it is the pursuit of women being considered equal to men. By that definition, I'm a feminist.

Continuing on, the professor didn't do what many thought she would do, which was try to look at Eve, maybe Sarah (Lilith already having been covered in a previous lecture) and a few other perspectives. Some thought she might even take a modern look at the fall. She did neither of these, which I actually appreciated. She took a very specific look at one story in Genesis that most of us glaze over: Genesis 34. I didn't remember this story of rape and revenge, even though I've read Genesis several times. (It's interesting what we choose not to see)

We broke it down and almost did a deconstructive criticism of the way that the story is written. I recommend you take a moment to read this chapter and pay attention to the verbs and who is doing them. Imagine that you are Dinah or any of the female characters. It's fascinating.

This all connects in my head. We have the Word of God in our hands and we have so many different ways to read it, each time getting more information from it. We could choose to read the Bible as we've done so far on the dlog. A study of a few chapters at a time. We could read it as a verse by verse study, focusing on every word (I recommend a translation that is as close to the original as you can get for this). We could read it as a story or a collection of parables. Maybe we seek guidance from the Scriptures or are using it in connecting with God. We could pay attention to characters or sayings that have significance or those that seem to merely be part of the background. We could notice only God's words, or only the responses of the people, or God's actions. We could choose to look at it from the perspective of men, women, Jews, Israelites, Gentiles, Christians, prophets, kings, commoners, God, Jesus, and any other number of individuals or groups. When we read, of course, we bring our own agendas and biases to the Scripture, often finding what we want to find. This process of reading and re-reading not only transforms our lives, but it transforms the way we understand God's letter to us. This collection of writings from God cannot be fully known as God cannot be fully known, but it continues to give us the opportunity to learn more about Him and His will for our lives. Sure, I know the creation story, but do I know it fully? Sure, I read 1 Kings 17-22, but have I completely exhausted the knowledge contained therein? No. No matter how many times I read the Scriptures, I will never have gotten everything out of it. That's exciting to me. A book that changes everytime I read it. Cool. Where's Falkor?

19 October 2006

Oooooh, SLAM!

By Matt

  1. "You too? Are you being willfully stupid?" (Matthew 15:16) - Jesus doesn't seem to have any patience with a rather slow Peter here. He's not getting what Jesus said about the Pharisees and Jesus calls him out on it, rather harshly. "You too" groups with with the Pharisees and then being willfully stupid . . . well, that just hurts.
  2. "Don't you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated?" (Matthew 15:17) - Yeah, I suppose I've heard of that in Biology class . . . But seriously, Jesus has a great point here. We do need to be careful of what we take in because it's going to have consequences. Everything we take in, comes out. So, we need to be careful with what we take in so that it will come out the right way. This could be movies and music, but it could just as easily be sermons and theology. We just need to know ourselves well enough to know how we will react and then stay away from the stuff that will be bad for us. And if we don't know these things, we need to avoid them completely. Too put it plainly: a movie isn't either moral or immoral. It's what happens in our head and how we twist and manipulate it that gives it its morality in terms of us. That's why we need to be careful.
  3. "How much bread do you have?" (Matthew 15:34) - This one kind of hits a little close to home. As you can probably guess, this is Jesus about to perform the miracle of feeding the multitude. With these fateful words he's inviting the disciples into his scheme. This is the second time it happens in Matthew and the disciples are clever enough to just tell Jesus how much they have and not comment on how little it is (they made that mistake last time). The big idea behind all of this is that Jesus can take our little and make it huge. This applies to all sorts of things: our money, our time, our talents. If we're willing to give it up to him, he'll take care of it and do far more than what we could have ever done or ever dream of doing. This story doesn't specify the origin of the fish and bread but, if it's anything like the other stories, it came from a little boy. He had little, but he gave it all. When he gave it up to the disciples, was it not an act of faith? How was he supposed to know what was going to happen with it? The disciples take it for themselves and he didn't get anything? That was a real possibility. But, he didn't worry about it. He gave and he gave freely.
This hits close to home for me because I have gotten out of the habbit of making regular contributions to the church and it's something I feel bad about. But, I'm also worried enough about my own financial state that I'm terrified to give anything. But here we have a story of a very brave young man who gave everything. I can at least give something, it might not be the whole 10% yet, but I have something to give. It will be an act of faith, and I'm scared to do it, but this story is a great reassurance that Jesus can do much more with it than I ever could and there are people out there who need it a lot more than me.

