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

31 May 2007

Not an Easy Answer

By Matt

I read Romans 9

Back many months ago when I started reading Romans my stated goal was to wrestle with the interpretations of, "I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the father except through me." However, I realized I got a little ways away from that in normal afocused dLogging, not a bad thing but I've spent so much time on Romans that I basically just forgot (it is supposed to be only 9 days after all, and it clearly has been much longer). But somehow I remembered the wrestling thing and, well, it's a good thing I did because Paul gives some pretty decisive answers to the whole issue in this chapter:
Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn't talk back to the fingers that mold it saying, "Why did you shape me like this?" Isn't it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? If God needs one style of pottery for especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn't that all right?
Well, Paul, seriously, could you be a little less implicit and ambiguous? ;) Seriously though, he's right (duh), but it's definitely not an easy answer to swallow. I'm not a person who has a tough time following authority, nor do I think that I unduly question authority all that much. But when I don't understand something I feel like I need answers. I will do what I'm told if I feel like I've been given a good enough reason, but I really chafe when I'm expected to do something that doesn't make sense to me or that I don't want to do and there's no explanation given. I'd say that 90% of the arguments I would get into with my parents stem from this one reason.

However, this is Paul saying, "Get over it." Yet, I don't think this makes the question of accepting Jesus here on earth open-and-shut case either. I mean, there's still the possibility of accepting Jesus after you're dead I suppose. What it does do is nix the argument that if God is a God of love, then he wouldn't damn anyone. I still have a hard time with it but it's just from my limited perspective I suppose. On the other hand, I don't see how anyone could read this chapter and not be a predestinationist. Thank God I'm a Presbyterian ;)

29 May 2007


By Matt

I read: Romans 8

I thought I knew what I was going to write about until I got to the last paragraph of this chapter:
Nothing fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing--nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable--absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
Roger Nishioka talked a lot about these verses and how important it is for us to constantly remind our students about the truth behind these words. Not making the varsity team nor SAT's nor having a hot girlfriend nor driving a fast car nor beating Call of Duty 3 on veteran nor having a great prom dress nor dating the quarterback nor getting into college nor running a 5 minute mile nor anything on earth, in space, under the ground, or in the heavens is going to keep us from the love that God has for us. And I wholeheartedly agree, that's such an important message for them to hear, maybe the second most important one we could ever tell our students, and they need to hear it a lot. Constantly.

But it's easy to get caught up in what they need to hear so I'm going to change gears for a second: having 1 kid or 100 kids in youth group; landing in a called meeting of the Session for something you/your kids did; trudging through the wasteland of lust that never seems very far off; struggling to be the person your kids think you are; failing at the juggling act that is balancing our professional lives with our relationships and our responsibilities; not reading your Bible or writing about it on the dLog; eating out for the fifteenth time this week (and it's only Tuesday); not taking Sabbath time; forgetting to return that call or email; going over budget for the year; forgetting to lock the doors on your way out of the building; and any of the other thousand things that do their best to distract, disam, defang, and dilute what we do. None of them mean a thing because of the simple fact that Jesus loves us.

28 May 2007

Read Psalm 116-118

be at rest, once more, o my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.

22 May 2007

Down on the Corner

by Ben

I read Proverbs 7-9.

Lady Wisdom sounds an awful lot like Jesus in chapter eight. "Long before God stretched out Earth's Horizons, and tended to the minute details of Soil and Weather, and set Sky firmly in place, I was there" (v. 22-28?). This wisdom is represented in the Law and is demonstrated through the life of Christ. Yet, we continually miss the point. We follow Madame Whore instead of listening to Lady Wisdom. Very likely, we even know what we ought to do. Why do we lose sight of God or more directly, why do we turn our back on God? Do we doubt His power and ability?

I know that I have been worrying a lot recently. Worry. Matthew 6 tells us all the reasons why we shouldn't worry. Yesterday, as I thought about the upcoming summer at Wakonda, I worried about my lack of staff (actually, this has been a continual worry for me). Despite my best efforts, we are still very short on lifeguards and male counselors. Of course, thinking and worrying about this gets my thinking into a snowball effect pattern. If this doesn't happen, this will happen, and that will happen. And pretty soon, I've got an ulcer.

