Saturday, December 27, 2008

Take A Break From Christmas Break

Are you sick of being at home?

Do you miss your friends?

Are your parents telling you to find something to do...outside of the house?

Then we have the answer for you!!

Join us on Thursday, January 1st, 2009 at Calvary Chapel for the 2nd Annual Christmas Break Game party. We will get started around 5pm and will finish around 10pm. There will be a Wii, some exciting games like Communist Church & Bang! You're Dead! and, of course, a HALO Tournament. So bring your friends and $5 for pizza and snacks.

It will be a great time to get back together since we have missed so many Wednesday Nights this month. I am looking forward to catching up with you and then giving you a headshot in HALO!! God Bless and see you Thursday!

More Promo Videos

More Promo videos for the Game Night - Thursday, January 1st, 2009 - 5pm to 10pm

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My New New Favorite Thing

I am so fickle...

Just like a teenage girl...

I probably shouldn't have written that...

Anyway, I think I have just found my new favorite thing. I seem to find a new one just about every week. (Last week's was, an online streamed radio program that is TOTALLY Free!) This week's is YouVersion, an online Bible study/reader site.

But this Bible site is unique. It was created by the creatively technical geniuses at (an online church) to help people engage the Scripture. So it is set up like familiar online community tools like YouTube, mySpace, Facebook, etc. It has a Bible reader window that you can search and switch between numerous versions of the Bible. It has study notes, but it also lets you link to posted comments from other online users. You can then rate those posts by relevance.

You can also tag verses, write a personal journal or add your own content (such as comments, video, pictures or links). You can also invite friends or follow other users. Pretty interesting stuff.

I am planning on trying it out with a study my D-Group is doing on Isaiah. I just used it for the first nine verses and found all sorts of great info, cross references and had a wonderful journaling experience. I'm pretty excited.

I think if you try the site, it may become your new favorite thing also...

At least for this week.

Let me know how it works for you. God Bless

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bible Study for a Busy Schedule

Many people tell me it is hard to make time in their schedule to read the Bible. I found this video that may help streamline the process for you.

God Bless and enjoy your Ice Day!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Christmas Challenge

Last night at 180 Youth Ministry was one of mixed emotions for me.

I was so glad to have church as the weather had threatened to cancel. I was excited about Chad sharing some of his music and stories from missions in the Ukraine. I was sad because it will be our last Wednesday night service until after the first of the year. But I (along with others I believe) was moved as we thought about how we can transform our Christmas giving into something that makes a difference.

The challenge was issued that we buy at least one present in a manner that makes a difference in the lives of someone in need. This could be as simple as buying clothes or food for a family locally in need. Or it could be as radical as not giving any purchased presents but using your money instead to send to World Vision or the Advent Conspiracy.

As I shared last night, one of the movements I am the most excited about is TOMs Shoes. It is a business that sells these really cool slip-on shoes and for every shoe purchased they send a pair of shoes to a kid in a foreign country who can't afford shoes. This Christmas they are making a push to send 30,000 shoes to kids in Ethiopia. Check out this video about it:

So now, whether you were there last night or are being sucked into this solely on the blogosphere, you are challenged to use your ordinary practice of gift giving and transform it into something that makes an extra-ordinary difference.

Let me know what happens. Post a comment with your stories. I can't wait to hear. God Bless

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Service Project

Unfortunately, it looks like the service project I was working on for us has fallen through. There may be an opportunity at the end of the month that I will keep everyone posted about. Also, I am interested in trying to get some young people involved in helping with the process of answering need calls in the community. If you would be interested in being involved in that type of thing, please leave a comment to this post.

I do want to encourage you to continue the process of living with less in your personal life and looking at the individual needs around you. And please share your stories with us this week: frustrations at trying to clear your schedule, pain in giving up stuff for others, blessings from getting to give to someone, peace from the freedom clearing your life gives. Whatever your experience, post a comment about it. God Bless.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Text Messaging

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Worship Options Part 2

A couple of weeks ago I posted some YouTube videos as possible new worship approaches for us. Today I came across a video showing another church actually taking one of those ideas and putting it into action. This particular video starts at the end of the message for this church's Sunday morning service. As you will see, what occurs is a surprising and totally new way to do the response time!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Break!

Oh wonderful Thanksgiving Break! How glad we are that you are here for us! I hope you are already enjoying your time off from school. I already slept in two-and-a-half hours longer than I would have today...and it feels great!

Just a couple of pieces of info for you. One, we will not have regular Wednesday night services tonight as there is a community Thanksgiving service at 1st Assembly of God at 7pm (come if you can!). Second, we have an opportunity to serve our community this Saturday - Nov 29 - by helping move our local clothing bank. If you can help, meet at the church at 8:45am. Let me know if you have any questions.

I pray you have a great Thanksgiving. This week, let's be creative and redemptive with our time. A few random ideas:
*Offer to do the dishes after dinner tomorrow
*Clean your room without being asked
*Make a present for someone
*Offer to be the one to hide some gravy-filled plastic eggs for the first
annual Thanksgiving Egg Hunt
*Make a video of why you are thankful and post it on YouTube.

Let me know how it goes. Have a blessed Thanksgiving

Friday, November 21, 2008

Some Thoughts about Revolution

So this week I got the opportunity to see Shane Claiborne speak at SBU. He is the author of a couple of books - The Irresistible Revolution & Jesus for President - I've read that have really messed my life up. Here is what Shane looks like.

