All posts by: Anthony Stephens

Title: Enter the Ring: fighting together for a gospel-saturated marriage

Authors: D. A. & Elicia Horton

Publisher: Navpress

Overview

Enter the Ring is a book that was written by church planters, D. A. and Elicia Horton to help people who are looking to do marriage in the right way.  They focus on showing what it means to have a “gospel-saturated” marriage by using wisdom from the Bible along with personal stories of their own struggles, mistakes, and victories.

Thoughts

I completely agree with a statement that is on the back of this book: Marriage is hard! Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful and enjoying the wonderful marriage that I have with my wife.  But the truth is that this thing called marriage is hard work.  There are so many things that are at war with marriages in our world today.

I really enjoyed reading Enter the Ring.  I have been following D. A. Horton for a little while now, especially after hearing him share at the SEND Conference this past summer.  I found that this book was very helpful in that it was not just throwing a bunch of “teachings” out there, but the Hortons pull back the veil and are very transparent about their own relationship.  It really felt like you were sitting down with them at a coffee shop and sharing experiences.

D. A. and Elicia Horton do a great job of bringing to light many of the truths found in the Bible pertaining to the marriage relationship.  They also give some good practical steps in working through some issues that a couple might face. (The chapter dealing with finances and the budget layout was really good!)

Recommendation

I would highly recommend this book to any couple out there.  It is rich in gospel truth and practical thoughts.  I really believe that any couple – thinking about marriage, newlyweds, or even further down the line – would greatly benefit from what is shared by the Hortons in Enter the Ring. The marriage relationship is definitely worth fighting for, and this book is a great tool to help a couple win the fight!

Last night was the college football playoff national championship between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs. It was a game that I was greatly looking forward to as a fan of college football and especially the SEC. I believe that the game lived up to all of the hype. I know that there were many who were upset because there were two teams from the same conference in the national championship. The truth is that if the two top teams are in the same conference, they should be the ones playing it out on the field for the prize.

As I’ve had a little time to come down from the excitement of having “my team” win it all (in dramatic fashion), I’ve been thinking about some things that I will be taking away from this game. I thought that I would share them with you.

No one is bigger than the team.

The University of Alabama made a major decision as they came out of the locker room after halftime. They decided to put in their backup quarterback to lead the team and try to get a spark going for what had been a less-than-stellar first half. One might think that that is not such a big deal. That is until you realize that the backup is a true freshman who has not seen any real competitive gametime action all year. The decision to make this young man’s first major appearance in the biggest game of the year with only half the time to work with seems crazy… but it was the right decision.

The starting quarterback for Alabama, Jalen Hurts, is one that came into last night’s championship with a record of 25-2. That is simply phenomenal no matter what standard you use. While Hurts had led the team to championship game all year long, when it came time to step aside, he did. Jalen Hurts did not think more about himself and his fame than that of the team. He did not demand what he “had earned” but stepped aside for the betterment of the team. And because of that, today is part of a championship team.

There is no one person that is bigger than the team. When I think about the arena that I spend most of my time in (the church), I think that this is a lesson that we could all use. Too many times people are tempted to go the way of what they see in the business world within the church. The church is not about “me”… it is not here to make me look better… it is not here to help me achieve my agenda… it is not even here for my desires. The church is the team of God’s people working together carrying out God’s agenda.

Be ready

One thing that Tua Tagovailoa learned firsthand last night was that you had better be ready when your number is called. There was no time to make excuses. There was no time to prepare at that moment. He would either sink or swim. The wonderful thing for the Crimson Tide is that Tagovailoa was ready for the moment. There were very few (if any) who thought that the coaching staff would make the switch of quarterbacks at halftime of the most important game of the season. I know I never saw it coming. But that decision was made… and they are celebrating today.

Every Christian should take notice. 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us “in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

Sadly, not every (actually very few) opportunities that God calls us to come with a warning. We have to be ready for that moment before the moment comes.  God uses every moment to prepare us for what lies ahead.  If we stay alert and ready, then when that call comes, we will experience the victory that God has for us.

The Importance of Celebration

As the Crimson Tide hit the long pass for the victory in overtime, the place went nuts.  I know it went crazy around my house.  One of the key moments of that night was when starting quarterback (Jalen Hurts) ran out onto the field to congratulate the backup quarterback (Tua Tagovailoa).  Hurts was the first one out there congratulating the young man that took his position.

If that wasn’t enough, Jalen Hurts was interviewed after the game.  He was quick to praise his teammate and all that Tagovailoa had done for the team.  There was no jealousy.  There was no whining.  There was no regrets.

Too many times, the church loses sight of this element.  We are part of the same team – the team of Christ.  We should celebrate when the Kingdom is represented well and wins.

Give glory to where glory is due

The interview of Tua Tagovailoa after the game is one that will be remembered for some time to come.  This young man who was on top of the world at the moment was quick to give glory to His Savior… and he didn’t go the generic route… he left no doubt about who he was talking about.