Yesterday, I even sat down and read as many verses about worry as I could find. Yet, here I am, still worried about it. Not following Lady Wisdom. I have not felt able to trust God with this aspect of my life, no matter how much I want to give it up to Him. I want to "walk up the street to a life with meaning."

17 May 2007

law lover

so appropriate that I read Psalm 119 right after reading Matt's post. 119 is that Psalm you dread because it lasts forever. i was cruising through Psalms, knocking four or five in a day and then there it was. a bit overwhelming at first glance. but i started reading it this mornning and wow. 176 verses all declaring the writer's love for the law. adoration of the law. complete submission to the law. he delights in it, revels in it, rejoices in it. it is not a burden or task. it's joy and life and completeness. he echoes Matt's thoughts (or Matt echoes his thoughts...i think the Psalmist recorded his first) that the law is something to be excited about, to see value in. this is not because rules are regulations are, in and of themselves, thrilling. it's because of who has laid out these statutes...our Creator, our Designer, our Savior. he who knows us better even than we know ourselves directs us in ways that end up with us living life to the full.

"What A Piece of Junk!"

By Matt

I read: Romans 6-7

You can count yourself among the true legion of fanboys (or fangirls) if you read the title of this post and know exactly what I'm alluding to. Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, R2-D2, and C-3P0 stride, trundle, and hobble into docking bay 94 to catch their first glimpse of The Millenium Falcon. For those of us who don't see spaceships, Luke's exclamation of, "What a piece of junk!" falls on astounded ears. That thing is incredible! I want one. And a crew, too. Luke, though, has seen and drooled over his fair share of ships and the Falcon just isn't doing it for him. However, fast forward a few years after that same piece of junk has helped destroy two Death Stars and has saved the skins of his friends several times.

However I have to go back to Han's reaction. He knows his ship "might not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid." Han doesn't care what anyone thinks of his ship, he's the one who has put the work into it and knows what it's capable of (.5 past light speed, if you were wondering). There's a love in his face and voice for that ship that not many can know or share (Capt. Malcolm Reynolds being one of them).

So, why the love letter to Star Wars and what does it have to do with Romans 7?
In a way that only a youth leader love, I'll make the connection. The Law. How do we see it? A list of rights and wrongs that hem us in and ruin all our fun. Do this, don't do that, can't you read the signs? In other words, a piece of junk. As much as our good intentions would like to keep the Law, sin has a way of perverting the whole thing. Or, as Paul says, "What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of 'forbidden fruit' out of it." But, like Han, God knows what the Law is truly capable of and probably doesn't like people rippin' on his baby.

I think, though, that God and Han can acknowledge that their baby isn't perfect. And then God did something about it. He knows that we are going to sin no matter what and need a better plan, something faster, sleeker, more maneuverable (err?). Thus, grace. And that's a good thing. Even the best of us is capable of the most amazingly stupid and horrible thing. I love how Paul comes clean at the end of 7. He doesn't hold it back, he is so completely transparent with the fact that he struggles, he sins, and feels so dumb about it because he knows better. But he keeps on doing it. And the only thing saving any of us is that God knows, forgives, and forgives again because he loves us too much not to.

There may not be "some mystical energy force controlling my destiny," but thank God there's grace to set my destiny aright.

15 May 2007

Minutes to Midnight

By Matt

I'm taking another little interlude here to talk about something that has been on my mind this morning. Today is the day that Linkin Park's new album, Minutes to Midnight, comes out and I've been pretty excited to get it since I heard their new single, "What I've Done." I may not seem to be the typical LP fan, but I really dig their music and think there is something much deeper going on beneath the surface of their lyrics. Which I will explain now.