His books and his talks were centered around the belief that Christians need to start living the way Christ lived. He has a great passion for living with less so we can meet the needs of those who have nothing - both locally and globally. This is a concept that has really challenged me and excited me over the last couple of years. But I am still trying to get my head around what that looks like exactly for myself and for our church. So I was really excited to get to see Shane speak. It was also interesting to me that I was going to get to hear him on the week that I was talking about Revolution on Wednesday night and just a couple weeks before we begin talking about how to care for the least of these.

One of the things that stood out to me the most from his talk and probably answered my questions the best was how he took personal responsibility for change. He said a lot of us can get excited about a movement or a cause but not a lot of us want to do the hard work to get those things done. He said the true change isn't a program or an event or even a communal house like he lives in. The answer is broken individuals realizing their brokenness and then as a part of our healing we try to help with the brokenness around us. It is me willing to see the opportunities I have today to meet the needs of someone around me.

This summer Shane and a few other people went on a tour around the country talking about these ideas and cataloging stories of other people who are trying to live out this revolution. They made a film of it called Ordinary Radicals. Here is the trailer for it.

At the talk this week, he showed a clip from this video of a guy who had read Shane's book and felt convicted to do something but he didn't know what. And that is exactly where I feel I am at. So the guy goes on to share how the very next day, his buddies gave him a ticket to get on The Price Is Right game show. The video shows how this guy gets called down and ends up winning the showcase to the tune of $57,000. So the guy takes the money and goes to Uganda and spends time in orphanages there giving the money away. It was incredible and the guy said it was just the natural thing for him to do.

As we start imagining a different tomorrow for ourselves - a way of living out our faith - I wonder what God has in store for us. Let me know what you think. Let me know what you are praying for God to do in your life. Let me know how you feel God calling you to be a part of this revolution.

God Bless.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Worship Options

Here are a couple of possible new directions for worship for us. Let me know what you think.

Friday, October 24, 2008

It's A Beautiful Day

(Please Note: the following post is best read while listening to the above song. Hope you enjoy.)

So I had a lovely day today.

To preface that statement I must say it has been an interesting week. My wife has been extremely ill since Sunday night with what she calls the flu-of-a-lifetime. She has barely moved off of our couch-converted-into-a-hospital-bed, which, if you know my wife, is extremely unlike her. I mean she has babies and is up mowing the grass and rearranging furniture the next day. So I have been trying to help her and keep all of our kids alive, including one-month-old Isaac. And I'd be lying if I said I've kept it all together with a cool head.

But today, since all of the kids were off of school, I decided to get us out of the house so Shannon could rest. So we took a trip to Springfield. We ate at Imo's Pizza (which my kids loved!), did some shopping and hung out at McDonald's Playland.

With a 7 year-old, 5 year-old, & 3 year-old.

By myself.

And it was great.

No, really it was. It was just so wonderful to take some time with my kids and have no agenda other than enjoying the time together. To laugh and skip and climb on other people's furniture and sing songs together in the van loudly and off-key.

And on the way home, as I followed this truck with the "pee-on Obama" sticker on the back glass and the new Anberlin album playing in the background, the clouds parted and there was the most beautiful rainbow I remember seeing in a long time. I called for the kids to look so I could share this moment with someone, but I found they had all fallen asleep. And as I started feeling a little disappointment suddenly I realized I was sharing this moment with God. So I began talking to Him and found this extreme comfort in this beautiful moment amid a somewhat cloudy week.

He reminded me in that moment that even though it was somewhat of a tough week. Even though I am not strong enough to always respond in the right way. Even though this life is imperfect and messed up and broken, He still is in the business of making beauty out of our mess. Let's look for that beauty together this week. Let me know what you find.

God Bless. -Mark

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Rebel with a Cause

There is a part of me that is a rebel.

I don't like to conform to the norm. I don't want anyone to tell me what to do. I seeing injustice. I drink milk straight from the jug.

But then there's this other part of me that doesn't like to rock the boat.

I don't want to upset people when I disagree with them. I don't want to inconvenience people over the things they are doing that inconvenience me. I stand by silently when friends like country music.

So the other day I was talking with a friend about some struggles he is having at work. We were talking about our similarities in this whole rebel vs push-over personalities. He said that he is very loyal and compliant until he starts feeling taken advantage of. Then he says, "Down with the man!" (That's a loose paraphrase. He did listen to punk rock as a child. You know... I am !)

So I've been thinking about this whole scenario and what God would tell us to do. How are we supposed to respond when there are injustices in the world? What are we supposed to say when the norms of society are in opposition to God's teachings? How am I supposed to react when people don't treat me with love and respect and a servant's heart?

My wife told me this week that if we are going to rebel, we should rebel with joy. I thought that was interesting but then I read these verses this week: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4 ESV)

If we want to be perfect then we are going to rebel against the struggles, the trials, the negative circumstances, the jerks, the ego-maniacs, the slimy politicians, the selfishness, the busy-ness, the materialism...with JOY!

So I am challenged this week to be full of joy despite my circumstances. To be a rebel by not letting the stresses of this life keep me from enjoying the breath of life I have today. To remember that God has blessed me beyond what I deserve and I have nothing to complain about.

And think..what could happen if we all started rebelling with joy? Let's start a revolution of joy this week. Will you join me? This week, if you have an opportunity to try this idea out, post a comment and let us know how it went.

God Bless,


Thursday, October 2, 2008


That's right, boys & girls! It's PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME!

That is, it is time to share the love of PBJ with Buffalo, MO. PBJ=LOVE is a movement that started in the heart of one of our youth (Nathaniel Tirey) at the CIY summer conference this year. As our students were challenged to use something they love to share God's love with their world, Nathaniel felt called to share Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches with the people living in our town.

