Monday, June 30, 2008

Great book

I just finished Kingdom Triangle today. I will be meeting with some fellow elders from our church on Wednesday to talk about it.

The first 140 pages were pretty typical Moreland- great stuff on the need to engage our minds and be more aware of what we believe and why. That will always be prophetic to me and my fellow Americans. We need to be a little less amused and um you know a little more smarter BTW- I need to quick finish this post so I can get to my free redbox movie- Spiderwick Chronicles.

But the last 60 pages are truly prophetic for the American church. I think I would consider these "must read"pages from Moreland, one of the great Christian thinkers of our time. Some highlights:

"However unwise, we Evangelicals are often too quick to dismiss healing, demonic deliverance, miracles, and prophetic words of knowledge and wisdom..."

"In imitation of Jesus' ministry, the church is invited to exercise the miraculous power of the Spirit in the service of the Kingdom."

[he addresses people and churches who are not as open to the supernatural signs, wonders and gifts of the N.T.....] "frequently you are too cautious and too concerned about 'being in control' to allow things to get messy and to take risks where you may look foolish if God's manifest presence does not show up. Too often, there is a rigid, controlling, fearful spirit among you. Too often, you are defensive and stuck in tradition for its own sake. There is too little power in your churches, too little extravagant worship in which your people pour out their hearts to God on Sunday. Too much of your church's accomplishments can be explained without there needing to be a God to explain them. Things are too predictable and too, well, American."

[to the charismatic bros/sisters] "You are too anti-intellectual. If I hear another Third Wave or Pentecostal/charismatic speaker say, 'God offends the mind to reveal the heart,' I think I'll scream... why don't we also hear you say that God offend the heart to reveal the mind? I fear this statement is often an excuse for intellectual laziness."

"Dallas Willard says that we should come to the point that we expect to see the miraculous outbreak of the Kingdom take place as an 'ordinary' part of our 'extraordinary' Christian lives."

Here are some important questions we will surely discuss on Wednesday:

"To what degree will we expect to see the Spirit work in miraculous ways?"
"To what degree should we encourage people to seek miraculous works today?"
"To what extent do we see church life in the N.T. as a pattern for us to imitate today?"
"How much 'space' will we provide during services for the miraculous work of the Spirit beyond just the teaching and singing?"

He has some great book recommendations, and I've got Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist by Sam Storms on order.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pastor Loses His License


We were enjoying a nice Sunday afternoon drive out on a peaceful rural highway (with a nice tailwind). We had just finished talking through the Sh'ma and were excited to pick some mulberries at my uncle's farm.

I'm sure it was more my foot than the tailwind that got our van up to 80 mph. But here's how I know I was going 80 without looking at my speedometer- a nice man in a uniform had been waiting all afternoon with a radar to clock our velocity.

He wasn't too impressed. Neither was Leatha. Or the kids.

Here are some things I learned from that nice gentleman with the flashing lights on his SUV...

1. He likes to hang out by the cemetery on the way into the small town of Cambridge, IA.
2. You can lose your license for 3 months if you're caught going over 25 mph (he had mercy and dropped it to 20 over)
3. If you don't have proof of insurance (our insurance card was 6 days expired), it can cost you $300 in a moving violation, or over $700 in an accident situation (again, he had mercy).
4. My idiocy only cost me $102- what a steal!
5. I am a sinner.
6. Mercy is priceless, but only lawbreakers treasure it.
7. I will be proactive in obeying the speed limit.

I'm sure there are more lessons.

My van is fast. Want to race?


The Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) and the Lord's prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) have become central to my walk with Christ in the past year.

I'm going to try to memorize the Sh'ma in Hebrew with our family.

Click here for the Hebrew transliteration.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Leatha took these pictures on our porch today...


I love poetry, though I rarely read it, seldom write it, and hardly understand it.

More accurately, I've always wanted to want to enjoy poetry.

A few things have converged recently to stir this in me.

1. Cameron has been reading a lot, and he loves to read Mother Goose nursery rhymes. For Cameron, these rhymes seem to be unlocking a door that is opening the world of literature to him.

