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!

A Reflection on Cuba

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This past Monday, I returned home from my first trip to what has been one of the most controversial countries in the Western Hemisphere. For most Americans, the island of Cuba is known for its cigars, classic cars and communist revolutionaries. However, beyond this perception are people. Real people with real lives that tend to get overlooked when we only see a country through the lens of politics and propaganda.

One of my favorite aspects about the trips that we take is that we stay with those who actually live in the country that we are visiting. We get to learn about a culture’s daily life by experiencing it firsthand, and we find ourselves in places that would never make it into the travel brochure. I went with the intention on serving and blessing the people of Cuba but found myself being blessed by a people who are too often misunderstood.

As I reflect on my experience last week, I am reminded of what God told the prophet Samuel when he was looking for a successor to King Saul. God said to Samuel, “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16)

How many of us tend to see the world as man sees it rather than as the Lord sees it?

How many of us view different countries and people groups based on how they are portrayed in political discourse, propaganda and overall popular opinion?

This past week was a reminder that I need to pursue seeing the world the way God sees it. I want to examine and engage people’s hearts rather than making assumptions or formulating opinions about them.

I also want to step into the shoes of others for a moment and see the world from their vantage point. Let us not forget that we have been blessed by a God who stepped down from heaven and into our shoes to dwell among us. Jesus came into our world and lived life from our vantage point. And in doing so, he became our mediator before God who is able to sympathize with our own struggles and experiences.

So let’s fight the temptation to stereotype and only see others from a distance. Let’s pray and pursue seeing the world the way God sees it. And let’s try our best to step into the shoes of others with a sincere heart and an open mind.

Our God is the Almighty Creator of this world who loves his creation and pursues people from every nation, language, tribe and people group on the planet. Jesus taught us that collectively we are all the new family of God with him as our good Father. So please pray for our brothers and sisters in Cuba. Pray for disciples to be made and churches to be multiplied and that the people of God there will seek the peace and prosperity of that country with a pure heart that remains devoted to their true King.

And please pray for the church here in America. We could learn a lot from our brothers and sisters in Cuba. Pray for a renewed strength that resists the temptations that come with living in the wealthiest nation in human history. Pray for disciples to be made and healthy churches to be multiplied and that the people of God here will put their allegiance to Jesus over and above all other allegiances.

Let’s join our brothers and sisters in Cuba and across the globe as the one new family of God. And let’s stay focused on the mission of God and make disciples of Jesus from all nations who love God passionately and love others radically.


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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.