So this Saturday 180 Youth Ministries is helping Nathaniel start this movement. We are meeting at the church at 10am to make sandwiches. Then we will distribute the sandwiches. And then we will join back together to eat sandwiches and share about our experience.

And then we will do it again next month (the first Saturday of each month to be exact!).

So I hope you can join us for PBJ=LOVE!

God Bless -Mark

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Update on Marilyn

Hey everybody! Here is Marilyn Frye's Newsletter from the Honor Academy (you may want to click on the pics to enlarge them):

Friday, September 26, 2008

Celebrating Life

This is a trailer for Bella

I watched this movie today and it moved me.

It had a good story, despite a few flaws. The acting was definitely above average. The film-making was smart and relevant. The characters were believable, real, and passionate. But the thing that struck me the most was the loud message of celebrating life. This is a rarity in most media today.

Without giving away too much of the movie, I will say I was really struck how the main character's passion for life came because of a tragedy in his own life. As we watch the film, we watch him show his concern for the frailty of our humanness through slowing down...getting to know people...putting others needs above his own...asking the hard questions. How many of us miss these things even when our lives are going great, let alone if we are in the midst of tragedy.

I know this post comes at an odd time since we are in the middle of a challenge to fast from media. But if this film moves you like it moved me, you will be challenged to celebrate life too.

Let me know what you think.

Peace - Mark

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Kingdom is Coming...

Rest is a short commodity at my house right now.

Baby Isaac is still living the Rock Star lifestyle: Up all night! Sleep all day! My older kids are starting to feel the crunch of getting up to ride the school bus with me every morning. So this week while I was having some prayer time, it is no wonder my thoughts went to Jesus' words in Matthew 11: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

But as I read the rest of that chapter, I started to realize some things about what Jesus was really saying. He said this after addressing the followers of John the Baptist, who was in prison wondering if he had done all of his ministry in vain. And Jesus also says this after doing a bunch of miracles in all these cities and having virtually no one change their lives because of them. And so I began to realize Jesus wasn't saying, "Come to me and rest and things will get better."

One of the central messages of Jesus and ultimately the whole Bible is There Is Another Way to Live!

Jesus calls this the kingdom of God.

And He says that this kingdom is available forever for all who choose it - choose His way. But He also says it is here now.

Which is why alot of people thought Jesus came to overthrow the Roman Empire.

And why alot of people think that if you follow Jesus everything will be peachy keen in your life. You know, no troubles.

For me, the concept of rest brings up visions of leaning back and sipping some sweet tea after successfully finishing a task. I'll be able to rest after I finish that project or complete that course or change the diaper. But what if Jesus is saying you can rest - not because of your ability to successfully complete a job - but because of your trust in Him to complete the work.

And what if the kingdom of God taking place here and now is all about followers of Christ living like we really trust Him to do what He says: To forgive us of our sins. To defeat . To turn this world - it's ways, it's problems, it's selfishness - right side up. Despite the fact that some of those things aren't complete yet?

So let me know what you think. What does it mean to rest like Jesus tells us to? What is the kingdom of God all about? How do we trust God despite our circumstances? Can't wait to read your thoughts.

God Bless. -Mark

Thursday, September 11, 2008


This is Isaac Quentin Elliott.

He was born at 10:17am on September 9th, 2008 at CMH in Bolivar, MO. He was 7lbs, 5 oz and 21 inches long. He is beautiful, isn't he?

Everything went wonderfully with the delivery. Shannon and Isaac are both home now - a little tired - but doing just great.

As our household grew by one this week, I have been reminded anew of the wonder of life. How it is truly a gift from God. There is nothing else that can explain the miracle of a little person being made from essentially nothing. How he has all these perfect parts that will grow and mature until he becomes a free-thinking, fully functioning . Nothing short of amazing.

Someone asked me the other day what was my favorite Bible verse. That is a hard question, but I know one of my favorites is John 10:10 as Jesus promises us - "I have come that they may life, and have it to the full."

That is what God has once again done in my life.

And the way that God answered so many prayers with this birth. The prayer of whether it was time to go to the hospital or not (it was). The prayer that the birth was easy and uncomplicated (the doctor barely got in position in time to catch the little guy it all happened so fast!). The prayer for him to be healthy. The prayer for him to come on his great Aunt Elaine's birthday (which he did.)

None of these prayers had to be answered. But God did...because He is good and loves us and wants to bless us and make Himself known to us and give us life to the full.

I am going to be sharing some more about this on Sunday night at our Extended Worship Service (starts at 6:30pm) but I just wanted to get the word out about our wonderful little guy and give God the glory for a great delivery. Amen!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


The above video was used as the closer at last week's Fall Kickoff. It is also the promo for the new sermon series our High School portion of 180 Youth Ministries will be starting tonight: We are living in a Digital World & I am a Digital Girl!

The beginning of the school year is always such an exciting time. We see so many new faces and the return of a lot of familiar ones. There are always a lot of neat activities right at the start of school. Our Discipleship groups get back off the ground after the scattered summer months. It is always a refreshing time.

This school year I am feeling particularly burdened to build closer relationships. We often get so caught up in all the activity that we miss opportunities to just share in each others' lives. This year I am looking forward to getting closer to the guys in my D-Group. I am looking forward to loving new people who come in to our ministry. I am looking forward to more and more students taking on responsibilities which free me to take more time for people.

I am also excited about all our Freshmen!! I am really praying that we as a ministry can help them connect with God and the other students in this ministry.