2. I've been working with our Anthem song writing team to write music. Song writing is poetry- and there's a big difference between tasty and trite.

3. I spent the day with a good friend who shared one of his poems with me. It's actually one of our church's founding pastors, Harold Nesbitt (now working in Kazakstan)...

You Can't Trust A Nigger With A Gun

The graves we dug in the pourin' rain
With enemy fire still a comin' down.
The mud so deep, feared I might be drowned
And laid 'side them who was done with pain.

And the thunder rolled,
And a baby cried,
And a soldier cried,
But I's feelin' bold.

Said: 'Yanks I'll shoot jus' cause they's down here.'
'Cept muskets waren't meant for colored men
Who's fit to dig but not to dig in-
To save our homes- all that we hold dear.

And the thunder rolled,
And a baby cried,
And a soldier cried,
But I's feelin' bold.

A gun I grabs from the Union dead;
'Twas loaded and cocked and good to fire.
I's aimed and fixin' to vent my ire
When bullets exploded in my head.

And the voice of a Reb who knew me said,
'You can't trust a nigger with a gun;
'For sure, he'll shoot his Massah and run.'

And the thunder rolled,
And a baby cried,
And a soldier cried,
And so's I died.

This is the progression- Your first thought might be something like mine, "What does this poem mean?"You re-read it and realize, "It obviously takes place during the civil war. A slave wants to help his master fight against the North. So he picks up the gun of a fallen Union soldier and begins to fight alongside the Confederate army. He was just joining the war when he was shot by a Confederate soldier who told him he wasn't fit to carry a gun."

Someone dies at the hand of a fellow countryman while fighting for the same cause. All because of skin color. You can feel the dissonance in the refrain, "And the thunder rolled..." In other words- it's not how the world should be. It's not right.

My mind fast forwards to modern America. I wonder if some people might not vote for Obama because of his skin color or middle name. An African American seeking to join the fight for his country- and is shot.

It's not a political poem. The author (or me) is not saying you should vote for Obama. But it raises these questions and makes me think.

The poem took me to another place, then helped me reflect on life. That's good poetry.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Summer Reading

Since most of the books I read are meant to keep my mind sharp and my heart deep, I need to consistently mix in fun reading to ensure I don't get too sharp or too deep. (Actually, I only know of a couple people for whom that would be a real concern.) I have a reading sweet tooth, if you will. Until the last couple days, I had been in a fun reading slump- not enough sugar in my reading diet. Too much St. Augustine's Confessions was causing me to suffer from sugar withdrawal.

Until I stumbled upon (thanks, Donnie!)...

Though it was about 400 pages (a lot considering 35 pages with pictures is a lot for me), it was a quick read (esp. the first half about SEAL training). It's definitely told by a soldier- filled with profane and descriptive language, which didn't seem to bother me considering the war context. I'm a turtle reader, but I managed to get it done in a couple days. I couldn't put it down after about page 200 (I skimmed the first half).

There are tear stains the last 30 pages of this book. The elation and emotion over his rescue (that's not a spoiler... "Lone Survivor" sort of gives away the ending...) stirred my heart. I immediately thought of what must happen in heaven when a sinner repents and the spiritually captive is set free. I need to rejoice with more emotion. And reflect more on my personal rescue story.

And there's the obvious reminder that courage and valor are virtues that need to be exalted.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Caveman the Bible Exegete

Caveman (click here for more background on that) has been getting a lot of questions recently regarding Bible interpretation...

There are a couple tools we have that give us a slight advantage over Caveman in interpreting the Scriptures. For the most part, these tools are accessible to everyone (i.e. internet, software, amazon), and not just professional clergy.

The tools help us with our historical, cultural, geographical, linguistic, and contextual considerations.

Here's a classic example of how a geographical/historical consideration might color interpretation:

In my formative years of faith (i.e. high school), "being on fire for God" was a predominant metaphor used to describe a true life of faith. Nothing wrong with that. Until I got to Revelation 3:15-16, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm- neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth."

