"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 January 2007


By Matt

I read: Song of Songs 7-8

Even though I've read through several passages of praise for one's lover, I never really thought about the implications that brings. Evidently these two are warm for each other's form (I love that phrase) but somehow it doesn't come across as shallow or false when they talk constantly about just how good the other one looks. So, with that in mind take a look at this from chapter 6:
The feelings I get when I see the hight mountain ranges
--stirrings of desire, longings for the heights--
Remind me of you,
and I'm spoiled for anyone else!
I know the feelings that mountains can give and I know that comes from their God-given beauty and splendor and, well, that's a good thing. We're supposed to feel that way, recognize God's majesty and creativity. And if Solomon is experiencing the same thing lookin' at his woman, well . . . that can't be a bad thing, can it?

I already knew it wasn't, I was just messin' with you. Or really just trying to arrive somewhere. People say it a lot lately, but it's also true that people often forget that God gave us desire and sex and love. Why? Because he loves us and wants us to understand some of his goodness. The love we experience here on earth is a pale reflection of what he has in store for us and, just like everything else he's created, it's "good."

There is, of course, distortion and misuse of his creations all the time, but those are just that, distortions and misuses. However, what he has given us has its time and place and is meant to be used there. The stirrings we have for our lovers, when coupled with backed-up opinions and a committed relationship are, well, bomb-diggity. God is good and he gives us good gifts.


by Ben

Sorry that I haven't posted this week. My life is out of routine. I intend to be back on here next week. I have been reading, taking quiet time, and walking with God, but I just haven't been posting about it. Again, I apologize.

In Christ,

30 January 2007

Second Opinions

By Matt

I read: Song of Songs 4-6

As unexpectedly as he left, the Man returns and evidently there's no hard feelings. He's happy to see her and begins describing her beauty again. But there is one thing that is a little different at the end of his litany this time:
Everyone who came by to see her
exclaimed and admired her--
All the fathers and mothers, the neighbors and friends,
blessed and praised her. (6:9)
Instead of just his opinion, we're getting other people's opinions. His family and his friends--all the people whose opinions he trusts--seem to concur with this findings.

There is wisdom in this. Love is a tricky tangle of emotions and sometimes rationality just isn't present. Thus getting a second opinion makes sense here. The pastor who preached at the retreat I attended last weekend related that when one of the married men in the room met his wife-to-be he went around asking different people what they thought about her. He basically did his homework before he really began to pursue her so he could make sure he knew what he was getting himself in to.

So while it may not be that romantic to have to get a potential lover checked out, it makes sense. And then when others start confirming your opinions? That's a great feeling too. And not just because it means you have such great taste. Loving someone is about friendship and family and there's nothing greater than when you can integrate the one you love into both those areas of your life.

29 January 2007


By Matt

I read: Song of Songs 4-6

I know I had something really clever picked out for this 5th chapter when I wrote up the 4th chapter last week but, alas, I forgot it. Not completely unusual for me, eh?

But, anyways, here's what I got. Halfway through the chapter we get an inversion of an event that already happened in the book. Earlier the woman ran out into the city to find her lover and was successful. She was excited and overjoyed and everything and the night watchmen were helpful. However, when she runs out into the city at night in chapter 5 she can't find him and the night watchmen beat her up and her lover is no where to be found. So, yeah, pretty different.

But how did she end up in this state? It all starts with her bathed and in bed and not willing to get up to answer the door when he came a'knockin'. Eventually she relents and is glad he's there but by the time she gets to the door (oh, the problems of living in a palace with the wait staff gone for the night), he's gone. Thus the search.

So, is what happens a punishment? Why such a different outcome to her foray into the city? Far be it for me to say, but it could be one not so entirely logical conclusion. The moral of the story? Answer the door promptly. Or perhaps, be ready to respond to your lover quickly lest they get tired of knocking and go get a hotel room.

Something like that ;)

25 January 2007

Today's Psalm

by Ben

I read Psalm 1-11 (in the Message).

I experimented a little today in my reading. I know that many have prayed the Psalms in the past as a means of connecting to God. The monks at the monastery I visited last year use the Psalms as their guide for prayer and worship (getting through all of the Psalms in two weeks). So, I thought, how would it be to read these aloud, trying to capture the emotion of the writer?

