Tuesday, March 30, 2010


So I've been reading through the prophets lately.

You, know. Isaiah. Jeremiah. And all those other guys whose names we can't remember or pronounce.

And it's kind of tough because it's all so depressing. God is using these guys to remind a rebellious people of His covenant with them...and the consequences of not obeying that covenant.

And page after page...book after book...prophet after prophet...these people reject that message. I find myself wondering how I would feel if every week my message got totally rejected!

And yet I am starting to see similarities in the voices of the prophets and some of new voices that are emerging from church leadership today.

Take Jeremiah 22 for instance. This chapter records God's message to Judah's king given through the prophet Jeremiah at a point where Jerusalem is about to be besieged and destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army. And in verses 3 & 4 we find this encouragement: "Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. For if you will indeed obey this word, then there shall enter the gates of this house kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their servants and their people."

Obey me. Love your neighbor. And there is hope and a future and the establishment of my kingdom in this place!

This message reminds me so much of the words I am hearing by such as Shane Claiborne and Francis Chan and Craig Groeschel and many others. Messages that are aimed at the general complacency of modern Christians. Messages that challenge us to uphold the commandment to love our neighbor as our self. Messages that ask if we are truly following Christ or just going through the religious motions.

Later in Jeremiah 22, the Lord's message compares the current king of Judah to a king of the past. He basically says, "Just because you dress like the king and live in the king's house and call yourself the king, doesn't mean I look at you as the king!" And then verse 16 drives it home: "[the king] judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the LORD."

So I pray that we will learn to heed the words of these prophets - modern and ancient. I pray that we will be stirred from our complacency and moved to obey God's commands in a fresh way. I pray that we will join God in his efforts to free the oppressed and love the needy and help the poor...because He did that for us!

And then it will be well.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Sweet Art of Techno-Intimidation

I've been working on my ability to intimidate my computer.

It is really effective. It works like this:

When your computer is running too slow/locking up/being stupid, you point at it and tell it - in a stern voice - what you want it to do.

Now at first it may not seem like anything is going to happen. You may even feel silly, like "I sure hope nobody sees me doing this. I probably look like a buffoon!"

But fear not, because you have already begun the process of becoming your computer's master.

And if you continue in your technological stare down, the computer will give in. Before you know it you will just be able to think what you want your computer to do and (after you've clicked the appropriate icon and waited long enough and maybe had an infuriatingly long discussion with tech support) it will HAPPEN!

Ahh! The sweet power of intimidation!

So tell me what you are using your mind powers to control.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The New Life of...

We are all praying Spring is truly here...

and there are definitely some encouraging signs in that direction. Birds are singing, flowers are blooming, children are going crazy with Spring Fever!

AND lives are being changed!

One of the greatest icons of Spring for me is EASTER because its message of new life through Jesus Christ parallels the new life we see springing up all over during this time of year.

This week, as we look toward that celebration of life, our church is going to be seeing another type of renewal - BAPTISM!

This Sunday we currently have four candidates for baptism. I love baptisms. I am so excited. I just think it is wonderful that these four are going to share their commitments to Christ with our congregation the week preceding the celebration of Christ's victory of death!

What a reminder that God just keeps changing lives. Come and celebrate with us on Sunday!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Oh, I've Got An App for That....

I think most who know me know that I love new technology...

and I love sharing my new greatest joys with you. So here are my new favorite iPhone apps for this week:

If Elvis Costello & Rob Bell had a child, it would probably be Ira Glass. (Although I actually think that Ira is older than Rob, so maybe if Elvis Costello & Ira Glass had a child it would be Rob Bell...but I digress) Ira is the host of this lovely weekly radio show on NPR called This American Life. It revolves around real stories of real people and the lives they live. Now, it is not a religious based show. There is sometimes real life situations with real life language that is not suitable for the kiddies. And I actually think Ira is an atheist.

But this show consistently does a great job of opening a window into how people tick. I have learned so much about the human psyche - the how's and why's of people's reactions, thoughts, habits - from this program.

