Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I love breaks and rest

It's been great having some downtime this past week.

I've been enjoying 1984 by George Orwell, Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King, the priestly blessing from Numbers 6, bowl games, Rack-O, catching some geek surf (i.e. internet), playing extended basketball games at the gym, and enjoying unrushed time with the family (tonight Cameron told the Goldilocks story in its entirety at bed time).

Speaking of reading... Click here for an article on President Bush's reading habits. I wouldn't have guessed he was such a voracious reader. I especially liked the quote, "Like so many caricatures of the past eight years, this one [Bush being a simple minded, non-reader] is not only wrong, but also the opposite of the truth and evidence that bitterness can devour a small minded critic."

Tonight I'm reading and watching the Holiday bowl. Go Big 12.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The easiest $50 you'll make

Today I went and drove a Dodge Ram truck and made $50. Well, the money is in the mail.

Click here to see how. There's nothing in this for me, I just thought I'd pass it along. The deal was originally posted on www.slickdeals.net That's a great website to frequent for deals. Slick deals, that is.

ps...the deal ends Feb. 2.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thanks, Red!

This is one of the more important leadership principles I've discovered...

"How you select people is more important than how you manage them once they’re on the job. If you hire the wrong people, for whatever reason, you’re in serious trouble and all the revolutionary management techniques in the world won’t bail you out.”

- Red Auerbach, Boston Celtics

I have to be good at selecting people, because managing them is not a strength of mine. I've seen this over and over- the good and the bad. Right now I'm reaping all the benefits of a rockin' staff team. I just finished doing evaluations with all of my staff, and the team is hitting on all cylinders. I don't see a lot of weak links. Well, except for... (just kidding)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Kurt Warner is officially...

...the Man.
Click here for an incredible read on Kurt Warner. I cried like a baby reading this. 

Go Cardinals!

Monday, December 22, 2008


We're trying to make this Christmas season as spiritual as possible.

So we plan on watching plenty of movies. 

Last night we did the usual family movie night and watched Wall-E. We've got "Nativity" in the cue. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Nativity a couple years ago, but I can't remember if it's kid friendly. 

But Wall-E definitely was. What a brilliant movie! There was little dialogue, and yet the story had such depth. The thing that stuck out most to our kids... it seems like it would be fun to eat and be entertained all the time, but you will end up overweight and unable to walk. That's what I loved about the movie- there were some accessible themes, and others requiring more thought.

I just can't think of them now... we're watching the Duggers...she had #18!

Esmerelda Tear Down

Today was a sad day, watching the Esmerelda set go down. I think I sustained the worst injury- stepping on a nail that almost went all the way through my big toe. Oh yeah, there was one death, which you'll see below. So I guess I'll take the nail-pierced toe.

(Above) Here's Mike, watching his masterpiece go down. He's a brilliant producer, and the mind behind the set. I'm excited for him to help produce Anthem this Spring. 

(Below) So much for the "magic"... here are the lifts that a couple engineers designed and built. It's amazing the time that went into the set design/construction (all to be torn down in 7 hours). But it was all worth it... 6,000 people exposed to the life changing message of Christmas. As I worked in the auditorium today, I thought about all the work God has done in that room over the last 10 years. People being saved, healed, baptized and God regularly showing up. For the people who sacrificed to build it- do you have any regrets?

Check me out. Just call me Samson.

My boss... 
The poor thing (some kind of mouse/mole hybrid). As soon as someone spotted the living creature, Troy was on it like blue bonnet. That thing didn't have a chance. 

So a pierced toe and a death.

Praise God for keeping us (i.e. humans) safe. Good bye Esmerelda.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

No weekend services

For those of you who attend Cornerstone, there are no weekend services due to the winter storm. Pass the information along...

And to all my readers in SoCal, cue the email about the devastating storm damage we in the Midwest rarely hear about. That cracked me up the first time I saw it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Best Christmas lyrics

1. "the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight"
- O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks, 1867
2. "he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found"
- Joy to the World by Isaac Watts, 1719
3. "veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Deity" 
- Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley, 1739
4. "and the government shall be upon his shoulders"
- Handel's Messiah, 1741 (click here to watch the Mormons rock it out- I used to make fun of my dad for actually choosing to listen to this kind of stuff). It's not really fair to nominate this as a best lyric, because this is from the Bible. So of course it's good. But as one who sees the Kingdom of God as a present reality (and not merely a future longing), I love to think about this lyric.
5.  "why lies he in such mean estate while ox and (bleep) are feeding- good Christian fear, for sinners here, the silent word is pleading."
- What Child is This? by William Dix, 1865 
6. "long lay the world in sin and error pining ("painful longing"), til he appeared and the soul felt its worth...fall on your knees."
- O Holy Night by Placide Cappeau, 1847

It's interesting to me how "new" these songs are. I guess I had the idea that people have been singing these songs for "hundreds of years." They're pretty new. 18th century is old, but not relative to church history. 

So maybe it's time for a new round of Christmas songs. 

But it will be tough to beat some of these lyrics. And even harder to overcome tradition. Even our church, as non-traditional as we are, is inclined to crank up the classic Christmas songs on Christmas. 

Not that I have a problem with it. I'm usually the one helping to plan the services.

What are your favorite Christmas lyrics? Any suggestions for our Christmas Eve services?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Toto Christmas

When Leatha told me to come over and check out this accapella group, I said, "Do I have to watch the whole thing?"

