Learning

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As I’ve spent time thinking over the new series that we are doing for players this Spring Training, I find myself trying to take the time to examine my own life so I can figure out different ways that I need to better practice what I’m teaching in each study. It’s the inevitable conflict of those who teach others the truths of God — I can discover and deliver those truths, and yet if I’m not disciplined and discerning, I can easily find myself not fully responding to them in my own life.

I make the case in our first study that God’s plan for creation is that it would be run by obedient humans who would rule over the creation on his behalf. And despite human defiance and our own foolish decisions to try and rule the world our own way by defining good and evil for ourselves, God has never given up on that plan.

The Bible teaches us that Jesus is the obedient human who has retaken the throne at the right-hand of the Creator and who now rules over the creation on his behalf. He has rescued humans from the consequences of our rebellion, and he has restored us back into being creatures made in the image of God.

This means that Jesus restores us into being able to once again fulfill our very special vocation and calling to be real-life expressions of God’s authority over the creation and that we can now join Jesus in ruling over the world on his behalf as his special representatives.

This is a profound truth that ought to help us rediscover the dignity of what it means to be a human being, and an incredible privilege that we would be foolish to not embrace with everything that we got.

And so, over the last few weeks, I have been contemplating what this means for my own life. What does this actually look like for me right now in my day-to-day routine and life?

Here’s a few self-suggestions that I have come up with for now:

Be the Household Leader

First, I need to be a leader over my household and make every effort to make my environment a place of order, beauty, peace and goodness. And I don’t think it does us any good to over-spiritualize this. Being a leader who rules over my environment on behalf of God requires teaching my children about who God is and what he has done for us, but I think it also includes things like cleaning the clutter in our house and keeping hurtful language and imagery off our screens.

I need to create the kind of atmosphere in my home that reflects the order, beauty, peace and goodness of God.

Be a Humble Learner

Next, I need to be a humble learner when it comes to things like social justice, racial reconciliation, climate change, green energy and anything else that promotes care for the environment and serious concern for the flourishing of every human individual. This doesn’t mean that I must agree with every position or not hold any convictions of my own, but I do need to make sure that I’m not so influenced by my own ideological preferences that I feel like I have things figured out.

I need to be quick to listen, concentrated in my thought and slow to speak so that my words will be used to promote any good that God wants in his world and not wasted on what could very well be my own definition of good and evil.

Be a Servant to All

And lastly (for now), I need to diligently pray like Jesus taught us to pray and ask that God’s will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

This profound truth that we have been restored by Jesus to the vocation of ruling the world on behalf of God as his special representatives ought to open up my mind in new ways about what it means to pray in this way. And it means that I need to realize that part of this request is accepting the responsibility that I am asking God to use me however he wants to accomplish his will here on earth as it is in heaven.

I need to walk around throughout my day aware that I am representing God at all times to all people and stay ready for any opportunity that he may present before me to speak and act on his behalf. And I need to never forget that Jesus demonstrated and taught that we are to rule with him by becoming servants to everyone. I must consider the lives of others as more significant than my own and that includes the life of my enemies and those who might harm me if they could (let that sink in). Ruling with Jesus requires taking up a cross like him, and not a sword like the “rulers” of this world.

And so, as you enter into this next season, realize that through the work of Christ, you have been restored back into being creatures made in the image of God. You are now a special representative of the Creator and therefore responsible to bring order and goodness and peace to your circle of influence on his behalf. To wrap this up with some imagery from the story of Adam, lets all embrace this incredible privilege and calling and make every effort to take care of the gardens that God has placed us in.

Son of Man Series

Well, it’s been four months since the last episode of the Things Above podcast, but a new series is starting and a new episode has finally been uploaded. Since we wrapped up our series on Genesis in October, my time has been occupied with mission trips, conferences, retreats, the holidays and officiating a few weddings in between. These winter months will probably just have to be the offseason for the podcast each year.

That being said, we are getting ready to teach the Spring Training Bible Studies which are held in various locations in Arizona and Florida for players and their wives, and so the last few weeks have been a time of reading and writing and preparing for those studies. This year’s Spring Training Bible Study will be a five-part series that we have entitled, Son of Man: Foreshadowed & Fulfilled, and I will be uploading those messages each week as new episodes for the podcast.

In this series, we are going to look at five different different human figures from the Old Testament story and see how their stories foreshadow what would eventually be fulfilled in the Christ of the New Testament.

Unfortunately, many people only view the Bible as an old religious book that is meant to reform our behavior through rituals and rule keeping. And then there are others who just see it primarily as a book about how to go to heaven when you die. But in this series, we are going to try and show you how the Bible is offering us a new worldview and a new way of life by inviting us to participate in the one big epic story that it is telling from cover to cover.

The Bible is a book that tells the one big story of how the Creator is rescuing his creation through the Christ.

I am still in the process of researching and writing some of the studies for this series, but I am enjoying the preparation and learning a lot in the process. I have put together a brief introduction to this series which I have just uploaded to the podcast as our first episode of 2019.

If you haven’t subscribed to the podcast then you can do so by clicking on one of the options below, and if you have subscribed and listened to a few episodes then you can help spread the word by sharing this podcast with others and by leaving a quick review in iTunes.