Hybrid Theory, their first album, is a very angry album. "One Step Closer" is probably the most famous and just full of a fun rage that's perfect accompaniment for squealing tires and football locker rooms. Through HT there's a frustration with futility, futility in the singers and in others. Frustration becomes manifest as anger several times, but I think there is a rarely glimpsed sight of hope at some points. I don't think that there are any specific lyrical reference I could give here, but I just kinda feel that in the music.

Then comes Meteora. Meteora's liner notes give very detailed impressions on how the songs were created and why and how they changed. On the CD itself there is a video on the making of the album which corresponded with the band collaborating with a grafitti artist to make a giant mural that would abstractly explore the imagined themes of the new album. The theme of Meteora, in light of all that, is "the making of," going behind the craft and looking at the reasons and why's and wherefors. And I think that carries through to the lyrics. While HT was more piss and vinegar, most of Meteora is much more articulate and looking into why they are frustrated and angry.

And just looking at the titles of some of the songs can give it away: "Numb," "Easier to Run," and evidently they're looking for "Somewhere I Belong." I don't think it's any coincedence that the video for the latter song takes place in a church. So, looking through that lens I think that LP's music expresses frustration with people who have hurt them and their inability to forgive or receive forgiveness; frustration with God because they feel ignored or hurt; frustration with Christians and the Church for being hypocritical and conforming. Whatever it is, it didn't find the mainstream appeal with fans of HT, and I don't want to say this condescendingly, but it's probably because it wasn't the simplistic screaming of the first album.

So, that's what brings me to Minutes to Midnight. What is the direction of this album going to be? Will it continue the progression made with Meteora or regress back into an easier to swallow package which adolescent boys will identify with more? Well, if the first single is any indication, it's progressing.

"What I've Done" is that single and the video is definitely worth taking a look at (http://youtube.com/watch?v=8sgycukafqQ). I think you can see right off the bat that their frustration is taking a different turn, a bit more global and responsible and, well, mature. I think it is also interesting that some of the lyrics sound as if they could come out of a praise chorus:

In this farewell
There is no blood
There is no alibi
Cause I’ve drawn regret
From the truth
Of a thousand lies
So let mercy come
And wash away

What I’ve done
I’ll face myself
To cross out
What I’ve become
Erase myself
And let go of
What I’ve done

Reading the lyrics for some other songs it seems that they're definitely becoming more political than spiritual though. Not exactly what I was expecting and in some ways is disappointing. I tend to be distrustful of anyone singing their politics and at this point, it seems more like a "popular" thing to do than being genuine. Looking at the way they've changed from quasi-goth to nerdy to now indie rocker hip over the course of the three albums kind of cements that in my mind at least. However, that's just my bias so maybe I'm reading it wrong. But the thing that's interesting, on the 1/3 of the album I've listened to so far, their most seriously/political songs are also the most "playful" sounding. LP is a band that likes to take themselves pretty seriously, at least on the albums so hearing them having a little bit of fun on their new one is interesting, and it sounds pretty good too.

One of the other interesting things is that this is the first album to be released with a Parental Advisory sticker on it. While on some of their live and remix albums there has been naughty language, they have avoided being potty mouths up until now on studio ones. So, that's an interesting choice too. I agonized over buying the edited or PA version and ended up getting the PA (that's what Best Buy had). And here's how I rationalize that: it's what the artist intended. While I enjoy LP's music, I am buying this album mainly due to curiosity that I have explained above. And buying edited means not buying what they intended, thus the purchase that I'm okay with. However, in some ways I wish they had just skipped the f-bombs. Swearing a cuss isn't necessarily any more powerful than just finding the right words to say. So, in that way it's disappointing that they went the easy path, but I'm sure they had their reasons too.

LP are men who I believe have a lot of questions and frustration with "the bad business" they see here on earth (I've been reading Ecclesiastes out of The Message in the mornings). And I think a lot of those questions come out of their faith, or lack of it. However, they are questing for God, or something, and they are doing it in full view, in public. It's been interesting for me to watch and I realize now that my prayers should be with them as they try to make sense of the smoke and spitting into the wind that they are living through. That someone will come up alongside them as they wrestle with these questions and share with them the wisdom and guidance that they are looking for.

