Living Life in the Zone: A 40 Day Spiritual Game Plan for Men

Kyle Rote Jr and Joe Pettigrew

Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009 (329 pp–$14.99)

Former soccer legend, Kyle Rote Jr, and “America’s Leadership Doctor,” Joe Pettigrew, have teamed up to map out a 40-day experience–supposedly themed after the Experiencing God 40-day journey. The days are broken down into 6 groupings:

1. A broad vision for biblical manhood

2. Husbanding

3. Fathering

4. Male friendship

5. Vocation

6. Future planning

Why 40 days? The authors answer: “Throughout the Bible, God uses forty days as a significant period of time in which to accomplish His purposes” (xix). They then cite several biblical examples to make their case: the flood, Moses on Mt. Sinai, Wilderness Wanderings, Elijah on Mt. Horeb, Jesus’ fast and subsequent temptation.

Each day follows the same format (which is helpful; you know what you’re going to get each day–a help for early morning devotions until the morning fog dissipates). The devotion begins with the purpose of the day (called the “Thought of the Day”). This is followed by “The Coach’s Corner,” which gives a 1-2 page overview of why the issue for the day is important to your life as a man. “The Game Plan” gives biblical passages that illuminate the issue (the verses are quoted at length rather than merely cited). The “Playmakers” section gives an example from sports to make the day’s point. The “Time Out” asks three practical questions that help pinpoint how the issue applies to the man’s life. “Today’s Assignment” gives an action point that the reader is supposed to accomplish for the day–i.e. “Ask your wife, or your children’s mother, what she is most concerned about in regard to the current needs for protection for the family. Consider calling and talking with your children today and making sure that each one knows how much you love them” (116).

I found the practical bent to the book immensely helpful. From a man’s perspective, religion can seem very ephemeral and not practical. This book helps put flesh on the various characteristics to being a godly man. One of the pressing problems in the church today is getting men involved. With the feminization of our culture and the attacks on what it means to be a man–the majority of men do not want to dress in pastels and skinny jeans. This book is a good attempt to bridge that gap.

It is the kind of book that you would want to give to a man who wants to be faithful in his Christian devotion but does not know where to begin. It is written with the peripheral attender of church in mind–not something you want to give someone who is already leading in the church. HOWEVER, it could prove to be an invaluable resource for these men to lead a men’s group. Six weeks of meeting with men and working through the devotions together and hitting high points could help to bring men into the fold. With the audience in mind, this book would need to be given with the assumption he will be reading it with other men. Reason being that most men on the periphery will not finish a 40-day game plan. They need accountability and peer example to want to continue.

The bridge could have better been constructed with a shorter volume–329 pages is imposing on someone who prefers SportsCenter and highlight reels. If the book is meant for a man to read on his own, I would recommend shortening the book to 20 days. This is more easily managed and attainable.

Further, the sports examples make the book appetizing to the spiritual couch potato. Men like Staubach, Hershiser, Bird, Belichick, and Wooden all translate the purpose for the day. I would recommend putting these examples at the beginning of each day to give a big vision of what is to be accomplished–the “Coach’s Corner” could be done away with (thus shortening the book).

While this book is commendable, I think what is needed is a robust understanding of how the Bible fits together. This devotion is a great starting place for getting men involved in spiritual matters. But entertainment cannot be the fiber of healthy Christian diet. As a follow-up to this devotion there needs to be a laying out of the biblical narrative so that men can get a better understanding of the Bible. I believe part of the anemia found in the church lies in the perceived ineptitude of many men when it comes to what the Bible teaches.

I recommend this book for men who love sports and do not read their Bibles. But please have them read it in a small group; followed by a biblically rich devotion or book.

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Sam Crabtree

I have been converting my file life from paper into e-format (for another post!). While scanning the documents, I came across a treasure trove of articles by Sam Crabtree–Executive Pastor at Bethlehem Baptist.

While at Bethlehem, I remember the short but poignant interactions I had with Sam. He is a man after God’s own heart. Upon requesting a coffee with him, I remember him telling me that his job was to work in the obscure things in order to free up Pastor John for what he is gifted at. I remember being astounded and confounded as a green pastoral candidate. Didn’t Sam want to be known and quoted and re-tweeted? His desire to serve marked me forever. I have been since struggling to aim at serving and not renown. May God grant me such a heart and service and willingness to live in the obscure places for the glory of God’s name and not my own.

All that to say I just subscribed to Sam’s blog and would highly encourage you to do the same. Short and pithy, just like Sam (metaphorically, not literally).

Sam Crabtree’s Blog

BOOK REVIEW: Miraculous by Kevin Belmonte

51gL8xxuZOL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX240_SY320_CR,0,0,240,320_SH20_OU01_Miraculous by Kevin Belmonte. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 330pp.

Kevin Belmonte is a visiting author at Gordon College and has written on William Wilberforce (being the lead historical consultant for the movie Amazing Grace), G.K. Chesterton, D.L. Moody, and John Bunyan.