Interpreting this passage put me in a precarious position.

Here was my interpretation for years (until I had to preach on it)... God seemed to be saying: "I wish that you would either not live for me at all (i.e. be "cold") OR go all the way with me (i.e. be "hot"). It's this riding the fence that I can't stand."

Come to find out, Laodicea was known for it's lukewarm water supply- which was of little use back in the day. Nearby Colosse had useful cold water from the mountains. Hieropolis had useful hot springs. But the lukewarm Laodicean water was of no use.

The geographical/historical research led me to a different interpretation: God wants us to be useful to Him! Do that by welcoming him in through repentance and a passion-filled faith (3:19).

That's not to say the "cold/hot for God" metaphor is not legit. Jesus used it in Matthew 24:12 "the love of most will grow cold."

Can you see I'm stalling on my response to the reader's question to Caveman regarding 1 Corinthians 11:4-ff?

Give me a break, I need some warm up pitches...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Leatha Arant Foundation Update

Great news from our orphanage in Malawi!

Click here for the background on how Leatha ended up with an orphanage named after her.

After my initial post on the orphanage (6 months ago), our college students, along with many of our readers, gave over $5000 to support the orphans for a year. It was an amazing response to meeting the needs of these orphans. A sign of true religion...James 1:26ff.

A couple weeks ago, a group from our church was visiting an orphanage Cornerstone Church started in Zambia. Mikaela Schaefer, the TSC coordinator, had the privilege of meeting Thomas Tambula, who was in Zambia for pastoral training. He is pictured here with the orphans, who are now clothed, along with bags of food behind them. 

He told Mikaela to communicate to us and everyone who supported the orphanage, "Thank you for your appreciation and love and kindness. You have increased the quality of life for the orphans, it is a blessing. Prayer requests: my family, the orphans, and for the church to grow. God bless!"

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the orphanage. If you are interested in directly supporting the Leatha Orphanage (every penny goes straight to the orphans), we will be taking another offering toward the end of the year.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A three year old's superhero...

Beck was going potty when he initiated this conversation about his favorite superhero...

Beck: "Superman doesn't have a penis."

Mark: "Why not?"

Beck: "Because he doesn't go potty."

Me: "Why not?"

Beck: "Because he can't get his costume off."

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I just spent the last two days in Omaha. The purpose: meeting with supporters and alumni of the Salt Company as well as connecting with old friends and new ministry partners.

13 appointments which totaled over 20 hours of meetings.

Two Conclusions:

1. Don't strive to be successful. Live to be a blessing.

People talk so much about how many teenagers walk away from their faith their freshman year of college (common estimates are around 80% who stop going to church after high school). But as a college pastor, the greater concern for me is college students who lose their faith after leaving college. Don't get me wrong, they might still attend church and be nice people raising nice kids. But they have lost all risk to their faith. Their passion for Jesus is cold. The local church is not central to their affections. They don't think about living strategically, giving sacrificially, and investing their talents wisely. They aren't praying for revival in their neighborhoods, workplaces, families, churches... that was for a phase back in college. The dream of being a success quickly replaces the passion to be a blessing.

Praise the Lord for so many of those I met with that are fighting the good fight of the faith!

2. Proverbs 3:3-6 are worthy of "life verse" status

How many marriages did I hear were falling apart?
How many people walking away from their faith?


"Let love and faithfulness never leave you. Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight."

God help us.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Happy 1st Birthday Makai!

Since we were at camp, we lost track of the days. On Friday we were telling everyone, "His birthday is tomorrow."

Then at about 10 am we realized that Friday was the 13th- his first birthday.

Poor Makai. He went about 4 hours without anyone recognizing it was his birthday.

He got plenty of love after that.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I'm not a big fan of long posts, but I'm about to do one anyway. If nothing else you can just scroll through the pictures.

Lessons and Notes from our Vacation

#1- The Drive: Consider your arrival a victory and call it a day.

We drove straight through to Dallas (12 hours). I over ruled Leatha's wishes by letting the kids get happy meals with pop. Leatha refuses to eat McD's...