Quiet Time

by Ben

I read Proverbs 5-6.

I long for quiet time. I realized it this morning. I haven't taken quiet time in quite a long time. Always another meeting or project or somedays I'm just plain tired. Though, this morning, I felt as though it had to be done in secret; that if the custodian walked in on me sitting with my eyes closed, that I would be guilty of wasting work time. Where did this guilt come from? Two dlog posts in a row that I feel guilty (for wanting to spend time with God!). I think part of it is that I know other jobs wouldn't be able to consider prayer, meditation, and Bible reading as part of their work. But that's not the whole reason for the guilt. I actually feel as though it would be wrong for me to count those things as part of my work time. It is then that I think of Christ's example of frequently going off for personal prayer time. It also brings to mind the emergency instructions on an airplane: you put on your own mask, then you help the person next to you. I'm going to take some quiet time today.

11 May 2007


Read: Psalm 120-124

"Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep...he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."

God's faithfulness is baffling. Baffling because it's conditionless. Remember...his love endures forever. Even when our prayers are, like yesterday, that we need mercy and forgiveness and healing (for the millionth time). Baffling because it's eternal. Remember...his love endures forever. I need sleep and days off and vacation. But he never slumbers. He never rests from watching over me. From being with me, as a constant (and needed) reminder of his faithfulness.

10 May 2007

exactly what i'm thinking...

I read Psalm 125-131 today...and 130 are my thoughts exactly:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

I you, O Lord, kept a record of sin,
O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,
therefore you are feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.

My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than the watchmen wait for the morning.

O World (Israel), put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with hi mis full redemption.

He himself will redeem us (Israel) from all our sins.

Getting down to work

by Ben

I read Proverbs 4.

I'm continuing to read in the Message. I'm finding it powerfully appropriate to where I am right now (and it has cool words like "festoon").

I'd like to say that when I got to work today, I made some tea, sat down, had some quiet time and then read some Scripture. I'd like to say that my first thought as I turned on my computer was that I would be able to write on the dLog. I'd like to say that within the first two hours of my being in the church today, all I did was meditate on God.

I wish I could say those things, but I can't. In fact, here it is just about noon and I am just now beginning to think about my spiritual connection to my Creator. It hit me when I took a break from my work, after I'd checked my e-mail, handled phone messages and sifted through some pressing clutter. Today, I can say that I put God after looking at some facebook messages.

What's worse is that as I typed the paragraph of what I would like to say about my day, I felt that if I had spent my morning completely focused on God, that I would have been wasting "work" time. I thought about what people might say about my lack of efficiency and slothly tendencies.

I felt guilty for thinking about spending time with God.

When I did sit down to read today, the heading for the chapter that I read was "Your Life Is at Stake." It smacked me right in the face. Everything in my life has been pointing at this title. I need to get my spiritual life going before I focus on anything else. Now, comparing my current spiritual connection to that of four years ago, make me look like a modern day Moses, but commitment number five of a good ministry is to "avoid the comparison trap" (even comparisons to myself).

I may be doing some things right. Kate and I have been doing devotions, I have been pretty good about the dLog, I have even sent up an occasional prayer. But this does not mean that my spiritual connection to God has been awesome. I have much further to go. I imagine that some would be shocked to hear that a strong devotional life is not a great indicator of a strong spiritual life. I know that I've taught that line of thinking.

I think that my moderately strong devotional life has helped me to realize my spiritual inadequacies. I have been sinning. I should be clear here: I'm not talking about sin, as in actively going against God in the ways we normally think (i.e. getting drunk, adultery, murder, etc.). I'm focusing more on not being in genuine relationship to God. My prayer could be more authentic and, frankly, could happen more often. I can't remember the last time that I fasted.

And the real center of it all is that I am trying to be a strong teacher of disciples before I try to be a strong disciple myself. So, my prayer is that I learn to become a better disciple, to follow so close to Christ that I get dusty.


