College Map - 01

2014 College Football Picks – Week 10

College Map - 01Each week I’m picking the Top 25 college football games and an occasional non-Top 25 game worth picking (Exhibit A: Army-Navy).

Good Week 9 results pick-wise. Now we’re heading into November, the month of college football when seasons are defined the most.

  • Good pick: L$U over Ole Miss. Baton Rouge, night game, and a motivated Tigers team made for an easy upset pick.
  • Bad pick: Okie State, you proved once again why I don’t trust you.
  • Predictions record after Week 8: 133-30 (81.6%)

Good games on tap this week, especially Ole Miss v. L$U. On to the Week 9 picks!

Thursday, Oct. 30th:

  • #2 Florida State over #25 Louisville by a TD.

Saturday, Nov. 1st:

  • #1 Mississippi State over Arkansas. Prescott throws for 300+ yards against a suspect Pig Ewwiee defense.
  • #3 Auburn over #4 Ole Miss, who should have dropped more than just one spot after losing to L$U.
  • #5 Oregon solves its Stanford jinx. Ducks by double digits.
  • #7 TCU over #20 West Virginia. Mountaineers keep it close, but TCU is too hot right now.
  • #9 K-State over Okie State. Sorry, Cowgirls, you lost my trust last week.
  • #10 Notre Dame over Navy.
  • #11 UGA over Florida. Prediction: Muschamp is out by Thanksgiving.
  • #22 U-C-L-A over #12 Arizona.
  • #13 Baylor over Kansas. Bears hang 50+ on the Jayhawks.
  • #14 Arizona State over #17 Utah.
  • #15 Nebraska over Purdue by 20+.
  • #16 Ohio over Illinois.
  • #18 Oklahoma over Iowa State.
  • #23 ECU over Temple of the Forbidden Door (or whatever their name actually is).
  • #24 Duke over Pittsburgh.
Denver_from_Highlands

The Church in Denver

I served on staff at a church in Denver from 2008-2011. It was some of the most frustrating, rewarding, challenging, and head-scratching years of ministry I’ve ever seen. Whenever Denver got a good snow, the collective groans from church staff across Denver was almost audible, “Great, now no one will show up for the weekend service/youth group/small group/big event we’ve spent hours pouring into/etc.” One pastor told me, “If it’s not ski season, it’s camping season, hunting season, summer, or some school break. We just can’t get ahead here in Denver.”

At no time though did I ever think, “This isn’t worth it.”Denver_from_Highlands

I know multiple people who have tried planting a church in the Denver area and quit. It’s not easy, especially given the level and variety of attention-grabbers that come from a place as bonkers-beautiful as Colorado.

An even greater factor to overcome is the spiritual darkness around the Denver metro area. According to a recent Barna study, Denver is one of the top five least Bible-minded cities in the western United State. (Barna) Denver is a cacophony of spiritual overtones unlike any other I’ve ever experienced, which makes for fascinating conversations in coffee shops, checkout lines, on the hiking trail, or riding the ski lift.

Now that Kara and I are back in Denver, I know that God has a ministry for us here. It may not be officially on staff with a church or ministry, but the opportunity we have to speak love and the message of the Gospel into different people’s lives is a privilege.

The key is we’re focusing on relationships. God is continuing to bring new clients and business contacts my way who have very different approaches to spirituality than I do… and I love it! I get to pray over each meeting God puts on my calendar and God is opening up doors of conversation in dynamic ways. If we take the time to listen first, it builds the relationship before we introduce them to Jesus. Without the relationship in place, it just looks like proselytizing.

Kara and I have also plugged into a fantastic church: Harvest Bible Chapel. When I look around the weekend services, I don’t see empty spaces. Do you know why? Because God has given Harvest the power and courage of sharing the Gospel through relationships. The Gospel is shared from more than just the platform and I see lives changed because people have God’s greater vision for Denver than just their own schedules.

God’s not done with Denver. He never has been. Denver is a wild and beautiful spiritual cocktail of postmodern relativity, carte blanche tolerance, disheartened church ministry, and in some cases, outright rejection of the Gospel. What an opportunity to be a part of sharing Jesus in a dynamic way, one conversation at a time with people who think, talk, act, and believe way differently than I do.

Game on.

College Map - 01

2014 College Football Picks – Week 9

College Map - 01Each week I’m picking the Top 25 college football games and an occasional non-Top 25 game worth picking (Exhibit A: Army-Navy).

The leaves are changing, fall break is past, and snow is coming any day now. Translation: this is the heart of the college football schedule. Week 8 was a mix of lopsided wins and close calls for a few top-ranked teams.

  • Good pick: K-State over Oklahoma. Well done, Coach Snyder. You are a Sooner whisperer.
  • Bad pick: Wow, Texas A&M. You went from sexy upset pick to the punchline of $EC lore. Way to “Aggie” it up.
  • Predictions record after Week 8: 117-28 (80.7%, ouch!)

Good games on tap this week, especially Ole Miss v. L$U. On to the Week 9 picks!

Thursday, Oct. 23rd:

  • #18 East Carolina over UConn. I didn’t get the chance to post this before last night’s game, but I told Kara yesterday afternoon that I was picking East Carolina.