So, I am really excited about this year, but I want to hear from you. What are your expectations? hopes? desires? fears? about this year?

May the God of all peace and grace bless you.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Story to Share

One of our greatest passions here at 180 Youth Ministries is helping people use their talents (whatever they may be) to glorify God. The following is a story that one of our High School students wrote after listening to Leeland's song "Carried to the Table" a few dozen times. For the best effect download the song via the link below and listen to it as you read the story. God Bless.

Leeland's Carried to the Table

Wounded and forsaken.

"If things don't change soon, she might not make it through the night," said an all too familiar voice.

A sudden sob broke into her fogged mind. Mother was crying. This is was it? She was going to die.

I was shattered by the fall

Earlier that day, her vitals fell drastically. Just when it seemed she might make it. Now, they said she wouldn't make it.

Broken and forgotten

It hurt so much to try and move these last few months. Now, to just take a breath was a thousand knives.

"It was bound to happen. We caught it so late. There was little we could do. Now come, there are some papers you need to sign."

Feeling lost and all alone

Where was she? Who was she? She remembered nothing but the pain.

Their footsteps left the door. So, they would let her die alone?

Summoned by the King

She felt a stab of pain in her breast that flooded over her body. She heard a sudden ring.

Into the Master's courts

"Child, it's time to come home." She heard a gently voice over it all.

Lifted by the Savior

A feeling of unexplainable joy overcame her. "Come. You are being called home."

And cradled in His arms

She felt warmth wrap around her. Never had she felt so safe or so loved.


I was carried to the table

The table that lay before her was laid with food and many jubilant people, laughing and talking.

Seated where I don't belong

She didn't belong here. Not with everything she had done. She didn't ask forgiveness. Why was she here?

Carried to the table

"Welcome home," He said, smiling.

Swept away by His love

"Welcome home," He wrapped her in His arms. "Welcome, you who I have loved, even before you found me."

And I don't see my brokenness anymore

Didn't He know all she had done? Of course, but He didn't care. He was…forgiving her.

When I'm seated at the table of the Lord

She looked around at the table, where faces smiled at her, like an old friend. She wasn't a sinner here; she was a child of God.

I'm carried to the table

She looked to where He and the Father sat, at the head of the table.

The table of the Lord

This was His table. All was forgotten and forgiven here.


Fighting thoughts of fear

She stood before Him. Never had she been so scared. But it seemed to melt as He gently looked upon her.

And wondering why He called my name

Why had He called her? Was He going to speak of all of her sins now? Ridicule her, after He had said the He had loved her?

He lifted a cup. "One of my children has come home. Let us drink." He took a draft from the cup, and then handed it to her.

Am I good enough to share this cup

"I can't. I've done too much to share your cup. I gave into weakness. I can't share your cup."

This world has left me lame

It would also hurt so much to take the cup, she might drop it, and then she would for sure be damned.

Even in my weakness

"In your weakness, I can use you to show my light."

The Savior called my name

"In your weakness I called upon you to spread my word, though you do not know it."

In His Holy presence

"But, I'm broken. How can you love a broken person? How can you love someone who fled from you when she sinned?"

I'm healed and unashamed

"You fled my house when you sinned, not me. In your heart to you held regret for your sins. Your sins have been forgiven. And those forgiven can share my cup. And child, you have never been broken."


You carried me, my God

She realized now that during all of this, she had felt no pain. She looked down. She was standing. Standing. For the first time in months.

You carried me

She grinned and took his cup. "To the King of Kings."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Do I Exist On Purpose?

So I've been reading this book by Donald Miller this week called "To Own A Dragon". And it's all about how Donald grew up without a father. Now I had a father growing up, although in my teenage years I lived with my mom and didn't see my dad as much. Still, I thought "This book is going to give me some great insight into the lives of these people I deal with who have no dad." But I didn't really anticipate it hitting me personally.

Then I get to chapter four.

Donald begins sharing in this chapter how he has felt most of his life like a burden to others. How he pulls out of conversations when they get too personal. How he thinks if people really knew him they'd want to run for the hills. So he has spent most of his life putting on this shell of being charming and interesting and light-hearted, being careful never to reveal too much.

Wow. That hit me personally.

I've always struggled with feelings of insecurity. I can't even exactly tell you why. I've often felt that no one really cares about what I think. I struggle with small talk and standing and having a long conversation. I get this feeling that the other people are just tolerating my blathering out of politeness. And it's not that I don't get a lot of encouragement. It is just something within me that doesn't think I really have something to offer. So I really started identifying with Donald Miller in this area. And then he shared the most remarkable revelation.

He had been reading a book by Dwight Eisenhower about his life and rise to success as a WWII general and eventually the President of the United States. He attributed it all to his parents and their belief that "the world could be fixed of its problems if every child understood the necessity of their existence."

Eisenhower understood that his family couldn't function without him. He was an integral part of that unit. This belief translated to his community as he grew older and to his country after that and eventually to the world. He saw that he was created for a specific purpose and things could not work as they should without him fulfilling that purpose.

I wonder what our lives, our churches, our towns, our world would look like if we all understood that truth. I know for myself I would stop thinking about ME so much and what people thought of ME, and I would start thinking about YOU and what I can do to make YOUR life better.

How about YOU. How would YOUR life look different?

Things God Has Shown Me This Week

Coming back from CIY (the intense week-long summer conference we take our High Schoolers to each summer) is always a struggle. You go from a week of constant focus on God and His work to the reality of trying to live out new commitments in your old, bad-habit filled life. But this week has been different than others in some ways. God has shown me many things this week, in my own life and the lives of others. Just thought I'd share a few.