Then I watched it and I never imagined Christmas could meet 80's nostalgia in such a cool way.

Sorry, fellas

Nine years ago today, I married the most amazing woman in the world.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Advent Batting Average

If you do the math, you'll see that we're batting about .588 (10 out of 17) on our Advent family devotions. That means about every other day we do the Advent Tree as a family. That's amazing. Think if someone was batting .588 in baseball!

Monday, December 15, 2008

This is for you- Esmerelda

For those of you that saw Esmerelda, you'll remember one of the most moving scenes...the night dancers.

This is a part of that scene that ended up getting cut.

Actually, the TSC staff was asked to help tear some of the set down. Next thing you know we're hooking ourselves up to the flying equipment and seeing if we can touch the ceiling of the auditorium.

Why did we do it?

It was fun.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

World "Pictures"

John Milton was an old school Puritan who wrote the classic Paradise Lost. He would be 400 years old if he were still alive today. I was reading an interview with Leland Ryken, a Milton scholar and well-known Christian thinker, about this classic poem (click here for the interview, and props to Challies.com for the vine)

I found this Ryken quote interesting:

I think that Christian readers should begin by reminding themselves that they live not only by a Christian world view but also by a Christian world picture. In addition to the great doctrines of the Christian faith, we live by the great images of the faith. Milton's poem puts us in touch with the images of the Christian faith—images of Satan and hell, of God and heaven, of Paradise and original perfection, of temptation and fall, of sin and salvation.

Our Christmas musical, Esmerelda, has really affected me. I saw a picture of Jesus had never seen before. It was a compelling picture that has changed the way I view parenting, pastoring, and, well... living. I want to know that person more. He's a person I want to spend eternity with.

I had this same feeling after reading The Shack.

But this quote made me think about the "world pictures" that shape how I think and live my life as a follower of Jesus. There is power in a story, a poem, a musical, a movie that can give us a new picture of life with God.

Ryken contrasts "doctrines" with "images." I was thinking about this as I just preached on Romans 8. To me, Romans 8 is a musical called "Esmerelda." Justification, reconciliation, and adoption converge in a man helping a lost, cursed girl find her way back to her Father. It's a chapter in which words seem to fall way too short. An epic fairy tale seems more appropriate.

Maybe I should start singing and acting out my sermons in story form...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Last TSC of the semester

It has been another fall semester of standing under the water fall of God's blessing. God's favor was thick this semester.

Tonight I spoke on "Adoption" from Romans 8:14-17. One thing that sticks out to me is God's method of compelling us down the path of righteousness. It's not by hovering over us to tell us what we're doing wrong and by "keeping score." On the contrary, it's by "testifying with our spirit" that we are "children of God."

"Holy Spirit, what do you do?"

"I remind you that you're a child of God. I tell you how much God loves you."

That's one of my favorite parts of being a parent. It's ending every day whispering into the ears of my children, "I love you. I think you're awesome." No matter what they've done, those are the words they'll hear.

Why do I so often make guilt the basis of my relationship with God?
Why do I question God's unconditional love for me?

I often have a jacked up view of God. That is why I need to preach Romans 8:14-17 to myself in the mirror everyday.

Nevermind. I don't like my sermons enough to do that...

But everyday I try to utter, "Our father..." as the first words out of my mouth.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Last Monday Prayer :(

"Prayer is that slender nerve that moves the arm of omnipotence." C.H. Spurgeon

This picture was taken this morning at our last prayer meeting of the semester. This is the only ministry in the history of the Salt Company that hasn't changed... 7 a.m. every Monday that Iowa State has classes, you'll find around 100 students seeking God in the Memorial Union.

There is no doubt that God has acted on our behalf (Is. 64:4)

Also, Leatha and I were privileged to see a dress rehearsal of Esmerelda (our church's Christmas musical) yesterday. I knew a little of the story line, special effects, etc, but I was totally unprepared for what I saw.

It was one of the most compelling and epic stories I've seen. I was emotional at different points as the story of redemption connected with my soul. I walked away thinking, "The Gospel is the most amazing thing ever. And what a God and Savior is ours."

Over 6,000 tickets have been sold for this. If you have someone in mind to bring, but don't have tickets, my suggestion is to bring them anyway. I'm sure there will be some open seats.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Good Life and The Road

Over break I watched the movie "The Good Life" (click here) and read this book, The Road. I saw this in Borders and it looked interesting. So I checked it out from the public library. It's a quick read. It's pretty dark and the ending didn't bring me out of the valley as much as I'd hoped, but it was still a good (not great) book. It's about a father and son's journey of survival in a deserted world. It shows the best and worst of humans in their quest to survive.

My free Monday redbox dvd was The Good Life. I wanted to watch this because it was written and directed by a guy I used to skate with back in Omaha (thus the allusions to Nebraska in the movie). It was a solid drama, and the storyline kept me interested in where the movie was going. It's not a movie I'd strongly recommend seeing, but it gets into some of the issues of disappointment of life, and what brings about true freedom and happiness. Steve Berra has a typically Hollywood take on what that is.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


"Advent" is a word every pastor and probably every person should know.

The only problem is that I'm a pastor and a person (I've met a lot of pastors and the latter is not necessarily a given...) and I didn't know exactly what advent was.

What's worse- we've had an advent tree the last 2 years.

Wikipedia to the rescue...

Advent (from the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming") is a season of the Christian church, the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus; in other words, the period immediately before Christmas...

Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used in reference to the Second Coming. Christians believe that the season of Advent serves a dual reminder of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting that Christians today endure as they await the second coming of Christ.

The second section is money- I've never thought of Christmas as a celebration of the return of Christ (Latin "adventus" is the translation of Grk "parousia")

Here are some pictures from our Advent family devotions that we started December 1st and do until Christmas...

Our first one was a total disaster. The kids didn't listen to a word I said.
Here are the kids by the advent tree with all the symbols on it. We use the book "Family Celebrations" by Ann Hibbard (Click here for the book)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Winter is Here

I've been way too busy over-eating, over-sleeping, and watching too much football and movies over the past few days to post a blog entry.

I thought all the food, sleep and TV was supposed to make me rested, but now I'm sick.

Oh well, it's a typical winter cold I guess. But with the winter comes snow...and with snow comes- FROSTY the SNOWMAN! The kids went right to work after this first real snowfall...

Impressed? The prune eyes were my idea.

Now here's a picture of the snowman to scale (in case you can't find it- it's to the right of the miniature kids football).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Tim Challies offers some great advice on reading. Click here.


Most of the TSC staff came over for a meal and hangout at our house today. Everyone brought something to contribute to the meal, so there was plenty to tempt our kids, as you can see.

Tonight Beck told me, "Dad, I need some pop so I can be tempted to eat my dinner." [That's his covert way of trying to bait me into using coercion to get him to eat.]

"No, Beck."

"But I need pop so I can be tempted."

That's a new spin on temptation.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Conveniently, I lost my voice last week when I was supposed to speak on Romans 7.

So I called my friend Alex Tuckness and he saved the day. Listening to Alex speak on Romans is like having the Apostle Paul explain- in the form of a sermon- what he meant.

Click here for the message on Romans 7.

I'm sure I'll have my voice back to preach on Romans 8 for the last two TSC's...(then lose it again on 9 and 11 next semester)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weekend Retreat

I just got back from another retreat... here's a picture of Ed Noble and me at the camp. Ed spoke Friday night and Saturday, while I led worship with some of the Anthem band. Here are some highlights:

- Along with being one of the wittiest (i.e. smart alec) guys I know, Ed always sharpens me theologically and spiritually. Topics of discussion: Atonement theories, church leadership, politics, perspective on gay marriage, sporadic prayer, some lessons in appreciating Hebrew and Greek, words of knowledge, demonology/spiritual warfare. I was bummed he had to take off on Saturday night to speak at Brookside Church in Omaha on Sunday morning.

- It was great to see Jeff Dart, an old roommate and friend from college who leads the Brookside youth ministry. He is more like Jesus than most of us. His love for people is sincere and God really seems to have his hand on him for ministry. His group was fun to lead in worship, as they were very open and responsive.

- This morning I spoke in Ed's place. I called it the "choose your own sermon adventure." I gave them four options and let them vote on the sermon they wanted to hear:

1. How to have good sex
2. How to be a Christian and still go to hell
3. Mystery talk (but I told them it involved angels and demons)
4. The best thing in the Bible you've never heard preached on.

Which do you think they chose?

I thought number one would be a slam dunk (we did a secret ballot system to ensure anonymity). Drum roll...

They chose #4, which made me a little nervous, because I only spent 15 minutes preparing that message- and that was 15 minutes before the session. But it was a fun message to preach, as I've done a lot of thinking on it over the last 10 years since I first stumbled upon 2 Peter 1 "so that you may participate in the divine nature" in the summer of 1998.

The message?

Basically a meditation on the doctrine of glorification. God is going to share his glory with us. Calvin's commentary on "divine nature" is that it's a sort of "deification." Wow. I won't re-preach the sermon but it's central to our hope, and yet we do so little thinking and preaching about it.

- The other highlight from the weekend was getting home. Although I was running on fumes coming home, I'm always re-energized by pulling in and seeing kids teeming out of the house to greet me.

I can't wait for a restful week, filled with thanks to God for his kindness to us Americans. Ever since reading the Mayflower (great book), my awe of what we have here has skyrocketed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


On Monday I did my typical routine... got a text message from redbox with my free DVD rental. So I watched Expelled.

This movie is worth seeing. It's a little polarizing (comparisons to Nazi Germany), and certainly not the whole story, but it exposes the ridiculous suppression of truth ("damned nonsense" as C.S. Lewis calls it) that goes on in academia. I was surprised to find a friend that was in it... Guillermo Gonzalez. He was a part of our church and recently "expelled" from Iowa State.

My O.T./N.T. prof...Hector Avalos. I also did an independent study with him on my topic, "An essay concerning Jonathan Edward's biblical exegesis in 'The End for Which God Created the World.'" Although Dr. Avalos is a prosletyzing atheist, I consider him a friend and a man with crazy knowledge about the ancient near east.
And last but (or and...) least my physics prof- John Hauptman. I didn't get to know him well, but he seemed like a nice guy. But his quotes in the movie were blatantly hostile to faith.
Where do we go from here?

If you're a young person with an inclination toward science- strive to be the next Newton or Kepler or Einstein. Do science with all your might and remember the chief end of all science is the glory of God. Cherish Psalm 19. And remember that as a scientist, you are merely "following the faithfulness of God in all things." (to loosely quote AW Tozer in Knowledge of the Holy)

If you're a schmo... pray and love people. Don't try to win arguments. Don't throw down your "pearls of knowledge" on intellectuals. But don't think the truth is unknowable. "The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple." Ps. 19

If you're a Christian apologist...don't deny this fact- believing in a Creator God is an issue of faith (Hebrews 11:3 "By faith we believe God created the world...").