Chaos and Constancy

by Ben

I read 1 Kings 14-16.

Wow...lots going on in this section. Too much to summarize! So many people fighting and backstabbing and trying to become King of Israel. This was a very turbulent time, so the people must have been really turning to God, right?

Not so fast! These people were all worshiping other gods (not to mention building Asherah poles everywhere). Every new king that takes over does "even more [evil] than any of the kings before him." (Makes me appreciate even the messy politics of the US!)

The interesting thing in this section is that all of the events recorded are compared time-wise to the reign of the King of Judah. (remember: Judah split off from Israel) I think this is very important as it shows the focus of the line of David. We know that no matter what craziness and changes are happening in Israel, the line of David (and the descendants of the kingdom of Israel) are remaining constant. I'm interested to see if this continues.

18 October 2006

Great Handling

By Matt

  1. "Are you starting to get a handle on all this?" (Matthew 13:51) - I think this is pretty similar to the "Are you really listening?" question, Jesus is highlighting the importance of what he just said. And it is very important because he's going through the tricky yet important business of detailing what the Kingdom is like. Maybe not what it is (perhaps we're not really capable of getting that), but we can get the impression that it's rather important by reading his preceding statements.
  2. "Faint-heart, what got into you?" (Matthew 14:31) - This is Jesus chiding Peter for losing faith in the midst of a stroll on the sea. While I think that Jesus was directing this question at Peter along the lines of, "Why did you lose heart?", maybe it's possible that he was asking Peter what prompted him to try something so crazy in the first place. Maybe Jesus was even a little impressed with Peter's faith to step out of the boat. I realize that most people cluck their tongues at Peter's goof here, but it's a pretty amazing thing that he actually even tried. That might be the mustard seed kind of faith that Christ is looking for after all.
  3. "Why do you use your rules to play fast and loose with God's commands?" (Matthew 15:3) - Ziiiiiing! This question is Jesus throwing one right back in the phaces of the Pharisees. They asked him, "Why do your disciples play fast and loose with the rules?" and that's how he responded. This is just the start of Jesus' more sensible approach to how we ought to live our life. The Law is a good guide, to a point, but it's the greatest commandments, to love God and our neighbors, that really determine whether what we do is wrong or right. This is Jesus cutting clean through to the heart of the deal and giving them whatfor. Go, Jesus.

Spiritual Life

by Ben

This may sound really dumb, but it is amazing what your fiancee, a fellow youth worker, and a senior pastor can do for your spiritual health.

I read 1 Kings 11-13. Solomon messes up. His foreign wives did exactly what God said they would, they led him astray and got him to worship other gods. God tells him that He will take the kingdom away from his family, specifically his son. Solomon's son, Rehoboam, after taking the throne, listens to the advice of his young friends (as opposed to the advice of the older counselors who had advised his father) regarding an issue the people bring to him. The people revolt because of his wickedness (and poorly chosen decision) and he is run out of office, left with just the tribe of Judah to follow him. The rebel leader Jeroboam takes over and begins to build shrines to Pagan gods and create festival days for those gods. And even though there are many prophets who pretty convincingly prove that he is in the wrong, he did not turn from his evil ways.

It's amazing how much I don't know about the history of my faith. I am just astounded at my personal lack of knowledge. Even moreso, I am shocked at how many times people need proof of God. I know that I grew up wanting proof of God's existence. Looking at the history of the Israelites should be enough to convince any unbeliever, yet why is this such a struggle? Why do even practicing, believing Christians have times of doubt? Why do we turn our backs, when we can clearly see through the accounts of the Old Testament that we can't do it on our own, let alone do it better than God?

All of this makes me think about my life and imagine what if the events of my life were recorded in a text. Would I look like the foolish Rehoboam? I hope it would be like David or maybe Joseph. Obviously, the goal is Jesus.

Father, grant me the heart of your Son. Allow me to live my life for your will. I pray that my life teaches the lessons of the faith and helps others to grow closer to you. Amen.