1. My whole existence is because of Him. The fact that I can breathe and my heart beats. The fact that the sun rises every morning. The fact that I have food and clothing and shelter. The fact that I have a beautiful, super-amazing wife and three (almost four) insane yet healthy children is all because of Him and I should remember to praise Him for that.

2. God works in the quiet things sometimes more than the loud things. Watching Wednesday night as students prayed for each other, wrote on the prayer wall, prayed for things on the prayer wall, served by cleaning and moving stuff, bringint friends, talking to people after service, I realized that the change of God isn't necessarily always this big fanfare but often it is a heart that purposes to do the right thing even when no one is watching.

3. That students really want to change. How awesome it has been to hear story after story from young people this week how they are starting to change habits. Reading their Bible everyday. Journaling prayers. Deleting inappropriate media. Watching GodTV and liking it! Let's keep encouraging each other in these commitments.

4. That just about all that we do is because we want to be loved and accepted. More on this in an upcoming post.

These are just a few things I've seen this week. What has God shown you this week?

God Bless.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Have You Taken a SABBATH Lately?

This week I was searching on Google Image search for pictures for our upcoming Young Adults Ministry's SABBATH Retreat. So I typed in the simple word "SABBATH" and was horrified at what came up on my screen. Of the first 18 images, which are sorted by popularity of the topic you input, they were almost all either of wiccan sabbaths or the iconic metal band Black Sabbath. Actually the top three were all witch sabbaths. Of those first 18 there were none that related to Christianity whatsoever.

As a follower of Christ in a nation that claims to be predominately Christian, I wonder have we so greatly neglected to follow one of the basic (It's in the Top Ten!) commandments that these other concepts of "sabbath" have overrun what God commanded when He said: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Exodus 20:8 ESV)?

So I am issuing a challenge. For a lot of us here at 180 Youth Ministry we are on Summer Break, which means we may be busy but we do have a lot of flex time. So let's bring back the Sabbath! At the heart of this concept of Sabbath is the principle of resting in God. The LORD goes on in Exodus 20 to say: "Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. ON it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter..."(Ex 20:9-10a ESV). Now that's not to say that God intended for us to be legalistic about not doing any work on Sundays, but doing whatever we want the rest of the week. (Or using that as an excuse to not clean your room or do the dishes on Sundays when your parents ask you!) Jesus said: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27 ESV). What Jesus is telling us is that God knows you need this rhythm of rest and reflection and listening to Him, so make it a habit.

So here's a few ideas of how you can do that this week:

*Get up early and pray while you watch the sun rise.

*Schedule two hours this week to go to your favorite outdoor spot and read the Bible.

*Ask your family to go to the park this week with no agenda other than to be together.

*Fast. That means go without food for a period of time so you can pray instead.

I want to take just a moment to share a cool opportunity with this idea. Every three months our Youth Ministry has a designated fasting date. July 11th is it for this quarter. We are asking those who fast to focus on prayer for our High School Summer Conference (also known as CIY!) which is on July 14-18. Maybe you would want to take that day and declare it a Sabbath. Fast and pray and read your Bible that day.

Whatever you decide to do, I challenge you to take some time this week to rest and remember God. Let me know how your experience goes. God Bless.

Talking About My Generation

Last night was a very special night at 180 Youth Ministry. We invited four key adults from our church's congregation to be a panel to discuss the importance and relevance of church with the youth. The four adults were varied in age, type of involvement with our church and length of involvement with our church. It was so neat to see the youth respond as Edith Boro, an elderly lady from our congregation, shared her salvation experience and her unbridled love for the youth of our church. Lots of great questions were discussed, but ultimately, my eyes saw the greatest achievement of the evening was the youth beginning to see the level of love and support the "older" parts of the church have for them.

If you were here you know the only problem was we didn't have enough time. So I wanted to open up this blog to continue this discussion. First of all, were there any questions we didn't cover that you still want answered by some adults? Secondly, what are your responses and impressions of what was said? And lastly, how can you continue to be involved in discussion and relationship with the older generations in our congregation. I can't wait to hear some of your responses! God Bless.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Are We Relevant?

Relevant Magazine has been a major source of truth in my life over the past couple of years. This magazine - which boasts coverage of God, Life, & Progressive Culture - tackles the issue of maintaining a pure Christian faith while continuing to be relevant to today's world.

This concern is one that I am constantly wrestling with as a youth pastor and a culture junkie. Are we, as the "Church", relevant to today's upcoming generation. I know that the message of Christ is definitely what this world needs, but how do we continue speaking it in a way that it can hear?

So I want you to wrestle with this issue with me.

Next week at 180 (Wednesday night at 7pm to be exact) we will have a forum discussion between our young people and some key s in our church. We will talk about why the church is important to us, how it is either relevant or irrelevant today, and discuss questions about church practice in general.

So this week, work on some questions. What is the issue that concerns you the most? Or confuses you the most? What can the church do to reach this generation better? How can the older generation be a part of that? How can you be a part of that? Post your questions and thoughts so we can use them at the discussion next week.

God bless.

Friday, June 20, 2008

What Do You Believe?

I want you to meet a friend of mine.

For those of you who don't know him - this is Fluffy the Man-Cow. Our Youth Ministry is taking care of him this summer in conjunction with a series of lessons on religion and the church. Each day one of our youth come up and help feed and care for Fluffy. He is a bottle-fed calf, so we prepare a bottle and spend time with Fluffy and fill his water. All the little kids at church like to come and help and pet him while we are doing this care.