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Babysitter and the New Cave

Today Leatha had to run to Des Moines, so I dropped the kids off with one of our students, Tim Odell, who lives in the dorms. I played b-ball at the nearby gym (as I always do over the lunch hour on Mondays and Tuesdays).

Makai was a fan of the animal crackers. This is such a stereotypical guy dorm room- skateboard, guitar, random food, a mess... the boys loved it.
Tim cooked Beck some Chicken Noodle soup. It was a big hit.
Tim can do both the traditional 3x3 and 4x4 Rubick's cube. Cameron was impressed.
This was a very sad day yesterday. My office is officially a cave. Here is the last glimmer of light that will ever be seen through the window. I'm so glad I was able to capture it on camera...Goodnight now.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Busier than I want to be

But it's all good stuff...

Tuesday night: Anthem rehearsal. Got home around midnight.
Wednesday: Woke up to Makai screaming just after 5:00 AM. Anthem band played for our hs/jr high ministries. Got home around 11.
Thursday: Woke up to Makai screaming just after 5:00 AM. Good thing I had my earplugs handy, but too bad they couldn't shut out his crying. Neither could the pillow over my head. Anthem band played at TSC. Got home around 11:30.
Friday: Makai slept in 'til 6:00 AM. I knew I was in for a good day. Anthem that night. More on that in a second...
Saturday: Woke up to Makai, but went back to sleep as we were rescued by Grandpa Jack and Grandma Linda, who had driven up for Anthem. Stadium cleanup until 11:3o pm in 26 degree weather. Here I am with Parker, a guy I recently started discipling. This was his first ever stadium cleanup. He picked a winner to attend. Don't get me wrong- ISU got slaughtered by Missouri (a moment of silence for the pathetic Big 12 North...)- but more importantly, the Janitors of God rocked Jack Trice Stadium in just over 2 hours. I'm overwhelmed by the 200+ students that came out in the freezing cold to serve Jesus in this way.Sunday: 6AM- left for church to lead worship for the gym services. 1:45- got home to attention starved chilren and a wife who I haven't seen much of for a week.

Next weekend: What was I thinking...another youth retreat.

Anthem was amazing.

Imagine 1,000 students packed into a gym for one reason alone: passionate worship of the living God. It's indescribable. Uncontainable.... I feel a song coming

My personal highlights (I will try to get pictures soon):

- Going into the night I received a prophetic word from a friend. He said people were going to be saved, therefore, I should make the gospel clear. I did my best one minute gospel presentation at the end of our first set going into "lead me to the cross." I haven't heard any specific stories of new birth yet, but...

- 4 of the people I talked to after Anthem all said they realized for the first time who they were in Christ. One guy said it was like he was having an out of body experience. He was looking at himself worshiping and he was saying about the guy he saw (himself), "That guy right there- he is a true follower of Jesus. This is real. His faith is real!" The God stories from Anthem abound. There are 1,000 of them. Many said they felt the presence of God walking into the room.

- Jesse singing "My love, I adore" with just him on acoustic...Wow. That Anthem song's got some anointing on it. Soli Deo Gloria, Clint!

- Tim and Geoff coming down from Des Moines to lead during the acoustic set. Dude's got a set of pipes (he almost made this season's American Idol), but more importantly, he exudes worship. God has bigger plans than a tv show for that guy. Geoff's tasty guitar playing on the T-5 (a guitar that's worth a downpayment on a house) was so fitting for the songs. Praise God for such gifted people. AW Tozer said how the world has taken God's instruments and thrown them in the mud. May this generation take hold of T-5s and play them like David would- with passion and skill for God!

- Five years ago, I used to have this attitude about the songs we (me and other people in our church) wrote, "Well, I guess we should do one of our songs, since we wrote it and all." But in my heart there were 10 other songs I'd much rather do.

This is not the case now. Case in point: "One life" and "I will lift up my voice"

The new Anthem songs are blessed. I can't wait to get them on an album this spring. We're planning on a live CD/DVD recording at the next Anthem.

I've never worked with such an "others-centered" and "God entranced" group of musicians and artists. They could care less whether their name is attached to a song (they even resist it), or whether they play lead or just run lyrics and help tear down. They are happy being nameless, as long as Jesus is glorified. May God bless us in a way that it spills over. And especially to the nations.

"How can I repay the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the LORD..." (Ps. 116)

Neck Agility

This is funny stuff

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Anthem Vision and Go Madison!

I've got a new link for people who ask me what my vision is for Anthem. Just click here and watch the video.

Also, Madison is a student in the Salt Company. She's one of the final people on Rachael Ray's cook-off. Click here to watch an excerpt of last Monday's show. You can also click here for her entry video filmed at her sorority. She's in New York right now filming one of the last episodes...go Madison!

Anthem Week: Hunger

O God you are my God. Earnestly I seek you, my soul longs for you, my body thirsts for you. In a dry and weary land, where there is no water. O God you are my God. I've seen you in the sanctuary, beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. -Psalm 63

God, stir our hearts today with this hunger for you.

Here are some pictures from our Anthem rehearsal last night...It was so loud in the room where we practiced. I had earplugs in the entire time. I'm getting older and smarter. Some of the highlights: the connection group that served us a meal (lasagna!), the talent of that group is ridiculous, and Mattycakes taking the week off and making the 3 hour trip back to Ames to be a part of Anthem.

