Archive for December, 2009

Happy New Year to all!

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David Powlison shares this one and only new year’s resolution (written a few years ago now so maybe he has made a few more):

I now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that I will endeavor to live as becomes a follower of Christ.

On why he doesn’t make resolutions, read more here.

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This is a very thought-provoking article by Thabiti Anyabwile that addresses a real issue in our Christian mindset:

A couple weeks back, my deacon of finance commented over lunch: “How different do you think things would be if Christians treated Sunday as the first day of the week rather than the last?”

it was a great question. The question puts its finger on our entire approach to the Lord’s Day. Far too often we approach Sunday as the day we rest from the week gone by rather than the day of first fruits, of beginning with the Lord and shaping our hearts and souls for the week ahead. When that happens, God gets the leftovers and the world gets the best part of us.

On Sunday nights, most of us will begin routines designed to help us get off to a good start for the week. We’ll select the children’s clothes for school. We’ll perhaps pack lunches. Spouses will coordinate schedules, being sure important meetings and outings are highlighted. Thoughts will turn to work: tasks to get done, meetings to attend, and so on. In short, we prepare for the week now that Sunday is over.

How would it affect our souls and our weeks to simply back the preparation up one day so that Sunday is the first day of the week and the Saturday the night of our preparation for all that’s ahead? What if we invested considerable energy planning to get off to a good start with the Lord and His people, and planning to give the leftovers to lesser lords? How would we benefit if we lived for the Lord’s Day rather than living for the weekend? I think the effect would be noticeable and almost immediate.

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What does learning to do long division in your math problem on your own (without a calculator) have to do with discernment? Tim Challies explains:

But like doing long division, it is far better to do the work ourselves and to ensure we understand how to discern. The theological equivalent of using a calculator may be just Googling what John Piper or John MacArthur says about a certain topic and taking that word as law. It may be asking a parent or pastor and accepting what they say without further thought. We are all prone to want to get to the final tally without going through the intervening steps.

But like the kid who cheats by using a calculator, we cheat ourselves if we do not do the difficult work of discernment. As we discern what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong, we train ourselves to think as Christians and we train ourselves to really understand what discernment is. We make sure that we understand the difficult business of discernment—not only the end result but the process of getting there.

To understand more, read the rest of this article here.

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Wintry pics

For the next week, the forecast in my city calls for Job 37:6 to be fulfilled.

As usual The Big Picture does a great job with this photo essay on snowy scenes. Here are three.  To see the rest click here!

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Need a Bible plan?

Here are 20 with a variety of translations available and it’s customizable!  You can use it on your mobile device, ask others to keep you accountable, tweet features, and RSS feeds.   I’m very excited about using Prof. Horner’s reading plan–no need for more paper bookmarks in my Bible.

You do have to sign up to use all the features, but its all free!  I hope many people will access this means to read their Bibles.  Looks like a great tool.

(HT: Bob Kauflin)

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A great prescription for contentment: something people are always searching for, especially this time of the year. Terry Enns tells us about it:

Nina Fry, in an insightful article about raising girls to be godly women, notes a set of principles for cultivating contentment.  These principles came from the diary of a woman who served as a missionary in the African bush for 52 years — in the most primitive of conditions and in extreme heat.  How would this woman keep from cultivating a bitter and angry heart over the sacrifices she daily had to make?  Her personal notes tell of her “prescription for contentment:”

  • Never allow yourself to complain about anything — not even the weather.
  • Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else.
  • Never compare your lot with others.
  • Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.
  • Never dwell on tomorrow — remember that tomorrow is God’s, not yours.

While not stated in her diary, all these principles are rooted in Biblical principles and thus served her well in all her years of ministry.

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Michael Kelly suggests a different approach for “keeping” your new year’s resolution. He thinks we are trying too much energy on the wrong thing.  Read his brief remarks and let  me know what you think

I’m a resolution guy. Every year at this time, I evaluate my resolutions from the previous year and make some new ones for the coming year. I like to divide them into categories: financial, spiritual development, family, and ministry.

But here’s the thing about making resolutions like that: Often when you look back, you’re either disappointed by your lack of effort in the previous year. And when you look forward, you do so with the attitude of, “I’m really going to try hard and get it this year.”

Effort isn’t bad. Effort is necessary. But too often in my life, I find myself trying hard at the wrong thing.

Let’s take a physical goal, for example. Let’s say that in 2010, you want to lose 20 pounds. So you resolve that you’re really going to try hard to do it. You get ready to try hard by throwing away all the cookies in the house. You try hard by looking up all the low-calorie recipes you can find. Then you try hard by going to the gym every day.

Or you do for a while.

The problem with trying hard like that is that you run out of steam. Always. What if there was a better way to try? What if we are trying hard at the wrong thing?

This year, I’m going to try hard to believe. In the case of losing 20 pounds, I’m not going to focus my effort on the weight. Instead, I’m going to try hard to believe that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. I’m going to try hard to believe that God will empower me to honor Him with my body. I’m going to try hard to believe that He’s my sustenance, not another bad of Doritos.

There’s a huge difference. One is centered on sweat; the other is centered on faith. One lifts up the power of humanity; the other lifts up the power of God. One is about me; the other is about the gospel. Perhaps we should not be asking, “Why can’t I try hard enough to accomplish these things?” Maybe we should instead be asking what we should be trying hard to believe about God and His work in our lives. Perhaps it is that belief – that faith – that can result in the change we need.

Faith is the center of all things. Even trying harder.

Do you make new year’s resolutions? How successful are you in keeping them?  Will Michael’s comments help you? Feel free to leave a comment.

(HT: Z)

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Word clouds

Check this out:  “Sixty-Six Clouds is a visual exploration of word frequency in the Bible. Each book of the Bible was individually imported into www.wordle.net to create a unique word cloud for all sixty-six books. The significance of word clouds is that they quickly present the gist of large bodies of written materials at a glance. Wordle gives greater prominence and size to words that appear more frequently in the source text. Therefore, the larger the word is in the cloud, the more prominent it is in the text.”

Here are some samples

1.  Genesis

2.  Psalms

3.  Isaiah

4.  Matthew

5.  Romans

(HT: Cranach)

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Matt Perman’s offers some good advice for the new year/decade.  Reading the whole thing is well worth your time but here are some gems:

I’m going to recommend one simple change for the next decade: Create one new, recurring routine in an area of high impact.

Create an appointment on your calendar for this routine and set it to repeat every week or every day. Then, keep the appointment.

“small things, done consistently over time, make a big impact.”

When the good things we do consistently over time take time away from doing better things consistently over time, they diminish our effectiveness. So. . . also identify one routine you can stop doing, or reduce, in order to make room for this more important routine.

In life you want as much of your time as possible to be spent on tasks that are close to the impact line.

We need to be as efficient as we can at our workflow processes so that we can spend as much time as possible on what is most important.

What you actually schedule will have more impact than what you simply intend.

So in summary:

What you actually schedule will have more impact than what you simply intend. This works on both fronts. First, it means that if you simply create a recurring appointment to do something of great importance, you will find great results over time. And second, it means that you need to make sure that the routines you create really advance your most important priorities, rather than simply things that are good but not best.

Therefore, be intentional in leveraging the fact that small things, done consistently over time, have a large impact. Create a new routine in an area of high impact for the new decade and, if necessary, reduce or eliminate something else to make room for it.

Are you motivated yet?  Read the whole article here.

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