Category Archives: Ethos

Bible in 90 Take 2

My wife and I are once again taking the Bible in 90 Days Challenge.

The goal of the challenge is to read the entire Bible “cover to cover” in 90 days. That comes out to roughly 12 pages a day. We have completed the challenge once before and we have been keen on giving it another go for quite some time.

Specifically, I have been more than a little inspired by A.J. Jacobs latest memoir, The Year of Living Biblically. Jacobs, an agnostic, decided that he wanted to tackle the world of religion head on. He spent 4 months of prep time reading through the Bible and taking note of every command, suggestion, and guideline from the Old and New Testaments. 72 pages later he had a list of rules to lay down as his foundation for his biblical year. Jacobs deftly recounts his trials and tribulations with great detail and more than a little humor.

As I read, I was struck by Jacobs’ joy of discovery in finding how these laws mandated by the Almighty impacted his outlook, personality, appearance, and zest for life.

For the next 90 days I want to invite any of you readers to join us on a journey of discovery. I am a fast reader. Most of these daily readings will take me about 45min to complete. My wife takes her time reading but none of her readings lasted longer than an hour. I am certian that no matter how busy you are with work or school or family that you can find, somewhere in your day, 45min to an hour where you can open up your Bible and read.

By next week you will have finished Exodus. By the end of the month you will have read through 1 Chronicles. By the new year you will be well into Ezekiel and before the end of January you will have finished the entire Bible cover to cover.

Join me in rediscovering why you “have the hope that you have.”

This week’s reading plan:

Thursday: Gen 1:1- 15:4
Friday: Gen 15:5- 27:37
Saturday: Gen 27:38- 38:30
Sunday: Gen 39:1- 50:26
Monday: Exodus 1:1- 14:24
Tuesday: Exodus 14:25- 28:15
Wednesday: Exodus 28:16- 40:21


“Disturb me, Lord, when my dreams come true, only because I dreamed too small. Disturb me when I arrive safely, only because I sailed too close to the shore. Disturb me when the things I have gained cause me to lose my thirst for more of You. Disturb me when I have acquired success, only to lose my desire for excellence. Disturb me when I give up too soon and settle too far short of the goals You have set for my life. Amen.” -Sir Francis Drake, 1577

The Catalyst Conference completely rocked my face off this year. I walked away from the arena with a great sense of purpose and mission.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one.

On Friday night I hooked up with some buddies from college who had also been a part of the conference. After an hour or so of small talk we began to open up more about our hopes, fears, and struggles. We kept finding ourselves driven to our knees in prayer.

In fact, we spent the entire night in prayer for the future of our ministries.

Not that our ministries would be big or be blessed but that God would be glorified and that Jesus would receive all power and honor and glory through our ministries.
We realized that if this were to happen through the people we minister to it must first happen through us.

We we humbled and broken that night.

At about 3am we remembered that Craig Groschel had kicked off his session by praying that God would disturb some of us so much that we wouldn’t be able to sleep.

There we were disturbed and unable to sleep.

I didn’t sleep the entire night I was so shaken and fired up and thirsty for God. You read about moments like this but I personally had never experienced something so tangible and so holy.

I have been rocked to the core. Not from a great session (although there were 9 of them) and not from a worship song (too many to count) but I have been rocked by the Almighty God, creator of the heavens and earth.

Lord, may this fire burn within me from today until the day you call me home. May you set a blaze in me a desire for the things that you desire. May my heart break for the things that break your heart. Forgive my pride. Forgive my arrogance. Forgive me when I am more concerned with the ways of the world than the ways of your Son. To you be all power and wisdom and strength and glory and honor. Amen.

You Get What You Ask For

When I posted my statement last week about taking risks for God and for my faith and for my ministry I had no clue that God was going to show up at the conference challenging me head on with this idea.

I feel a little like Neo tonight. I feel as though I’ve been offered a red or blue pill.

I can take the blue pill, enjoy the conference, sing the songs, jot some notes, board the plane home, and say “Well that was nice.” Of course, nothing will change. I’ll be just as effective as I am today. My faith will remain just as listless. My ministry be “good enough.”


I can take the red pill and see how far the rabbit hole goes.

