Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Spirit of Christmas...

So my house has turned into Santa's workshop the last few days. We decided to hand-make many of our gifts this year so every flat surface has turned into a workbench. All other work has come to a near halt. And bedtimes are thrown out the window as we work on creating tokens for those we love.

And it has had a wonderful effect on our household! Our kids are more excited than I've ever seen them and it is mostly about the gifts they are giving rather than the gifts they are receiving.

That is the spirit of Christmas.

Yesterday I had a wonderful experience while driving my school bus. For the last two weeks there has been a war raging over the music I put on the radio. They have fought tooth-and-nail against my efforts to play Christmas music. They've complained. They've whined. They have turned up their mp3's on their phones and waved them in the air in defiance.

And then yesterday (our last day of school before Christmas break), I determined that the Christmas music would win. I braced myself for the battle. And an amazing thing happened: They all sang along. Everyone of them.

That is the spirit of Christmas.

And it seems everywhere you go during this holiday season you see people holding the door for each other. Putting money into the Salvation Army buckets. Smiling more. Saying "I love you" more.

That is the spirit of Christmas.

And as I sit here this morning typing this while listening to the perpetual loop of Christmas songs that is going on in my house, I wonder...

Why do we reserve this beautiful spirit for just a few weeks a year? Whether people realize it or not, this spirit is of a loving Creator God who sent His Son to die for the people He loves, and He has promised He will fill us with His very Spirit if we will just accept His offer of a relationship through His Son. This Christmas Spirit we are seeing is just a glimpse of the way life could be...if we would live in true relationship with our God.

So tell me how you've seen the Spirit this season. And then help me figure out how we can spread that out all year long! God bless.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Inspirational...

As I've said before, I get new favorite things often, and this painting is currently it.

The official title of this piece is "Alfred, Louis and Francois after 12 years of preparation were surprised to find a cafe at the top of mount Everest".

Isn't that great?

I love the freshness and zaniness of it. I love the use of colors. I love the unique style of the art. But mostly I love it because it reminds me that some people are out there doing the thing they love and it is working for them.

As I think about the things that inspire me right now, I think that is one of the top ingredients - a life free to pursue its passion.

Just this week I've been inspired by...

Carlos Whittaker (a worship leader turned pastor turned leadership coach turned recording artist turned church planter who blogs at ragamuffinsoul.com);

Elsie Flannigan (an local artist and shop-owner who spends her time making "cute" and blogs like crazy at abeautifulmess.typepad.com);

Colby Moore (a local photographer who is blowing my mind with his creative scenes and vibrant colors. How exciting that he is making it work with what he loves. Check out his stuff on facebook or at colbymoorephotography.com);

and of course Matte Stephens (the artist who created my new favorite painting [see above] and seems to have a healthy affection for owls. Check him out at matteart.blogspot.com).

So what inspires you? Would love to hear.

Peace.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Do You Remember...?

I'm starting to forget things.

Like where I left the keys. Or who sings that song.

Nothing major, but I've always relied on my memory. Even prided myself on being able to remember things. And I don't like not remembering.

I don't know if it's a function of getting older or the amount of information that is constantly rolling around in my mind pushing aside other memories. But I realize that I must make a greater effort to hold onto the memories that are important to me.

But maybe that is a good thing.

I've recently been reading through I Corinthians with my kids. And just this week we have been studying chapter 10 where Paul encourages the Corinthian church to remember some things. He starts out reminding them of how the Israelites were punished and sometimes destroyed while they were wandering around in the desert searching for the Promised Land because they worshiped false idols and disobeyed God and grumbled.

He even says that these things are recorded in Exodus & Numbers so we will have an example to NOT follow!

He then goes on to remind them of how drinking of the blessed cup and eating of the blessed bread is to remind us of how Christ died for our sins and made a way for us to have a renewed relationship with Him.

So you have good memories and bad memories. Both of which are to keep us focused and on track.

As I talked to my kids about this, I saw some variance in responses. My daughter Shiloh said that when she remembers that Jesus died on the cross for us, it makes her cry. But she went on to say they were tears of joy because it makes her realize how much God really loves us!

That is a proud father moment, let me tell you!

My son Ethan, on the other hand, while we were reading and discussing these truths, was having a tough time because we were doing it in the morning...

and he is not a morning person!

"Everything" in his mind was going wrong. Life was unfair because he had to get out of bed. Mom was a cruel task-master because she had made him put on clothes. His sister was a heartless antagonist because she had walked over him as he lay in the floor in rebellion against getting up. His brother was an extreme annoyance because he was hitting him in the head trying to get him to play. His father was an unbending authoritarian because he was trying to get him to answer a couple of questions about the scripture we were reading.

Life was not going his way.

So we talked about how we need to remember that we live in a comfortable house and have warm clothes to wear and that we have a family that loves us and a God who loves us even more. And I told him that when our feelings don't match the truth of our circumstances we need to remember those things and that it affords us a choice. Ethan can choose today to remember the truths of his life and have a crazy-awesome, positive-focused day. Or he can choose to forget the blessings of the God who loves him and have a miserable day.

And we each have that choice. So today, what is it that you need to remember?

God bless & Peace.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Creating Spaces...

Last night at 180 was a special time of reflection.

As I looked into the tired eyes of my Creative Worship Team Tuesday night and heard their stories of piles of school work amid their already tumultuous lives, I asked what does worship need to look like for us this week?

They answered resoundingly: QUIET.

So we spent some time remembering that this is the season of Advent - the traditional preparation period leading to Christmas. Where we evaluate our life. Where we contemplate the AWE-Factor of God and His Son. Where we prepare for His coming - which is literally what "Advent" means.

So we prayed and we read and we reflected and we lit candles.

And it was beautiful to see a mob of teenagers get quiet before the LORD.

So today, I pray that the spirit of quietness is carrying on in our souls and our hearts.

Now, if you were there, I want to hear how God spoke to you.
And if you weren't, I want to challenge you to take a moment and consider how you are using this season as a time to quiet yourself before the beauty of what God has done and what He is continuing to do.

...and then tell us what you are going to do about it.
Let us dwell in Him as we seek for Him to lead us. Peace.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My New Favorite Thing

I have a new favorite thing.

I seem to get a new one every few weeks. And right now it is the iMotion App for my iPhone.

It's this incredible little program that allows me to take a series of photographs with my phone camera in controllable intervals and then makes a stop motion video out of the frames.

It is wonderful.

I have been making movies of everything.