And other than half expecting the custodian to walk in, it was an awesome experience. Having read through the Psalms before, I kinda knew what to expect. But not having gone through them using Peterson's translation before made for an eye-opening experience. (For all of you doubters of The Message,) this is one book of the Bible that it makes perfect sense to have a modern language translation. No other translation I've read captures the emotion of the Psalmist. Couple the wording with being read aloud and it is certainly a powerful time with God.


By Matt

I read: Song of Songs 4-6

Basically chapter 4 of SoS is the man describing the woman using very strange analogies and metaphors. While some of the descriptions are undoubtedly flattering, others are, well, strange. Sure, any woman would be glad to hear that her lips are "jewel red" but I'm pretty sure others would be rather shocked/offended that their hair "flows and shimmers like a flock of goats in the distance." As if we needed more proof that times change :)

Chapter 5, if you were to venture there, is reciprocity on the woman's part. She describes what she loves about him and what makes her warm for his form. And that's what I'm getting at here, what makes this part important. Loving someone is fine, but it's also very important to tell that person how much and why you love them. And sometime a part of that is just how beautiful/handsome she or he is. I think there probably gets to be a point (at least from what I've seen in movies) where couples just assume that the other knows and that's when "the fire dies." However, it's the mark of this truly in love couple that they go on and on about each other, and I'm sure it's duly appreciated.

24 January 2007

On the Job Training

by Ben

I read Job 1-42.

I guess I've really been getting into these last few books...because I find myself reading all the way through them (and it doesn't seem forced). They really interest me because you get the human side of the story. As I read through them, I can understand the feelings and emotions of the characters.

For example, as Job is debating with his friends about wisdom and the nature of God, I can see my friends and I sitting in a Starbucks having the same kinds of conversations (hopefully, with more love and care for the hurting individual). But I think it is interesting to hear what the "wise men" of Job's day were thinking about God. For those of us who have doubts, fears, questions, etc. regarding God (raise your hands!!), it is awesome to be able to see that people who lived in a completely different place and time felt some of the same feelings and wondered some of the same things.

As I read more of the Old Testament, I am inspired in my faith walk. So many times, we imagine the big names in faith to have gotten everything right. It is nice to read that they were human just like us and faced the same kinds of disbelief and misunderstanding of who God is and how He works.

23 January 2007

Esther's Song

by Ben


I read Esther 1-10 while listening to Marilou practice on the organ. It was beautiful intertwining of text and music. I'm going to attempt this more often and I'll try to relate as much as I can here next time.

On the Lookout

By Matt

I read: Song of Songs 1-3

I get the impression that opinions on whether or not Song of Songs means anything beyond a tale of love and marriage and sex has changed. Some say it's a metaphor for Christ's love for the Church, but more recently it seems like that idea has fallen out of favor. However, if you look at the opening stanza of chapter 3, I can see at least a tenuous connection to Jesus' parable of the 10 virgins. They were all waiting to meet their bridgegroom but only five of them were smart enough to bring extra oil for their lamps. So, in other words, they were prepared. In Song of Songs the woman is missing her bridegroom as well and goes out looking for him through the city. It doesn't say if she was well-prepared or not, but she does seem to be earnestly looking, which is the point of the parable if I have it right.

So, that's the thought today: active, not passive; whether it's our relationships with Christ or with the ones we love, they deserve more than the love that just comes naturally.

22 January 2007

Right Time, Right Place

By Matt

I read: Song of Songs 1-3

While the whole of Song of Songs is rather disjointed and hard to grasp to our Western minds, it probably made a whole lot more sense to the Easteners who wrote it and heard it originally, with their decreased dependence on chronological narrative and all. However, one of the things that keeps it together is this sort of refrain that pops up every now and again:
Oh let me warn you, sisters in Jerusalem,
by the gazelles, yes, by all the wild deer:
Don't excite love, don't stir it up,
until the time is ripe--and you're ready.
It's interesting that in a book wholly dedicated to discussing love that the common thread that holds it all together is a warning about love. But I guess there is an important distinction; Song of Songs warns about incomplete love, unfinished love. Full-fledged and fully-formed love? By all means.

This is an important warning though. In another book Solomon rightly decrees that "there is a time for everything under the sun," love is obviously not an exception. I think that so many of the problems we see with sex and broken relationships come from not understanding full-fledged and fully-formed love. People want to rush into love, to get to the physical union before the rest of the bonds have been formed. In this scenario the reward is the goal, not the love itself.