I think God is telling me something:

Yesterday Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, TX, challenged me to take a risk by focusing on spiritual transformation and being honest with people that the Jesus way is a sloooooooow process. He likened spiritual growth to a baby taking its first steps. No parent watches as their child does the initial step, step, fall and then berates their baby for the poor job of running. No they celebrate because the child gets back up and keeps stepping. We go wild with joy when a baby tries and “fails” but we freak out (not in a good way) when a disciple takes two steps and falls. We write them off as hopeless. Shame on us. Transformation is life-long process. In ministry it is a risk to be that honest with people. People want transformation and growth instantly and too often we tell them that they can quickly “get right” by reading their Bible, praying, and reading their Bible. Risk challenging people to go deeper.

This morning Andy Stanley challenged me to risk my influence just as Jesus did by washing the disciples feet. All power was given to Jesus and he willingly laid that power down to serve. It is a risk to lead like Jesus.

Rick Warren challenged me to surrender my identity and my ministry to Him so that He can make it come alive. In essence, risk losing control. Rick also challenged me to pray the most dangerous prayer in the world, “Lord, Use me.”

Finally, Francis Chan challenged me to risk seeing my ministry as more than a job. It is a divine appointment. I need to risk seeing my life and ministry as the intentional way that God created me before I was born. I love my teens and their families. They are more than a job to me. I have been appointed to lead. Will I do it because of duty or out of a deep seated love? I know which one is a bigger risk.

I have so much to process right now but I keep seeing God’s hand holding out this red pill of risk to me.

Am I willing to risk it all for the sake of the Gospel? Am I willing to say “God, you are in control. I surrender it all to you. Success, failings, heart and soul. It’s yours.”? Am I risking it all to remain faithful to the things that God is calling me toward? Do I care more about my safety, my status, my reputation, my tradition than I do about seeking after the glory of God?

It all comes down to risk.


In the current issue of the Christian Chronicle, there is a two-page advertisement concerning a cappella music. The ad is presented by a group who identifies themselves as “younger ministers under the age of 55” who are concerned about the growing threat of instrumental music in the Churches of Christ.

I have so much to say about this ad but I think Mike Cope says it best when he writes,

“The world is disoriented, hurting, and lost. God is seeking to restore and repair what’s been broken. And someone is paying for a two-page ad in the Chronicle for this?”

My thoughts exactly.

As a youth minister I’m dealing with students who are disoriented and confused about who they are and struggle with questions and doubts about whether or not God really cares about them. I meet students and families who are hurting because of loss or because of sin. Turn on the news and watch as students are harassed or monks are shot dead in the street or entire ethnic groups are obliterated and you don’t even get a glimpse at just how lost this world is.

We are desperate for God’s healing and grace and yet… this ad.

I am not saying that this issue shouldn’t be discussed. I’m not dismissing deeply held beliefs on either side of the aisle.

I just want us to put as much time and energy in promulgating the gospel message of Jesus Christ as we do in pointing our fingers at each other and devouring one another.

I am not ashamed of the gospel. However, I am more than a little ashamed of that ad.


It All Comes Down To Risk

Thanks to everyone who weighed in on the first Wrestling With Scripture post. Hopefully we can do this every week.

I think that the reason that I have spent so much time on this passage is because I marvel at the risks that Jesus took in his ministry. They pale in comparison to the risks that we take today.

In fact the only time I hear people discussing risk is when it comes to money. For shame!

Philippians 2 reminds us that Jesus risked leaving an exalted seat in heaven for the life of an itinerant preacher who was obedient to a criminal’s death even though he was innocent of any and every crime. Matthew tells us that Jesus risked leaving his ministry to fishermen and unskilled, ordinary men and women. the Gospels point out that Jesus risked giving glory to God and bringing life to the marginalized and broken even though his methods lay outside the box of tradition.

Part of me is just enamored and challenged that Jesus might have risked being labeled as an outcast by touching and healing the leper.

That is where I want my faith to be. Am I risking it all to remain faithful to the things that God is calling me toward? Do I care more about my safety, my status, my reputation, my tradition than I do about seeking after the glory of God?

It all comes down to risk.

The Three Questions

Every person on the planet deals with three basic questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Do I Matter?
  • Am I loved?

In youth ministry I see students trying to answer these questions everyday. I see it in the way they behave, what activities they pursue, the way the dress, and the way they interact with one another. However most adults still wrestle with these questions too.

To be completely honest we never stop trying to answer these questions. It isn’t as though one day we wake up at 27 and we no longer have acne and suddenly have all the answers to life’s journey. The acne still crops up every once in a while and these queries still stare us in the face every single day.

