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

29 August 2008


Read: Colossians 1:1-2:5

the word "purpose" only appears a total of 34 times in the entire translation of the Message. interestingly enough, though, it shows up 3 times just in the first chapter of Colossians and that's what caught my eye this morning. i really enjoy the little intro's that Peterson did to each book when he put together the Message and the one prior to Colossians explains how people often times acknowledge Christ as one of many important people, instead of grasping the preeminent importance he holds. and so Colossians immediately launches itself into establishing just how important Christ is by defining him and his ways as our purpose for existence. the living of his commands, the hope of heaven with him (v. 5), the presence of him in our lives (v. 27), and that everything begins and ends in him (v. 16-17).

and the unusual part of this purpose/life he's calling us to is that it's not some theoretical idea. it's not like he orders us about with no knowledge of the cost of what he's calling us to do. that it will require sacrifice. that at times it will be painful and seem hopeless. that it will estrange us from those we love. instead, he fully grasps this, having experienced it and lived it to an even fuller portion than we will ever experience ourselves.

The First Commissioned Evangelist

By Matt

Today I went back to Joel's wonderful gift, The Bible Experience, and listened to chapters 4, 5, and half of 6 while in the shower. Ha! I could make some rationalization for this bizarre behavior using "living waters" but I won't :) Actually, I usually listen to something while in the shower: podcasts, music, audio books, etc. So, I figured, why not the Bible?

Anyways, one of the great parts of TBE is the representation of demons. It's creepy. It's like stop cleaning yourself and just listen creepy. But anyways, in Mark 5 Jesus and the gang run into a posessed man with multiple demons in him. Curiously, the demons beg not to be sent out of the country and Jesus complies with his wishes by letting them take over the bodies of 2,000 pigs who run out into the water. Okay, couple of questions, why are there so many pigs around Jews and who is raising them? Second, why is Jesus letting the demons get their wish? Maybe Jesus tricked them by letting all the pigs die a minute later or something. I don't get it.

However, the part of this story that captured my attention today is in the last paragraph. The formerly posessed man puts on some nice clothes, pulls a comb through his hair, and then sits around being pretty normal. He begs Jesus to let him become a disciple but Jesus denies him. Instaed he says, "Go home to your own people. Tell them your story--what the Master did, how he had mercy on you." And the guy does it and is the "talk of the town."

I'm gonna call this guy the first commissioned evangelist. Jesus heals a lepor back in chapter 2 but tells that guy to not make a big deal about it: show himself to the priest, make the proper offerings, and then go about his business. This guy doesn't listen and tells everyone about Jesus anyways. I never get why sometimes Jesus tells some people to tell the story and others to keep quiet. Actually, just a little bit past the demon story Jesus tells someone else to keep quiet about him raising a girl from the dead! These are big things, why keep them quiet?! And then, if you are trying to keep this stuff quiet, why tell it to the un-posessed loudmouth who then tells everyone? Don't get that either.

But again, more sidetracks from what I'm simply trying to say. Jesus commissions this guy as the first evangelist. I think, ideally, that's what evangelism is about; not trying to argue your way into someone's salvation, not scaring them out of hell, not playing on emotions and mob hysteria to get decisions. It's about coming along side someone, the folks you already know, and telling them your story. Tell them how God has had mercy on you: how your foot was saved from stumbling, your eye saved from tears, and your soul was rescued from death (to paraphrase Psalm 116). When we tell of the indescribable love we have experienced and show that love to others, it's only a matter of time before that love wins out over anything else. To paraphrase TobyMac, we're made to love God and anything we do or say to convince ourselves otherwise is going to come up short when we get a glimpse of what we've been missing. And that's all evangelism needs to be when you get down to it.

28 August 2008

Harmony of the Gospels

By Matt

Well, today I started into Mark and read the first 3 chapters. I think that if the gospels were made into movies we'd find that Matthew would be a talky drama and Mark would be all action. More than a few times Mark records that Jesus was teaching the crowds but never says a word of what Jesus was saying. But then a leper or blind man or someone comes up and Jesus heals. Action, it's all about the action. So, with little words there's little condemnation or glorification.