So what does Song of Songs love look like? Take a look further on in chapter 2 at what the woman says: "My lover is mine, and I am his." And that's it. No exceptions, no conditions, no clauses. Not "My lover is mine, and I am his for the next fifteen minutes" or "until she wants " or "until I have to meet her parents." Forever is the implied sentiment there. And that quality of foreverness is when you know you've reached the SoS love. When the goal is being there for each other, sacrificing for each other, loving each other, serving each other, respecting each other, and honoring each other forever, you've got it. Not on the good days, not when there's money in the bank account, not when there's no one else, but forever.

When's the right time to stir up love? When you're ready to keep stirring for the rest of eternity.

18 January 2007

Nehemiah's Blog

By Ben

I read Nehemiah 1-13 (the whole book).

As I read this book, I started to think, "Hey wait, this guy seems to be making himself look good." As though Nehemiah were writing this book for later generations and trying to make himself look noble. As I read more, however, I began to see that this was very much like a prayer journal. Most of the book seems to be written to God. Could he have been telling the truth about all of his exploits? Was he really that good of a guy?

We can tell within the first chapter of Nehemiah that he was writing this while looking back at his past: "In those days I was the king's cup-bearer." I assume that I am not close in age to Nehemiah when he wrote this book, but in looking back over my past, what do I remember that I would journal about. More importantly, how do I see my past self? Did I do things right? As I remember my life, I remember being different ways with different people or in different places.

Eugene Peterson's intro to Nehemiah sheds some light on this:

"Separating life into distinct categories of 'sacred' and 'secular' damages, sometimes irreparably, any attempt to live a whole and satisfying life, a coherent life with meaning and purpose, a life lived to the glory of God. Nevertheless, the practice is widespread. But where did all these people come up with the habit of separating themselves and the world around them into these two camps? It surely wasn't from the Bible. The Holy Scriptures, from beginning to end, strenuously resist such a separation.

"The damage to life is most obvious when the separation is applied to daily work. It is common for us to refer to the work of pastors, priests, and missionaries as 'sacred,' and that of lawyers, farmers, and engineers as 'secular.' It is also wrong. Work, by its very nature, is holy. The
biblical story is dominated by people who have jobs in gardening, shepherding, the military, politics, carpentry, tent making, homemaking, fishing, and more.

"Nehemiah is one of these. He started out as a government worker in the employ of a foreign king. Then he became – and this is the work he tells us of in these memoirs – a building contractor, called in to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. His coworker Ezra was a scholar and teacher, working with the Scriptures. Nehemiah worked with stones and mortar. The stories of the two men are interwoven in a seamless fabric of vocational holiness. Neither job was more or less important or holy than the other. Nehemiah needed Ezra; Ezra needed Nehemiah. God's people needed the work of both of them. We still do."

'Nuff said.

17 January 2007

Ezra's Blog

by Ben

I read Ezra 1-10 (whole book).

Weblogs are great things. For the writer, they get to share the events of their day, feelings, and even creative writings. For the readers, it is a chance to see inside of someone else's mind. You get to learn more about your friends or favorite celebrities than you could by just reading a simple bio. You get to read the actual words of that person, which allows you to see what that person was thinking when they wrote their blog.

That is exactly what the book of Ezra is like. We, as readers, get to see inside Ezra's thoughts. At the beginning and the end of the book, he writes about the events that are going on around him. But throughout the book, we get his perspective on things, such as after he receives a letter from King Artaxerxes allowing him to get what he needs for his mission, we read:

Praise the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who made the king want to beautify the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem! And praise him for demonstrating such unfailing love to me by honoring me before the king, his council, and all his mighty princes! I felt encouraged because the gracious hand of the Lord my God was on me. And I gathered some of the leaders of Israel to return with me to Jerusalem.
I think the point that I'm trying to make here is that we, the readers, are getting a direct connection to the author and to the heart of his story. We aren't getting this through a witness or through someone who collected stories together. We are getting the details from the one who was in the middle of it all. It would be like reading one of the gospels written from Jesus perspective.

This really hits home to me. If you aren't getting the power of the way this is written, read Ezra 9:3-15. It is like reading right out of Ezra's prayer journal.

Ever since Matt (and his youth) rewrote Luke into modern language, I have been struck by the idea of the Biblical figures keeping personal journals. To explain Luke 2:19, Matt's group wrote, "Maria wrote it all down quietly in a private post on her Xanga." In our age of shared thoughts and ideas, this makes sense to us. It may seem a little silly, but through Ezra, we can see that the notion isn't far off. What would it be like to read the internal thoughts of some other Bible characters?