Here's a study in contrast: Bass player Bryan Alsbury. Notice the Metallica tshirt juxtuposed with the first stanza of "Amazing Grace" tatooed on his forearm. "Hold my breath as I wish for death" meets "was blind but now I see."

Clint Robinson is the tastiest drummer I've met. He plays drum lines that you want to sing. His drumming style is becoming a staple of the Anthem sound (i.e. the beginning of "Your glory")

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Anthem Week: Listen

For a lot of Christians, the idea of "listening to God" is weird. I think we're afraid of what might happen if everyone starts listening to God.

So we opt for the more controlled approach: "Why do you have to make life with God so difficult? Read your Bible and just do what it says."

To be sure, there are plenty of Christian wack jobs out there waiting to validate every voice in their head, "God told me to go the long way to work this morning" or "God told me to tell you..." or worse yet, "God told me we were going to get married."

But I don't think the spiritual abuses should keep us from cultivating an intimate walk with Christ. One thing is for sure, I don't want to be one of those who waits passively, "If God wants to speak to me he knows where to find me [while not applying all diligence to seek Him]" On the contrary, using every possible means, I resolve to seek Him- reading, memorizing, meditating on the Scriptures, prayer, fellowship, conversational relationship with God throughout the day. In a word, listening.

On a personal note, I've never had God speak to me about any major life decision- telling me to do this or that. Usually God's voice in my life is less spectacular, "Hey Mark, you should stay late and help tear down chairs" or "Maybe you could help ___ by giving them ____."

If God does speak to you in a "crazier" way, first give it time. The bigger it's ramifications, the more you should pray about it and talk to a spiritual adviser for guidance.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Anthem Week: Identity

Leading up to Anthem this Friday, we're doing a spiritual intensity week.

Everyday we're going through a journal with a one word focus; today is identity. Who we think we are and who the world says we are is vastly different from who we are in Christ.

This morning I read from the Valley of Vision:

"In the light of thy preciousness, the world and all its enjoyments are infinitely poor... Amid the blessing I receive from thee may I never lose the heart of a stranger....Produce in me self-despair that will make Jesus precious to me."

May God awaken the souls of this generation to find their identity in Christ.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Response regarding prophecy

I rarely respond to a comment as a new entry.

But in this case I think it will be helpful to understand some of the perspective from which I'm writing.

In the following post a couple days ago (click here), I made a reference to Piper's comments on the election as "prophetic." The anonymous writer objected to my use of that word in that context.

First of all, I appreciate all comments, especially those that force me to think about what I'm saying. I love it that this person took the time to write a thoughtful objection. The point is taken, the word "prophetic" can get easily thrown around, as it may have been in this context.

But here's why I think I'd still use the word in that post...

1. I'm a continuationist.

In other words, I don't believe the spiritual gifts ceased with the close of the canon or the death of the apostles. I pray regularly for the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 14) and try not to despise prophetic utterances (1 Thess. 5:20). I've never spoken in tongues, but I affirm those who do. I would describe myself as part of a growing number of young church leaders who have reformed and charismatic tendencies. I'm heavily influenced by Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Dallas Willard, J.P. Moreland, Sam Storms, Jack Deere, C.J. Mahaney, and Mark Driscoll to name a few. Oh yeah, and a caveman approach to the Bible (click here for more on that).

All that to say, from my perspective, "prophetic" is in bounds. It's not weird and your name doesn't have to be "Isaiah" or "Daniel" to prophecy. As far as I'm concerned, it's less "trendy" and more "ancient." The anonymous writer asked for a definition of "prophecy." Read Grudem's Systematic Theology, or The Gift of Prophecy in the NT and Today for a more in depth treatment.

2. From my perspective, Piper's words were prophetic

Call it wisdom. Call it a compelling take on the biblical worldview. Call it application of the Scriptures...those all work. But I've heard enough evangelicals moaning about the election- it makes me sick. I'm tired of Christians who mockingly quote Matthew 24 as "the Obama-nation that causes desolation." I think we need someone to call us back to what we're supposed to be about.

In my opinion, Piper's words were timely, forceful, and full of conviction and warning to God's people.

Using "prophetic" takes nothing away from the careful thought, study, application of the Proverbs, effort, and even preparation on Piper's behalf that led him to speak those words. It just makes them all the more trustworthy. And remember, his words were not flawless. Typical of N.T. prophecy- subjective and needing discernment.

I've posted several other entries on this topic- I think most are labeled "Theology" or "Spiritual Encounter" to the right. And I'm sure there will be more to come.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Post TSC Oblivion

So here's my Thursday night routine when I get home from TSC around 11 p.m...

Snack time at a quiet table (with the occasional noise of Beck talking in his sleep). Oh yes, Leatha's homemade Granola cereal with a banana (a rare treat...which is why I save half for tomorrow morning) and my vanilla soy milk from Cosco.

Granola, banana, SOY MILK??!! I used to make fun of people like me.

But now that I'm me, I still make fun of me for being such a 32 year old (as of yesterday...) The midnight snack used to be Fruity Pebbles, but now I'm a grown up or something. (Click here for some background on all the maturing that has taken place since April 25th.)

Usually I'm so overwhelmed by all the conversations, people, me giving all I've got, etc that I usually just sit in silence and eat.