The problem with these three questions is that they rely on us to answer them by ourselves. It is up to you and I to indiviualy answer these questions under our own power. I have a hard time making a decision at the gas pump whether or not I want a receipt after my transaction. I cannot even begin to answer these life-defining questions on my own. I’m limited.

I have been working through Rick Lawrence’s newest ministry book Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry and Lawrence reframes these three questions in a way that turns the focus away from ourselves and send us running to Jesus for the answers.

Here are the questions I am now asking:

  • Who Do I Say Jesus Is?
  • Who Does Jesus Say I Am?
  • Who Do I Say I Am?

I have been working through these questions for the last few weeks. Tomorrow we will look at the first one: Who Do I Say Jesus Is? I hope that you can join in on the conversation. See you tomorrow.


Seth Godin has made a living on encouraging businesses, churches, teams, and individuals to give people something truly Remarkable. You don’t attract new business by being as good as the other guy. You don’t make an impact on someone’s life by doing the ordinary. You can’t create a culture of winning by going through the motions. You can’t stand out by just getting by.

I believe in being Remarkable. I don’t like doing the same old same old and I tend to steer clear of organizations who do. My time and my efforts are precious commodities. If you want them you have to show me that you are at least willing to become Remarkable.

Example of the Remarkable:
There was a white box waiting for me in my office this morning. I noticed that the Catalyst logo was on one side and so I immediately tore the box wide open.

I have attended the Catalyst Conference for 4 out of the last 5 years. It has been one of the highlights of the year for me because each year it gets better and better. The conference delivers big time in content and character. I hear amazing speakers and see amazing things which in turn feeds my creativity so I can be a better leader. Since Catalyst always aims to surprise I wondered what would be in the box.

The Tube

What I found inside was a brightly colored metal canister. This year’s theme is Reverb. The art work featured noise lines and loud colors and the words “effect big.” One side of the drum had instructions on how to register and another side listed the featured speakers. I was already excited about this pacakage and I hadn’t even fully opened it yet!

A Whole Mess o' Catalyst

Inside I found a whole mess of Catalyst swag.

Window Stick-Ons and Reverb Magnets

There were window clings and those rattle magnets.

The World's Longest Event Poster

Inside I found atomic fire balls and 8 of the World’s Longest Event Brochures.

Catalyst Calendar

There was also a calendar poster so I can count down the days until Catalyst begins.

On top of all this there were also a couple of other little items and an event DVD.

They could of just sent a brochure and a registration card. Instead they sent a story.

Instead of sending me what was expected they sent me something Remarkable.

I Am Insert Your Ministry Here

Ultimately, Starbucks can’t flourish and win customers’ hearts without the passionate devotion of our employees. In business, that passion comes from ownership, trust, and loyalty. If you undermine any of those, employees will veiw their work as just another job. Their passion and devotion is our number-one competitive advantage. Lose it, and we’ve lost the game.

Today we continue thinking about the latest Starbucks corporate initiative focusing on the unique talents that each partner brings to the coffee-table and what that could do for your ministry.

The I Am Starbucks campaign is truly inspired. Giving your employees stock options can make them feel like they share in the ownership of the company but highlight who they are as individuals and celebrate their strengths and you’ve got wildfire of loyalty, passion, and excitement that has the potential to sweep the entire organization.

When I read the words I Am Starbucks I immediately began thinking about my ministry. One of my non-negotiables is that I want and desire that every student that comes in contact with our ministry to feel that they are an important part of what’s going on. The ministry rises or falls on who they are as individuals and what they bring to the collective.

To clarify, I’m not talking about an individual’s worth being tied to what they contribute.

No, I simply mean that who they are is the contribution- their presence, involvement, ideas, passions, gifts. Who they are at their core means a great deal to our ministry.

For many teens this idea could be revolutionary. Teens have been conditioned feel as though adults only care about what they can do. They have a hard time believing that they could loved because of who they are.

I hear things like:

“My coach only cares if we win state.”
“My parents expect me to be perfect.”
“Every teacher thinks that their class is the most important and deserves the most of my time.”

I understand that this feeling is somewhat oversimplified but perception is the truest reality. Students need to be told that they are loved because of who the are and that our love isn’t a condition of what they can or cannot do.

So, starting an I Am insert your ministry here campaign begins with loving your people as individuals. If you jump into highlighting talents in an open forum your effort will reek of trying to profit off of their efforts. Students can see right through that and if we’re honest with ourselves so can most adults.

