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

27 September 2007


by Ben

I read Isaiah 9-10.

As I read, my mind was very cloudy. I think it is because I've been fighting off sickness the past few days, but I just couldn't focus. I think as I read through the rest of the prophets, I'm going to read some commentaries to help clarify some of the writings.

Sorry, short post today.

26 September 2007

Disciplined Life

by Ben

I read Isaiah 1-8.

It has been a while since I last posted, and sadly, since I last read Scripture on my own. I have really had a lapse in reading. I'm not sure what caused it, but I can tell you that there definitely have been effects. I feel very distant from God. It was actually work trying to convince myself to read today. Now, once I'd started, I just wanted to keep going, but I was having trouble taking it in. Mind you, Isaiah isn't a cakewalk, but my mind kept losing focus on what I was reading. I see the truth in the dLog's slogan. As a parallel, it has been a long time since I've worked out physically too. My first trip back to the YMCA was yesterday and it was an effort to get myself there, but once I was there, I wanted to keep exercising. Yet, my stamina was down and so I wasn't able to work out like I used to.

I am making it a goal to keep both my spiritual and physical workouts going. I feel that they are somehow connected. Dictionary.com defines "fitness" as "The state or condition of being fit; suitability or appropriateness." I think that in order to keep myself fit and appropriate for both this world and the next, I need to work on keeping a more "disciplined life."

13 September 2007

Well, That's It for Romans

By Matt

Chapter 16 is Paul's greetings, well wishes, and salutations. I suppose I could try and put something together there but it'd probably be just kind of . . . well, contrived. So, I decided I'd wander back to my first post which stated my intended goal for reading Romans and see what I find:
"On one hand there's Jesus saying, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' But on the other hand there's the image of a loving father who wants his children with him. Our initial instinct is to say these two images don't jive and at some point every Christian in his or her walk is going to wrestle with this issue. (Hopefully.)

"So, my goal for now is to read them as a cohesive letter with different topics all lending support to the main argument. Anyways, the main theme of Romans is paid in full or how we are justified with God. I instantly thought back to small group. Coincedence? Let's find out."
So, do I have an answer? Can I conclusively say either way? Heck no. Did I really think I was going to have a conclusive answer? Probably not. Does the answer matter? I'm not sure. I think one thing that was reinforced for me in this study is that we are responsible for one person: ourselves. We can't make up other peoples' minds and we really can't do a whole lot to change their behavior. So I need to be loving and gentle and patient with everyone else and take a harsh look at myself and start asking for God's help to scrub away the dirty spots in my life.

I guess I don't have a conclusive answer yet. Maybe my study of the Gospels will help me get a little closer. If there really even is a conclusive answer in this lifetime :)

10 September 2007

Status v. Service

By Matt

I read Romans 16

"Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, "How can I help?"

Beautiful. I love it. The part I bolded is now residing in an honored position among the other Post-It notes of scriptural nuggets behind my monitor. But let's take a look at what Peterson does here: there is a tacit comparison of service and status here, placing them at opposite ends of a spectrum. I know that I have never really thought of status and service being opposites, so let's take a look, shall we?

Status is something you obtain for you or your immediate peers. Status opens up doors by elevating yourself into a higher social strata. You can come by it honestly or deceitfully. It's something to be seen, a way to get yourself noticed. It's also very fickle and rests on sandy ground: money, looks, talents, job, location, etc.

Service is something you do, often for folks you know but just as importantly for strangers or folks you're getting to know. Service can open up doors, but that's not necessarily the point. A lot of times it builds relationships though. You can do service for good and bad motivations but, no matter what, you're still doing something good for someone. It can give you notoriety, but doing it for notoriety's sake (i.e. a bad motivation) still makes something better for someone (hopefully). Service takes advantage of those fickle mistresses that create status: we can use our money to help someone else; our talents are put to good use to give a hand to someone else; the freedom and mobility of where we live can help folks who don't enjoy what we do. Not sure what looks can do in service except for getting you in some good photo ops :)

So, I don't know that they're polar opposites, but they do seem to have some contrasts. And that doesn't deny the fact that anything good we're given by God is meant to be used to benefit someone else. Damn straight.

Finding Pathways

by Ben

I read Song of Songs 1-8.

First a note: after my last post disappeared right after I finished it, I decided to take my Bible and a notebook out to the courtyard and wrote there.

In finishing out the Song of Songs and reading through the book completely, I find myself as though enjoying a re-read of a favorite novel. I am seeing more than I have before as I go. But the very readingbrings me joy - afterward, I wished that I felt that same joy everytime I read Scripture.

I'm at an interesting place in my spiritual walk; I am beginning to internalize what I have been thinking and even saying about how I relate to God. I guess I'd still been working off of the world's paradigm of success and hierarchy. I'd been seeking or merely waiting for reward as I grew spiritually (and somewhat feeling as though there would be a finish line). It is one thing to say that you understand that and another to truly feel it. I still have to mentally fight against that sense of "what's in it for me?" But I find that this battle is really just about keeping perspective.

I've been clinging to things a lot - my house, my jobe, my perception of what God wants me to do. I think I need to pursue the Reformed, yet Reforming ideology in everything that I do.

How this directly relates to the Song of Songs, I can't fully explain, but I can say that it made me think about love, lust, culture, God, sacrifice, Christ, purpose, message, growth, Spirit, and time - and how I have viewed each of those and maybe how God wants me to view each of those. I really believe that Scripture can open up mental pathways that had previously remained blocked - even if they have little or nothing to do with what you are reading.

06 September 2007

Getting Along

By Matt

I read: Romans 14-15

I think that one of the more vital lessons in all of Christianity is simply how to get along with other Christians. In youth ministry we see it come up frequently while preparing for and on mission trips or at conferences. Those situations put is in frequent and close contact with people we're used to seeing a few times a week. It can be a strange adjustment that is made all the stranger by the addition of even more people you don't know with different backgrounds and traditions. And when conflict starts to arise, as it always does, we're often faced with trying to extinguish the flames when we're better off not having let the kindling build up in the first place.

Paul puts this all together rather eloquently in Romans 14. He talks about how some Christians might differ on what to eat, some might choose to be carnivores and some might be vegetarians. Then, as he puts it, "But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God's welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help" (my emphasis).

I think this is so important. God does not ask us to be concerned with the vegetarian if we're the carnivore. If we're the vegetarian we don't need to be concerned with the carnivore. God holds us responsible for exactly one person: ourselves. When I focus more on how I can respond to the person who I disagree with than on how I can fix the person I disagree with, we're letting go of our attempt at control and acknowledging that God will do the needed work to fix them. Or, more likely, to fix us. It can be a hard decision to make, but as Paul tells us in Galatians, our responsibility is to do the "creative best" with our life. Not anyone else's.

04 September 2007

Finishing Touches

By Matt

I read Romans 13

"The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed."

I love the urgency of this statement. It reminds me of a sign over Pastor Gus' door: "God is at work, why aren't you?" In some ways that scenario is a bit of a theological impossibility: God can work all the time; we can't. But it is in other ways an encouragement and a reminder of the greatness for whom we work. "We can't afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence. . . . "

I know deep inside that part of my ongoing campaign to avoid burning out by keeping to my hours, fiercely guarding my weekends, and establishing boundaries, is also in some parts just my general laziness. The perspective that gets put into by this paragraph is kind of frightening, but also inspiring. Kinda like that bumper sticker you see occasionally: "Jesus is coming (look busy)."