By Matt

I read: Romans 6-7

I really love how Paul talks about that wondorous transformation that occurs in between the time we are "under" the water and when we come up out of it. Baptism isn't about getting temporarily wet, it's about trading in our old citizenship in the Land of Sin and joining the Nation of Grace. It's about forgetting the language we spoke as sinners and waking up with a tongue well-versed in being forgiven. It's about leaving behind the tyrrany of a dictator of sin and receiving the rule of a benevolent monarch. It's really an amazing thing!

Sometimes I feel like I'm at a disadvantage having grown up in the church and knowing Christ pretty much my whole life. That's weird to say, but sometimes I really wish I had screwed up bad so that I would know grace all the more. But then I realize that there I need more than my share of grace just to make it through every day forgiven and the desire to have sewn my wild oats isn't so much of a big deal anymore. The big deal is that my memory of being a dead man walking is gone and I'm indeed a new creation, freed from sin by grace and love :)

08 May 2007

A picture of paradise

by Ben

I read Proverbs 3.

Back from the honeymoon. Yes, it was amazing; I recommend Mexico to anybody asking. I won't spend too much time talking about how great it was, but I will say, that while there I imagined what a community could be.

While sitting by the pool on a beautiful sunny day, I reflected over the trip so far and focused in on thinking about all of the workers who made my stay at the Gran Bahia Principe happen. There were men and women who cooked the food, served the food, poured the drinks, waited tables, kept up the pool, planted the foliage, maintained the plants, clean out the ashtrays (and then stamped the fresh sand with the image of a sun), cleaned the sidewalks, cleaned the hotel rooms, checked people in and out, setup the tours, ran the tours, drove the trams or buses, monitored the lobbies, took care of the trash, built the buildings, maintained the facilities, oversaw many staff members, worked the phones, provided entertainment, worked in the shops, and so many more.

What are their lives like? Do they get to experience this all-inclusive vacation? I'll bet not. Time off to see their family - sure, and maybe a few pesos in their pocket, but a care-free lay around and relax kind of week? I doubt it.

Imagine if you would, that all of the people who were on vacation at the resort (some 4,500 [probably more] by my estimate) put in 3 hrs of work each day to help the place keep going. The place probably wouldn't be self-sufficient, but it would be a start on developing a real community. I guess I'm imagining something like I've heard Taize, France described. Where the visitors make the facility operate.

Now, take your imagined image one step farther: imagine that it is a religious community, trying to faithfully serve God. (I find it especially appealing to imagine that it is in Mexico, near the beach, but choose whatever location interests you.)

I think people would naturally want to be a part of something like that. Of course, that's kinda how I picture heaven.

07 May 2007

Interlude: Chaplaincy

By Matt

I started trying to read Romans 6 but realized there's something else on my mind that I need to get to writing about, as a preparation but also as my way of wrestling through things. If you've read the entry on boot polishing a few weeks ago, you know about my recent foray into WWII reenacting. Well, this coming weekend is a tactical reenactment and I've felt my excitement mounting as the faroff dates of May 10-11 loom ever closer on the calendar. And now it's this week, a few short days away! I'm pretty excited, especially since this time around I have my own uniform (that fits!), helmet, and some of my webgear in addition to my weapon and boots. So, it'll be a lot more fun for me in that regard, and also I know a bit more of what to expect.

The other thing that is exciting for me is that I've been asked to give a 5 minute service before the battle on Saturday. Guys in the unit know I'm a youth director and hinted at the last reenactment that I should take on a chaplain impression as well. I decided that sounds like fun and that I'd look into it after I get my primary impression as a rifleman down. I then began to realize that this might be a ministry, that I might be called to this unit for a purpose. A lot of the guys seem really cool (a few scare me) and I'm sure there are at least a few Christians in the group (at least one, who might also take on a chaplain impression and switch off with me). However, there are some definitely hurting and questioning veterans of Iraqi Freedom. So, not only is this a chance to lend some authenticity for our unit, it's a true chance to share the gospel with people who need to hear it.