The fun started after checking in to the hotel. We decided to scope out some eating possibilities and ended up spotting a Chuck E Cheese. We pull in…


“Overtired, I’d like to introduce you to Overstimulated.”

Have you been in that place? Holy cow… Las Vegas for kids.

It was wild being the only white people in the whole joint (and it was packed). It was awesome for so many of our stereotypes to be broken down as we saw many families together interacting in a positive way with their kids. We loved the diversity of this part of Dallas.

#2- The Camp: If you liked camp as a kid, you’d love this camp

We drive down this beautiful road, to Beck asking, "What are all these sticks doing in the ground." I guess he's not used to seeing all these tall pines in Iowa...

We pull in to find college counselors screaming, jumping, and making a human tunnel over our van. We thought it might be a long week when we saw this suburban (decked out with camp stickers).

They took us around and totally unloaded our van for us. The serving begins. They took care of everything. They wouldn’t let us pour our own water or tea, they got us anything we wanted, whenever we wanted it. They tirelessly played with, amused, prayed over and taught our kids. They often broke out into cheesy chants (“We love Jesus yes we do, we love Jesus how ‘bout you)

I’ll have to tell you about the time one of my youth pastors (no names but his first name begins with e and ends with d and you can find his blog on our favorite links on the upper right) broke up a similar chant in the airport…

#3- Fun things

Zip line, trail rides, boat rides, skiing, endless eating, a whole day without the kids, pool (with high platform, blob, diving board, mushroom, slide), tennis, basketball, Frisbee golf, relaxing chairs in shade, soccer goals, sandbox, entertainment during meals (skits the kids just love- here it was Mariachi night with Mr. Verde)

#4- The Counselors

This camp interviewed about 2,000 college students and accepted just over 900, so these guys only take the best. Over the course of the summer, the counselors learn how to love and serve, along with getting discipled by incredible mentors. Leatha commented at one point, "I'd be such a better mom if I would've worked at this camp." I hope to see more Iowa State students here in the future.

It was somewhat of a challenge spending so much time away from our kids on the vacation. The kids often cried going into their classes. Things were not going well with Beck until his counselor busted out her guitar. Then it was all smiles.

#5- The people

If you care about golf (I don’t- or didn’t until this week), we have been getting to know Bernard Langer’s (sp?) caddy. It’s fascinating talking to him about the golf life and the ins and outs of the golf tour. He talked about praying with Langer (who also brings his family to camp here) that a Christian would win the Masters on Easter Sunday. Zach Johnson, the Iowa boy, won that year. I won’t bore the non-golfers with more stories. I just can’t wait to watch golf now, not for the game, of course, but to see my new friend on TV (I hear the caddies are often seen on TV when they're standing by the golfer).

There are a ton of great people we’ve met here, including a professor who is working to help churches impact their cities by serving in the community. He had just met with Robert Lewis, whose book (The Church of Irresistible Influence) has had a huge impact on our church.

#6- The Facilities

Everything was so nice- the cabins, beds, rec equipment, dining area, lake, proximity of buildings, no bugs, camp setting and ethos.

#7 The inescapable reality: I’m not a vacation monk

I know some people are hard core about their vacations being an escape from technology, civilization (as much as possible), and all synthetic forms of entertainment (tv, movies, internet, etc.)

To me that's fasting.

But usually my goal on a vacation is not to fast. It’s to engage and enjoy all of God’s gifts- including redbox, WiFi, a free agenda to play with my kids, etc.

#8 You can't vacation from love, service, and spiritual leadership

Over the years I've learned that if I go into a vacation thinking, "Great, now I can just think about me" things are not going to go well. At least not as a married man. And especially not with kids. The more kids you have, the more devastating selfishness becomes.

The camp did a good job of forcing me into leading my family into the Scriptures.

It was so funny when they said on the opening morning, "Okay, it's 9:15, we're going to send you to family devotions and you'll be accompanied by one of our counselors. See you back in 30 minutes."

I was thinking, "Great. This counselor is in for the lamest devotions he's ever seen."

