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 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")