So I was super excited to find out that there's an iPhone app where I can stream any prior program, hear extra tidbits not on the show, and even see a live countdown to this week's broadcast! Great stuff!!

So I made a realization this week - most of my favorite apps have something to do with making movies. First it was iMotion. Then it was Qik Video. And now it's Big Mouth.

Big Mouth is this cool little application where you take an image from your Photo Gallery and mask a mouth onto a person, animal, house slipper or whatever. Then you record your voice and it magically makes it look like the picture is talking. Go check out the video on the website. It will all become clear!

My family spent like a half hour playing with it when I downloaded it this week. We made each of the children say silly phrases. We made a birthday cake talk. I had my homemade slippers talk to each other. It was great!

The only drawback is you can only share the videos with other people who have the app on their iPhone or iPod Touch. So if you have 'em, download the app and then search for "ethans mustache". Let us know what you think.

Logos is the premier Bible Study software used by pastors, scholars and lay learners worldwide. They have proved themselves over and over again to be the best solution for having all of your Bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, lexicons, etc in one easy & searchable location.

And their software packages range anywhere from $150 to $4200!

Or there's the free iPhone App.

That's right FREE!

Now of course it has nowhere near the level of content that the $4200 Logos 4 Portfolio edition does, but it has a great variety of Bible's and research texts that are all searchable and cross-reference-able. It also has one-click word study and topical study and so much more.

Now for just reading the Bible, I still like my YouVersion app better, but the Logos app is appearing to be a wonderful resource for study whether on the go or not!

So those are my new favs for the week. Let me know what yours are or how you like these!

God bless & Happy Monday!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shrewdness is not hereditary...

Elliott Laboratories Genetic Experiment #198: Shrewdness.

Tonight, we completed our study on the hereditary properties of shrewdness in small children. We stumbled upon this breakthrough nearly by accident.

It all became undoubtedly clear when our youngest daughter, Hannah, won this bear at our Church's Annual Chili Cook-Off & Silent Auction.

You have to understand my wife and I don't have a shrewd bone in either of our bodies. We do not like haggling. I avoid auctions like the plague. High-stakes offers make us sweat.

And yet my four-year old proved herself as the Silent Auction Genius for the evening.

She had set her eye on her beloved item the week prior as the items were displayed in the church foyer. She saw this lovely bear and said in her heart, "Oh, yes. It will be mine!"

So upon arriving at the Cook-off tonight, she immediately used her cuteness to get her Grandma Christie to put down the starting bid on Said Bear. She then proceeded to hover about the item for the remainder of the evening, often using her body as a shield to prevent further bids.

And when the a couple of bids did make it through, she got Grandma Christie to outbid them again and then she filled in every other bid line with her trademark "H", just to make sure no further bids could make it in.

So, she got her bear, just like she knew she would. Thus proving her shrewdness and further that these traits obviously aren't hereditary.

That's science at its finest, folks!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sunny Days...

If you live anywhere near the Ozarks today you are probably joining me in mourning the change in weather.

A winter storm warning in March is nothing out of the ordinary for Southwest Missouri but is a little hard to swallow after two days of 60+ degrees and sunshine.

So as I sit here watching the mix of rain and frozen precipitation fall, I am trying to hold onto the events of the last couple days to get me through this dreary weekend.

Here are some highlights:

Yesterday Ethan and I along with a Dwight & Bryan Nyberg and Steve Crawford worked on painting the outside of a house.

It was a lot of fun just to be outside and I even got a little bit of a sunburn. That and a few aching muscles are helping me remember that maybe the sun will come back out:)

Then last night, our family and several others gathered at the Beltz house for dinner and a friendly discussion on sustainable living. And a little bit of frolicing outside!

I tried to catch a picture of how the static electricity made our children's heads look like dandelions in the setting sun!

It was an incredibly refreshing time and, as David Beltz said, makes us wonder why we don't make more time for "important" things like that gathering!