During this Thanksgiving break that is pretty much how my kids and I spent every spare minute. We stop motioned our dinner. We stop motioned Isaac. We stop motioned cars crashing (Hot Wheels, of course; not real ones.) Here is a video we made of dough rising.

Or at least our version of dough rising. And my kids came up with most of the ideas and did all of my special effects. It was a blast creating those holiday memories.

As we head into this holiday season, I know many of us will have extra time off with our families. And this should be a time to build relationships and enjoy each other. But I know for me at least the temptation is to get hectic. Or the temptation is to get frustrated. Or the temptation is to get cranky.

But let us decide to go into this time to make memories. So here is a suggested TO DO list for this Christmas season, especially as you have extra unstructured time:

1. Spend a full uninterrupted hour with God.
2. Make some Christmas presents/ornaments/cookies/(fill in the blank) with your family.
3. Make some hot chocolate or other festive hot beverage and watch a classic Christmas movie.
4. Turn off the TV and play some board games.
5. Cram into the family vehicle and drive around looking for the best Christmas lights.
6. Or go caroling.
7. Or purpose to have only Christmas music on in your house
8. Or buy presents for the Salvation Army Angel Tree together as a family.
9. Or serve at Heart 2 Heart (or some other community relief organization)
10. Or come up with your own creative memory-making family idea! (and please share these with us!)

May this holiday season we live out the words of Colossians 3:14-17 - "And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

And make a memorable Christmas season as we do it!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

So...

I haven't posted in a while.

Okay. Like a real long time.

Life kind of got crazy lately. Some expected. Some not.

An awesome wedding. An injured pastor. A death. A birth. Among other things and the wonderfully full life I get to lead.

And a really interesting thing happened...I slacked off of all the social media I use. I stopped updating my Facebook status. I quit blogging.

And it makes me wonder, how helpful is the online community if it's the first thing I chuck when life gets crazy. And interestingly enough, during this time I sought out face to face relationships more than normal.

So are we just fooling ourselves with social media?

Let me know your thoughts. Peace.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

He Still Answers Prayer...

Last night at 180 I was bowled over by the number of praise reports I kept receiving.

It seemed like from the moment I entered the building there was this constant flow of young people telling me how God was working in their life and answering prayers we had prayed together...

Improved relations with parents.

Parents improving their relationship with God.

Parents improving their relationship with their children.

There were so many in fact that I think we will take some moments next week to let some of those people share the way God is working.

I know for me it is those tangible reminders that God is working, in both my life and others, that help my faith to grow. Too often we don't seem to expect God to work. We may say a token prayer, but we don't really think anything is going to happen about it.

Praise God that He is raising up young people right here in our community who pray with faith and are praising Him for His works. Last night one of the Scriptures we looked at was James 5:16:

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."

May we continue to pray for one another and see healing in our lives and others!

God bless.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Duct Tape = Good?

The last few weeks a couple of events have sent me back to the nostalgia of my teenage years.

The first was the unwitting destruction of my wallet. Through a terrible accident at the go-cart track (ok, it wasn't that terrible, but I have to make this sound exciting to keep you reading. Right?) my wallet of twenty years was rendered completely unusable. Despair. Tragedy. What was I to do? Well, thanks to my wife's creativity and a hefty roll of pink duct tape, I now have a stylish and funtional new wallet.

The second event was the unravelling of the sole of my Chuck Taylor's. Which, after several other failed options, I decided to duct tape back together.Now, this is where we get to the nostalgia part.

Somehow, in the process of growing up, I arrived at about the age of 16 with the idea that duct tape makes things better. That when I had to use duct tape to continue to make a shoe or a vehicle or a t-shirt be functional, it actually increased my love for said item and a great sense of pride welled up in my heart.

For you mathematical analytics out there, that looks like this:

ANYTHING + DUCT TAPE = GOOD

And this week, I have discovered that I still hold that equation to be true, as I felt that same increased love and bubbling pride with these new duct tape conquests.

Now this is where you come in. Do you agree with this? Do you find my equation to ring true in your own life? Do you think maybe I need psychological evaluation? Or all of the above?

Looking forward to your thoughts. God bless!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What's My Job?

My official title is Youth Pastor.

...but sometimes I'm called an Associate.

Truth is I wear many Name Badges and even some Hairnets.
On any given day I could be one or several of many roles.

Policeman or Punching Bag
Counselor or Custodian
Friend or Father-figure
to name a Few

But I'm finding that to be a Follower and Lover of the One who died for me is the only way to fill the job I was meant to be.

So what is your job?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I had a very pleasant surprise this weekend: I got to see Shane Claiborne speak!

I received a text in the middle of the week from a friend advising me Shane was going to be speaking at Drury University on Sunday. If you haven't heard of Shane, he is an author and a follower of Christ who is living out his faith in an intentional community in the poorest neighborhood in Philadelphia. His writings and lifestyle have served to challenge me in many ways over the past few years. You can learn more about Shane and his community here.

So I talked to my small group of young men about it and we decided we would go...but I guess the word got out because about twelve young people showed up to come to the event.

So we loaded up the bus and headed to Drury.

I'll share with you some of the words from Shane that really caught my attention in a moment, but first I want to talk about this group of young people who went with me.

First of all, it was exciting that they were interested enough to go sit through a service just to hear this guy speak. Secondly, they were very polite and considerate everywhere we went that day, even when others were not so. Also, they were excited enough about what was going on that they invited friends to join us. (There were like five or six people they got to meet us there!) And afterwards they wanted to have a discussion of what Shane said to try to apply it to their life.

These are high school students mind you.

I am encouraged to see a growing group of young people who are living differently from their peers. Let's pray that their culture of hunger for God's Truth in their lives and the desire to share that with others in a loving way would continue to spread.

Now, about Shane. Here are some of the things he said that stood out to me:

"Evangelism is spread best - not by force - but by fascination."

"Do people 'see and hear' Christ in my life?"

"People need to know we are Christians - not by our bumper stickers and t-shirts - but by our love."

"That was back when I thought church is what happened on Sunday. Back before I knew better."

"We may not have the answer - the silver bullet. But maybe we can be part of the silver buckshot."


(quoting an Iraqi Christian bishop speaking to Shane of the American church) "You didn't create Christianity in America. You only domesticated it."

Let me know your thoughts on Shane's thoughts. And may we, as the young people who went with me, wrestle through how God would have us respond. God bless & peace.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Mathematics of Life


I had a mathematical revelation last night.

...or maybe it was a relational epiphany.

...or could it be a relational mathematic discovery? Or a mathematical relationship correlation?

