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 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 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.

Black Saturday

In the order of devastation...

Cubs swept in the playoffs by L.A.

Nebraska kicked in the face by Missouri... worst home loss since 1955. The good news- we held them to just under 500 yards. Not bad for our blackshirt-less defense.

Iowa State 33 Kansas 35. After recovering an onside kick with a minute left, ISU goes 4 and out. So typical.

The ISU/NU game is shaping up to be quite a showdown in Ames here in a couple weeks.

I'm glad to be living for the kingdom of God. I wonder if there will be sports in heaven. I wonder if there will be wins and losses...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Economy

This is a well written and accessible take on our economical "situation" (click here). Thanks, Chris, for posting the link to this.