And then at the end of the summer we are going to decide if we need to sacrifice Fluffy in order to make ourselves right with God.

That sounds harsh, I know. And if PETA is reading my blog I am probably going to get in trouble. But I wanted a hands on project for our youth that is going to force them to wrestle with what they believe is true.

What do we believe about religion and faith? What do we believe it takes to make ourselves right with God? How do we determine truth in a world full of just about as many answers as there are people to the basic questions of life: purpose, God, salvation?

This past Wednesday (for those of you who weren't there or happened to doze off), our study was about three of the main world religions - Hinduism/Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. In our society today, there are a lot of people who want to say that all these religions, as well as many other religions, all say essentially the same thing and lead essentially to the same place. And if you poll most American youth today...for that matter poll most American youth who are actively involved in church...they would agree with that statement.

But let's recap what we learned on Wednesday:

Hinduism/Buddhism believe in 3.3 million "gods" who are all part of The Absolute - which is the energy force that makes up the universe. They believe that you can worship whichever "god" suits you best. The hold that all teachings hold equal authority even if they are contradictory. They believe that salvation comes from balancing out the good and bad acts (what they call "karma") you do in your multiple lives through a series of reincarnations. And the ultimate goal is to reach "nirvana" where you cease to exist but are absorbed into the energy force that is The Absolute.

Islam believes that there is only one God whose name is Allah and his prophet is Muhammed. They reject the concepts of the Holy Spirit and Jesus being one with God. They believe that the Koran is Allah's ultimate revelation to mankind and salvation is found through worshipping Allah, Praying five times a day, fasting, giving, and making a one-time pilgrimage to Mecca, their holy city. They do believe that Jesus existed but hold he was just a man who was also a prophet. They reject him as God and that he died on a cross and was resurrected.

Christianity believes that God is three-in-one in the forms of The Father, The Son (Jesus) and The Holy Spirit. Christians hold that God created everything from nothing and has spent the time since pursuing a relationship with mankind. That relationship came to a head when God showed up as a man in the form of Jesus Christ. He died on the cross to pay for our mistakes and then came back to life three days later so we could live with Him forever. Salvation comes from recognizing that Jesus is the Son of God and accepting his sacrifice as payment for your mistakes.

As we looked at these facts on Wednesday, our conclusion was these belief systems do not all believe the same thing. In fact, they are very different, even contradictory. So we have to make a choice.

But how do we know what is true? That is the question we will deal with this coming week. But in the meantime, I want to hear some of your thoughts.

How do we test the beliefs and doctrines and feelings that come at us each day? What is the test for truth? And maybe even more importantly, what is truth? Let me know what you think.

Let me leave you with Jesus's words: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8 ESV)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Christian T-Shirt

The Christian T-Shirt: a difficult artform.

How do you find a cleverly crafted, well-designed wardrobe piece that also accurately reflects a very personal, intimate relationship with your Creator?

Well, if you are part of 180 Youth Ministry, you do it by designing your own! Last night we took some time to develop T-Shirt ideas and now we have to decide which design is worthy of becoming a reality.

First of all, before we begin the voting process, I just want to say I was very encouraged and impressed with, not only the high level of creativity from EVERY group, but also the sincere faith that was displayed by your designs. I am so blessed to be the pastor of such a deep & diverse group of young people. I am constantly amazed by your faith and authenticity. I cannot wait to see the things that God is going to do through your lives!

And now for the contest. Here are the 10 designs from last night.

#1 "God Loves The Simmons"

#2 "My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad"

#3 Jesus Maze

#4 "I Love Cheese!"

#5 "Where Is My Sanity? The Squirrels Took It!"

#6 "Lifeguard JESUS"

#7 "DISCIPLESHIP - Not Just A Ship Full of Disciples!"

#8 "I Heart Jesus - Jesus Freak 01"

#9 "Jesus Walks With..."

#10 Jesus Face

Now, you need to vote for your favorite design. Just comment on this blog with the number of your choice, or text the number to 417-693-5622. We need all the votes in by next Tuesday, June 17th. The winner will be announced in the service next Wednesday and then we will work on getting the design created as an actual t-shirt! Happy voting!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Submission

So, we have been challenging everyone in our Wednesday Night service to share with us what God is doing in your life. To post your thoughts, poems, songs, ideas, pictures, etc on our blogsite. Leanne Colagio emailed the following to me in a response to that challenge

I was inspired to share after I heard a verse that was part of the new member's class this morning:

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." -Rev 3:20.

It reminded me of a poem I had written a couple years ago while I was at CIY. I had struggled with accepting Christianity for a while before I finally understood things better, and this poem kind of was highlighting that. Here goes:

An Invitation to God's House

It took me years of knocking at His door

Before I finally stayed long enough to enter His floor.

Even though He lovingly welcomed me in,

I was held back, ashamed of my sin.

So after all those years, the time had come.

I finally entered the home I'd been running from.

I awkwardly took a step and entered His abode.

But getting comfortable seemed too full of a load.

"Come on in and please take a seat."

But I am too stiff--we did just meet.

Instead, I take a look around,

My feet cautiously moving along the ground.

My heart is yearning to be a part of what I see.

As I look at pictures of His huge family.

The walls seem endless, covered with faces

From all different walks, all different places.

I was absorbed until while walking by,

One little frame caught my eye.

It was empty, waiting to be pared with a face.

"Who is that for?" It seemed out of place.

"That's for a special person who is still unsure,

Who took years to finally enter my door.

That is for whenever she decides what's true.

That my dear, is my place for you."