When we experience great moments in our lives, we must remember that none of it would be possible if God did not provide.  A part of being alert is remembering that fact.  It is easy to get caught up in the moment and lose our focus, but we are just recipients of grace from a mighty God.  Thank you, Tua, for giving my boys another man to look up to in this dark world.

And thank you, Crimson Tide, for another great year of football!

 

Merry Christmas to you and yours from our family.

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

John 3:16-17  CSB

 

I will try not to spoil anything about Star Wars: The Last Jedi with this post.

Our family went on an impromptu adventure last Thursday as we went and seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi as it opened in a local theater… in 3D (oh yeah!). It was truly a great night as our family has been waiting for this movie to release along with many other people.

One thing that has surprised me is the static that has been filling the internet about this movie. There is no middle ground apparently with moviegoers. Either they loved it, or they hated it. I would have to say that my opinion would fall in line with the former. I thought it was pretty good myself.

What I see from most people that did not like this movie goes a little something like this…

It did not answer the things that I thought it should.

Maybe it was one of the plot lines that have been talked about since the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens… maybe it was something else. Whatever the case, there are a lot of people who are unhappy because this latest movie did not do what they wanted.

Maybe it’s just me, but do the writers/producers/directors have the freedom to make a movie of their choosing? When did “the customer is always right” take over as Emperor and make everyone bow down to its wishes?

It is this idea that “if the public is not happy with something or if something doesn’t go just the way that I think it should, then it’s wrong/bad/false/rubbish” that is getting me all worked up. Maybe that is because I see it popping up in Christian churches across our land.

Have you seen it, too? There are those who will throw everything the Bible has to say out the window because it doesn’t line up with “their view of truth”. They follow the example of Thomas Jefferson and began removing what they do not like, and making a new “religion” that could not be further from the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When did we become the deciding element that dictates what is good/right/true? I know that in my flesh, there is nothing that could even begin to hold that position. I do not get to tell the writers/producers/directors what or what not to do with their movie… and I do not get to say what is Christianity. The latter is taken care of by God’s word (the Bible) which is inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself.

The Holy Spirit is trustworthy. You can build your life on what He says because it is truth. The whole of life belongs to God anyway (Colossians 1:16; Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 8:6). What reason do we really and justly have to come before God and say, “You didn’t do what I wanted so I’m going my way… You were wrong!”

May we come back to reality and realize that just because something doesn’t go our way, it does not mean that it is wrong. Maybe what is wrong is what is found in our hearts and minds. May we run to the Father who will share truth with us abundantly.

I had been hearing about this Bible that was coming out in October 2017 called the Pastor’s Bible from Holman Publishers. This is a style of Bible that has been called “the Minister’s Bible” in the past with other translations. I finally got me a copy, and after a couple of months, I am ready to share my thoughts.

Translation

It is important that a person have a copy of God’s word in a translation that they can understand. This was one of the heartbeats of those involved in the Protestant Reformation. They wanted to get God’s word into the language and hands of the common people so that they could experience the life-changing power of the Bible.

While there are many good English translations on the market, I have come to really appreciate the Christian Standard translation (CSB). I believe that it was more than an update to the Holman Christian Standard (which was not the greatest). The CSB is a translation that tries to bring the original languages into today’s English. I really think that the CSB might be best English translation since the 1984 NIV in that it not only tries to be true to the original languages, but it brings the text in a way that is easy to read.

Check out more about the CSB at their website by clicking here.

Features

  • Single-column text. This was one of my favorite features of this Bible. Having the text in a single column makes it much easier to read and keep your place while preaching/teaching.
  • All black text. I know that some people like the words of Christ in red, but I think by keeping all the text the same it keeps the focus that all of the Bible is important and God’s word.
  • Very readable font. The font is a 10-point Serif that is very clear for reading.
  • Two formats. It comes in either genuine leather (brown) or deluxe leathertouch (black). I went with the deluxe leathertouch because of price (typically about $40 cheaper). The leathertouch feels nice and is holding up well so far.

   

Special Features

  • Tips and sample sermon outlines for weddings and funerals. These come in handy especially to a younger pastor who is looking for helps in these areas. The tips for what to do in these events have helped me out greatly in the past. There are samples of traditional and contemporary wedding services. There are also samples of funeral sermons for different situations.
  • Articles on various duties of the pastor’s life. These articles serve to help a minister in giving tips on preaching, leading, and other areas of the pastor’s life. Some of the contributors are Jim Henry, Matt Chandler, Eric Geiger, Jared Wilson, Tony Merida, Keith Getty, Robert Smith Jr, Daniel Im, and many more.
  • Pastoral Care references. There is a two-page reference of verses to turn to when dealing with different situations in ministry.

  

Conclusion

The CSB Pastors Bible is one of my favorite bibles that I own. It has just about everything you would want in a bible as a pastor. It is not bulky, but it comes packed with many resources for today’s pastor.

With Christmas just around the corner, I would recommend that you pick up one of these as a great gift for you pastor this season. He will no doubt get much use out of this Bible.

You can find this Bible in a number of places like LifeWay, Amazon, Christianbooks.