Friday, Oct. 24th:

  • #8 Oregon over California. Not even close.

Saturday, Oct. 25th:

  • #1 Mississippi State over a surprisingly good Kentucky team. If the Wildcats can string together four quarters, this might actually be a competitive game.
  • #24 L$U upsets #3 Ole Miss. Night game in Death Valley. G’night, Alice.
  • #4 Alabama over Tennessee.
  • #5 Auburn goes ahhh-burrnnnn over South Carolina. Tigers by two TDs.
  • #8 Michigan State beats up Little Brother. Sparta by 20+.
  • #10 TCU over Texas Tech.
  • #11 K-State over Texa$.
  • #13 Ohio over Penn State
  • #14 Arizona State over Washington.
  • #15 Arizona over Washington State. I think I just saw double typing those two lines. Sounds like the state of Washington is having a rough year in football. I’m looking at you, Seahawks.
  • #16 Nebraska beats Rutgers by double-digits.
  • #20 U$C over #19 Utah.
  • #21 Clemson over Syracuse. More like Sorry-excuse.
  • Oklahoma State over #22 West Virginia.
  • #23 Marshall (WE ARE MARSHALL!) over whoever they’re playing.
  • #25 U-C-L-A (Fight! Fight! Fight!) wins a laugher over Colorado. Bruins beat the Puffaloes by 20+.
MembersOnly1

“_____________” for Christians

MembersOnly1A while back I was talking with someone about their recent work and they mentioned they were working on creating an online social community network. I thought, “That’s exciting. Go on.”

“Yeah, it’s going to be like Facebook… but for Christians.”

Face-palm moment. I shared that I think Facebook is already for Christians, depending on how we use it. Why create a virtual country club of Christendom when it’s our job to be part of God’s ongoing redemption plan for the world?

Why do we do that, create Christian-exclusive spin-offs (more like really cheesy knock-offs) of culture and life? Christian music. Christian t-shirts. Christian bumper stickers. Christian radio.

Are those things bad? Not necessarily, although each time I listen to K-Love I’m reminded why I don’t listen to K-Love, and it has very little to do with the music. I’m all about positive, encouraging messages, but that doesn’t mean a 10-minute diatribe from your DJ on their morning commute or their new workout routine. Pass.

There is a much-needed shift that’s taking place with some dynamic influencers in the Church, like Mark Burnett and Roma Downey who say they’re Christians who makes movies instead of saying they’re Christian movie makers, or Lecrae who’s topping Rolling Stones album charts for both Rap and Gospel genres, or Scott Harrison, founder of charity:water, the world’s leader in fixing the water crisis plaguing over 750 million people without access to clean drinking water.

These are just a few of many Christ-followers who are choosing to let their faith empower, not restrict them to be in the midst of culture. I don’t want to run a Christian business; I want to run a business that’s built on Christ’s principles.

When we start drawing boundary lines of insulation from culture, we become the outcasts by default and by our own devices. Jesus didn’t say, “Go into all the world by building an insulated community of people who only think, act, talk, and walk like you do.” That’s not the Gospel; that’s the self-preservation of comfort.

The world won’t know we are Christians by our t-shirts, frankly they won’t care. They will know we’re Christians by how well we communicate Christ’s love and hope for redemption. It’s time we turn “Christian” from an adjective into a noun.

We get to be a part of changing how the world sees Christians by making fantastic music, creating incredible art, producing industry-quality films, running Fortune 500 businesses, and becoming thought leaders on important issues of culture and philosophy, and all of this while following Christ.

College Map - 01

2014 College Football Picks – Week 8

College Map - 01Each week I’m picking the Top 25 college football games and an occasional non-Top 25 game worth picking (Exhibit A: Army-Navy).

Week 7 brought a lot less turmoil than Week 6, which gave voters and fans a chance to just catch our breath.

  • Good pick: Mississippi State over Auburn. I’m drinking the Starkville Kool-Aid this year and Dak Prescott is the real deal.
  • Bad pick: I expected Mizzou to rise up, but tip-o’-the-cap moment to Mark Richt and the UGA squad. Bulldogs football is more than any one player.
  • Predictions record after Week 7: 105-24 (81.4%, ouch!)

Notre Dame vs. Florida State this week. On to the Week 8 picks!

Thursday, Oct. 16th:

  • #20 Utah over Oregon State. Utes are one of the more underrated teams this year.

