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

23 October 2008

Paul's Calling

by Ben (yes, that other guy)

I read Acts 13.

I'm reading in Acts right now, a book that I am less familiar with than pretty much the rest of the Bible. I have to admit a selfish reason for liking this book: it is pretty awesome to see the disciples finally getting things right. And even the self-proclaimed greatest sinner of all is proclaiming Jesus as the realization of the prophets. Not only does that mean that there is hope for us, it shows that God specifically uses the most bumbling. I'm a sure thing!

"I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth."

In reflecting on 13:47, I tried to put myself in the role of Paul. How amazing to be the one to offer salvation to a group that has been traditionally left out (seemingly on purpose). How self-defining is Paul's call.

Yet, his very call forces him to be the antagonist to one of the deeply held beliefs of the Jews. Israel had long been God's chosen nation and in the minds of many, it could only ever be that way.

Paul's message changes that. And he gains an obvious following from those who would be left out of salvation otherwise.

Some of us are called to be like Paul, bringing a new message to those who need it. But the challenge comes in that our message might be completely going against the traditional beliefs. We must be like Paul in that we do not shrink from our calling.

07 October 2008

Curse You, Fig Tree!

By Matt

I read: Mark 11-13

Once again, we're reaching the beginning of the end in Mark; Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a colt and it's all downhill from there (in turn of phrase terms only!). Jesus turns out the markets in the temples with some strong words but no condemnation. However, at one point Jesus is pretty hungry and looks to a fig tree for a snack but it doesn't have any figs so he curses it and the next time he and his entourage pass it, it's a withered stick. Jesus' soundbite on the whole thing is rather cryptic: "Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you." He goes on to talk about the importance of praying about everything and to not just ask. Doesn't once mention the fig tree. Kinda weird.

I have to think it goes back to his message to all of the vine to bear fruit and, if not, to face pruning. I can't say that authoritatively but that's what makes sense to me. Not that what makes sense to me about God is anything resembling gospel :) But it's a definite possibility and a very powerful way to visualize how God holds us responsible for the knowledge and power we have gained.

Chalk up another for Stan Lee :)

06 October 2008

Come Thou Fount

By Matt

I don't have any scripture reading today but I do have some thoughts so I figured that was better than nothing. To put it frankly, my prayer time and my Bible reading have sucked completely. But just by chance we sang "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" in worship today and I had the song stuck in my head all day. So much so that I went on iTunes last night looking for versions of it and some other songs that I wanted to find. I downloaded it right before bed and moved my iPod dock to the nightstand so I could listen to it that night. And then this morning I woke up and it was right there. I listened through "Fount" again and "Blessed Be Your Name" and "Welcome Home" and Psalm 116 from The Bible Experience (thank you again for that, JDH!). And that was my prayer time and I enjoyed it. Strange how that works.

But this song, is just so good and it's such a great reflection of my life right now: contrast piled upon contrast. I am in such awe of what God is capable of doing, and more so, capable of doing in spite of me yet through me. But this is all contrary to my inconstancy and inconsistency. My desire to do better in keeping up my half of this relationship but just not coming through. So, my prayer today are these borrowed words:

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I'm come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.