17 October 2006

Questions, Questions, Questions

By Matt

I feel for ya, Ben. I slept 9 hours last night and I'm still yawning! You'll be in Matt's prayers though :)
  1. "What do you make of this?" (Matthew 13:3) - This is how Jesus introduces the parable of the variable terrain: road, gravel, weeds, and good earth. It's interseting because he doesn't explain it until much later. This is a case of Jesus wanting us to think for ourselves before he just gives us an answer, a reminder that loving God completely involves loving him with our brains.
  2. "Are you listening to this? Really listening?" (Matthew 13:9) - I think you can say that when this phrase shows up in The Message, we're meant to be paying attention. Check. And this is definitely a very important story. It reminds us that we are one of those types of ground primarily, but at different times we choose to be different types of ground. We need to choose to be good ground if we expect to get anywhere. And, as leaders, we need to recognize those whom we lead as being different types ground and not all of our seeds are going to fall on the fertile. Which is why we must keep on sowing, even when it feels futile.
  3. "Are you listening to this? Really listening?" (Matthew 13:43) - Here's this question again! It comes right after Jesus spends considerable time hinting at the Kingdom. I say hinting because it is not an explicity explanation. It's just traces here, glimpses there. Putting them together we might come close, but we're not going to get anywhere if we don't listen at all.

Spiritually Tired

by Ben

I've been keeping up with my reading (1 Kings 7-10). But today I'm asking for prayer. I feel rundown and have for a few days. I'm praying for help in re-energizing me and my ministry. I trust God and it's not that I feel far away from Him. I just feel very tired. If you could mention it in your prayers, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

12 October 2006

Religious History

by Ben

Hey all. My days are all kinds of weird this week, due to an overnight retreat at Wakonda that may or may not happen this Friday. So, my apologies about the sporadic posts this week. Anywho, I am posting today not about Scripture that I've read, but about two different religious learning experiences that I've had recently. The College of Wooster has something called the Lay Academy of Religion, which hosts 6-week seminars every fall. Every Wednesday night, they have a different speaker in to talk about a particular subject. This year, the academy is focused on Genesis. The first two weeks talked about the creation story. Last week, they had a rabbi in to address Genesis from a Jewish perspective. This week, a professor of Islamic Studies from John Carroll University came in to talk about Islam's connection to the Abrahamic tradition. I knew next to nothing about Islam or Muhammad prior to the evening. Wow...what an interesting experience. I found out that the people of Islam view Christians similarly to the way that Christians view Jews. There was so much here, you'll have to ask me about it to find out more.

The other recent religious learning experience that I had was taking a trip to the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage near Cleveland. They have an exhibit in titled "The Cradle of Christianity." This exhibit shows artifacts from the time of Christ and other times described in the Bible. Both Old Testament and New Testament locations are shown in relation to each other. There are stone water jugs (sorry, no wine), tiled floor maps, and artifacts from Jewish and Christian worship from the 1st to 5th centuries. Also within this exhibit is a piece of the dead sea scrolls (I believe from Deuteronomy). Our guide was very helpful in explaining the connections between Judaism and Christianity.

Between these two experiences, (in two days) I have learned more about the two faiths that are closest to my own than I had in the rest of my life.

11 October 2006

Questions Part Something

By Matt

  1. "How in the world do you think it's possible in broad daylight to enter the house of an awake, able-bodied man and walk off with his possessions unless you tie him up first?" (Matthew 12:28-29) - This is kind of a weird question. Most of Jesus' rhetorical questions contain metaphors or analogies that are pretty clear. This one doesn't. I suppose it's saying that Jesus' power to cast out demons comes because he's able to "bind" the devil. Weird question.
  2. "How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded?" (Matthew 12:34) - I guess you can't really. Poisonous water will flow from a poisonous pond. It's our motivation that determines the morality of our words.
  3. "Who do you think my mother and brothers are?" (Matthew 12:48) - I can't say for sure, but it has to be a pretty unique thing that God allows us to be in his family. More than that, he wants us to be in his family. Holy cow, that's pretty sweet. And part of him wants to be our brother. That's no small fact, folks, that's a revolutionary, world-changing idea. God wants you to be apart of his house.