Anyway...I came to the realization that Isaac, my one year old son, likes pretty much everything I do. He is like my biggest fan. I can just look at him and he laughs until he falls over. Of course he falls over a lot because he is still learning to walk, but you get the idea.

However, soon after this realization, it also became apparent to me that Ethan, my eight year old son, does not hold the same view of me. He probably only likes half of what I do and thinks the other half is lame/awful/tedious/dumb.

And so I went further down that path and thought about my second youngest child Hannah, who will be four tomorrow. She probably only likes about three-fourths of what I do.

...are you seeing it yet?

So I got out a pen and paper and worked out what I call the Parental Approval Theorem. It looks something like this:

If A = age of child
and if A < 18;
Then Parental Approval Percentage = 1 - ((A/4)* 0.25)

As you can see from this equation, our approval rating as parents significantly decreases, even dipping into the negative for a short time, until our children reach adulthood. By my hypothesis then Ethan will only like 25% of what I do by the time he is twelve and absolutely nothing by the time he is sixteen.

As with all great mathematically theorems, I know this must need revision. This is actually already the second generation of the theorem as a room full of teenagers helped me lower my threshold age from 20 down to 18. So let me know your thoughts and additions.

...or subtractions.

...or maybe even logorithms, as the case may be.

By the way, this is for fun. Please don't take me too seriously;)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Follow The Leader...

So I had a really interesting conversation this morning with man from our church about leadership. It seems like leadership is the topic of most of my conversations since returning from Catalyst. I think it is part of the process I'm going through to assimilate the experience I had last week.

So we were talking about whether success in leadership is based on personality or not. I truly know that it cannot be solely built on personality if you want to have any future. So my friend said an interesting thing: "I guess the real test is if you remove yourself and it still goes on."

And the reason this statement was so interesting to me is that while I was at Catalyst last Wednesday, THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED!

I was at a conference for "Next Generation Leaders" while the NEXT "Next Generation" of leaders was leading (by all reports to me) a powerful service here at Calvary Chapel! What a blessing!

Now for the really cool stuff!

So during that service it was decided by the young people that we would get involved in some projects this next few months leading to the holidays. They chose from an overwhelming amount of needs to focus on Rapha House (an organization spearheading counseling and training for girls being freed from the sex trade) and Heart 2 Heart Outreach Ministries (a local aid organization).

So I am very humbled and encouraged by the things God is doing through young people here at 180 Youth Ministries. I am also excited to see the outcome of these chosen projects. Please pray for us and, if you are one of the young people attending here, I would love for you to post your ideas on how to engage these needs we have chosen. Can't wait to hear from you. Peace.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Catalyst: Day 3

Well, Catalyst is over. We are on our way home and my head is full of thoughts and my heart is full of emotions. I know it will take some time for me to process – let alone begin implementing many of the things God has shared this week.

But enough of my philosophical pandering. Let me give you some of the highlights from the last day of Catalyst.

It was a day of touching moments.

Like the young man from Kenya whose life was transformed at the age of seven when he was able to join a Compassion International project and received a sponsor – a twenty year old Canadian named Mark who shared the gospel with him in a sponsor letter. This young man, who is now a Bible college student hoping to return to Kenya to share the gospel, stood on the stage and read this nineteen year old letter. Just moments later, the Catalyst team brought out his sponsor, an attendee of this Catalyst conference, to meet for the first time. As you can imagine – a very touching moment.

Or like the surprise guest of Mac Powell from Third Day as he shared about his family’s adoption of an African-American boy. It was wonderful to see the love as his wife and little Emmanuel joined him on stage. And then in a surprise for Mac, Catalyst brought out an African children’s choir and asked him to sing “Mighty To Save” with them. Very touching.

Then there was the lifetime achievement award for Charles Swindoll with a touching video message from his older sister. Or the Guinness World Record Breaking Event of Dr. Splash jumping over three stories into a foot of water. (He made it!) And of course touching for me, lots of U2 props – quoted by Louie Giglio and two covers played by the band!

But as with the first day, amid all of the varied speakers and events, there was a strong central message. You come to an event like this expecting to get all of these revolutionary thoughts and practical ideas to make your life so much better/greater/bigger/faster. And there were some of those things. But the resounding message yesterday was it is all about seeing and reflecting the face of Jesus. So I am challenged as I come home to remember it is about who I am leading people to much more than about how I lead.

There I go getting all philosophical again. So let me stop there and share with you the words that grabbed me yesterday so you can share your own responses:

When God interrupts our life and gives us direction, will we go?” –Priscilla Shirer

We need to stop praying safe prayers all the time.” –Priscilla Shirer

Looking ahead and celebrating something I haven’t earned is greed.” –Dave Ramsey

Pour intensity into things that really matter.” –Dave Ramsey

When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible person and crushes them!” – Chuck Swindoll quoting Alan Redpath

Dude! To us you’re the Godfather!” –Chuck Swindoll quoting the Catalyst team member who called him and asked him to speak

“Everything in life is about Jesus.” –Louie Giglio

We don’t have enough people walking around with the beauty of the Son of God on their face.” –Louie Giglio

The enemy already cut the head off the church, killed it and hung it on a tree. That didn’t stop the church. What else can the enemy do?” –Louie Giglio

Friends know your flaws but love you anyway – believing the best.” –Andy Stanley

Can’t wait to see you all soon! God bless.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Catalyst: Day 2

It has been a very full and rewarding day here at Catalyst.

We just finished a full day of new ideas, challenging concepts, Biblical exegesis and much more with an intimate time of worship and communion. There are so many things to share and say and discuss and process, I almost don't know where to begin. But in light of our time of remembering the cross, I would say overall the day has been a refreshment and a renewal of focus on Christ. It's not about what I am building or what I am planning or the strategies I need to work on - it is about falling in love with Christ and pointing people to Him!

I have also really been touched with the focus and emphasis on family this week. We have been challenged over and over from the stage to lead and minister to and fight for our families. As Catalyst is training us as "next generation leaders", it has reminded me that Shannon and I are raising up the NEXT "next generation leaders" in our children. What a blessing and a responsibility!

