Reading for Scripture Saturation: Introducing the Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan

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How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10  With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11  I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
12  Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
— Psalm 119:9–12 —

With 2019 ending and 2020 approaching, many are thinking about how they might read the Bible in the new year. And rightly so—the Word of God is not a trifle; it is our very life (Deut. 32:47). Man does not live on bread alone, but on the very word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4). So we should aim to read the Bible and to read it often!

Truly, the Bible is not a book to read once, or even once a year. It is meant to be imbibed and inhabited, adored and adorned, studied and savored. Mastery of the Bible does not mean comprehensive understanding of Scripture; it means ever-increasing submission to the Master who speaks in Scripture. This is why in the closing days of the year, it’s good to consider how we can saturate ourselves with Scripture in the next year.

Personally though, I wonder if our daily reading plans help us with this idea of Scripture saturation. Often, such plans call for reading single chapters from various parts of the Bible. And the daily routine can invite checking the box without understanding the book. So my question has been: does such reading help us or hinder us in our Bible reading? Continue reading

Playing (and Not Playing) Sports to the Glory of God

ballNorman Dale: You know, most people would kill to be treated like a god, just for a few moments.
Barbara Fleener: Gods come pretty cheap nowadays, don’t they? You become one by putting a leather ball in an iron hoop. I hate to tell you this, but it’s only a game.

Growing up, Hoosiers was one of, if not my absolute, favorite movie. Its story about the improbably state championship of a small town basketball team  fueled countless hours of basketball drills and hardwood dreams. It also fed my idolatry with basketball, that persisted until the Lord saved me from my sins and my selfish dreams.

In reflecting on sports, I wouldn’t say everyone who dreams of playing college (or professional) sports is sinning. I wouldn’t paint others with the same idolatry I had, but I would say that as my children are just now beginning to come to an age where sports is an option, I’m thinking about sports entirely differently than I did when I was 12 years old. As much as I would enjoy watching my children succeed in sports, I am much more concerned with savoring Christ and serving him as Lord.

I doubt I’m alone. I know many who love Jesus and sports. Indeed, I believe Paul himself had a positive view of athletics. But what Paul says about sports in 1 Timothy 4:7–8 bears repeating today: disciplining ones body for sports was and is secondary to cultivating godliness. Christians who play sports should think and play and participate differently. But how?

If you are wrestling with the role sports should play in your children’s lives, here are some helpful resources. Be prepared, like your ball coach’s end-of-practice wind sprints, they are sure to produce some discomfort. But, as they say, “No Pain, No Gain.” Continue reading

Catching Christ in Scripture: Christ-Centered Coaching from David Prince

princeIt’s been rightly said that preaching is more caught than taught. But what happens when a baseball player turned preacher and preaching professor writes a book on preaching and the life of the church? Well, it’s possible that what is taught also has the chance of being caught. And more importantly, teachable readers/preachers who read this book will be helped in catching the Christ who inhabits all the Bible.

In Church with Jesus as the HeroDavid Prince (Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky) along with his church staff have provided a helpful tool for “catching” the centrality of Christ in preaching and ministry. In only 130 pages, Prince et al. have made a compelling case for putting Christ at the center of biblical interpretation, gospel proclamation, singing, counseling, missions, and even church announcements.

While others have reviewed his book in full, I want to highlight the interpretive core of this book which sets it apart from others. While a host of practical applications can be found in Part 3 of the book, it is the method of biblical interpretation that forms the foundation for all that Prince and his pastoral staff undertake to communicate. Continue reading

For Your Edification (10.4.13): Caves, Co-Ed Football, and a Vision of Heaven

For Your Edification: Here are few things for you to read over, watch, pray, and think about this weekend.

God’s Creation Is Wonder-FullThis week researchers discovered a cave in China with its own weather system. Appropriately, The Weather Channel reports on this 12-acre cave that dwarfs our own Mammoth Cave. The name of the cave is called Er Wang Dong, and ‘impressive’ does not fully capture the beauty and grandeur of this cave. Check it out and give God praise for the world he has made: “For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy” (Ps 92:4).