16 January 2007

Singing Solomons

By Matt

I decided to take Ben's advice for my new dLog direction: Song of Songs, a.k.a. Song of Solomon. And it's kind of funny that I'm going in this direction since I am engaged as of yesterday. So, SoS seems strangely appropriate :)

I read: SoS 1-3

SoS, if it's about anything, it's about love and marriage and sex. However, I found something interesting that I hadn't expected here. In 1:15 the man says, "Oh, my dear friend!" Friendship! Friendship forms a basis for these other three relationships, not to mention the rest of Christianity. Last week I was really inspired and challenged by a speaker at the Princeton Forum who lectured on the underappreciated yet integral concept of friendship in Christianity. Being together with friends in deeply intimate, sharing relationships is one of God's greatest gifts yet somehow completely undervalued by Christians. While I think it's right and appropriate to spend time alone with God in quiet time, it's interesting to note that Christ told us that it's when two or more are gathered that he's present.

So, what do you have in a marriage? Two. Entering into a marriage is inviting Christ to be even more omnipresent in your life than he already is (if that's even possible!). Friendship, in Christianity just as in marriage, should not be underestimated, for it is a powerful way to be in relationship with Christ as well.

10 January 2007

Our Story

By Ben

I read 2 Chronicles 21-36 (finishing it out).

I felt moved today to finish out what I was reading. With all of the back
and forth of Judah (and Israel) turning their back on God and then
repenting, I just wanted to see where things ended up. I guess I'm anxious
about it all in relation to teaching my confirmation class. We just got to
this section in our curriculum (which glazes over the prophets and poetry
books, and jumps right into the New Testament).

While reading, I am really getting into the story of it. Now, I couldn't
tell you how many kings Judah had in the section that I just read. I could
only give you a few of their names from memory. But I'm starting to piece
the whole story together in my mind. My experience in going through the Old
Testament from start to finish has allowed me to connect the Bible stories
that I heard as a youth into one cohesive story.

Now, I'm sure that at some point, someone tried to get across the idea that
all of these little stories fit together to make one great epic, but I didn'
t really get it. Or if I got it, it didn't matter to me. Which is where my
youth come in. I want them to see how powerful this story is. I want them
to have the realization that all of time has been built together and that
they are a part of these Bible stories. That they actually connect to what
is in these pages that were written so long ago.

Not just because they can get a nice moral out of them. Not just as a
simple bedtime story. But to realize that they are the continuation of that
story. That as we live our lives, we continue to write the story of the
Bible. That makes me want to do something great for God. Not to be
remembered as a good guy, but to further the kingdom. To help the future
generations not fall backward in their faith. It makes me want to be more
for God. I want them to feel that way too.
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A Change of Heart

By Ben

I read 2 Chronicles 17-20.

We read in this section about King Jehoshaphat, who was pretty good for most
of his life, but like many of the Bible characters, has a few flaws. Today,
however, I am not going to talk about his flaws; I am going to talk about
some great things that he did. When faced with an oncoming battle, that he
would most surely lose, he sought God's help. He went to the temple and
prayed. He praised God for his power, recalled the covenant made to
Abraham, and then he made his request for help. In front of all of his
people (the people of Judah), a man in the crowd suddenly spoke the Lord's
words of comfort and power; that the Lord would fight the battle for them.
Jehoshaphat led the people in a time of worship. The next day, on the way
to the battle, Jehoshaphat reminded his troops to believe in God. And then
he did a cool thing: he appointed singers to go ahead of the army. Yes,
singers. And what did they sing, you might ask: "Give thanks to the Lord;
his faithful love endures forever!"

You can probably guess the next part of the story. When they got to the
battle, they didn't have to fight. God had taken care of it for them. The
opposing armies fought amongst themselves, killing everyone, leaving only
the plunder behind for the army of Judah to collect. God certainly was

I don't think I've ever gone into one of my battles singing the Lord's
praises. I've never walked into a budget meeting, confronted a disruptive
child, or even consoled a disheartened friend by first singing God's

Am I scared to be that open about my faith? Perhaps. Yes, even the paid
church guy gets nervous about how to live the gospel. What kind of faith do
I have to have to be able to do that? What would doing it do for my
connection to God? How would it affect people around me? And if all of
those are positive answers, why am I so afraid to show my faith that way?
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08 January 2007

dlog post


The attached is my dlog post for 1/8/07. Thanks!