Then I mindlessly check some of my favorite websites.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A prophet speaks out

This is amazing. Not amazing as in funny, but prophetic. Listen to John Piper's perspective on the election (it was recorded before the election, but every bit as applicable) by clicking here.

There are times you hear someone and think, "I'm in the presence of a modern day prophet." After watching this clip, I had that thought. (I first had that encounter after hearing him speak at the first Passion conference in '97). His book Desiring God was the framework for a Copernican revolution of my thinking about God my sophomore year of college.

John Piper, wherever you are, thanks for what I believe is a prophetic utterance here. (and props to Andy and Jeff for passing this clip onto me...)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Videos and Voting

Video: I'm a lo-tech person, but it doesn't take a com-sci major to see how ridiculous this technology is...click here. I can't even imagine the implications of this.

Video: While in Omaha, Beck saw one of my friend's surf boards and wanted to see what it was like. So we went to youtube and found this. Cameron said, "That surfer is brave." I'm not sure "brave" is the operative word here. Maybe "stupid" is more fitting. I'm still having a hard time believing the authenticity of this video...

Vote: Get out and vote. If that's not compelling enough for you, listen to Chuck Colson's plug to vote: click here (then click "listen now")

Friday, October 31, 2008


Last night at Salt Company I preached on Romans 5:12-21. What would Romans be without more bad news about the abyss that has separated us from God? But the conclusion in verse 20 is so unfair, or too fair, however you want to look at it: "where sin abounded, grace abounded much more."

It's the paradox of grace: the more you sin, the more grace you get. As one Puritan said it (click here for the Puritan prayer...one more reason I'm a metropuritan), "great sin draws out great grace."

The greater your separation, depravity, emptiness, corruption, sinfulness- the greater your capacity to love what Jesus has done for you. To quote our Rabbi, "He who has been forgiven much, loves much..."

The closer I get to Jesus, the greater I cling to him. I've been worked over by Ed Noble's last two messages (tongue and eyes) in their "Relational IQ" series. And I can't wait for this weekend, as Jeff Dodge gave me a preview of Matthew 8. I want to see people as Jesus saw them. I want to speak "micro-blessings" over people throughout the day (and not letting a single negative word come out of my pie hole...)

Also, I had the great privilege of meeting one of the college students who was reborn when I gave the invitation to receive Jesus a couple weeks ago at TSC. God is at work here. And in me.

Shalom. (a great micro-blessing to speak over people...)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Makai's Tricks

I was experimenting with imovie on Leatha's Mac, and I guess this is the best I could do in an hour.

Makai is 16 months old, and he should have more "tricks" up his sleeve than this. But he's still the man. Makai Moses Arant...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cameron's view of me

One night when I was at Salt Company, Leatha was taking prayer requests from the kids.

Here's Cameron's prayer, "Please help dad to get home safely. Help his tires to not wear out. Help him to have enough gas because sometimes he forgets to get more. Help him to remember things. Amen."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Colors of fall

One of the advantages of going green (i.e. chemical free lawn) is that you get voluntary prairie grass in your yard every year. And in the fall, it turns this cool brown color. That's the optimist's way of looking at weeds.

As optimistic as I am, I'm using all the chemicals I can muster up next spring. Forget green, we're going back to toxic next year.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Speaker and Book recommendation

Alex Tuckness is my secret weapon. In my case as a Bible teacher, if you aren't smart, you don't need to act smart. You just need to know smart people- and let them teach.

He preached last night at TSC and again was money on Romans 5:1-11. After that dude preaches your soul feels enlarged and your brain feels exhausted.

His illustration on what justification without reconciliation looks like gave me a new appreciation for the array of Biblical metaphors used to describe what it means to be "saved." I've always found the reformed emphasis on justification lacking. Beautiful as it is, it's not the only metaphor used in the Bible. To me, justification carries the connotation of an impersonal declaration that happened somewhere in a cosmic courtroom. On the other hand, metaphors like reconciliation, adoption, redemption, glorification to name a few, remind us of the life sharing Christ.

Anyway, it was a good message. Oh yeah, he had the flu all day and puked 50 or so minutes before speaking. You can find it here (not the puke, the message. It should be up soon and if you don't find it, just listen to his Romans 1 talk..."Hanging slider center of the plate...boom outta here...Alex goes yard again!").

Finally, I talked with our TSC staff men today about purity. Here's what everyone shared...

Just kidding.

But this is the best book on purity that I've ever read.

It's perfect for guys- short and to the point. And written in a way that you won't struggle with purity more after reading it, as some books on purity can be...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Theological grids and immunizations

I'm reading through Hebrews. I used to fear this book, but now I love it.

Here's why.

I used to see this book as a nuisance that threatened my theological system. I believed in eternal security (i.e. "once saved always saved"), assurance of salvation upon profession of faith (i.e. "if you just prayed that prayer, you can know for sure that you are saved", and a faith that was fear-proof of judgment (i.e. "Why be afraid? I know Jesus").

I always had to brace myself for Hebrews 6 and 10, where the author hints of people losing their salvation. I would approach those texts armed with, "I know how to interpret this- it's not saying what it seems to say..."

Working with college men, I have plenty of conversations about moral purity. One question I ask, "Would you rather deal radically with your immorality or go to hell?" It sounds like a stupid question, considering 99% of these students claim to know Jesus. Of course they're not afraid of going to hell, they believe in eternal security. The theological system says, "Stupid question." The problem is that I think it's a question Jesus compels us to ask ourselves (Matthew 5:29-30).