Anyway, more later. Here are a few of the statements today that have grabbed me. Give me your thoughts and what has grabbed you today:

"It is about whose side you are on; not who is on your side!" -Andy Stanley

"Living to make my mark is too small a thing to give my life to." -Andy Stanley
"We don't need leaders who make daring, bold decisions; we need leaders who are humble." -Malcolm Gladwell

"What if the gospel is a living thing & not a lifeless artifact?" - Shane Hipps

"Our children pick up on what really matters to us without us saying a word." -Rob Bell

"You have organizations ranking Christians and church bodies who follow a Savior who said, 'The first shall be last.'" - Rob Bell

"Put the crackpipe down!" - Rob Bell

"When you die, God will not ask why you weren't more like Moses; He will ask why you weren't more like you." - Rob Bell

"When you obey God, you won't want anybody else's life." -Rob Bell

"There is a generation of sons and daughters who need to know they are worth fighting for." -Reggie Joiner

Some thoughts to chew on. More tomorrow. God bless & peace.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Catalyst: Day 1

So I felt a little like I was in two places at once tonight.

I sat in a conference room in Atlanta for the first session of Catalyst at the exact same time my Creative Worship Team was leading our Wednesday night services in Buffalo, MO. I found myself looking at my watch and praying for what I knew must be going on at that exact moment at 180.

The opening thoughts about Identity...

The sharing of needs around the world...

The singing of worship at probably the exact same time we were singing our closing worship in Atlanta...

And maybe most significantly for me, the prayer for the Holy Spirit to move in this place. And it occurred to me that while I was not literally in two places at once, the Holy Spirit very much was and is! How remarkable that God was moving powerfully in the hearts of leaders in Atlanta at the exact same time He was also moving in the hearts of young people in Buffalo, MO!

So over the next couple days while I'm at Catalyst, I'm going to be posting some of the things that are moving in my heart. I also want you to respond with the things God is doing in your heart. So I'll start by sharing some of the statements spoken by Matt Chandler tonight at Catalyst that reached out to me. In return you must share (especially if you were at the 180 services tonight!!!) what has reached out to you today.

Here we go:

"We can't assume the gospel."

"Hundreds have grown up in church and haven't heard the gospel."

"Have we preached 'be good!'"

"Paul constantly said, 'Don't forget the gospel!'"

"Reclaim the arts, Be creative, Love the poor, Engage culture, Lead well...but make sure you lead people to the gospel!"

"Children are sick, wicked little things."


So I can't wait to hear from you. God bless & good night!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

So I read some verses this morning that really reminded/reflected what we have been talking about in our IDENTITY series:

Oh grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man! With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes. (Psalm 108:12-13 ESV)

As we wrapped up this series last night, I was really moved by the thought that we cannot be who we were formed to be out of our strength/ideas/efforts. We must allow our selves to be broken so that God can be the driving force of our life. As the Psalmist points out, any salvation we try to make of ourselves is vain; it is only when we give up and trust God that we can be made victorious!

I pray that this series impacted many of you. We really want to hear your testimonies and thoughts and feedback. Please post those here. I'll be waiting...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Multiplication Tables


So I had this really interesting interaction with a middle schooler this week. She was having trouble figuring out how many times 12 would divide into 60, so I walked her through the multiplication table:

"What is 12 times 2?", "what is 12 times 3?"... "What is 12 times 5?"

Answer: "60!"

"So what is 60 divided by 12?"

Answer: "I can't remember."


How often do we forget how to multiply - even when the answer is right in front of our face.

It seems like since Ronni & I taught on the parable of the sower a few Wednesdays ago, it keeps coming up in my life (see my previous post for an example of that). And one of the parts that is so troublesome to me is what happens with the good soil: "But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." (Luke 4:20 ESV, emphasis mine)

If part of me having a right relationship with God is the multiplication of my life, how do I do that?

Well, I could have a lot of kids...

Check that one off, but is that really what He is talking about?

Maybe it has something more to do with the encouragement that Paul gave Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 - "and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."

I am finding more and more this is the calling for our lives: to build into people who are going to be able to build into others.

Check out this version of a video we used in service last Wednesday.



The young man in the end of this video is a sophomore. He comes to our Wednesday program. And there are some interesting things about this young man. See, he is one that is being built into by older students in whom I've invested. And now I am starting to see this young man start to build into others. And so this week as I saw him taking stands for his faith, it dawned on me: It is working!

And this is just one example of many. I had a moment a while back where I saw my son Ethan being influenced by a group of young men and realized my son is being influenced by those I am influencing and it brought tears to my eyes. This is what building God's Kingdom is about.

So let us look for those opportunities to multiply our lives by investing into the lives of those around us!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

...And he saw it was Good.

I love a good creative environment.

This last week my family visited Red Velvet Art, an independent art & handmade goods shop on Commercial Street in Springfield. And we were inspired by the environment (and mustaches-on-a-stick) that we found. In their own words: "We are living our dream and keeping a shop full of independent art and super cute handmade goods."

Isn't it great that people can choose to do what they love? Don't we all wish we could live our lives doing what we are passionate about? But too often we feel that is an impossibility. There are too many responsibilities. Too many expectations. Too many economic downturns or naysayers or bills for us to run after those dreams. It wouldn't be sensible. So we live our lives torn: doing what we "have" to do yet longing to throw off the chains.

And then we see somebody doing that...

and living life abundantly...

and our heart jumps to join them.

See I can't help but think that it is possible to live our lives doing what we are passionate about with reckless abandon. I can't help but think these dichotomous feelings I have are a result of being(as Jesus put it) "choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life...

and
[our] fruit does not mature." (Luke 8:14 ESV)

C.S. Lewis, the famous author and apologist, often discussed that we, as creations of a creative God, have a desire written within us to be little creators (the principle of sub-creators). And it is in those desires and passions we have - whether it's music or literature or baking cakes or building muscle cars - that we somehow are trying to reflect the image of an amazing Creator God.

So I am challenged. How can we start to live that way? How can we begin to give our passions and desires to God so that they are reflecting and honoring to Him? Then how can we throw off the cares of this world and begin living a life abundantly that produces fruit that multiplies? How do we live our passions to the glory of God in a way that inspires others to join us? Let us pursue this good work!

...And on the Seventh Day...

"And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation." (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV)

Mondays are my day off from church and yesterday I reinstated a principle for my day off that I had let slip - I fasted from media.

Months and months ago, I had recognized my issues with media, technology and information - I'm addicted to it! I have a hard time not being consumed with movies & music & blogs & research & cellphones. So I decided to rest from all forms of electronic entertainment on my day off.

But...it is easy for things to creep back in. I have to take this call. I need to check this site. I need to google this answer. I need to add this movie to my Netflix queue. And eventually, it became updating Facebook and watching movies and hours of blog reading.

So last week I decided to renew my commitment of abstaining from technology on Mondays for the purpose of entertainment...and it was kind of hard! But I did have better conversations with my wife. I enjoyed mowing my grass more since I wasn't trying to get done just to get to the next thing. I played games and read books with my kids. It was truly more refreshing.