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04 January 2007

Any More Questions?

By Matt
  1. "What is this--coming out after me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal?" (Matthew 26:55) - I guess I can sympathize with the temple folks who would be afraid of a fight, maybe not by Jesus but his followers (as the ear-chopping demonstrates they weren't completely off). But it's true, Jesus came to bring peace so it is a mite ironic that they treat him as a criminal.
  2. "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" (Matthew 27:46)
I don't feel right answering the last question except to acknowledge that the answer has something to do with me. And so ends this exercise.

God, thank you for the record of Jesus' words and actions while he was here on earth. Help me to see the world through Jesus eyes and to have the courage and imagination to question what he questioned. In his name, amen.


03 January 2007

I really hate making all these titles with "question" in them

By Matt

  1. "Friend, why this charade?" (Matthew 26:50) - What I'm going to respond to here isn't so much about the meaning or symbolism of a kiss but rather why the heck would Judas kiss Jesus instead of pointing at him and saying something like, oh, "Hey, that's Jesus." I mean, honestly. Yes, a kiss is a symbol of love, affection, etc. so Judas' betrayal is made all the more bitter by that irony, but let's be honest, why is it necessary? The armed guards are there, Jesus already told Judas that he knew what is up. Why go through all that trouble? I just don't get it.
  2. "Don't you realize that I am able right now to call to my Father, and twelve companies--more, if I want them--of fighting angels would be here, battle-ready?" (Matthew 26:53) - The fact that Jesus willingly hands himself over to be killed is an interesting dichotomy. It shows the depth of love God has for us but it also shows us the power of sin and just how much it took to bring us back to the table with God. It's a sobering fact. It's good and right to know that God has power over sin, and he grants it to us, but we shouldn't be lulled into complacency or be surprised when it shows up.
  3. "But if I did that, how would the Scriptures come true that say this is the way it has to be?" (Matthew 54) - Well, it couldn't, J. Sorry. I really am, 'cause it's the terrible combination of my selfish nature, my lust and fear and anger and complacency with the power of sin that brought you to this point. And I'm sorry.


Deja vu all over again

by Ben

I read 2 Chronicles 10-16.

Happy New Year!

In reading today, I heard more about Rehoboam (Solomon's son). As a young king, he makes some grave mistakes that split Israel into two pieces. Rehoboam, now the king of Judah, grows in understanding and seems to do some good things, but doesn't seek the Lord with all his heart. Later on, King Asa seems to be following God, even going so far as to make the statement that "anyone who refused to seek the Lord, the God of Israel, would be put to death" - a pretty strong statement, especially for a guy who falls away from God later in life.

Why do I mention these things today? It is because I know that although I want to have faith like David and wisdom like Solomon, I live like Rehoboam and Asa. My spiritual life waxes and wanes. I define sin as not thinking like God. Maybe that's too steep of a definition, but it helps me to realize that although I'm generally a good person, I have a long way to go.

I have times when I forget (or more likely "don't have time") to do Scripture reading or quiet time. The next time I do take time with God, my error faces me. My sin is there and is something I must deal with. But I do face it. I do not turn from these times of judgment. Unlike King Asa, I come back to God. Unlike King Rehoboam, I continually come back to God. I pray that I continue to do so. I pray that we all do.


02 January 2007

Questions for a New Year

This very month the dLog will be one year old! Woohoo! Let's celebrate with a post :)

  1. "You, what do you want?" (Matthew 26:39) - This question is being addressed to God as Jesus wrestles with his impending crucifiction. He precedes it with, "My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want." I've never really felt that the scripture here matches the description of a man in such torment and agony he is sweating blood. Just not enough emotion to it. It's a hard thing behing asked of him and Jesus isn't trying to hide it. However, that makes his resolve to go through with God's plan all the more powerful when he chooses to accept it.
  2. "Can't you stick it out with me a single hour?" (Matthew 26:40) - Jesus acknowledges the disciples' zeal but also their shortcomings: "there's another part [of you] that's a lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire." As we have often pointed out here in the dLog before, we are as the disciples are, full of good intentions but rather stupid and inactive when the time comes.
  3. "Are you going to sleep on and make a night of it?" (Matthew 26:45) - The disciples still can't keep their eyes open and Jesus asks this rather pointed question. Guess so!