These last few days and about a thousand other things in our life keep making us long for a simpler way to live.

We recently read Laura Ingalls Wilder's book Farmer Boy, and it, oddly enough, has worked hard on my worldview.

Things like how Father Wilder saw his responsibility as a parent to use every opportunity to train his children - even at very early ages - to be the best kind of adult. Even if that meant they didn't go to school sometimes if there was a more important life lesson at hand. Which was part of why Ethan helping us with that house yesterday was so meaningful to me.

Another view-changer was Father Wilder's philosophy that the best way to live was to be able to supply everything his family needed with no reliance on outside sources. He said that he didn't want to live in bondage to a business or a boss, but preferred to work hard to be his own boss.

While I tend to think there still must be an element of proximal community to truly make life "the way it should be", this thought process really challenges the paths to "the way things are" living I see in our world today. How much do we want to let services from corporations and conveniences that we bought with money we don't have keep us in bondage to a certain level of income?

So these are my almost-connected musings as I'm stuck inside today;)

How about you? What are you doing with your dreary Saturday? How did you spend your couple days of sunshine? And what is challenging your worldview right now?

God bless.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Rising Highlights Video!

What are you going to do about it?

It's funny how fast things become old news.

It was less than a week ago that we went to The Rising in Memphis, and yet already so many great things have happened this week that The Rising stuff almost doesn't seem current.

...but I want to share and solidify some of the things God did last weekend lest they be lost in the ADHD world I live in!

I saw a group of teenagers and young adults get moved out of our comfort zones. There were so many ways this happened. From the long van ride to the interesting accomodations to the very urban multicultural feel of the conference to working outside in the cold & wet to having our van broken in to and some of our stuff stolen.

And yet no one complained. No one refused. No one asked to go home to their mommy. Actually they all embraced all of these things with joy and maturity.

I saw a group of teenagers and young adults love each other and those around them despite differences. And that was such the focus of the conference. And our group shined at this. There were no squabbles. There were no cliques formed. No one was made to feel an outcast. I don't know if this was a function of the conference or the group or the combo, but it was GREAT!

I saw a group of teenagers and young adults moved by a worship/service/celebration experience. As we went to Zion Cemetary to serve, I don't think any of us knew exactly what the time there was going to look like. And yet from the party atmosphere as we danced to Stevie Wonder's Very Superstitious (in a cemetary mind you!) to singing "O Come Let Us Adore Him" accapella as Carlos Whittaker led from the back of a pickup truck to the joy and reckless abandon with which the 450 of us there went to work cleaning up this old African American cemetary, I think we all saw a vision of what "CHURCH" is supposed to look like.

So we came back challenged to continue asking God to move us out of our comfort zones for His Kingdom, to continue loving those around us who are different than we are, and to creating a lifestyle of worshipping and serving in the same place so that this idea of "CHURCH" can continue to expand.

Pray for us.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Day of Rest...

We had a great weekend at The Rising in Memphis. I'll try to post more on that in the next couple of days.

(And hope to have a highlights video for us at tomorrow night's service!)

But yesterday I took a day of rest after a very full weekend.

Here's what I did:

I hung out with some Mennonites. (of course I can't show you a picture of that!

I played hide & go seek with my kids.

(can you see me?)

Went grocery shopping. (I know. That doesn't sound like rest, but it was a fun time with my family;)

And then my wife made me one of my favorite meals - Brats w/ Sauerkraut!!!

And my kids enjoyed it too!!

So what do you do for your day of rest?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Welcome to the Weekend!

I'm praying for disruption in my life.

It's really a prayer culminating from various factors that all have seemed to converge on this weekend.

Factor #1: THE RISING.

As you read this (if you read it when it posts and not like three week later:) I will be in Memphis, TN with 10 young people going to this conference focused on bringing Jesus into our everyday life. There is going to be teaching, an incredible service opportunity in downtown Memphis, and worship led by Carlos Whittaker.

And here is a video from Carlos about that worship...