So, tell me how & if you spend your "seventh day" resting. I want to know your journey in this difficult area of our lives. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Shalom) -Pastor Mark

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What is His Message?

So I had an epiphany Sunday night.

But let me back up. There were a series of events that led to this beautiful moment that you must first understand. So here we go.

I've been listening to this band For Today a lot this week. Here is probably their most widely palatable song.

(Beyond this, proceed with caution because they are...well...aggressive!)

I've been listening to them to prepare for a study my D-Group is going to be doing over For Today's newest album Portraits. Each song on this album is about/from-the-perspective-of a character out of the Bible. Along with the lyrics, the band has also published some thoughts on each song for further contemplation.

As I spent this week listening and preparing, one of the first things that struck me was the sense of passion I received from the combination of music and the words. I've listened to a lot of heavy music in my life, so it was more than just a musical style issue. It seemed that they had such a serious, powerful, reverent approach to Christ. One that led them to a life of humble conviction and unrelenting sharing of His power & glory.

So our group chose to start with the first song and work our way through the album in order. The first song is titled Immanuel (The Challenger). And it is only three words long: "Repent or perish!" This is a reference to some things Jesus said in Luke 13. As our group talked about it and as I contemplated it, I wondered, "If Jesus only had three words to share with us, would it be these three?"

We decided that most people, when asked what Jesus' three-word-message would be, would come up with something like, "I love you." But I couldn't get these words - "Repent or perish" - out of my head.

So Sunday night, as we were having communion service and I found myself up front helping serve the congregation, I was really struck. As we took time to remember that Jesus suffered wounds and beatings and ultimately the death on the cross...

As Pastor Doug led us to take the bread to represent His body and the cup to represent His blood...

As I reflected on what Christ went through for me, it became apparent I would trust words from this man. I would accept a challenge to turn the other way, to change my life. I would humbly and reverently and passionately do whatever He asked. So will you join me as I strive to repent this week and follow the words of the Master!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

There are some things I don't fully understand.

Like how God's Spirit works to change lives.

I know that we pray and we work and we plan and we create an environment where God's Truth & His Scriptures are revealed and communicated. But then there is this supernatural thing that happens when God takes those truths and intersects them with our hearts to change our lives.

Like last night.

The 180 service last night was one of those where God's Spirit did a powerful work in all our lives. And it was incredible to watch Him move our hearts. One person who walked in during the response time told me after service that they wondered what had happened because there were so many teenagers on their knees, on their faces, at the altars, crying out to God.

And the simple answer is God spoke and we listened.

I got to hear and hear of many things God did in lives last night, but I want to hear more. So if you were at service last night and God spoke to you, please post here and let us know what happened. We want to celebrate what God did and lift His name up. I'm listening...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What A Community

So I was reminded today of why I like living in Buffalo, MO so much.

It's the community.

Not the collection of houses and parks and well-maintained (or sometimes not so well maintained) roads and groupings of businesses and entrepreneurial opportunities. But, rather, the collection of people who know and care for one another.

I watched today as people who had experienced a loss last week loved and served another family who lost a loved one this week. They were living out the Scripture from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 that says: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." And this reminded me that I love living in this town with these people. Living in a place where people know each other and care.

So, tell me, why do (or why don't) you like living where you are at? Do you sense and value the community? Looking forward to your thoughts. God bless.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A New Month, A New Series, A New Life!

I love seeing God change people's lives.

I got to be witness to that a couple times just yesterday! The first instance was yesterday afternoon. As my family and I were getting ready for dinner, a friend and neighbor who has recently started coming to church dropped by with some questions about her faith and growth with God. During the course of our conversation we were able to help her confirm that she had accepted Christ as her Savior and encourage her in further steps in growing closer to Him. Very exciting!

The second instance was after service as a teen came to me in tears after the message. Along with another leader, we were able to confirm for this young person that her relationship with God was real and start her on a path to making God her true foundation.

You see, we just started this new series on "IDENTITY" last night. Ronni brought a message about foundations based on Luke 6:47-49. As he challenged us to consider whether we are standing on God or whether we are standing on things of the world (ie. popularity, achievement, possessions, image, etc), this young person was moved by God's conviction to reevaluate what her life is based on.

Since last night, I have already heard of many others who were particularly challenged by this message. I'm excited to see God continue to work in our lives as we move through this series of lessons, but I am wanting to hear your thoughts, struggles, questions, stories about your foundations as we get started. Post your responses.

God bless.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Did I Ever Tell You, You're My Hero...?

So I don't watch much TV.

That's not that I don't love media. My family and I actually watch a great deal of movies and videos. We've even recently joined the wonderful world of online streaming with our DSL & laptop upgrades! (Go "Watch It Now!" on netflix!)

But we made a decision awhile back not to have TV feed into our house. We were using a small set of "rabbit-ear" antennae to watch the news but since the digital conversion we have chosen not to even get a converter box. This allows us so much greater control of what and how much media we allow in our house, but...

Being a student of culture, every once in a while I am forced to do some "cultural research" by watching some touted piece of "life-changing" media. One of those pieces of media that keeps coming up over-and-over again in seemingly every magazine, book, review, or blog (Christian or not) is the ABC series LOST.

So I spent some time this weekend catching up on the first few episodes of this series. And one of the things that struck me most was how I reacted to the main character. Essentially the focal character of the episodes I watched was Jack Shephard, a surgeon who quickly becomes the leader/hero type for this group of people stranded on a tropical island after a tragic plane crash.

I found myself intrigued by Jack's collectedness and ability to organize and command in the face of terrible situations. I marveled at his calmness and decisiveness under great stress, fear and quickly-changing circumstances. And I found myself wondering, "Would I be able to do what he was doing?" Of course I don't have the medical training that this character does, but would I be able to pull it together and help others? Would I be able to be the hero?

It seems to me that is most often my reaction in viewing traumatic, crisis situations. I always desire to be the hero. I think many of us do. But as I thought about my life and how I act and react, so often I am not who I want to be.

I panic. I get frustrated and angry. I pass up opportunities. I hesitate. I feel sorry for myself. I'm selfish.

Granted, I don't want to be that way, but too often I am. I find some comfort in those moments of reflection of the words from Romans 3: "None is righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10 ESV). But it is only a little comfort.

I asked my wife why we always are attracted to those fictionalized heroes, having that secret desire that we somehow could be them given the right circumstances. She said (very wisely, because my wife is VERY wise!), "It's because we all need and are looking for a Savior."