So here's my point, any theological system that immunizes us from threats like Matthew 5:29-30 or Hebrews 6:4-12 or 10:26-31 is jacked up.

Ironically, I more or less believe the aforementioned doctrines, but I think they were poorly stated, and therefore breed confusion.

Until I see him as he is, I still like my theological box. So here's how I've salvaged it (i.e. a way to rethink or restate what I believe to be true)...

Eternal security is a bad way to say it. "Perseverance of the saints" (the "reformed" way of saying it) is better, because it implies that the called out ones will persevere. Hebrews 6 and 10 won't happen to someone who is truly saved. An even better way to say it is "preservation by the Holy Spirit" (Eph 1:13). I'm sure there are a lot of "eternally secure" people bound for hell.

Assurance of salvation, in my opinion, comes more with time than it does in the moment. My dad doesn't sit around wondering if he's really a Christian. You become more sure over time- Hebrews 6:11-12, 2 Peter 1:10-11. Everyday I persevere is another day God reminds me that he is preserving me by the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives in me, and I in him.

Finally, a fear-proof faith might breed thoughts like, "Why would I confess my sins- I'm already forgiven." The only problem is that confession is central to any conversation and communion with God- Matthew 6:12. I promise you have that verse memorized already. Paradoxically, we need to walk confidently low to the ground. Jesus has saved us from such a great Day (eternity) of wrath, but we never presume it's a day we deserved to be saved from. On this- everyone needs to own a copy of Valley of Vision. As my friend David Churchill says, "It's like God talking to himself." A great tool for time with God. These guys were so in touch with their humanity and gripped with a knowledge of the Holy. Put these two things together and grace gets really big.
To make a long post longer...the book of Hebrews is a beautiful picture of how Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of everything we need. Therefore, we ought to run and cling to him with all we are. As long as I'm holding onto Jesus I know I'm safe.

On a lighter (and unrelated) note, Leatha asked Beck if he needed her to wipe him. He said, "No, daddy likes to do it."

Monday, October 20, 2008

A typical day

Beck crashing with his two "Bibles" He calls this menu from Mary Greeley hospital one of his Bibles. I'm not sure why. But his real Bible is duct taped, as you can see.
Makai is at that age where he constantly needs to be watched. He's doing his best to make Leatha's Macbook one of his casualties.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Preaching (After the fact...)

I don't end messages this way very often, but I gave people the opportunity to receive Jesus by praying along with me and raising their hands to let me know they made a profession of faith.

I didn't plan on it, but by the time I got to the end of Romans 4, it seemed like a "duh, why wouldn't you give people the opportunity for people to profess faith in Christ?" moment.

Pastors aren't always the sharpest tools in the shed. Maybe I should speak for myself.

In reality, something in me is not a big fan of the altar call church culture. Either way, it was a cool God moment to be apart of. No doubt we- me and the other teachers in our church- need to do a better job of leading people to the cross more often.

I couldn't see for sure how many hands were raised, but I would guess over 20. It was dark and there were 700 people there, which made it hard to scan the whole crowd. I praise God for every hand raised- evidence that the Spirit of God was at work in their hearts.

The Spirit of God was thick in the worship after the message. There was a joyful surrender to the undeserved right standing that is ours in Christ.

As a preacher of God's word, I rest in this: God's truth was clearly proclaimed and God's Spirit was at work. So I say with the Reformers- Soli Deo Gloria.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


This year at Salt Company I have enjoyed worshiping toward the back. Every week I sit by Dan and the Funk brothers (that sounds like a band name), and they pray over me before I go up. It's never planned, but it always seems to happen.

Last week as I was walking up to preach on Romans 3:9-31, I said to Dan, "If you don't hear the gospel by the time I'm done preaching- fire me."

Tonight I have Romans 4. The gospel is low hanging fruit in these parts of the Bible.

At the same time, I feel the weight of heaven and hell in the balance.

I think of all those with false assurance. Those that will enter heaven saying, "Lord, Lord, did we not..." and he will say, "Depart from me, I never knew you." (Matt. 7) I think of the others that will boldly reject the good news and spend eternity separated from everything good- the "eternal pleasures" as the Psalmist says (16:11). I feel the burden of those who by faith stand right before God, but can't shake the guilt of past sins.

As one who proclaims the mysteries of God week after week from the Scriptures, I praise God for the Holy Spirit, who not only feels this weight, but bears it for me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kids make me laugh

Beck had a lot of great quotes today...

He's pictured here to the left with his farmer shoes and new belt, "just like daddy's."

On getting new (hand-me-down from cousins) shoes, "Dad, I love these farmer shoes. They're just like Uncle Roger's. I can walk in poop with these on. And mud."

On puking... "Dad, it just squirted out of my mouth and I didn't want it to."

On mom... "Mom, you look pretty this morning- you're sparkly."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Politics as usual, unless you're a "Maverick"

This was hilarious, the best political parody yet. Click here to see the Biden-Palin debate from SNL.

I'm as skeptical as I've ever been about politics. Neither side fires me up. So I fully enjoyed the humor of this, without thinking, "Hey, that's not fair...I like that person."

I'd be interested to know, from those of you with strong political convictions, to hear how you're voting this election and why.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Cool pics from the sky

Another reason to frequent Chris Braun's blog. He's good at giving a slice of cool stuff floating around out there in cyberspace. Click here to find some breathtaking "pictures from above."

It's amazing the things our modern eyes are privileged to see...a bird's eye view of the planet has never been an option for anyone but those in the last 100 or so years.