Family devos on days 1-3 were pretty typical:
Me, reading Bible verses they don't understand, talking over their heads, then closing in prayer: "Let's go around and pray."
Ava: "I don't want to pray."
Cameron: [Silent]
Beck: [Mumbles something]
Welcome to the Arant family devotions.

Thankfully, Leatha had previously memorized the Shema (from Deut. 6) with the kids, so we were able to save face. We started every day quoting that together.

But the last day was pretty amazing, I must say. Every blind squirrel finds a nut.

We were talking about the Matthew 7 passage, "By their fruit you will recognize them."
Me, going over to the tree next to us: "What kind of tree is this?"
Them: "Pine"
I asked, "What would you say to this tree if it said it was an orange tree?"
Them: "You're not an orange tree."
Me: "Do you see any oranges anywhere on or near the tree?"
Them: "No."
Me: "All we see are these pine cones. The fruit shows what kind of tree it is- no matter what kind of tree it thinks it is, the fruit doesn't lie."

Me: "What does this say about our faith if we claim to know Jesus but don't have any fruit?"
Them: "We probably don't know Jesus."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Classic Cameron

Cameron, "Dad, I can't find my water bottle anywhere."

Me, "I think I saw it on the futon."

Cameron goes and looks, "No, dad, it's not there."

Me, "Look harder."

Cameron looks a second time, "Dad, it's not on the futon. I looked."

Me [exasperated], "Fine, I'll help you look."

Oh, no wonder he looked all over and couldn't find it. It was almost 80% covered up by a piece of paper...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Camp is almost over


Keep it on the DL that we skipped a speaker session this afternoon to come into town.

I'm chillin' at McAlister's Deli and Leatha ran by Old Navy. This Deli is awesome, why don't we have this chain in the Midwest?

I'm glad to get all the news from back home, like Iowa being underwater (Has anyone checked to see if our basement is flooded?), the Cubs still owning the NL (Go Cubbies!), and the Celtics up 3-1 (Bummer, Ed).

More on camp when I have the time to include pics and have more time online.


Thursday, June 12, 2008


For the record, Leatha and I read every comment. I can't say we do our best to respond to all of them because our response record speaks for itself (i.e. nill)

However, we do try to address comments that we...
1. Have time for
2. Are very interested in
3. Think will affect most readers

We love reading your comments, but my fear is that we will quickly spend too much time responding to comments. We'll try to do a better job...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Family Camp

We're in Tyler, TX this week enjoying Family Camp at Pine Cove.

Neither of us liked camp growing up, so you might wonder why we subjected our whole family to the experience. A rep from the camp came up to ISU to recruit summer staff and offered us a free week.

So far, we're both remembering why neither of us liked camp as kids and simultaneously realizing why so many people like it.

As far as camps go, I can't imagine it being done any better than Pine Cove. It would be an amazing summer experience for a college student. And for families.

Since we've had such a hard time getting internet down here, we'll check back in soon. I'll probably be doing some retro-posts on our family camp experience, with plenty of pictures.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Our backyard, the public park

Dude shows up the other day with his grandson and decides to go for a swing.

Our swing.

Cameron: "Shouldn't somebody know that it's not a park if there's a house in front of it."

Beck [yelling]: "Hey, go away!"

Me: "Let's go tell him about Jesus." [I'm thinking, "What's the worst that can happen...he gets offended and leaves our yard."]

Well, he didn't speak a single word (or syllable of English). So I busted out my Chinese bag of tricks (three words: "Neehow" and "Shey Shey"). Technically it's only two words, "Hello" and "Thank you", but when I say "Shey Shey" I feel like I'm saying two words... "thanks thanks"- see, that's two words. So in total- Hello and Thanks Thanks- Three words.

He wasn't too receptive to the gospel, since he couldn't understand it. But per my post on tongues I thought I'd give it a shot anyway. Apparently he didn't have the gift of interpretation because he just stared at me and spoke in Chinese.

