Monday, April 30, 2012

More Baptisms

After teaching on the spontaneous baptism of the Ethiopian eunich (Acts 8), we decided to bring some extra clothes and see who wanted to join the 3 people who planned on getting baptized.

I never want to take this for granted, but it almost goes without saying- the Holy Spirit showed up. Kristi (11:30 in video) was one of the 3 people who signed up to be baptized. She had no church background at all, and found Veritas while searching for churches on the internet. She signed up for baptism out of curiosity, desiring to take the next step of following Jesus. In her baptism "interview", I asked her what the "gospel" means. She said she had no idea, but always wanted someone to explain it to her. After hearing the gospel for the first time (in small group setting), she prayed to receive Christ, and was baptized 3 days later.

One of our connection groups brought extra clothes, with no clue how many would come forward to get dunked. When we saw the clothes, we wondered why they would bring such a small pair of shorts. That just so happened to be the last pair of clothes we had, PERFECT for Jonah (13:00)...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cosmic Joke

Every day I'm confronted with the horrific and yet humorous possibility that God will pull the curtain back and expose one of His great cosmic jokes... "Mark Arant and Jeff Thune planting a church!"

It's divine comedy at its best. Two blissfully ignorant shmos who happen to be standing under a torrential waterfall of God's favor.

I was meeting with a guy today who has one of those stories that could've been included in the Acts narrative. You know, the typical "guy gets randomly thrown in prison, detained for 6 months, finds a Bible and after reading gives his life to Jesus, then miraculously released and finds Veritas through a friend of a friend..."

So I had met this guy the previous year playing ball at the Rec. Apparently I had told him we were planting a church. He said at the time he thought, "This guy is crazy. How do you plant a church?!" Through the aforementioned ridiculous set of circumstances, he's been at church the last few weeks and sees Jeff and me preaching and recognizes us from ball. He sees that God is clearly at work among us, and asks me with astonishment, "How did you do it?!"

That's why I'm taking the time to process the answer to that question right now.

Truth is- I have no idea. 

But the formula for Veritas seems to be something like: Average (at best) people, a big God, some precious promises, and thick unmerited favor= Good News explosion in Iowa City. 

Here are some other highlights via pictures...

One of our guys on staff- Bryan Dermody- recently got a phone call from Rex Ryan, head coach of the NY Jets, asking him to come back and be the head strength coach for quarter of million dollars/year. He turned it down for the peanuts we are paying him to work as an intern on our college staff team. The dude barely fits in his little Corolla... (he could've been riding high in an Escalade...) I love this picture of the kingdom! Finding a field with a treasure and selling everything to get the field...
 This picture is of our men's group. These are all football players. It looks like I've been photoshopped in. The guys on all sides are freaks... Nephilim or something... (Bryan on far right)
 Cody (left) is an atheist friend who has been attending. He's rocking his Oxford Bible, Jackass T, and always has great questions. Dave is on the right... he's one of the pillars of Veritas who moved his family from Ames to stand under this waterfall.
 Here's a verse in the text I'm preaching on this week, "The Lord's hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord... God's message flourished and multiplied..." (Acts 11:21, 12:24)

Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Winning at All Costs

How could the noble desire of winning be considered an epidemic in our culture?

The problem is not that we want to win, it's that we are willing to win at all costs.

But it's not the virtuous cost of sacrificing self for the greater good of winning the prize. Rather, it's the disastrous cost that involves sacrificing character, trust, family, and the most important human relationships for the sake of winning. This is how winning has become losing in our culture.

Are we selling our souls for 10 wins, 5 under par, .300, 50% behind the arc, or, to bring it down to the even more absurd- a high score on Angry Birds? (Is it even possible to win Angry Birds? At least we used to be able to conquer our old video games. Donkey Kong would shut off after 21 levels, there was a princess to rescue on Mario & Zelda. There is nothing to win now... Maybe that's what makes modern game crack so addictive (i.e. World of Warcraft, Halo, Sim Anything, Plants Vs. Zombies...)

Reading these quotes in the USAToday article on the firing of Bobby Petrino is what made me want to process this (in the form of a blog rant)...

"'I hope he stays. He's a winner,' said 72 year old Judy Grisso. 'I don't want to judge his indescretions. We've seen so much of this lately, everywhere. Who are we to judge?'"

"Said Shod Neely, an industrial engineering major at Arkansas: 'I honestly don't care who he has sex with. It's irrelevant to me... I'm more worried about going back to losing than anything.'

"Obviously, he was stupid, but I'm more concerned about winning,' said Mark Thompsen, a 33 year old former Army sergeant who served in Iraq and is pursuing a criminal justice major at Arkansas. 'All I care about is beating Alabama and LSU. If we beat them I'm okay with it, short of him stringing someone up.'"

There's a bit of irony in the statement that she honestly doesn't care about people cheating
saying someone is a winner when they've just lost their integrity (and worse- their family).

Although the first woman wants to suspend all moral judgments ('Who am I to judge?') at least the last guy has some moral backbone (i.e. Lying and cheating may be overlooked for the sake of winning, but not murder)

Of course we'd all rather not have to choose, but I think these three Arkansas fans represent the not so subtle compromise of most Americans. If pushed, we would choose a coach who wins deceitfully over one who loses honestly. And it's not just sports fans who want their wins regardless of the shady means. I've seen more than a few churches turn a blind eye to a shady pastor because he's "such a great communicator." Proud and self-absorbed, but able to grow a mega-church. Neglectful of family, but preaching great sermons. Succeeding at all costs.

I hear the objection, "Even though Petrino's personal life has been one big lie, he didn't break a single NCAA rule."

There is always room in the rules for winning at all costs, but character should never be put on the altar of winning. So this is not a critique of Petrino's behavior as much as ours. We accept it because we want to win at all costs.

And sometimes the Law (that's even bigger than the NCAA) judges us and brings us to our knees. This is where we are inclined to hope and pray that great sin will once again draw out great grace- not only for Petrino, but for me as well (had he been wearing different colors, I may have more forbearance).

Monday, April 2, 2012

Vicarious Veritas Update

Since I'm having a hard time getting my hand to the blog plow, I'll have to settle for an update through the lens of Mark and Val Duvick: Click here.

Part of the bummer of living in a transient college town is saying goodbye to amazing people (sometimes it's nice to say goodbye...but not in this case). We're going to miss you guys! God has a great trail already blazed for you (Isaiah 25:1).