Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Library

Here's something I love about being in a university town: the library.

It's a humbling place. Five stories of this...

Google doesn't even know what this book is MADHYANDINASAKH... Vannah, I'd like to get a vowel please.
The Talmud of Babylonia... that's a lot of OT commentary. I wonder how many people have read every word of this.
I found it ironic that Calvin's commentary had the "BS" call number.
It's interesting how all of this knowledge affects people, either making them proud or humble. I suppose the knowledge isn't what "makes" us proud or humble, but rather exposes the condition of our souls.

Although Solomon is right, "Of making many books, there is no end, and much study wearies the body..." (Eccles. 12:11), the library is a place I need to frequent more often.

Friday, October 29, 2010

If you're a Republican, you can't help but be proud

No way. This made my day. Thanks Paul Sabino (via Joel Vint) for the vine.

This is reminiscent of Matt Foley.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My life

I'm just checking in with some pictures from the last couple weeks. These are some snapshots into my world...

Anthem was a couple weeks ago in Ames. It rocked. The new CD has some killer songs on it, and it really inspired young people to give Christ all their worship. This picture was from the acoustic set in the middle of Anthem. Mark your calendars for November 17th... the first ever Anthem in Iowa City!
For the first time in 11 years of marriage, Leatha and I have a consistent date night (Thanks to Carrie and Mikaela). This was taken in the Ped Mall in Iowa City- we enjoyed the piano skills of fro-man.
Makai got the Sharpie permanent marker and decided to turn himself into Spider-Man.
The whole crew together...
Cameron, our little artist.
Reminder from Ava, "No Texting"
Mint in the tape deck, nobs pulled off... who knows what kid did it? Probably Makai, but maybe Jett.
I took our staff to Davenport for a morning of time alone with God. I decided to spend some time walking through the Casino, letting my heart get broken. The crowd was mostly over 60- people who cash their social security checks then waste away in front of the slot machines.
I took the boys hunting for rocks. Ghetto.
Jeff and I had a meeting in Ames about starting a church planting network here in the Midwest. One of the guys attending let us jump in his plane since Iowa City was on his way. It offered some amazing aerial views- the fall colors were beautiful from the sky!
Jeff started a group called the "Gentleman's Academy." The thinking behind it is that most young men are boys with arm pit hair, and there are so many things they need to be taught... how to be gentlemen. So this week, we taught them how to change oil, all while sporting our navy blazers.
We went out with the Thune's the other night and ended up meeting a homeless guy, Willie, who took us to his house- under the bridge.
One interesting thing is that homeless people still tend to be very proud- in this case, Willie didn't want to stay in the homeless shelter because they made him "check in and tell them what he did during the day."
Well, there you have it- a few snapshots into my life for the last couple weeks.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Some idiot in the projects

How have I not seen this until just now?! (Thanks Spaid and Lance). The epitome of viral...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Leatha Orphanage

Click here for some pictures from the Leatha Orphanage. Props to the TSC students back in Ames (esp Katie Kascel) for how aggressively they've pursued this ministry to orphans!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Anthem follow up thoughts

This isn't the usatoday Anthem reflection, filled with color photos and cool stories. It's more of the "deep thoughts" version...

If you had a room full of 1,200 students, listening with open hearts and attentive ears, what would you tell them?

"Faith is risk. And this is the kind of life God intends for you. It's the kind of life He applauds." That's basically what I said, and the one challenge I wanted young people to leave Anthem with.

It's easy to sing songs for 2 hours about having faith, trusting God, and giving Him our lives as an offering of worship. But as I thought about Hebrews 11, and what the "ancients were commended for", I felt led to take it there. I think it's safe to say that God is honored by men and women who step out, who die to dreams of success and live for dreams of sacrifice and risk. That's the gist of Hebrews 11.

I got this email from a friend following Anthem. I think there are some great things to think about...

Hey Mark,
I was at connection group tonight...and we were talking about your definition of Faith as Risk. I can see where you are coming from; a demonstration of faith is when we put ourselves out into a situation that if God doesn't show up, we will suffer loss. That's the basic definition of risk, an action that could result in loss. But as we were talking about it, we came to realize that faith doesn't seem to be risk, but that faith is actually the antithesis of risk. Faith is the confidence that God will act on our behalf. Risk seems to be the acknowledgment that he may not. It appears that the more faith that we have in God the less risky things seem. Your move to Iowa City may have seemed risky but you trusted, had confidence, had faith, that God was going to come through. Therefore, there seems to be very little risk involved because you knew that God was with you. Perhaps it's just an issue of semantics. I don't think you said anything wrong at Anthem. You explained what you meant and it was very challenging and encouraging. But I'm curious, do you see the tension? What are your thoughts?

