Disciplined Reading

One of my goals for 2012 is to read 1 book each week and I have done pretty well so far. However, one of the greatest struggles I experience is that my reading is not very disciplined. By this, I mean that I do not have a very good plan for making sure I am reading the “best” of what I need to be reading. Tony Reinke has emphasized the fact that for every book we read, we are saying no to 10,000 others. For this reason, I want to make sure I am disciplined in my reading. For some helpful blog posts about disciplined reading, check these out:

Albert Mohler’s advice to read in categories

Mark Dever’s advice to pick a theologian for each month

Nathaniel Claiborne’s emphasis on a theological theme each month

After reading these posts, I was challenged to put together a plan to discipline my reading throughout the year. I am still planning to read a book each week but will focus my reading in 4 basic categories (theology, theologian, pastoral ministry, personal growth). Each month will have a specific theological emphasis and I will read a book on that particular aspect of theology (I may read an entire book or several chapters it in a book like A Theology for the Church). I will also read a work by the specified theologian for the month (this may be a book or a collection of letters, etc). The third area I will focus my attention on is reading in pastoral ministry (overall ministry and student ministry). Finally, I will work through a book that is focused on personal spiritual growth (biography, prayer, revival, etc.) Here is the specific theological theme and theologian/theologians I will work through each month:

January: Epistemology – Clement, Chrysostom, Polycarp

February: Anthropology/Harmartiology – Augustine

March: Doctrine of God – Thomas Aquinas

April: Christology – Martin Luther

May: Pneumatology – John Calvin

June: Trinitarianism – John Owen

July: Soteriology – John Bunyan

August: Eschatology – Jonathan Edwards

September: Ecclesiology – Richard Sibbes

October: Ethics – James P. Boyce

November: Culture – Martyn Lloyd Jones

December: Apologetics – D. A. Carson

**If you have any suggestions feel free to send them my way!

Cultivating A Heart For The Nations

My oldest daughter soaks up everything. At three years old, Anna can write her own name, sing the Zacchaeus song, and enthusiastically chant the fight song for her parent’s beloved Georgia Bulldogs. The soil of her heart is soft; seeds of love, hope, and compassion spring to life with ease.

It makes perfect sense why God challenged his people, in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, to teach their children diligently who God is and what He commands. There is little doubt that my wife and I will help shape the way our daughters view the world and what they think about God. As a result, we have purposed to cultivate a Great Commission focused home where the gospel of Jesus Christ is interwoven into our daily lives. I wish I could say that this comes easy but, like anything else, it requires intentionality.

We have read the Bible to our girls since they were able to sit in our laps. Our greatest desire and most heartfelt prayers are focused on our girls coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. A little over a year ago, though, we began asking whether this was enough. We certainly want to teach our girls that the message of the gospel is for them but we also want them to know that the gospel is for others and for the nations. My wife and I began to wrestle with this idea and how we could intentionally plant the seeds of love and compassion for others within our girls.

We started this journey last Christmas by throwing a birthday party for Jesus, complete with a birthday cake, ice cream, and our very own rendition of “Happy Birthday” Jesus. During the party we took time to pick out items from the Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog that we could send to people in need. Anna was beyond excited and we spent time talking about why Jesus came and how we could help share his love with others around the world by buying things like blankets, Jesus dolls, and mosquito nets. We prayed for the people that would receive these items, that they would hear the gospel message and come to experience Jesus’ love personally.

Our next intentional step was taken over the summer when my wife and I chose to sponsor a child through Compassion International. We talked about how this could, once again, demonstrate God’s love for the nations in a tangible way. Anna was not with us on this trip but after coming home we took time to tell her what we were doing and why. Our sponsored child’s name is Sabine and we pray for her every night. Anna has a picture of Sabine on a bulletin board in her room, colors her pictures almost weekly, and reminds us to pray for her each and every day.

After taking these steps we began to think of a way to emphasize God’s love for the nations on a daily basis. A Student Pastor friend recommended working through Window on the World: Prayer Atlas for All because it details different people groups that need to hear the message of the gospel. We ordered this book and reading it has become part of our nightly routine. Anna loves looking at the pictures and it gives us a chance to talk about and pray for unreached people groups and missions efforts around the world.

We don’t have it all figured out but we are seeking to intentionally plant seeds of love and compassion for others into the hearts of our girls. We trust and pray that God will water them!

20/20 Conference

I had the privilege to take a group of college students to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary‘s 20/20 Collegiate Conference this past weekend. I attended seminary at SEBTS and this was the first time my wife and I had been back on the campus since we left in January of 2008. We loved our time at Southeastern and were able to catch up with some good friends while we were there.

The conference was amazing and beyond anything I ever expected! Our college students loved the speakers and the breakout sessions that they attended. You would do well to take some time and listen to the conference speakers discuss the importance of God’s Word and how every part of Scripture testifies to Jesus Christ. Here are the links to the videos:

Session 1: Daniel Akin

Session 2: D. A. Carson

Panel Discussion

Session 3: Tullian Tchividjian

Session 4: Tony Merida

What I took away from the conference:

1. Jesus is the point. He is the point of all the Scriptures, Genesis – Revelation. We should not approach the Bible as a “how to” book. If we do, we will miss the grand story of redemption woven throughout all 66 books.

2. Progressive sanctification is not becoming more dependent on yourself but more dependent on Jesus. For some reason we have this idea that we only need Jesus to get saved and then we can “pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps” and live out the Christian life. This is so far from the truth but for many it is reality. We must daily preach the gospel to ourselves.

3. Preach Jesus. It is extremely easy to preach morality and  “do better” sermons. People don’t need morality; they need Jesus. Our people should walk away from our sermons saying, “What a beautiful Savior.”

Great quotes from the weekend:

“Though we are saved by grace alone through faith alone… if it is true grace and true faith, it will never be alone.” (DA Carson)

“If we read the Bible and miss Jesus our reading becomes fuel for our own self improvement plans.” (Tullian Tchividjian)

“When we see ourselves as the point of God’s story, the story becomes a tragedy.” (Tullian Tchividjian)

“Preaching and teaching the Bible is not about mastering certain techniques but being mastered by certain convictions.” (Tony Merida)

“If you want to preach life-changing messages you must keep the Life-Changer at the center of the message.” (Tony Merida)

“Religious people find Jesus useful but disciples find Jesus beautiful.” (Tony Merida)