10 October 2006

An Invitation

By Matt

Finally, a new kind of question, and then two more rhetoricals :)

  1. "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?" (Matthew 11:28) - This is probably one of the best passages in The Message, maybe even the best question followed by the best answer. If you answer yes, Jesus has a simple answer for you: "Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace." Now I really have no idea what all is included in the "unforced rhythms of grace," but I want it. And Jesus has it.
  2. "Didn't you ever read what David and his companions did when they were hungry, how they entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat? And didn't you read in God's law that priests carrying out their Temple duties break Sabbath rules all the time and it's not held against them?" (Matthew 12:3-5) - A big sigh of relief here for all us youth workers who end up so busy on Sunday: it's not held against us. Jesus knows that the priests know so this question is rhetorical. But, it's no doubt a good reminder.
  3. "Is there a person who, finding one of your lambs fallen into a ravine, wouldn't, even though it was a Sabbath, pull it out?" (Matthew 12:11) - The answer is a resounding, "Of course!" And it should be. It's strange to me how people can so easily misunderstand the Sabbath when it's laid out so clearly in the Bible. Oh well, at least they're following a very long precedent :)

Seeking Wisdom

by Ben

I read 1 Kings 3-6.

Solomon is now king and seems to be following God's will.

"When given the chance to have anything in the world, Solomon asked for wisdom so that he could lead well and make right decisions...Notice that Solomon asked for wisdom to carry out his job. He did not ask God to do the job for him." ~A commentary in the Student's Life Application Bible

We see this wisdom in the story of the two prostitutes laying claim to a baby. We all know the story: Solomon says to cut the child in two and the real mother says to let the child live. Does this glaze over us? Have we lost the meaning and power of this story? Sure, the message is simple enough, but I think repetition has blurred the importance of this kind of wisdom. Most of us today don't know how to handle conflict, and even moreso, we don't know how to think. We do things either by rote or by instruction. Thinking and wisdom have gone by the wayside. "Why know something when we can look it up?"

We see this in every facet of life: from schools to the workplace. I know that I do it. I know that I let slip opportunities for growth and learning when it is much easier to pass it by. The rest of the commentary relates:

"We can ask God for this same wisdom (James 1:5)...We should not ask God to do for us what he wants to equip us to do ourselves. Instead we should ask God to give us the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to follow through on it."

So let's get to the prayer:

Father, we come to you seeking guidance. Lead us in our daily lives as we try to emulate Jesus. Help us to know what to say and what to do in our decisions. Allow us kingdom vision that we might be able to know what to do to enact your will. Be with us this day as we try to live faithfully in your grace and strive to accomplish the work that you have put before us. Lord, thank you for the opportunity to serve you. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

09 October 2006

Q & A

By Matt

I think that when I finish Matthew in The Message, I might do Mark in the NASB or NRSV or maybe NIV. Just to get a more literal translation. As much as I love this translation, I think a lot of these questions are more Peterson's phrasing than Jesus'. And that's okay, it's just an exercise that requires more literal translating.

  1. "What did you expect when you went out to see [John the Baptist] in the wild? A weekend camper? Hardly. A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. What then? A prophet?" (Matthew 11:7-8) - Here we see Jesus explaining who John the Baptist is and what his significance is as well. He's a wild prophet, no doubt about it.
  2. "Are you listening to me? Really listening?" (Matthew 11:15) - Just for fun I looked this up in the NIV and instead read: "He who has ears, let him hear." So, not quite the same at all, not even a question really. However, it's an important one and also one that becomes a refrain throughout the Gospels in The Message. It's entirely possible to read through an entire chapter and not really do anything but look at the words. I like this questions because it reminds us that listening deeply is a requirement.
  3. "How can I account for this generation?" (Matthew 11:16) - I don't really understand this question. I think it's just a general rhetorical one.
  4. "Opinion polls don't count for much, do they?" (Matthew 11:17) - Nope, they don't. Unless you're polling the trinity :)

Calvinist revenge?

by Ben

I read 1 Kings 1-2.

Solomon is appointed as the new king of Israel over his brother Adonijah. There is a neat little exchange between David and his son Solomon in Chapter 2, verses 1-9:

"I am going where everyone on earth must someday go. Take courage and be a man. Observe the requirements of the Lord your God and follow all his ways. Keep each of the laws, commands, regulations, and stipulations written in the law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go. If you do this, then the Lord will keep the promise he made to me: 'If your descendants live as they should and follow me faithfully with all their heart and soul, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.'

"And there is something else. You know that Joab son of Zeruiah murdered my two army commanders, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. He pretended that it was an act of war, but it was done in a time of peace, staining his belt and sandals with the blood of war. Do with him what you think best, but don't let him die in peace.