On a serious note, it is a blast having so many internationals in our neighborhood (mostly professors at Iowa State), because (as the metaphor goes) the world has come to our doorstep (or my backyard swing).

What a time in our history!

I don't even have to get on a boat and risk suffering loss. They show up in my backyard and use our swing.

My dad once counseled my aunt, who at the time was experiencing many opportunities in America with internationals and yet desperately wanted to go overseas to be a missionary, "Be careful not to step on orphans on the way to the orphanage."

Lord, help me not to miss the world on my swing.

PS- Leatha the sharp shooter snapped this picture from the kitchen window..."Smile!"...(oh wait, you don't understand English)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Property Value

We're doing our best to bring down the property value of our neighborhood.

I can think of no better way than the ol' clothesline- complete with underwear, socks, cloth diapers...

[Not pictured: our ghetto garden off to the left]

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The vowel that almost jacked up our world

One vowel almost destroyed the world…

Tonight I spoke at our college ministry on the Supremacy of Christ. In rhetoric we use the term “exigence” to describe how important it is to begin a speech with the “problem.” Exigence raises tension among the listeners so they are inclined to listen to what you have to say. I began the message with what many consider to be the most important argument in the history of the church- the Arian controversy- Was Jesus Christ fully God? By way of summary:

Arius: “No”
Athanasius: “Yes”

Enter: An argument over a vowel.

Homoiousios: “of like substance/being”
Homoousios: “of the same substance/being”

As one 4th century theologian said, “never had there been so much energy spent over a single vowel.” So in 381, theologians from around the world gathered in Nicea to declare that Jesus Christ was “homoousios” with the Father. “This affirmation has since come to be widely regarded as the benchmark of Christological orthodoxy within all the mainstream churches, whether Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox.” (Christian Theology by Alister McGrath p. 287)

Jesus is God. Hooray!

One little iota (the Greek vowel) almost jacked up our world pretty bad because what we believe about Jesus may be the most important thing about us.

Consider the fact that to this day, one iota continues to be the foundation of most every cult.

For the other side of this issue, related to the humanity of Jesus, click here.

Things I don't understand

Everyone claims to be "Biblical." But we might need to revisit the way we read the Bible and some of our presuppositions that keep us from experiencing all God might have for us.

Let me give you one example...

The Bible: "Therefore (this is Paul's summary of a few chapters), my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues [click here]. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way."

Missions Organization: "We will not accept people with a private prayer language or someone who speaks in tongues as a regular part of their daily Christian walk. However, if someone in the past spoke in tongues, but it isn’t currently a regular practice, the person will still be considered for appointment." [close to, but not an exact quote]

Here's a great interpretive rule when studying the Bible. It's what I call the "Caveman Principle": If you lock some jungle dude in a cave with the Bible for a year, what will he come out believing?

In this case, will he come out refusing to send missionaries who speak in tongues?

OR, will he come out expecting to see what he just read?

In a class on hermeneutics (the science of interpretation and explanation), you might hear it stated, "If the plain sense makes common sense, seek no other sense."

Applying that, what is your interpretation of the aforementioned Bible passage (1 Corinthians 14:39-40)?

On what other issues are people (and pastors for example) missing the mark?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Beck gets on the scoreboard

Beck: "Daddy, where is heaven?"
Me: "Up there, kind of... But sort of everywhere... Well you can't see it" (the buzzer went off indicating I lost that round)

Beck: "Will Jesus give me a new guitar?"
Me: "I bet he will. He invented the guitar so he's got lots of cool ones I'm sure he'll share with you." (Not necessarily Biblical, but I thought it was a pretty solid answer)

Beck: "Who will come get us in heaven when we're ready to leave?"
Me: "Beck, we'll never have to leave. Jesus is there and we won't want to leave."
Beck: "Yeah, but how will we get out?"
Me: "We won't, we'll stay there forever."

Current score (I'm not quite sure how we're scoring it...): Cameron 1, Mark 1, Beck 1

I think the doctrine of glorification is one of the most amazing and yet least talked about wonders of Christian faith. I've got another post up my sleeve on this topic...