I don't know if I've ever really noticed this kind of difference between the gospels. But it makes sense. Matthew was writing to Jews who would be very interested in hearing what Jesus said and did and matching it up to the Torah and the predictions of the prophets. Mark, on the other hand, was writing to Romans who are impressed by power. The Jesus of Mark definitely comes across as powerful and in control and as having some sort of a master plan. I mean, Jesus is shutting up the demons so they won't tell everyone who he is! It's all pointing to a greater plot of revelation.

So yeah, a little diversion from my focus but there wasn't much to focus on. I have a feeling Mark will go quickly!

27 August 2008

Few More Parables

By Matt

Chapter 25 is rounded out by two more parables and then basically you enter Christ's Passion. What's remarkable is how much Christ says in the first 25 chapters of Matthew and then how little he says in the next 3. Anyways, the other two parables we have in 25 both deal with condemnation again and, yep, the pattern holds true.

The first one is that one about the rich man who gives his money to his servants to hang on to while he's away for a while. The first two double the investment while the third servant buries it in the ground and the money does nothing. Again, I have to think that Jesus is aiming the hating at folks who should know better but then don't do anything about it: the religious leaders pretty much.

The second one gets interesting. It's the parable of the sheep and goats and the sheep are the ones who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, give a home to the homeless, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and the imprisoned. The goats do the opposite. The sheep get praised and are brought into Christ's kingdom while the goats are cast down to hell. This is one of the more explicit passages about elevation and condemnation and, according to this passage, it comes down to doing good works which is interesting (don't tell the Lutherans).

Well, three more Gospels to go but Matthew was pretty clear about who the quick and the dead are.

Keep a Weather Eye

by Ben

I read Luke 11-12.

"Blessed ...are those who hear the word of God and obey it."

It sounds simple enough. Yet it seems that everyday we lose our track. Sometimes many times in one day. Too often, it is because we aren't paying attention.

In Chapter 12, Jesus speaks of watchfulness and the need to be ready at all times. But ready for what?

His talk of watchfulness comes right after the Parable of the Rich Fool: essentially a rich farmer raised a good-sized crop and decided to build bigger barns so that he could house all of it, intending to take it easy for a while (since he'd done some hard work).

Who hasn't felt that way? "Oh, I deserve some R&R because I've been working my butt off."

Unfortunately, we often feel as though we deserve quite a bit.

God calls us to more. God calls us to always be ready to serve. In the case of the rich fool, there is no thought or mention of the hungry or other needy peoples. Instead of planning a vacation for himself, the man could have saved lives by his good fortune.

We need to watch for opportunities like this in our own lives. Be it spending some free time we have at a soup kitchen or giving some extra money to a worthy cause, we need to remember that nothing we possess truly belongs to us.

As a note:
It is good to practice the Sabbath, but giving back to God's people when we have a surplus is not merely something good to do. It is what the bridegroom expects.

26 August 2008

Do I Know You?

By Matt

The really embarrassing part of this whole thing is that I could only remember that I was reading through Matthew. No idea why. So I had to go back and re-read and figure out what it is I'm reading for. Apparently I'm looking for when Christ condemns and when he talks about who makes it to Heaven. I think, I might need to reread it a bit more.

Anyways, it's not much further into the Bible when you get to the parable of the virgins and the bridegroom in Matthew 25. The Boy Scout virgins decide to be prepared with extra lamp oil while the dumb ones don't have any. They burn through their oil and when he shows up, they don't have any oil so they're out buying it when the wedding feast starts and they're left outside. They knock and the voice tells them, "Do I know you? I don't think I know you."

I have to think that this is meant to hearken back to Christ's sermon on the mount in Matthew 7. He spells it out much more directly there: "I can see it now--at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, 'Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.' And do you know what I am going to say? 'You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don't impress me one bit. You're out of here.'"

Well, in non-Message versions Christ says something about not knowing these people. But that's the point. Knowing God may not be as sure of a thing as we like to think it is. It's scary, especially for people who think they have a good handle on God because they work in his Church. It's only through constant vigilance (ahem, Mad Eye) over ourselves that we can be sure we'll be recognized when we meet up with Christ. Checking our hearts and being sure our service to him is placed way higher than our designs on status and recognition. When we are careful with what we fill our lamps, we don't have to worry about running out.