"Be kind to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead. make them permanent guests of the king, for they took care of me when I fled from your brother Absalom.

"And remember Shimei son of Gera, the man from Bahurim in Benjamin. He cursed me with a terrible curse as I was fleeing to Mahanaim. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan River, I swore by the Lord that I would not kill him. But that oath does not make him innocent. You are a wise man, and you will know how to arrange a bloody death for him."

Whoa! A very powerful part of Scripture here. David has basically said three things: 1) Follow God; 2) Keep my friends; 3) Get my enemies.

Now, parts one and two make sense to me, but part three seems to leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. We're not used to the idea of revenge being promoted (particularly by a man of God). Mind you, we can certainly understand the justification for David's feelings toward those who have betrayed his (and by association, God's) loyalty, but aren't we supposed to let God dole out the justice?

I don't pretend to have the answer here, but maybe we can learn from the rest of Chapter 2. Solomon doesn't go out seeking these enemies of his father. He doesn't go out of his way to pay them back. They in different ways come to betray him, and he gets to enact his father's justice. Perhaps this was orchestrated by God?

05 October 2006

What, If, Is

By Matt

It's honestly embaressing how unoften I'm dLogging lately. I really need to get after this, especially since I have had opportunities and quickly forgotten them thinkign I'd get back to it. No good.

  1. "What is the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right?" (Matthew 10:29) - This is hearkening back to some questions Jesus asked earlier, no big surprises here. Yes, we're worth more than a canary and more to God and yes he will take care of us. On an unrelated note, I wonder how many of these questions are Eugene Peterson's invention. Perhaps I should have gone with a more literal translation for this exercise. Hmm.
  2. "If you turn tail and run, do you think I'll cover for you?" (Matthew 10:33) - One thing can be said for most of the questions that Jesus is asking: they're easy. No, Jesus, if we reject you we shouldn't expect you to not reject us. But, I have a feeling that you will accept us again if we only ask.
  3. "Is this what you were expecting?" (Matthew 11:6) - Aha, expectations, one of my favorite themes of the Gospels. John the Baptist's disciples have come to Jesus to ask him if he is the Messiah. Jesus hands them a laundry list of what he's doing, blind are seeing, lame are walking, lepers are healed, etc., and asks if that's what they're expecting. He doesn't continue by saying, "If you said yes, then here I am!" Rather it's a much more ambiguous answer: "Then count yourselves blessed." Perhaps Jesus is saying that while so many were looking for a warrior king, if these guys were looking for the simple acts of reconciliation, they were looking in the right place and much, much better off.

03 October 2006

No Post

by Ben

Sorry all. No post. On a program planning retreat today. Have a good one!

02 October 2006

A song

by Ben

I read 2 Samuel 21-21.

I'm going to focus in on chapter 22, David's song to the Lord.

This chapter is much like the Psalms in that it is a song to the Lord. Why, oh why is it included here? Let's take a look at the introduction of the chapter: "David sang this song to the Lord after the Lord had rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul."

In looking through the ideas that David covers in his song, we start to see that this is the ultimate Psalm. It contains almost all of the emotions that David covers in his Psalms.

Why am I finding this so important today? Well, recently, my life has been very good. Things just seem to be going my way. Good things keep happening to me. I want to make sure that I do two things in relation to all of this: 1) I want to thank God in whatever ways I can. 2) I want to record this sense of connection to God so that when times seem bleak, I can reflect on this feeling and remember that God will pull me through.

So, without further introduction:

Where would I be without you, God?
What would I do without your incredible guidance?
I would be lost. In a foreign city without connection, without love.
But you are here, ever-present, leading me with wisdom.
All I have, I offer you. Lord, let my life be a mirror of you.
You have given me strength when I am weary.
You help me to persevere when the work you have given me seems impossible.
I know that you are right in front of me, even when I can't see you.
You have opened the heavens shown me your Kingdom.
You have filled me with your life, so that I may breathe out your words.
When my enemies are near, you show me a way through the struggle.
Although I may not always know my next step, the Lord is there before I take it.
My Father blesses me and deserves my praise.
The Ruler of Life should be given all we can offer.
I will offer myself before your throne, my God.
You are my friend. You are my Lord.