Long before Starbucks began this new campaign they built trust and loyalty with their partners by creating health plans, 401k, and Bean Stock in essence telling their people that they care about them personally above and beyond the corporate bottom line. The result is that this ad campaign has an air of authenticity behind it. That’s something many ministries struggle with.

You want to reach people outside your church walls? Start loving the people that are there now.

You want to highlight people’s gifts and talents in front of the entire body? Start highlighting people’s gifts and talents quietly on your own.

You want people to feel like they are responsible for the direction and success of your ministry? Make people more important than the specific ministry.

Start doing these things and pretty soon your people will begin proudly saying,

I AM Insert Ministry Here & YOU CAN BE TOO.

Tapping the Talent

skinny.tiffSometimes I like it when things don’t go according to plan.

I had wanted to get into the office a little earlier than usual this morning but as I was trying to leave the house I couldn’t find my keys. I looked in the places where I usually leave my keys but after a few minutes I knew exactly where they were.

In my wife’s purse. At her job. 40 minutes away.

After calling her to confirm that they were indeed inside her purse I knew that my plans for the morning would have to change. While I do have a spare car key I do not have a spare to the building or to my office. I could leave my house but I had no where to go. Thankfully, I do have a spare Starbucks card for this very occasion.

When I got to Starbucks I ordered a tall mocha and I also purchased a copy of Off the Clock: Vol 1.

Off the Clock is collection of new music from “up and coming Starbucks artists.” Translation: The music is from actual Starbucks partners. You could have been served a drink made by someone featured on this album! How cool is that?

According to the liner notes:

For years Starbucks Entertainment has been asked by just about everyone who works here how to get their music heard. So we decided in 2006 to see what the partners had to offer by launching our first-ever Partner Music Contest. (Partners) were invited to submit solo or band recordings of original songs.

We ended up receiving more than 800 submissions.

Yes, these artists work at Starbucks, and they are also amazing musicians with great songs that deserve to be heard. We back their music wholeheartedly. While we strive to support our partners, ultimately it is our goal here to introduce you to astonishing music from exceptional artists.

Starbucks has always been known for standing behind their employees. The company consistantly ranks at or near the top of the world’s most respected companies and that is due largerly to the way that it treats its employees.

I think that highlighting the talents of the baristas around the country is a win-win for everyone. In a country that is focused on some guy named Sanjya with zero talent this album showcases 15 very talented singer/song writers or bands that sling joe in the morning and rock out at night.

The stores are also putting the spotlight on some baristas who are artists allowing them to create artwork for ceramic mugs, journals, and prints that are sold in store as well.

All of this falls under a new campaign titled, “I Am Starbucks.”

So, I’ve got a few questions that I want to discuss the rest of the week.

1) What could this kind of campaign do in our churches? How can we highlight what our people do “off the clock” (Monday-Saturday)?

2) What would this look like?

Goodbye Goodbuy

Hello simplicity and integrity.

In September I wrote a post lamenting that Chase Banks had co-opted one of my favorite songs for their credit card commercials. The song was “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles and I was frustrated that the commercial was selling the idea that love equals stuff. Call me naive. Call me idealistic. I don’t care. The commercial made my stomach turn.

Well it has happened again. This time by a company that I frequent quite often.

No doubt that you have seen that Target has featured the Beatles’ hit, “Hello Goodbye,” in their latest round of advertisements. Except they have changed the lyrics to Hello Goodbuy again preaching the idea that love equals stuff. They have even spelled out the Good Buy in Jell-O and in other products so that the viewer doesn’t miss the pun.

When I first saw the ad a few months ago, I merely rolled my eyes and quickly forgot about it. (I figured that Michael Jackson simply needed money again.) I only saw the ad once and thought that the campain was over. Then while on spring break, I popped a Beatles mix into the van’s CD player on our ski trip with the youth group. From the back of the van I heard, “Hey, this is the song from the Target commercial!”

This student had no idea who the Beatles were. They had never heard the song before seeing it in the commercial. How tragic.

Way to go coporate shills. You have once again managed to take something beautiful and turn it into a mindless, soulless peice of garbage that you can use for your own benefit.

I am not buying. In fact, I’m not going to buy from Target for a very long time. I have managed without Wal-Mart for over a year (only 4 unavoidable visits) and I will manage without Target.