I think too often though - even in going to Church, ministering to people, doing Bible studies, etc. - I am trying to be that savior for people.

but really they need to know Jesus. They need to know how I am imperfect but Christ saved me. They need to know that I am an unrighteous sinner just like them who was changed by a wonderful, forgiving Savior.

So will you join me trying to change from HERO to HERALD for the true Savior. Let's make Christ famous in our world by letting people see how ONLY He is good enough! God bless.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back2School

Last night was our annual Back 2 School Event for 180 Youth Ministries. In case you missed it, it was a inspiring time with food and free prizes and crazy mixer games. We also shared vision for our ministry and upcoming events.

Oh & we had some crazy good worship! I love that song "Take It All" by Hillsong United and the 180 Worship Team did an excellent version of it to close us out!

For those of you who came, we hope you were excited and challenged by what we do. For those who didn't, come next week and check things out. We will be starting ournew series on our IDENTITY. Hope to see you there.



Below are the two videos we showed last night. Enjoy!



IDENTITY PROMO VIDEO (without audio - working on this issue! Sorry!)


MOVE 09 TESTIMONY VIDEO

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Risky Business

So I watched a really interesting movie this week, The Visitor. It's one that I had originally passed over when it first came out. To be honest the plot synopsis sounded pretty dull: "A widowed college professor travels to New York City to attend a conference and finds a young couple, who turn out to be illegal immigrants, living in his apartment." I know, I know; sounds like excitement a plenty. Watch out G.I. Joe!

But it kept coming up in discussions of challenging, though-provoking film for the last year (I think Netflix's genre description for it was something like "modern-day surrealist mind-bending thought-provoking film with little known foreign actors"; I love Netflix;) So I finally gave in to Netflix's continual suggestion to add it to my queue and watched it last week.

And I am so glad I did. Not only was it well filmed and written with excellent acting, but it left me with all these questions. Without giving away too much of the plot - in case you are inspired to watch it this week as well - let me share with you some of those questions:

Why was the main character willing to risk his job, his money, his well-being, his reputation for people he barely knew - law-breakers at that!?!?

What was the point of the movie since the outcome wasn't really that much different for the immigrants than if they had never met the main character?

When we choose to "help" people in need, what is our motivation? Is it more for them or more for us?

Who is more changed by a person offering to help: the receiver or the giver?


Such good questions for me as I try to figure out what it looks like to follow Christ in meeting people's needs. Let me know your thoughts and questions - with or without this film. God bless!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

...Upon Popular Request

Here is our Trailer for Sunday morning services (180 Creative Worship Team style;)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

After a Long Hiatus....

So God shows grace in funny ways sometimes. I was reading Psalm 69 out loud yesterday with my wife and we were shaking our heads at some of the irony in the words of this Scripture. First of all it is to be sung to the tune of “Lilies”, which is not a tune we may know but definitely brings to mind some sort of slow, lilting string music with flowery words. Which is why the first words “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck” may seem a little out of place. But the part that was most interesting to us was as we got to all these curses that David was calling down on his enemies (vs. 22-28).

Let their eyes be darkened.

Let your burning anger overtake them.

Let them be blotted out of the book of the living.

I mean can you really say these things about people. And to think this was a song to be sung in church! Can you imagine if one of the people he wrote this Psalm about came to that service and heard that song? I can’t imagine that bringing much harmony.

But then I started looking over the notes in the ESV Study Bible (check out a review of this really neat Bible from my buddy Nathan here), and it began to paint a different picture. First of all, it points out that the writer of this Psalm is not claiming to be perfect. In verse 5 he says, “O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from you.” (NLT) It goes on to point out how many times this Psalm is used in reference to Jesus:
Those who hate me without cause” (Ps 69:4 & John 15:25); “For zeal for your house has consumed me” (Ps 69:9 & John 2:17); “for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink” (Ps 69:21 & John 19:28-29).

Now, if these words are used according to Jesus, does that mean that He also wants to bring these curses down on sinners, of which I am one? The notes go on to show how the apostle Paul used many verses from this Psalm as well, by which he shows how many of his fellow Israelites have rejected Christ and had their hearts hardened (Romans 11:9-10). But then Paul says this most interesting thing. In Romans 11:25, he says: “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

And suddenly it all came rushing to me. We are those with hard hearts. We are the sinners. I was immediately convicted of ways that I had been disobedient to God this week – through ways I had spent money foolishly that God had blessed me with after praying for Him to help with my finances; through having a whiny, selfish attitude rather than recognizing how God is working; through being critical of others rather than being obedient to who God is calling me to be. So I prayed and repented and found God’s mercy and refreshing through a better understanding of these curses in Psalm 69.

I was reminded of words of one of the speakers at our CIY conference a couple weeks ago. He said that when we read the Bible we usually associate ourselves with the voice of God’s chosen, but he said if we are not being obedient to God then we are the other side – the oppressors, the hard of heart, the evildoers. The writers of the ESV Study Bible notes summed it up for me this way: “These words could prove to be a mercy to the evildoers, should any of them be present at worship when the congregation sings them, and they heed the warning.” So, let us continue to sing of God’s mercy, even if it comes in the form of curses.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Creative Worship Roadshow: HXC Edition



Highlights from our recent trip to see Venia at the Warehouse in Camdenton, MO (along with some shameless announcements thrown in for good measure!)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mission Trip Memories



Here is the highlights video we showed Sunday night from our Troy Mission Trip.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"HOW DO YOU GROW A YOUTH MINISTRY?"


I sat across the table from a quiet, thoughtful servant from Stonebridge FWB Church on the last day of our recent mission trip. We had spent the week working alongside the men, women & youth of his church - working on invalid’s homes, cleaning up the grounds of their newly completed facility, and holding a Vacation Bible School.


We had watched the enthusiasm and faith of this small mission church as they reached out to their community and loved their neighbor as themself. I had watched their anticipation of God doing great things with humbling awe. And as this quiet, faithful man asked me this question, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of answer he was looking for.

Was it big youth facilities and a full time youth guy that would draw the kids they are hoping for?

Is it a kickin’ band and stage lights and smoke machines and lots of LOUD music?

Is it trendy promotions and hip t-shirts?


As I considered how to answer this earnest question, I thought about our youth ministry. I realized how easy it is when God has blessed your ministry to become prideful

or complacent

or something worse.

It is also tempting to think that it is all the “stuff” that we have or do that reaches young people. But I have found that to be so far from the truth. Recently I asked a group of our young people what caused them to connect to our ministry. They all (100%) said it was a significant adult making them feel welcome and special.