However, I'm also kind of scared about my first foray this weekend. I'm a lot younger than most of the guys and, even though a younger chaplain right out of seminary is actually accurate, it's kind of intimidating for me to consider preaching at people older than me. Just doesn't happen often. Nor does preaching. I might yak on about stuff, but I don't consider it preaching. So, that's a little scary. Luckily I have sought out an Anglican priest who is also a chaplain in a WWII reenactment unit and maybe he can give me some advice/things to say.

But then there comes the great debate about Christianity and war, which is made all the more interesting since at least one Quaker will be reading this ;). I don't know if it's a "debate," but I can see the two sides which I like to think of as pacifists and those who see the credibility of just war. I think everyone knows the arguments on each side here, so I won't go into it, and I also think that it's pretty universally accepted that if there ever was a case for just war, WWII would be it. Personally I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I think. I guess I feel that war is terrible, awful, and the opposite of what God wants, but I can't also imagine that God wants Nazis executing his children by the millions across Europe. And I also can't imagine Hitler and his regime being talked down or cowed by economic sanctions. I guess my belief is that war is wrong, but sometimes wrong things have to be done to make things right.

But, nevertheless, even if WWII is justified, how did the chaplains do it? There's a scene in the movie Patton where Gen. Patton asks a chaplain to write a prayer for better weather so that his 3rd Army could reach the battered 101st Airborne who were heroically holding the important city of Bastogne but were completely surrounded on all sides by the German Army. A good cause, right? But the padre's response is interesting, along the lines of, "You want me to ask God to give us good weather so that we can go kill people?" As Joel's door likes to point out, when Jesus said to "love your enemies" he probably didn't mean kill them. So, how do you do that? How do you reconcile that conflict, a good end but a bad means? I really don't know. Guess I just need to find a chaplain and ask him (or read an autobiography).

I think that one thing I do know is that the chaplaincy is a mighty display of the Gospel. Men who parachute behind enemy lines, storm onto beaches, or push through in tanks into the greatest conflicts we have evern known armed with only what they picked up in Ephesians. Men tasked with emboldening boys to do something they didn't want to do but had to do, something that runs counter to what they believe. Men who lived out the corporal acts of mercy--being with the sick and injured, comforting the dying, burying the wounded--but did it with bullets flying and bombs exploding. It's a dynamic witness that is undeniable and I'm glad there were men around brave enough to do it for real.


Read: Psalm 132-136

Our culture doesn't like repetition. In order for something to be worth our time, our money, our attention, it has to be new, creative, different. To repeat something that's already been done...what's the point? I've been there, done that, bought the perverbial t-shirt. We revel in new experiences. Relevent has become a synonym for brand-new.

Psalm 136 takes all this and turns it on its head. God realizes that sometimes we need things pounded into our skulls before we can really grasp them. His love endures forever. His love endures forever. His love endures forever . 26 times in 26 verses. His love endures forever. In good times and bad. His love endures forever. In jubilee and sorrow. His love endures forever. In very imaginable circumstance and completely beyond my finite comprehension. His love endures forever.

I don't understand this God. I've squandered endless amounts of this love. I've rejected it and scorned it. I've mocked it and tried to turn away from it. Yet his love endures forever.

And he reminds me again, because I easily forget. Over and over. And over.

His love endures.


05 May 2007

to know and be known...

Read: Psalm 137-139

we all have woven into us the desire to know and be known. not just to be popular or to accumulate a large number of acquaintences. but to have people with whom we can be transparent, recklessly honest. i find this desire to be often frustrating. opening yourself to people means opening yourself to hurt. in our fallen ways, we unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) fail those who have entrusted us with their deepest parts. but despite my fear of these sorts of friendships, i still feel continually drawn to seek them.

Psalm 139 reminds me why. it's because i have experienced (in fact, continually experience) being known by One deeper than anything i could replicate in this life. he formed me, he covers me, he protects me, he knows me. he sees beyond my pretenses and even my faulty sense of self. and despite my obvious shortcomings, he indwells me and empowers me to continue living. and so i desire to know and be known by others in ways reflective of this. not emulating, but imitating. not able to achieve the same level, but to climb together nonetheless.