Thanks, Leanne. And to everyone else, the challenge remains: Let us know what God is doing in your life. God Bless.

Friday, May 2, 2008

What Is It?

A figment of Tim Burton's imagination? A mutated octopus? An exploded art kit? These are all suggestions for what this item may be. In reality it was birthed when I asked my creative team to make a receptacle for our offerings on Wednesday nights. But something so awe-inspiring desires an equally awe-inspiring name. So we shall have a CONTEST! We are accepting suggestions for what to call this all important 180 fixture. So let your creative juices flow! I can't wait to read your thoughts!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Glimpse

As a youth pastor, I spend a lot of time with teenagers. And some people find this hard to believe, but I actually like spending time with them. Often, I actually find that I can communicate better with them than some adults. Teenagers have all this energy and passion. They like to have fun. They are real with you - most of the time. It's crazy too because you can be having this crazy time and fighting with lightsabers in the front yard and suddenly they start talking about their relationship with their parents and how hard it is and you get into this really deep discussion.

One of the things I love the most (although it can often be heartbreaking) is when I get a glimpse into what is really going on in a person's life. Last night as a part of our Wednesday night service, I had everyone write down their greatest fear and then put it on an altar as an act of faith - trusting that Jesus would keep them afloat through their fears. This morning I looked through the slips of paper laying on our altar. It was amazing. Nearly a third of them put down something about losing a loved one - whether it was a parent or a boyfriend or someone else. Several put down fears about failing. There were a number of slips that stated fears about dying.

Often a person on the outside can look in and see a bunch of crazy kids jumping on each other and laughing and breaking things, but when you get a glimpse on the inside, you begin to see a bunch of precious creations of God who are dying and broken. Each week I get a glimpse into someone's life and teenagers - just like everyone - are desperately in need of relationships and acceptance and love. All things that we as followers of Christ are called to share with the world.

I love my job, but I realize that it is not to fix everyone's problems. My job is to point people to the love and forgiveness and change that God offers through a relationship with Jesus Christ, and then I need to help those people point others to the same thing. So how can you get a glimpse into someone's life this week? How can you start looking at the people around you as precious creations of God desperately in need of His love and acceptance and renewal? How can you love the people around you, even if they seem crazy? That is our challenge.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Walk Down a Different Lane

I love this song. We used it a few years ago as the audio on a video for our Fall Kickoff. (I tried posting the actual video, but had problems. Argh!)

I'm posting it today because I'm feeling a little nostalgic.

Last night after service, James Koliwaske (who is the main character in that video we made) and I were going through old Youth Ministry pictures, picking out ones with him in it for a project he's working on. I noticed a lot of things about these photos. First of all, James and I both look a lot different. We both are a little older (and hopefully a little wiser:) And we saw a lot of other people who have changed. And we also saw a lot of people that we don't see anymore. Some of these have went on to do some really neat things in other places. But sadly some of these faces we no longer see, not because they've moved away, but because they've chosen to step out of fellowship with us.

I actually thought about this video today because for some reason I chose to put Acceptance's album in this morning that has this song - DIFFERENT - on it. And as I listened to it, it reminded me that those missing faces aren't just statistics, but people who I've spent time with. People who I laughed with. People who I've cried with. And honestly, it made me a little sad. I wish things were different sometimes.

This morning I visited Max Trader in the hospital. He's Jacque Trader's dad and he had a heart attack yesterday. As we talked this morning, I found out he actually died three times yesterday, but they revived him and today he is doing better. He will probably be out of ICU by tomorrow. Amazing. And we talked about how he has a second chance at life. And you had better believe he is going to look at that life differently now.

I just wonder how many of us live every day realizing the second chance God gives us. I wonder how different our lives would be if we saw that clearly. I am inspired this morning to remember how important relationships are. Who is it that you need to reconnect with today? Who is it you need to forgive today? Who is it that you need to call and just tell them that you love them and God loves them.

Our lives are very fragile. We don't know what a day will hold. But for me, I long for things to be different - better - today.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Check this out! Here is the first - of what I hope to be MANY - video blogs from students sharing what God is doing in their lives.

How exciting it is, Savanna, that you are learning to trust God more. One of our main goals at 180 is to be an instrument in raising up a generation of disciples of Christ. One of the issues that God has led us to lately in that process is to focus on becoming participants rather than spectators. We need to see that we are not to come and "consume" what the pastor and song leader have prepared for us and then critique the delivery, quality and relevance on the way out. Rather, we are to come expecting God to teach us and then use us to lift up His name - whether that's through singing or sharing or praying or giving someone a hug.

I am really excited to say that over the past couple months, I am really seeing many students capture this vision. I am seeing teenagers getting excited about the Bible and sharing it with others. I am seeing students willing to sacrifice their time and use their talents to communicate the message of Christ to more and more people. I am watching as students naturally start discipling each other! It is a wonderful process. So keep getting involved. Keep taking those opportunities to share what God is doing in your life. Keep making this YOUR ministry!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Turn Around - Don't Drown!


I just wanted to put up a quick note since school was cancelled today due to all this crazy water. We will be having regular services tonight, so come if you can. Also, if you read this before 7pm, help us out by letting all your friends know.

But also be careful out there as a lot of roads are still covered with water. And remember the slogan that saves our lives (say it together with me): TURN AROUND - DON'T DROWN!

Friday, March 14, 2008


The last month has been an interesting one for our youth ministry. We had an awesome trip to Acquire The Fire, a weekend youth conference in KC, MO. We have seen the regrouping of our Young Adults portion of our Youth Ministry (for post-high school students). We have had a ton of visitors to our Wednesday night and Sunday programs. But probably the most visible change has been our reformatting of worship time on Wednesday nights.