Wow! Who would have thought?

So I shared some of those thoughts with this humble servant from this neat church. That they already have everything they need to let God use them to reach young people, if they will just be available for those opportunities. But I want to hear your thoughts. What connects you to the ministry you're involved in? Or what has caused you not to connect? I can't wait to hear your thoughts!

It is so good to be back from our trip and with a renewed passion to be available for God to use us to reach people. Let's anticipate together that God will do great things in our ministry, the the ministry of Stonebridge FWB church and whatever other ministries you may be involved in! God bless...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Creative Worship Roadshow: Jasmine's Edition

Here is our latest Creative Worship Team excursion!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Are You Religious?



I am excited about what God is doing in this generation.

Last weekend I spent 30 hours fasting with a group of approximately forty teenagers as we learned about the needs around the world, served in our community, and gave financially to World Vision (as well as played some crazy games!). It was a blessing.

I continue to be surprised by the desire for young people to get involved in needs and significant ministries. At the end of the Famine, as we took some time to reflect on the weekend, I was particularly struck by the words of Chad, our visiting missionary. He said that he was really impressed by the continued interest of our young people to care for the needy, and then he referenced James 1:27 - "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

Those are powerful words coming from Chad. Chad is not one to just throw compliments around.

And the most interesting thing about that statement is there were many young people at our event that had never been to church before - no church background. Yet, according to James, they were exhibiting true religion.

These punk kids were being more religious than some people who have sat in a pew every Sunday their whole life.

So I guess my big struggle in all this is how do we bring these two worlds together? How do we continue to invite these unchurched, passion-filled young people and life-time church attenders and everyone inbetween to become true followers of Christ - desiring to know and learn about Him and then playing that out by caring for the needs of others?

It is a wonderful, challenging, overwhelming job. Thank you to all who are joining in it with me. Share with me your thoughts, struggles, successes, failures, and joys in this issue.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

...and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

This morning I was doing some cleanup in our Youth Center after last night's services, and had to stop for a minute to look at our Prayer Walls.

It has only been a few weeks since we cleaned them off and already they are full again. And I'm not so overwhelmed with the amount of things going on in young people's lives as I am by the breadth of the requests.

There is everything from asking for help on tests at school to dealing with cancer and drug addiction. And as I read these honest, heart-felt prayers on these walls, I find encouragement.

Encouragement that somewhere, the young people who come to our Wednesday night services have grasped the idea that God hears their prayers and wants to change things.

So I ask that you join me today and continue to join me everyday in thanking God that we can come to Him with our requests and have confidence that He will answer....

"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." -Hebrews 4:16 ESV

Friday, April 24, 2009

Signs of Life


Ah...Spring is here at last.

And while the official first day of Spring was March 20th, it wasn’t until this week that I’ve really started seeing the signs of new life marking the rebirth of spring. This week I’ve seen buds blooming, gardens growing, baby animals frolicking. I’ve smelled barbeque and cut grass in my neighborhood. I’ve watched small children lose their minds due to the warm weather.

It’s been great.

I love it because it reminds me of the hope we have in Christ. In Revelation, it shares that at the end of all time, God will say, “Behold, I am making all things new”(Rev 21:5), and each Spring we get a small reminder of that recreation that God has promised to those who love Him and follow Him.

In addition to seeing these physical reminders of new life, I also get the privilege through my ministry to see spiritual reminders of new life.

This month I’ve watched a teenage girl finally understand that Jesus wanted to forgive her sins and have a relationship with her. I got the privilege to pray with her as she gave up “everything” to Him. I to got take our Creative Worship Team to Ken Laffoon’s for a fireside worship session. I watched as God used that time to reaffirm a group of committed kids who all seemed to be going through a lot of difficult times at that particular moment. I’ve watched as dozens of students have gotten VERY excited about our upcoming 30 Hour Famine - a time of prayer & fasting. (Which are the things teenagers are always excited about...) All of these things & more have reminded me that we are all hungry for that new life!

So I pray this week that whatever you are facing you will look around and see these signs of life.

And be reminded that God is all about rebirth, renewal, restoration, reconciliation. I would love to hear your thoughts and observations as you do this! God Bless.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What is Your Life "Full" Of

Truth can be found in some strange places.

This week I went to the dentist...

for the first time in ten years.

And as I sat in the chair, waiting for my cleaning, making polite conversation with the dental hygienist, there truth came and found me.

The hygienist had asked me how my day was and I explained to her that I was trying to remove the word "busy" from my vocabulary, as that too often is my standard answer to her question. And she flippantly said, "Maybe you should try 'full' instead." So I decided to try that on for size, and I am learning to love it!

Now, you have to understand I'm a little slow sometimes. I say that because it didn't dawn on me until sometime later that this change in vocabulary was actually Scriptural. I replied to a friend later that day on Facebook that I wasn't crazy "busy" but crazy "full". She told me she felt sorry for people who were busy, but thought being "full" was what we should be. Then it hit me: Jesus said He came "that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10 NIV)

So being "full" is exactly what we should long for. My life is full of great relationships, wonderful children, more provisions than I can handle, wonderful opportunities to speak truth into people's lives, a hope that doesn't fade and joy unspeakable! When put that way, all of the hectic appointments and stressful deadlines just seem to fade away.

So what is your life full of today? Let us seek to see how God has given us with life to the full!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Creative Worship: Waffle House Edition



Our Weekly Announcements Cleverly Disguised as a Three-Minute Reality TV Show!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why I Love My iPhone



So, I've had my new iPhone for two weeks and have been compiling a list of ways it is LIFE-RUININGLY good! So below is the prioritized list of why my iPhone makes my life better.

(I hope this justifies my monthly cell bill ;)

10. Yes, I sent that email from my iPhone!
9. Oh No! He's using the Reverse-Pinch Zoom Hold!!
8. "The Force is strong with this one" since my iPhone doubles as a LIGHTSABER!
7. Too lazy to look outside? Yeah, I can check the weather on my iPhone.
6. YouTube on the go. (& Yes, that is a Leprechaun in my tree!)
5. My Maps function can even find me on backroads while driving Youth Group members home.
4. The power of facebook in the palm of my hand!
3. Don't have that song? Buy it on iTunes right now!
2. Pandora music radio...in my car!!! No Way!!!
1. Cellphone, PDA, iPod...all in one!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Where Does the Time Go?



I love timelapse video.

(and Sigur Ros, the premier Icelandic band you hear in the background!)