Cave1

Cave 2

Be True To God. A few months ago, Trevin Wax questioned a view commonly held by many in our culture—the idea that above all we must be true to ourselves. Pointing to the way that corporations market this view, Wax writes,

Disney movies (and most of the rip-offs) tell our kids again and again that the most important lesson in life is to discover yourself, be true to whatever it is you discover, and then follow your heart wherever it leads.

Now, I’m not a Disney hater, and I enjoy watching good movies with my kids and passing on these memorable stories. Still, there are two assumptions behind the Disney formula that we ought to be aware of: (1) You are what you feel; (2) Embrace what you feel no matter what others say.

Trevin’s insights are well-made and deserve consideration. From the couch to the counseling room, Christians are led astray by ‘following their hearts.’ We need to reconsider this counsel and be true to God.

Football, Football, Football. Owen Strachan touched off a firestorm, when he wrote in Christianity Today a piece about “our shaken faith in football.” David Prince and Jimmy Scroggins shot back—first on Twitter and then in a full article at the ERLC Blog—arguing that the NFL data is incompatible with the sport millions of young people play.  Prince and Scroggins point to other statistics related to the dangers of endurance running and cheerleading, to make the point that we should not be overly sensitive to safety. Ironically, a point that Owen affirms whole-heartedly—see his new book The Risky Gospel. 

In the end, I think both arguments have merit, and of course, I am torn because I know each of these men and consider them friends. Personally, my mind is not made up, either way. I didn’t play high school football because I valued my body for other things. Yet, I am not ready to ban the sport, and if my son wanted to play I would support it. Still of all the comments that have ensued,  I found Jason Allen’s article the most insightful, especially as it relates to football and gender roles: Three Reasons Why My Sons Are Not Playing Football (This Year)

Heaven, A World of Love . In September, I spent the month preaching on 1 Corinthians 13.  As I preached, I picked at Jonathan Edwards book on 1 Corinthians 13, Charity and Its Fruits. His final chapter speaks on the permanence of love in heaven. He rightly suggests that heaven is a world of love. Here is a sample:

Heaven is a part of creation that God has built for this end, to be the place of His glorious presence, and it is His abode forever; and here will He dwell, and gloriously manifest Himself to all eternity. And this renders heaven a world of love; for God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. And therefore the glorious presence of God in heaven, fills heaven with love, as the sun, placed in the midst of the visible heavens in a clear day, fills the world with light. The apostle tells us that “God is love”; and therefore, seeing He is an infinite being, it follows that He is an infinite fountain of love. Seeing He is an all-sufficient being, it follows that He is a full and over-flowing, and inexhaustible fountain of love. And in that He is an unchangeable and eternal being, He is an unchangeable and eternal fountain of love.

You can read the whole thing here: Heaven, A World of Love, or you can buy the book.

Kingdom, Culture, and MissionFinally, if you haven’t heard Dr. Russell Moore’s inauguration address from his installation as the new President of the ERLC (Ethics and Religious Liberties Committee), you should.

For Your Edification, dss

A Better Way to do Church Missions

David Prince and Jeremy Haskins, pastors at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, KY, were recently interviewed in The Towers at Southern Seminary.  They were asked to describe their leadership philosophies and how they have led change at their church.  Their interview is steeped with wisdom, but one section concerning corporate, Gospel-centered ministry stood out.

“A lot of people do ministry in a way that self-consciously segments the entire congregation,” Prince said. “What we try to do is never allow that. If these things matter to the congregation as a whole for the sake of the Gospel then we are all committed to them.

“For example, when we send a mission team out, we don’t say that we are sending a certain group of people out on a mission trip. We say, ‘Ashland Avenue Baptist Church is involved in this mission trip. Some people have involvement here and some have involvement there; the people there are our eyes, hands and mouths for the Gospel.’”

Well said!  May our churches adopt such a “together for the gospel” mindset.  Moreover, may we have a united missional drive that sees whole churches involved in Christ’s mission, so that ‘missions’ is what everyone does, not just those who are leaving American soil.

Until All Hear, dss