Thanks for reading and listening, and I hope this is helpful to you!

New Year & New Habits

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Tomorrow marks the beginning of a brand new year, and many of us have new hopes and new habits that we are ready to set in motion starting tomorrow. Personally, I’m making a commitment to eat less sugar, own less stuff, use less screen-time, get more sleep and embrace more silence — I’m going to try and devote the first hour of every day to silence, psalm reading and prayer (#OwnHourOne).

Whatever your goals, we all know that there are things in our lives that we need to alter or do better, and the New Year often gives us the spark of motivation that we need to actually implement these things.

That being said, one of the most life-changing (and life-giving) habits that I have developed over the last few years is the habit of following a Bible Reading Plan that helps me read through the whole Bible in a year. Now, this is a new habit that took me several years to develop so I don’t want to give off the impression that its easy.

Like the popular resolution of going to the gym more, many Bible reading plans start out with great enthusiasm but end up bogged down and eventually abandoned a few months later. Some of you may have experienced this several times before and have just decided that Bible reading plans aren’t your thing. If that’s the case, I want to urge you to give it one more shot and join me in the plan that I’ll be doing this year.

THE PLAN

This plan takes you through the entire Bible in one year and is divided into weekly readings instead of daily readings in order to encourage you to take time to read larger chunks of the Bible instead of smaller individual portions. We believe that this approach will help us better understand the context of what we read and help us grasp the one big unified story that the Bible is telling.

(If you prefer a daily format, I have also spread this plan out into a daily format that keeps you in sync with the weekly format too. You can view the daily reading format here.)

Here are some of the highlights of the reading plan that we’ve put together and some advice on how to best develop this new habit over the upcoming year…

THE HEBREW BIBLE

We have organized the books of the Old Testament (OT) in the three-fold order found in the Hebrew Bible — the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Jesus actually references this three-fold order when he tells his disciples that, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law, the Prophets and the Writings must be fulfilled." (Luke 24:44)

The OT was the Bible of Jesus and his first followers so we hope that this plan gives you a fresh perspective and a new hunger to read and love the OT.

THE APOSTLES’ TEACHING

We have organized the books of the New Testament (NT) in a way that takes continuity and chronology into consideration. We have rearranged Paul’s letters to better fit the order in which they were actually written, and John’s Gospel has been placed towards the end since it was one of the last NT books written.

We have titled these books, The Apostles’ Teaching, because collectively they provide us with the overall content of what Luke says the first followers were learning when he says that “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” (Acts 2:42)

PSALM OF PRAYER

We have organized the Psalms to be spread out over the course of the entire year. The psalms for each week are listed for you to include in your regular times of prayer.

To pray the psalms, take time to read through the psalm 2-3 times and try to understand its original significance and how it is still relevant today (and to you personally). Then simply use some of the key verses in the psalm and pray — using these verses to say anything that comes to mind.

We highly recommend using Timothy Keller’s book, The Songs of Jesus, to help you go through the Psalms.

VIDEOS

The team at The Bible Project has done an excellent job creating short animated videos that correspond with each book and major themes of the bible. As you begin each book of the bible, we encourage you to watch the short video on their website about that book’s message and design which helps you know what to look for as you read.

HOW TO USE THIS PLAN

We recommend that you ask one or more friends to do this plan with you. Have each person read on their own and write insights in their journal. Then have everyone meet to discuss what they learned.

The following four questions can be used as a guide for what to write in your journals and for what to discuss when you meet. Pick a particular passage that got your attention while you were reading and then answer these four questions:

  1. What can we praise or thank God for from this particular reading?

  2. What is the original author trying to communicate to his original audience?

  3. What timeless and transcendent truth does this passage teach all readers?

  4. How is this relevant to my own life and how is the Spirit leading me to respond?

You can view these reading plans on our website or under the resources section of the UPI Grow App. There is also a Scripture tab on the App that provides a daily scripture reading with an audio option that keeps you in sync with the plan.

The PDF for each plan has also been formatted in a way that allows you to print out the plan on a single sheet of paper that you can then fold in half and simply place right inside your Bible.

With all that said, I hope all of you have great success in implementing your personal goals for the upcoming year, and I do hope that you will devote yourself to developing the new habit of regular Bible reading. I hope this plan is helpful to you, and I hope that you find yourself more interested in the Bible and more fascinated by the story that it’s telling than you have ever been before.

P.S. If you would like to read along with me or if you’d like to start a reading group but have some questions about it, then please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and let me know!

What is the Bible Trying To Do?

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The week after Thanksgiving has become the most refreshing week of the year for Tanner and I. That’s because this is the time every year that we attend PAO’s Increase Conference. This event provides a place for professional athletes to gather together and to learn from gifted speakers and teachers concerning how our Christian faith should be impacting our relationships, finances and careers.

This year, David Platt and Ben Stuart were the main speakers, and the main message that seemed to keep coming out of every session was the necessity of reading your Bible. Platt reminded us on his first night that we need to “soak in Scripture like your life depends on it because it does, and we need to spread the message to others like their life depends on it because they do.”