I love it because it reminds me of how short life is. How minutes slip into hours. Hours slip into days. Days slip into weeks. And before you know it it has been a month since you called you called your mom or read your Bible or worked on that project or wrote a blogpost.

(I know I am guilty on all accounts. How about you?)

Last night at 180 we talked about how life is short...and we can't stop time...and everyone dies...and how everyone is going to spend eternity somewhere...and why that makes it so urgent for us to share our love and the truth about Jesus with the people around us.

Today, it reminds me of how much I need to make relationships - not activities - the priority. It reminds me how I need to look my children and my wife in the eyes and tell them I love them and that they are important to me and ask them how their life is?

(And then keep looking and really listen...)

So I guess this post is just a reminder for us to stop and breathe and listen. It is a challenge to share love and truth with the people around us. It is a call not to miss using those minutes and hours and days and weeks to follow the God who Created us all. He is waiting. He has eternity. We only have this moment....

Thursday, February 26, 2009

YourTube



Who doesn't like seeing themselves on the big (errr..that is little) screen?

180 Youth Ministries has just recently developed a new way for you to do just that - our YouTube channel, found on the High School page of buffalocalvary.com.

We will be posting our promotional videos, funny videos, iWorship intros, Testimonies (like the one above - which was used as an intro to last night's lesson), and maybe even a few YouTube only exclusives!

I hope this will be a place where we can use our lives and what God is doing in them to impact others. I also hope this will be a place where you can have more ownership of what we do at 180.

So start sharing with me your ideas. Tell me if you have a testimony. Or a promotional idea. Or some random craziness you want to film. Make this YourTube!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

iWorship



Last Wednesday night, we introduced a new element to our Wednesday Night Services - iWorship. This will be a reoccurring (although probably not weekly) segment where a student can share how they worship God. This idea came from much discussion among our leaders (student and adult alike) about how do we show young people how to worship.

We decided the best way to communicate is to show young people how other young people actually worship! So each segment will include a video introduction and then the student will present their worship. In Frank's case, the video was followed with him singing "Consuming Fire" for the group. Which, the really amazing thing that happened was the whole crowd stood up and sincerely sang along with Frank without being asked. Now that is worship!

So if any of you have ways of worshiping God that you would like to share on Wednesday Nights, let me know. Call me, email me or just comment on this post. It doesn't have to be singing - it could be reading Scripture or sharing a poem or writing or artwork or some completely other thing that is a way you respond to how God is working in your life. We don't want to limit what iWorship looks like, so please share with us.

Also, as an aside, we will be featuring all our videos on 180's YouTube channel, which can be found on the High School page of buffalocalvary.com

Thursday, January 29, 2009

How Wal-Mart Doubles as Church


So, after nearly three days of snowed-in-ness, my family was dying to get out of the house. To do something. To go anywhere. So we loaded up for an outing to the local neighborhood Wal-Mart. It quickly became apparent that everyone else in town had the exact same idea at the exact same time.

Now I will say that since I work for a church and our town is small, I never go to Wal-Mart without visiting with at least three people. But today's outing was unprecedented! We had good conversations with at least fifteen people about deep heart-felt things. There were also several head-nods, "hey, hiya"s and distant waves. It was truly a community event. And, as we missed Wednesday services this week due to weather, it really felt like our mid-week "church" experience.

Which leads me to today's pondering: what does it take to make a "church"? Since the church is to be a grouping of people who are trying to be supportive and redemptive in people's lives, our community, our culture, and our world, why couldn't my Wal-Mart trip be classified as "church". And since some of the people I talked to may have a hard time walking into a traditional sanctuary, maybe this is even more "church" than church.

So how do we start looking for these opportunities to have "church" where we live? Let me know your thoughts, experiences, and whether this messes with you like it does me.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My New Favorite Space


So this week I spent some time in my new favorite space...the updated College & Career Classroom.

(Let me clarify that location: It is the little upstairs room - not the big upstairs room - in the Family Life Center above the kitchen where the College & Career class used to meet before they met downstairs but where they are meeting again now. Clear?)

I went up to the room to do some reading and praying and found myself just inspired by my surroundings. As I have been doing a lot of evaluating of why and how we do ministry things at 180, I was keenly aware of all the elements in this room that created an inviting environment for people to connect and hear from God.

So I made a list:

*INVITING
*COMFORTABLE
*CREATIVE
*COMMUNICATES COMMUNITY
*ATTENTION TO DETAILS
*VISION & PASSION
*BEAUTY
*THOUGHTFUL & INSPIRING
*CLEAN BUT COZY
*WARM
*SERIOUS ABOUT COMMITMENT
*SOMETHING IS HAPPENING HERE
*ANCIENT & MODERN

I know. I'm a nerd, but I was just really excited about these things I saw. Excellent job to all involved in creating a space where people can be invited into a true relationship with God and get involved in a loving & real body of believers!

Amber's Video Blog

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ponderings on Culture


I would call myself a student of culture.

I am very interested in the things that make people and society tick. I am fascinated by the things people use to define themselves. I am intrigued by what glues people together. I watch a lot of movies, listen to a lot of music and surf a lot of web as a part of "research". And ultimately I look at these things to figure out how best to communicate God's love and connect people to a relationship with their Creator.

Now there are a lot of different opinions about how we as followers of Christ should respond to the culture we see around us. I would call this the "culture war".

Some people think we should mask or conform ourselves to what current culture looks like in order to reach those (to quote an old Relient K song) "the world just loves to hate". This week as a part of my "research", I've been watching this documentary called "One Punk Under God" about Jay Bakker & Revolution Church.
Jay is the son of the fallen televangelist team of Jim & Tammy Bakker. And, after a lot of struggles and soul-searching, Jay has come to grips with God's love and forgiveness and started a church that reaches out to people who have been turned off by religion. But I see Jay struggling with compromising truth in order to reach out to "culture".

On the other side you have this perspective that attacks our culture and says it must change. But those who hold to this thought pattern have a tendency to be judgemental and self-righteous.

So I feel that I have swung between these two perspectives, trying to figure out what the right response to "culture" should be.

But this week I read an article that challenged me with a whole new perspective. It said we shouldn't respond to culture but we should create culture. Wow. What a concept. Our responsibility isn't to look like pop culture or attack it, but to create the type of culture that people are longing for. Offering the things that are broken or lacking in the mainstream culture. Creating the environment that will define and connect people the way God intended.

So, let me know what you think that culture should look like. What does it look like for our lives to be 180 from the world's? What does it mean to turn ours and others lives right side up? Let's start creating that culture!