We have de-emphasized our music and started a process of highlighting various other elements of worship - such as






In each of these areas we are wanting to offer continuing opportunities for students to participate and even lead in these areas on a weekly basis. While it is still a continuing process (I call it "the experiment") and there is still a long way to go, we are seeing students respond in amazing ways to this creative worship space. Listen to some of the things I've been hearing:

"This is the best thing that has ever happened to our Youth Ministry. It is no longer a force-feeding from the youth pastor. We students are now taking the responsibility to share."

"Thank you so much for inviting me to help plan and lead parts of the Wednesday service. It means so much that you believe in me."

After seeing another student share their testimony: "God is doing some amazing things in my life too. I really want to opportunity to share that with the group."

It is an awesome thing to see students more eager to pray with each other, go to the altar, write on a prayer wall, share their testimony of what God is doing in their life, than sing and socialize. I believe God is going to use this generation to change things and I believe that I am seeing the start of that revolution in the hearts of these teenagers right here in Buffalo, MO. Tell me, though, what are you seeing? Where is God taking you in this journey?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Is Your Life Right Side Up?

Well, we are getting ready to leave for Acquire The Fire in just a few hours. I am very excited about this trip. If you are reading this during February 29th or March 1st, 2008, please pray for our hearts to be stirred up to change our world. Or I guess that would be a fine prayer to pray anytime!

I feel so strongly that this current generation of young people could rise up and reclaim our communities, our country, and our world for the cause of God's Kingdom. But we must have our hearts stirred and we must believe that another world is possible in order for that to happen.

Someone sent me a link to this video yesterday.

I think it so captures why it is so hard for us to see real change in our lives, our families, our churches, our communities. We believe Jesus can save us from our sins, but do we believe that Jesus can change our world? I believe Jesus wants to work in and through our lives to turn the world "right side up" as our ministry's subtitle says. Do you believe that is possible?

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Check out this weirdness.

This is a story about a Bible made of RUBBER

This has been my favorite Bible over the past few months.

Now I'm not one to usually get sentimentally attached to a Bible. I know some people do because their grandma gave it to them or they had to use if for a paddle to escape the Amazon forest after a plane crash or something. But I really do believe this Bible is the best. I have told many people this. I even came up with a Top Ten Reasons My Bible is the Best(I challenge you to do the same):

10. It's bright orange
9. It's made of rubber
8. It has non-slip grip for when you really get with your preachin'!
7. It has a sewn binding so the pages lay flat.
6. It fits in your hand
5. It has a really nice color of page marker ribbon
4. It sheds liquid. (I found that out just this week when I spilled coffee on it.)
3. It's got a really good concordance built in
2. It's the ESV, which may be my new favorite version for study.
1. God speaks to me through it!

So I was talking to my friend this week who gave me the Bible and telling him how excited I am about it, when he said a really odd thing. He said, "If you find someone who you need to give that Bible away to, I've got another ESV Bible I'd like to give you." I said "OK," all the while thinking, "Why would I give away this Bible - my favorite Bible." Well the very next day, I had a kid on my school bus ask to read my Bible. Of course I let him and before he got off the bus, he asked if he could have it. Weird, isn't it! So I'm giving him my Bible, which is all cool in itself. But the story doesn't end there...

I got my new Bible last night from my friend...and it's a GLOW-IN-THE-DARK ESV HANDHELD BIBLE!!!

It doesn't get much cooler than that! I think it's my new favorite Bible. I may have to write a new top ten.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What Do You Think?

Martin Luther once said, “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” Often young people buy into the lies that we need to become “better” or less sinful people before God can use us. We use excuses like, “I’m waiting on God before I venture out.” The writers of Starving Jesus think that idea is essentially selfish—making ministry all about us and what we’re capable of. What do you think?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Who Have You Hugged Today?

So Shannon & I got into this discussion this morning about whether door-to-door evangelism is a generational thing or not. For several decades one of the most emphasized evangelism techniques was to either go door-to-door or at least find a stranger to share a tract with them. Interestingly enough, that widespread emphasis also came at a time when door-to-door sales were a popular and successful strategy in the business world. Now, however, most people won't even open the door to a salesman, and why would you when you can buy whatever you want on ebay and have it sent to your door?

So does that mean that door-to-door evangelism is also an outdated ministry approach? And if so, what does evangelism look like for this generation? Is it via the internet? Does it need to be more relational? Do we need to go to public places and offer love and acceptance like the "Free Hugs" guy? I want to hear your thoughts on this matter.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

What's That Smell?

It's the smell of lives being changed! That's what you get when a group of young Christ-followers raise money for sheep, goats, pigs, cows, and chickens. That's right, our service/giving project from last month is over. The totals are in. The money has been counted, and you raised $1692.79 for World Vision to provide farm animals for families in need around the world. I am so excited about the success of our project and your passion to help others. So here is the breakdown by team:

The Goats had a goal of $150...and raised $105.19
The Sheep had a goal of $210...and raised $168.59
The Chickens had a goal of $250...and raised $218.06
The Pigs had a goal of $390...and raised $137.45
and The Cows had a goal of $1000...and raised $1063.50

Again, I am so excited about the outcome of this project. We have no idea how this gift will impact the lives of the families who receive it.

But I am also excited about how this will continue to impact our lives. Over the next few weeks and months, we are going to continue to explore opportunities to give and serve globally and locally. I challenge you to pray right now for a heart that is willing to be involved.