That being said, I was recently asked to write four short devotionals for Sports Spectrum Magazine, and based on my time at the conference, I decided to write on why the Bible is so important and what the Bible is actually trying to do.

WHAT IS THE BIBLE TRYING TO DO?

Everyone is trying to find salvation. They may not use that term, but everyone has some sense that they need something that will finally make them feel fulfilled, satisfied and accepted. Some people try to find fulfillment from their relationships with friends, family, children or spouse. Some people try to find satisfaction from a certain level of success, income or social status. And some people try to find acceptance from certain social groups, causes or religion.

Everyone is trying to find salvation, but unfortunately many of us end up looking in places that cannot truly deliver what our heart desires. This is one reason why the Bible declares that the good news of what God has done through Christ is the only thing that truly possesses the power for salvation. Because it is in the good news of the biblical story that we can discover who we were intended to be, why we feel like something is missing, what we need to fill that void and why we can have hope that one day everything will be made right.

It’s unfortunate that many people are missing out on experiencing this power of salvation because of their misconception or misunderstanding of what the Bible actually is. Contrary to popular opinion, the Bible is not a religious manual that tells you how to live your life differently; it is an epic story that tells you to look at what God has done in human history that should change your life drastically.

The Bible is a collection of ancient writings written over a period of 1500 years by many different authors in different locations who even spoke different languages, and yet from cover to cover it manages to tell one unified story. This one story is the epic story about the Creator rescuing his creation through the Christ. And remarkably, this story continues to be just as relevant in making sense of our lives today as it did in the ancient world in which it was originally written.

The Bible offers its own answers to some of our biggest and most basic questions concerning life. Who are we? Why are we here? What’s wrong with the world? And what’s the solution?

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT US?

The Bible tells us that God created humanity in his own image. This means that God gave all of humanity the incredible gift and privilege of ruling his world on his behalf as his special representatives. Many people need to rediscover who we are and what it means to be human.

To be a human being is so much more than to be a mammal who has gained incredible mental capacities through a random selection of natural processes. As creatures made in God’s image, we will only find fulfillment by growing in a relationship with our Creator and by caring for his creation according to his commands.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT LIFE?

The epic story of the Bible begins with God creating a good world full of unlimited potential, and then God appointing humans as his special partners to rule his world on his behalf. But God also gave humanity a free choice regarding this partnership and how they were going to carry out the mission that he had given them.

Would humans use this privilege for the common good and for the glory of God or would they use it for selfish gain and their own glory instead?

Tragically, we only get to the third page of the Bible before we see humanity deciding to disobey God and desiring self-rule instead of representative rule. Humanity turns away from God’s ultimate authority and decides to define what is good and evil for themselves. And this is a rebellion that we all continue to participate in on some level because we all continue to make decisions that contribute to this world of broken relationships, conflict and injustice. 

Instead of living and doing things God’s way, human beings have chosen to try and rule this world our own way, and the consequences have spread to every aspect of our lives. We have lost the fullness of life that we were created to experience, and in a way we are now living subhuman lives in a world that we ourselves have corrupted. This is why we often feel so lost in our own skin, and why we instinctively feel that life in this world ought to be different.

HOW DOES THE BIBLE OFFER US HOPE?

Human beings were created to live in a relationship with God and to rule the world on behalf of God, but we chose to rebel against God and began to ruin everything. We have stained the image of God and violated our partnership with God, and we continue to feel and experience the consequences. We are not who we should be, and we feel it. We are at home, but it doesn’t feel like home and we know it. Fortunately for us, the story didn’t end there.

Throughout the Bible, we see over and over again, God’s plan to rescue humanity from its rebellion, to reconcile humanity back into a right relationship with its Creator and to restore humanity back into being what we were originally created to be. And as we see this rescue plan unfold, it reaches its climax in the person and work of Christ. God restores his rule by sending his Son and graciously restores us back into a position of partnership with God by paying the price of our rebellion on the cross.

The penalty for our disobedience and sin is death and eternal separation from God, but in his grace and mercy God has provided forgiveness for our sin through the substitutionary death of Jesus — who paid the penalty that we deserve. God has offered eternal life for everyone who confesses that Jesus is Lord, and he has given us assurance of all these things by raising Jesus from the dead.

The good news of the Bible is that you can be forgiven by God for your sin and receive the gift of eternal life. All you have to do is embrace Jesus — confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God has in fact raised him from the dead. Turn away from just living life your way and turn back to the God who created you and loves you and wants to give you the life that you were intended to experience. You see, it’s in this epic story that we discover the salvation our hearts truly desire.

This story ends with the promise that one day Christ will return and God will gather his people from all over the world and the whole earth will experience a full and final restoration that will give us a new reality for all eternity. And it is only in this new life with Christ and our Creator that true fulfillment, satisfaction and acceptance will ever be found.

So let’s read our Bibles and rejoice in the good news that it’s trying to tell us. Let’s soak it in like our lives depend on it and share this story with others as if their lives depended on it too. I’m heading out of the country this week for that very purpose. I look forward to updating all of you on that trip, and I also have a Bible Reading Plan for 2019 that I will share in the couple weeks.