In this work, Belmonte offers the church a service by way of the back door. By the title of the book I thought I was going to be reading an encyclopedia of miracles throughout history (after all, look at the subtitle!). You know someone receiving his sight in New Delhi, a limb regrown in Buenos Aires, a bumper crop of vegetables in rural Africa in the midst of a two-year drought. But he threw me for a loop when he started with the Bible. Imagine that. Of all places, he starts with the Bible. Not only this, but he begins by the fiat lux in the opening of Genesis. He pauses to make his reader consider the amazing miracle that Creation is. It is easy to breeze through the day and want something that is extra-ordinary and be blind to the fact that leaves are amazing. Belmonte starts with that wonder and lets it sink in. He moves on through the biblical narrative, highlighting the varied accounts of miracles in it: Noah & the Flood, Abraham & the friendship of God, Moses & the Exodus, Elisha’s stupendous feats, the Incarnation, Jesus’ Miracles, the Resurrection, Paul’s Conversion.

Okay, that was only cursory right? Unfortunately, we still have not let the miraculous amaze us. Instead of being blind to General Revelation in the world, we have been blind to Special Revelation in Scripture. Too often have these accounts been taken for granted. Belmonte does all of us a service by hitting the slow motion button and making us deal with the miracle of Scripture itself.

The next stage of Belmonte’s work takes us into the lives of men and women who experienced the miraculous. Yet what is astounding about these accounts is how ordinary they seem. He tells us of Perpetua who gave testimony to Christ in the midst of the bloodthirsty coliseum. Why not tell us about the hagiographies of Thecla or Polycarp or Ignatius? It seems that Belmonte wants us to be astounded by the sheer fact that it is a miracle that someone does not deny Christ in the face of certain death. This is reiterated in his account of Augustine. Sure, the Bishop of Hippo heard the children’s voices telling him to pick up the Bible and read, but Belmonte seems to highlight to utterly ordinary occurrences in Augustine’s life–namely, that his conversion came through a book and not from a great, penetrating light.

Martin Luther’s chapter brings the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper into the realm of the miraculous (p.146). Gilbert Burnet’s life highlights the immensity of God making his dwelling with us through the power of his Spirit. While Jonathan Edwards’ chapter speaks of the strange happenings in New England, it was Edwards’ parsing of the strange by the clarity of Scripture that helps us think rightly about the extraordinary. That is, people are constantly looking for verification of God’s involvement in the world–expecting cats to talk or dogs to drive a car or babies to feed themselves. Fact of the matter is that you and I are swimming in the miraculous. We just haven’t trained our eyes to see.

In light of that, Belmonte aptly has a chapter dedicated to Dr. Clyde Kilby. This chapter alone will make you have new eyes. Going through Kilby’s ten resolutions made my heart swell with joy and a desire to commune with God through the ordinarily miraculous world I live in.

I enjoyed and marked up my copy of Belmonte’s work. At times he can be a little tedious with details that don’t move the thesis along. However, these excursions are just as enjoyable as the main point of the book. They humanize and help give a holistic picture to the models he gives. The author’s sheer breadth of reading is admirable and encourages me to read widely and voraciously.

RECOMMENDATION: I would recommend this as an after dinner reading with the family. The chapters are easily digestible and give food for thought and discussion. I give the book a 4/5 stars due to the excursions that (although enjoyable at times) made the book a little laborious.

Fantasy Football & Anger: Get Perspective

This is the first year I have taken part in Fantasy Football. I must confess. I did not pick my team. I had a lot of help from two of the other players in the league (who are currently kicking themselves and scoffing as I am first in the league).

I have been reflecting on some ugly tendencies as I have sought to enjoy Fantasy Football, and I have found the enjoyment wanting. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, I merely find that I have had to practice in enjoying it. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy sports. I enjoy the camaraderie. I enjoy peanuts and apple jacks. But I do care if I ever get back to reality.

You see Fantasy Football is Fantasy Football. You would think I would remember that on Sunday afternoon as I am copiously checking my smartphone to see if my running backs performed well and if my defense intercepted a pass–and it goes on. Aside from enjoying sports, I am innately competitive. And this is the rub. Or at least it has been. The nerves Fantasy Football has rubbed have betrayed a deeper issue, you see. I could smile and laugh at how silly I am in light of it all. But there has been a nagging sense that I need to hit the pause button and the instant replay needs to be closely evaluated.

The anger I feel because my wide receiver twisted his ankle exalts my desire for victory over my sympathy that this man will have to ice his ankle and limp for the next several days. It deifies me and mechanizes him. He becomes a mere pawn to serve my self-aggrandizement as I sit around the table at lunch and brag about how well my team performed. How sad. It’s not that I just am happy that my team did well, but I take a certain pride that I picked the winning team. [And I seem to forget that I had help! And I seem to forget that the other tea had several injuries. And I seem to forget that. . . it’s just a game].

Yes, Fantasy Football has been very enjoyable and very addicting. Yet, I need to get another bowl of popcorn and another beverage. Sit down. Calm down. Turn off the smartphone. And enjoy the game.

For Discussion:

Have fantasies crowded out reality and puffed you up. . .for no good reason?