First of all, I love emails like this. It's not polemic or antagonistic, but genuinely thoughtful and gracious in tone. And I appreciate the discernment- that my words at Anthem were not mindlessly accepted.

Here's what I think: The paradox of faith is that faith is risk and yet not risk at all.

Reading the rest of Hebrews 11 there is the juxtaposition of 11:32-35a and 35b-38. The first group is full of victories and great exploits, while the second stories about brutal deaths and martyrdom. All pretty much in the same sentence.

The point of Hebrews 11 is this: faith means that you lay it all on the line, trusting that eternity is going to be way better than this refugee camp called life on earth. People filled with the kind of faith that gets commended live accordingly, unaffected by the consequences of their faith in action, whether good or bad. The only way to enter heaven safely is to die with eyes on the unseen.

So faith is risk because there are 2 kinds of stories that may be told about your life, "conquered kingdoms" OR "sawed in two." The risk is that following Jesus by faith may get you killed. It may not result in a mega-church or revival or Christian celebrity status. But it may mean all those things (I personally hope not the third. I don't think I have anything to worry about).

Most Americans have an aversion to suffering. Our gods are comfort and success, and we will do anything and everything to preserve those. Faith is stepping into the Unknown. Of course we take the step knowing he'll catch us. So in that sense faith is the antithesis of risk. In that way I suppose the greatest risk is to play it safe and do nothing at all. Hebrews 11 very well could've said, "Playing it safe is being unsure of things hoped for and uncertain of things not seen. This is what the enemies of God were punished for." But again, the faith-risk is that it's the Unknown for a reason- we don't know how he will catch us.

Finally, in light of our brothers and sisters around the world who have given up far more than us to spread the good news about Jesus, our move to Iowa City was a very small sacrifice. We moved from one form of comfort to another. But in our baby step of faith, we have seen God gladly come to our rescue. He has made our path easy, because he knows we are weak.

I think most Christians are bored. A life without risk usually leads to boredom.

So if you're bored with your faith, ask yourself the question, "What risks have I taken recently?" "What did I do last week that if God didn't show up, my plans were doomed to fail?" I have to ask myself these questions all the time. I don't want to be old and talking about how I once took a risk in my 30's.

Risk does not always mean moving to a new city or doing something stupid (i.e. standing up in the school cafeteria or work place and telling everyone they're hell bound). But it usually involves doing something that gives you that feeling in your stomach, "Oh crap, if God doesn't show up I'm in a bad way".

So this was the challenge at Anthem, and it has been fun having these followup discussions and conversations.

As soon as I get some pics I'll do the USAtoday post for those of you who just like pictures and aren't reading this right now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Anthem is tomorrow!

It was about 4 years and 2 weeks ago that we had our very first Anthem, under a tent in the parking lot at Cornerstone Church. It has morphed into something pretty amazing, and God has used it as an event to stir up the hearts of young people to be undivided in their devotion to Christ.

Tomorrow over 1,000 students will gather for a night of worship and prayer. If you are within driving distance of Ames, Iowa... you should be there!

Here's a sneak preview from Monday's rehearsal...

Is Ryan Seiler going to be there?
Of course.

What about Jesse Antelman?

But you'll also see some new faces... Brenton on drums (jumping in for Clint on part of the set)
Wally on bass... (here giving his best bass player pose). Bass players are always a little... unique. No offense Bryan, but you kind of fit the stereotype... Zombie movies and listening to music where 32nd notes at 132 are cool. We'll miss you at this Anthem, Bryan.
If you don't like it loud, bring ear plugs. Phil will have the auditorium rockin'. Our water bottles were vibrating off the stage. I wonder if Isaiah got ear damage from his glimpse of glory with the voices of the seraphs, whose voices were so loud, the doorposts and thresholds shook (Is. 6:4). And the place was filled with smoke. We'll have a little of that, too.
But more than the band, music, hazers, yada yada- hundreds of people have been fasting, praying, and anticipating the presence of God among us in a powerful way. We gather to pray, seek and worship our great God.

See you tomorrow. 8:00 at Cornerstone (Click here for directions)