Saturday, Oct. 18th:

  • #2 Florida State staves off #5 Notre Dame. Seminoles by a TD. I reserve the right to change my pick if Winston doesn’t play, which he shouldn’t play for a variety of reasons.
  • #3 Ole Miss thumps Tennessee.
  • #4 Baylor outlasts a very good effort from West Virginia.
  • #21 aTm over #7 Alabama. Roll tears roll.
  • #8 Michigan State over Indiana. If Sudfeld was still healthy, I’d be tempted to go with Indiana, but Sparta wins by at least two TDs.
  • #9 Oregon over Washington. Chris Petersen’s squad is still a year or two away.
  • Arkansas over #10 UGA.
  • #14 K-State over #11 Oklahoma. Wildcats beat OU coming off a bye week two years ago, and guess who’s coming off another bye week this year? Wildcats by a FG.
  • #12 TCU over #15 Okie State.
  • #13 Ohio over Rutgers.
  • #23 Stanford over #17 Arizona State.
  • #19 Nebraska over Northwestern. Wildcats gave up almost 100 yards to David Cobb, and Abdullah is the next level up.
  • #22 U$C over Colorado. Trojans by three TDs.
  • #24 Clemson over Boston College.
  • #25 Marshall over FIU. We are….Marshall! Actually, we’re not, but Marshall is Marshall, just to clear up any confusion.
lazy

An Ugly Truth About Youth Ministry

During the seven years I served on church staff, I interacted with literally hundreds of youth staff members from churches all over the U.S. We shared meals together, planned, prepared, dialogued, and both celebrated our “wins” and confided our struggles in youth ministry. Almost a decade of working with students in a variety of environments has shown me one ugly truth about youth ministry…

Youth ministry can be a very easy place for lazy people to hide.

lazy

To be clear, I know fantastic youth pastors and youth ministry staff who work their tails off and make huge differences in the lives of students, volunteers, and parents. Unfortunately, in my experience and the experience of people I know and trust, such exceptional youth staff are just that: the exception, and not the norm.

It’s easy for youth staff to blow an entire day in meetings where hardly anything productive is actually done, either physically or philosophically when it comes to ministry. Parents and volunteers at churches around the country have shared with me their confusion on what someone in youth ministry does all day.

One of the chief objections I’ve heard youth staff to this is, “What are you talking about? I’m very busy.”

Being productive and being busy are two very different things. A hamster on a wheel is extremely busy, just look at how hard he’s working.

What’s more, there’s a guilt factor associated with laziness in youth ministry. I regularly put in 45-50 hours a week during my seven years on church staff and in multiple instances was almost shamed into feeling like I was the guilty one for actually working hard.

At the same time though, there were a few rare times I myself was tempted to go with the crowd and not put in a full day’s work. It was very rare, but there were a few days I could have done more and got lost in “research” for a weekend service or an upcoming message. It’s easy to let your work ethic become lax without accountability, but it’s no excuse.

We owe it to our students, their parents, church givers, and most importantly, to God Himself to be both efficient and productive with our time in youth ministry. Whether you have any paycheck, big, small, or none at all, our roles serving in ministry leave us no excuse for “just a lazy day”.

If there are parents or volunteers who are uncertain what you do all day in youth ministry, this is a great chance to share your schedule with them. It helps keep you accountable. When I was a youth pastor, there were multiple volunteers who regularly had access to my calendar to help track my progress and assist me during busier-than-normal times throughout the ministry year.

Youth pastors, youth ministry workers, youth supporters, admin assistants, youth creatives, youth worship directors, no matter what your role or week may look like, we can always stand a gut-check on our work ethic.

Would your track record and real schedule of serving Christ in ministry make Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” or does something need to be changed in how well you serve our Savior?

College Map - 01

2014 College Football Picks – Week 7

College Map - 01Each week I’m picking the Top 25 college football games and an occasional non-Top 25 game worth picking (Exhibit A: Army-Navy).

Wow, I had a feeling Week 6 was gonna get weird when I saw Katy Perry throwing corn dogs on the set of College GameDay. I’ve never seen a week in college football like we saw this past week. Even the 2007 chaos was nothing compared to 11 ranked teams losing this past week.

  • Good pick: Mississippi State over aTm is my best pick so far this year. I almost went with TCU over OU, but no such luck. More like Bloomer Sooner.
  • Bad pick: Where do I start? Oregon, BYU, Bama, OU, Stanford, Nebraska, Wiscoffsin, and U$C, you all let me down.
  • Predictions record after Week 4: 93-21 (81.6%, ouch!)

Another great slate of games this week, especially in Starkville. On to the Week 7 picks!

Friday, Oct. 10th:

  • #25 Stanford rebounds nicely over Washington State.

Saturday, Oct. 11th:

  • #1 Florida State over Syracuse.
  • #3 Mississippi State over #2 Auburn. I’m thinking Miss. State is the team to beat this year in the $EC.
  • #3 Ole Miss over #12 aTm. Tough environment in College Station, but I think the Rebs will pull it out.
  • #5 Baylor over #9 TCU. Great game, going to be close until the 4th quarter.
  • #6 Notre Dame over UNC.
  • #7 Alabama over Arkansas. Here’s hoping the Tide roll big over Bielema’s crew.
  • #8 Michigan State gets angry over Purdue. Spartans by 30+.
  • #10 Arizona over U$C.
  • #11 Oklahoma over Texa$. Great time for the Sooners to lose: right before they play UT.
  • #12 Oregon over #18 U-C-L-A. Another fantastic game, but I think the Ducks D will be too much for the Bruins to overcome.
  • #23 Mizzou over #13 UGA. Not impressed with the Bulldogs this year.
  • #16 Okie State over Kansas.
  • #19 East Carolina over South Florida
  • #22 Georgia Tech over Duke