I don't know why but it always seems that I get to preach the Sunday following Youth Events. We don't plan it that way - it just happens. And that usually means that I'm all pumped up from challenging teaching and caffeine.

So as I was starting to get my head around what I was going to teach on for Sunday, I saw the above video and was really moved & challenged by what it said. Then I found myself reading this book by Francis Chan called Crazy Love and was just leveled by these two chapters on being lukewarm.

And as I started putting the pieces together for the message I realized I would be preaching on this stuff the same weekend that I was going to this conference on stepping out of our comfort zone to bring Jesus to our world, getting to worship with Carlos Whittaker live, and showing the first teaser video for our post-Easter message series Do Something!



God is always up to something, but I think I so often miss it. But with all of the factors I see Him moving together, I really believe He is getting ready to do some exciting things in our lives, our church and our community...and I DON'T WANT TO MISS IT!

So I'm praying that God will do whatever it takes to get me out of my comfort zone, undistracted, disrupted, so I'm ready.

Will you join me?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Screw-ups Anonymous....

Hi. My name is Mark and I'm a screw-up.

I make mistakes. I say the wrong things. I offend people. I break stuff. I worry...alot. I have bad thoughts. Sometimes all kinds of bad thoughts.

And I know and trust in God's forgiveness. But that doesn't make it any easier sometimes to know that I'm a screw-up.

So I'm sitting here tonight, knowing that God is wanting to do amazing things in and through my life this weekend...

And I just can't stop thinking about my screw-ups this week. About how people are reacting or going to react to things I've messed up.

So does that mean that I only really trust in God's grace when I don't feel like I really need to be forgiven? Does that mean that I'm really just trusting in myself to be "good", all the while saying I trust in Jesus?

So I'm deciding to stand on the truth of God's grace today. As it is a reality that God forgives me. Not based on my actions or my feelings or my worries. It is fact.

How about you? How are you dealing with God's forgiveness this week?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Which Way Is Up...?

I read this the other day:

And now the LORD says,
he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him;
and that Israel might be gathered to him—
for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD,
and my God has become my strength—
he says:"It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."
(Isaiah 49:5-6 ESV)

...and I was excited! This is the kind of stuff that grabs my heart. God wants to expand the vision: "I'm not going to reach just one nation/person/community; I'm going to reach the whole world! And I'm picking you to be a part of the mission!"

It get's my blood pumping. It captures me.

Because it's a reminder that God wants to use little ol' me (and little ol' you!) to accomplish his great purposes. To reach the nations. To set the captives free. To make another world possible. And that is exciting to me!

Our tag line at 180 Youth Ministries is "Turning the world right side up!" And that is the hope we live by, that God wants to turn our upside down lives right side up...and then use us to help others get turned around as well!

This year we are creating an opportunity for you to do that and share it with others. We have compiled a list of "Things We Will Do For the KINGDOM in 2010". We have them posted on our walls at church.

The plan is for you (or you&your friends or you&your family or even you&your enemies!) to pick one something on the list to do and then share that with us through a picture or a story or a video or some origami or whatever seems to fit best!

The first one we did was to hold a Game Night on New Year's Eve and collected donations for Rapha House. Here we are at midnight!

So we want to help get you involved in this! This week we want to ask everyone to work on the same item on the list: "#23: Take a Picture of Yourself with the Number 180"...as a reminder that God wants to turn our lives right side up and use us to do that in others lives.

And then we want you to share that picture with us! You can post a link in the comments here on the blog, post it on my FaceBook page, text it to at 417-733-3008, or email it to me at ministryonpurpose@hotmail.com

I'm excited to see us start bringing the KINGDOM!
God bless!

Monday, March 1, 2010

This Weekend...

This past weekend we...

had a lovely brunch with some friends,

caged a cat,

used last season's garden debris to dress-up as our favorite animal,

played a mean game of Chutes And Ladders,

and finished reading our favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder book to date, Farmer Boy.

What did you do?