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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Over the holidays we’ve caught up with some friends and family – a great joy. Our old mate Grinagain, who we visited last week, has a useful phrase:

Fail to prepare…

Prepare to fail.

This is a helpful reminder in many areas, but today I’m applying it to the whole of next year. I have a few big projects on the horizon, and I want to approach them well. Today I’ve been reading through old blogposts, and came across one from January 2011 with some very helpful questions from Don Whitney. This year I’ve put pen to paper with my answers. It’s scary to hold myself accountable but also necessary – I struggle with self discipline every minute of every day. Here are those questions again for anyone else who wants to tackle 2013 before it’s upon us:

Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year or On Your Birthday

Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

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A clip of simple Christmas sand art to cheer your Christmas Eve. I love the way that the angel looks approachable when first drawn and then more and more magnificent and awe-inspiring.

A Merry Christmas to all of you. May you know the heavenly peace the Saviour brings. See you in 2013!

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I’m always surprised by the start of the New Year. Strange how it sneaks up just as you’re recovering from Christmas festivities, eh? It’s something I always think it would be good to plan and organise myself for, but once the frantic preparations for Christmas are finished, it’s all too easy to collapse in a heap of self-indulgence and sloth (my default mode, I fear).

But this December I want give myself a little time to think about plans for 2013. I have a BIG thing looming on the horizon for the Spring, which will means that I will need to be organised and on top of things at the beginning of January rather than sometime in mid-February. I want to make sure (as far as possible, notwishtanding my sinful slothful inclinations) that my devotional life has a good rhythm. I’m enjoying John Piper’s devotional e-book this Advent – and managing to actually read it almost every day.

Open bibleThe start of a new year always seems like a good time to think about reading through the whole bible. I am an eternal optimist in this regard. I started using the Daily Bible app on my tablet this year, and the M’Cheyne bible reading scheme that it enables you to use. I’ve found it helpful but it’s a big chunk to read – four chapters a day. Nate Treguboff has posted a good selection of whole bible plans, which includes the M’Cheyne and another for Slacker and Shirkers that I used on and off (mainly off) in 2011.

Tim Chester has just posted his bible reading scheme for 2013 which is less prescriptive than other schemes. It gives a reading for the week, rather than daily readings. I like this idea as it could be used in conjunction with a shorter devotional book. His scheme takes you through the Old Testament once every 3 years and the New Testament twice in the same time. If you’d like to start with the complete 3 year plan he’s also posted that.

So the Plan for Jan is a light devotional read in the mornings (suggestions welcome) to prompt prayer and a bible reading slot using Tim Chester’s plan at some stage in the week. I’ve thought that I could probably usefully listen to the allocated chapters using Bible Gateway’s audio facility, whilst I’m cooking or baking. I do spend a *lot* of time in my kitchen…

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I’m sure you’re all super-prepared for all the Advent happenings in your parish. But just in case you aren’t (or want to be extra-super-prepared for next year) I thought I’d share this brilliant alt.Advent series from Scripture Union that I just came across. They are posting a 2-3 minute daily animation of part of the Christmas story every day of Advent. The full animation, combining all the clips, is 47 minutes long – perhaps something to have on hand for early risers on Christmas Day…

These would be great for family devotions or to show in a service or school assembly. I might even show a few to the kids over tea this week. SU have posted a good number of other videos on their YouTube channel that would be useful for services or family bible times.

Here’s today’s lovely section of the story:

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Christmas treeThings are gearing up for Advent activity in the parish. Tonight is our Messy Christingle service – the first that’s been held since we’ve been here. Early in Advent seems like a good time for this service and gives us an opportunity to advertise other Christmas services to our Messy Church folk, some of whom don’t attend on Sundays. We’re excited about the service and the opportunity we have to tell people the Christmas story and spend time together. I made 1.5kg of pastry this morning which this afternoon will be turned into mince pies to share afterwards.

So we’ve been in church just now, moving chairs and getting the ancient decorations out. The tree lights work, thankfully, but there is rather a lot of tinsel debris around where we’ve unravelled the silver from the gold from the red and sparkly shreds have floated to the floor. The church is not looking as ethereal as one might hope for Christmas because at the same time as we were tinselling, the builders were in knocking great lumps of plaster off the walls. They tell us the plasterers are coming on Thursday so hopefully the walls will be reinstated for the school Christmas service next week and the Infants’ Nativity the following week.

So it looks like we might have a bit of a Messy Advent here. Thankfully our God didn’t expect tidiness when he came to earth all those years ago. In fact he came *because* of the mess. That means we can wait in the mess as we look forward to his arrival.

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Great clip from Rico Tice that challenges us about the true meaning of Christmas. Advent is a time to remember that truth and think about the wait for the Saviour at his first coming and anticipate his return in glory.

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I’ve been reminded of another couple of lovely songs for Advent. This is taking away a lot of the stress of service planning for the next few weeks!

This is quite zippy, tho’ guitar might not be my first choice for accompaniment for Hail to the Lord’s Anointed (YouTube is, as usual, full of WRONG TUNE versions):

And I love Maggi Dawn’s haunting song, Into the Darkness, but it’s hard to find. There is just this one YouTube clip, and I don’t think we’ve got it in our extensive cd collection so haven’t been able to sing it in church (we don’t have a music team just now).

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Monday morning brainfreeze made me forget a couple of other excellent Advent songs. Here’s a good version of O Come O Come Emmanuel by Sixpence None the Richer:

And here’s the best version I could find of Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus. Almost all the others were to the WRONG TUNE. Again.

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The other day Ros commented that Advent hymns are wonderful. And we don’t sing them all that much. So to cheer a wet and dank Monday morning, a small collection. Starting with Matthew’s Begats, also from Andrew Peterson’s ‘Behold the Lamb’. We were meant to have this in church yesterday, as the Vicar concluded his sermon series in Ruth, but we had technical difficulties, so I’ve been wanting to sing along for 24 hours:

This may not, however, have been what Ros had in mind, so I went hunting for other rousing Advent hymns on YouTube. Not as easy as you’d think. They are mostly too slow, or without voices, or too flouncy and choral, or to the WRONG TUNE (Americans, I’m looking at you here).

I managed to locate a bouncy(ish) version of Lo! He Comes With Clouds Descending:

And here’s a far-too-slow version of On Jordan’s Bank, the Baptist’s Cry from the Wells Cathedral Choir.

What I’d really like tho’, is a good video version of Christ is Surely Coming. But there’s only an organ version and one with a single verse. So here are the words. And the tune is Land of Hope and Glory, so I’m sure you’ll manage to hum it for yourself…

Christ is surely coming
Bringing His reward,
Alpha and Omega,
First and Last and Lord:
Root and stem of David,
Brilliant Morning Star:
Meet your Judge and Saviour,
Nations near and far!

See the holy city!
There they enter in,
All by Christ made holy,
Washed from ev’ry sin:
Thirsty ones, desiring
All he loves to give,
Come for living water,
Freely drink, and live!

Grace be with God’s people!
Praise His holy name!
Father, Son, and Spirit,
Evermore the same;
Hear the certain promise
From the eternal home:
“Surely I come quickly!
Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

And finally, one sung with a bit of gusto – When the Lord in Glory Comes:

 

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Advent is a great time to talk about faith. Glen Scrivener has just produced this wonderful Anti-Santy Ranty, clearing up the difference between the Lord and St Nick. Brilliant for events or just chucking on your Facebook timeline…

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