Unless of course you climbed up a big hill.

On Parenting

Last night I spoke to the parents at our family ministry, D6.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about parenting recently (I think I'm up to 3 minutes a day). So this talk was some of the overflow of that. Maybe I need to do more thinking on parenting. It wasn't a stellar talk, as far as speeches go, and I did overstate some things. Typical.

But, one of the things that's on my heart is to help parents get beyond a "method" of parenting (We follow Tripp, or we follow Ezzo's, or we follow Priolo, or we follow Dobson...). Churches are so good at creating little legalistic subcultures (i.e. if you're not talking to your kids about the Bible and that God says what they did is wrong after you spank them, you haven't done your job OR "if two kids are fighting over a toy they are both wrong, even if one 'had it first' OR you need to breast feed in this way...). I think there are some valid points to what we learn in the parenting books, but let's take a step back and remember something...

Raising kids is making disciples. Jesus never spanked his disciples. He didn't breastfeed them. So how did he teach them?

That was the bulk of the talk. My favorite point from the speaker (every blind squirrel finds a nut) was...[drumroll]...

"Teaching moments are not always in the moment, but always in the moments."

A lot of times, our kids are not ready to have a heart to heart conversation right after they've been spanked or suffered the consequences for what they did. More of what we teach them will happen naturally in the context of doing life together- shema style- walking along the road, driving in the car, eating breakfast, going to bed, playing outside, even watching TV. Whenever life happens, we are teaching.

It's just a matter of what we're teaching.

I sensed that everyone was particularly engaged during the point that we should use the good, bad and ugly stories from our past to teach our kids. I frequently speak to youth about moral purity. I've already gone public with my victories and failures. I will definitely be as open as I can with my kids when that becomes a relevant discussion. I think there is a time to talk to our kids about being immoral, raped, abused, pure, whatever to help them learn and stay on the path.

Thank God for a church where there is peer pressure to be authentic.

There are some points I didn't get to...

- Each child is different, and different means of discipline will be required.
I've been talking to a college student whose dad tried to raise him like his older sibling. His older sibling was more like his dad in the things that he enjoyed, temperament, etc. Therefore, saying, "Hey, let's go out and work on the car" when your son enjoys graphic design isn't the best way to instruct. One son gets affirmed while the other gets ignored. Chuck Swindoll made a great point about Proverbs 22:5-7, "Raise up a child in the way he should go..." Each child will need to be raised differently.

- God is not your tool to raise good kids. You are God's tool.
As my friend Ed says about parents of teens, "They want their kids to have just enough Jesus to keep them off drugs." The problem is, God cares more about your kid's passion for Jesus than he does about their grades, behavior modification, and the parent's self-image. We can't treat God as a means to get good kids.

There is so much more I left out of the talk.
And so much in the talk you may want to ignore.

Either way, you can listen to it if you have some time to kill or kids to raise- just click here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Moving to Arkansas

After watching the Duggers last night on TLC, Leatha and I were inspired.

Have you seen this show?

You want to laugh at this family for their prima facie conservative extremism, then all of a sudden you start thinking, "Hey, that's not a bad idea." Initially, you might expect a legalistic undercurrent, but you get a surprising glimpse of a grace-filled home marked by holiness, love and joy. Their whole family has a sweet disposition.

The last episode was about their oldest son's courtship. It was amazing. It was the most counter-cultural relationship I've seen. And yet the most exemplary.

This transition to becoming the Duggers won't be easy for us. It will require a few changes...

1. Moving to Arkansas
2. Changing our attire. ("Ava, put on this dress. Boys, don the polo shirt and part your hair with some Aqua Net.")
3. Being happy all the time
4. Cutting out TV. (Ironically, they have a reality show about their lives, but they don't even have a TV...)
5. Cutting my hair (wait, I already did that last week...Leatha chopped off all the old highlights...I look like a school boy.)
6. Building a new house...by ourselves.
7. Homeschooling
8. Teaching our kids how to court (I've got to figure out what that means first)
9. Changing the "Metropuritan" blog to "Neopuritan"
10. Getting a CDL license to drive the family bus.
11. Changing my name to Jim Bob (Not even joking- Jim Bob is the patriarch)
12. Changing our last name to Dugger
13. Changing my dating talk (I encourage college students to date)
14. Having 14 more kids.


Monday, October 6, 2008

What do you know about forgiveness?

I rarely (if ever?) do "advertisements" for people. But since Chris Brauns prays for the Salt Company and has one of the few blogs I try to keep up with...

He recently wrote a book, Unpacking Forgiveness, and has a forgiveness quiz that I found intriguing. I got a few of the answers wrong, which only makes me want to read his book. Click here to take the quiz.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Random Pictures

Tonight we played "Operation" and "Memory" for family game night. Makai didn't do so well at either. His motor skills aren't quite up to par for operation. The memory cards seemed to change location everytime the kids turned them over. Eventually game night regressed into wrestlemania (instigated by Beck I'm sure). Entropy always seems to rule anything we try to do as a family. But everyone had fun.
This is Makai's life these days- getting stuck. Above, he's got a bag of Leatha's forbidden fruit- marshmallows. Everything you see in this closet was free from Walgreens. It's a long story, but the short of it is that Leatha knows how to use coupons.

Below- A parenting dilemma... let natural law teach the lesson? OR come to the rescue?

You never know what is going to become Cameron and Beck's next sheath.