04 May 2007

justice for the poor

Read Psalm 140-143

"for i know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy."

over the past few years i've become more and more interested in reaching out to those who have needs. addressing HIV/AIDS issues, working with the homeless, caring about war-torn nations. somewhere along the lines i picked up the term "social justice", a bit of a rising star among hipster 20 year olds these days. everyone's hopping on board.

in the last few months i've started to really ponder these words. what does social justice mean? at times i feel like it's become more about the social aspects and less about the justice pieces (ie let's all talk about this certain issue or join this facebook group, but we're not actually acting on any of this knowledge). but i digress. what i mean to say is that it's made me ask the question "what is justice?" growing up, i'd always understood justice as a negative thing. i mean, it was kinda good...after all God doled out justice. but justice meant bad stuff for me (like consequence for sin & whatnot). and that didn't sound like fun. so justice became like cough medicine...you better take it, but ugh...there's gotta be something better out there.

recently, though, as i've been working through what to do with/about justice, i have begun to understand it in a much more positive light. justice brings freedom. justice lifts the oppressed. if i'm afraid of justice, maybe it's because there's something out of line in my life. recently i've been revelling in justice. in dreaming about what it could be like to pursue freedom, God-driven life, hope restoration.

and now i see justice all over the place in the Bible. i missed it before. but now it's everywhere. God's care for the beaten down, for the broken, for those on their last leg. he's there. and that means i better be there, too. extending justice, not as a punishing act of judgement, but as a freeing act of life.

03 May 2007

"Joel is . . . well, let's not talk about that."

posted three times, nonetheless.

no hasty promises of recommitment. or attempts at feebles.

down to business.

yesterday i started reading the Psalms backward. just for something different. i read three then and three more just now, and have been slapped in the face with praise. it's all these psalms are about. the word "praise" shows up 47 times (yes, i counted) alone, not to mention a plethora of additional "exalts", "extols", "rejoice", and other such celebratory sorts of words. (by the way...i did a search, and found that the word praise is used 351 times in the Bible.

in my rush to be authentic and honest with God, i sometimes forget simple things like praise. i want to share my frustrations and my dreams. i want to vent from a rough day or maybe just sit in silence. i want to complain about the way the world is and mention what i think it could/should/will be. and i don't think there's anything wrong with any of that. just that it means sometimes i forget that the One i'm talking to is the One that put it all in motion to begin with. and when i'm lamenting, he's probably doing the same, because our hearts are broken by similar things. and when i'm stoked, he's probably excited with/for me. but in all of that, it wouldn't hurt either of us to get in on a little praise action. and so perhaps i should get in the practice of "a praise habit," as i think my friend crowder called it.

and it's been happening a little. little glimpses of "let me take this moment", "let me steal this drive", "let me just say"...that he's worthy. and good. and _____. words fail to describe.

and it lifts me as i lift him.

01 May 2007

Aggressive Forgiveness

By Matt

I read: Romans 4-5 (These chapters are really long!)

Well, Ben's off on his honeymoon and Joel is . . . well, let's not talk about that. Anyways, I'm all alone. However, what better way to deal with dLog isolation than to write!!!!!!!!!!!

I thought I was going to write about the paragraph about how tough times test us and build us up, because I like that sort of thing, but I decided what really jumped out at me was Paul's commentary on the usefulness of The Law: "All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But the sin didn't, and doesn't, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it's sin versus grace, grace wins hands down."

At first I thought that this paragraph was saying that God kind of messed up because the Law didn't work out right. But when you look at it again, you can see that Paul's intention here was to point out, not that the plan didn't work, but to show that the law emphasized our true nature. I guess you can think of it that when you shine a Law light on someone, you're going to see that person in terms of how they do with the law. If you shine a grace light on someone, you're going to see them in terms of grace. And that's a flattering light right there. Better yet, it's a much stronger light than the Law light! So, in other words, thank God that grace is on our side :)