Planning for Growth in 2019

Back in college I had a professor who always liked to say, “if you plan for nothing, that is exactly what you’ll get.”  And I think it was from watching the A-Team that this theme was ingrained into my life:


What’s your plan for Spiritual Growth in the coming year? We plan for a lot of things, financial security, academic progress, athletic development; we even make long term plans for vacations. But how much time do we give in planning out time with the Lord? Is it “just what I can fit in” among the other million things that scream for our attention? Or do you have a plan to guide and shape your time with the Lord?

Do you wish you could have a better understanding of the Bible? Then make a plan to read the Scriptures regularly and meaningfully.

Do you struggle with deep questions of faith, wanting to know more about what we believe and why we believe it? Then identify those areas where you want to learn, and find book, conferences, even podcasts that will help you grow in knowledge and understanding. Pick up one of the Catechisms of the Church, or the Westminster Confession of Faith, and study it with your Bible open.

Is your prayer life anemic and frustrating? Then pray, and pray until you are really praying, and study the Scriptures, reading how others have prayed and how Jesus teaches us to pray.

I’m not suggeting that having a plan will garuantee success, but if you plan for nothing, that is exactly what you’ll get.

As you consider your plan for the coming year, here are some suggested devotions and reading plans that you might look into.

TableTalk Magazine

Tabletalk‘s daily Bible studies offer structure for your devotional life. Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living. Each issue also contains challenging, stimulating articles on a wide variety of issues related to theology and Christian living, written by eminently trustworthy authors—names like Sinclair Ferguson, John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul.

Free copies are available in the Church Narthex each month, and personal subscriptions are only $23 per year.

Our Daily Bread

Our Daily Bread is another daily a devotional calendar-style booklet.  The booklet is one of the most widely read Christian devotionals in circulation today.  The contents include a Bible passage, and a relevant article for each day of the year. It is written by a different author each day, and also features additional Bible passages for people following Our Daily Bread’s “Bible In One Year” reading program.

Our Daily Bread is available for free each month in the Church Narthex, and you may also subscribe for an printed, emailed, and mobile version online.

Bible Reading Plans

5x5x5 Plan This plan guides you through the New Testament with a 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week reading plan. Its great for those who havn’t had a regular devotion/reading practice and would like to get started.

5 Day Plan This Bible reading system allows you to read the entire Bible (or just the New Testament) in one year while only reading five times a week. Five readings a week gives room to catch up or take a needed day off, and makes daily Bible reading practical and do-able.

Daily Plan This plan has 4 readings a day, and will get you through then entire Bible in one year.

Email Devotionals

If you’re tired of all the junk email and would like to get something positive each day, try one of these:

Truth for Life Daily – The devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. The subscription is free, and you will recieve a daily email devotion.

My Utmost for His Highest – The classic devotional from Oswald Chambers can be sent to you daily for free, and can also be downloaded to your smartphone and tablet.


My Favorite (Obscure) Christmas Carols

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been playing the Christmas Playlist since doing the dishes on Thanksgiving Day.  I’ve really enjoyed putting a playlist together on Spotify, and if you’d like to listen, click here. Trust me, you won’t find anything like “Last Christmas,” or “Santa Baby,” or (worst song ever) Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Instead, you will find a good assortment of traditional carols, religious hymns, and familiar Christmas songs from Bing Crosby to Pentatonix.

I’ve noticed, however, that there are some songs that I love to sing at Christmas that aren’t too familiar to those around me.  I thought I’d share here a list of some of what are probably the more obscure carols that are favorites of mine.  I’ll try to give a brief explanation of the carol, and a link to youtube so you can listen in. Enjoy!

The Coventry Carol – Lully Lullay

The “Coventry Carol” is a traditional English carol dating from the 16th century. While its origins are uncertain, it is presumed that the carol was a part of a mystery play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, which depicted the Christmas story from Matthew 2. The carol itself refers to the Massacre of the Innocents, in which Herod ordered all male infants under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed, and takes the form of a lullaby sung by mothers of the doomed children.

Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella

“Bring a Torch” is a Christmas carol from the Provence region of France in the 17th century. The song tells of two female farmhands who have found the baby and his mother in a stable. Excited by this discovery, they run to a nearby village to tell the inhabitants, who rush to see the new arrivals. Visitors to the stable are urged to keep their voices quiet, so the newborn can enjoy his dreams.

Wexford Carol

The Wexford Carol is a traditional religious Irish Christmas carol sometimes known by its first verse “Good people all this Christmas time.” It is one of the oldest extant Christmas carols, dating possibly to the 12th century.

Sussex Carol

Sometimes referred to by its first line “On Christmas night all Christians sing,” the Sussex Carol dates from the 17th century, and sings of the good news of great joy that comes with the brith of the One who would save us from our sins.

Lo How A Rose E`er Blooming

Wikipedia reports: “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” (lit., “A rose has sprung up”), is a Christmas carol and Marian Hymn of German origin. It is most commonly translated in. The rose in the text is a symbolic reference to the Virgin Mary, and the hymn makes reference to the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah which in Christian interpretation foretell the Incarnation of Christ, and to the Tree of Jesse, a traditional symbol of the lineage of Jesus. The hymn first appeared in print in 1599.

Children Go Where I Send Thee

“Children, Go Where I Send Thee” is a traditional African-American spiritual song, as well as a cumulative song, in which each verse adds to the verse before. This song is also known as “The Holy Baby” or “Born in Bethlehem.” There are many variations of this song, each giving a Biblical meaning to the numbers mentioned.

The Gift Must Be Received and Cultivated

The Christmas gifts are wrapped and under the tree. Anticipation grows for that day when loved ones will gather together to give and receive gifts. We srimp and save, plan and pursue those things we hope to bring joy to others, and we can hardly wait to see their reaction.

But what would happen if the gifts stayed under the tree, unwrapped, unused, undiscovered? Would they give the joy they were intended to bring? Would the love and kindness of the giver ever be known if the gift is left untouched. How do we show our gratitude if we never receive and take the gift as our own?

While it is unimaginable that our Christmas presents would go unopened, how often do we treat the gifts of God’s grace like that? We hear the promise of the Gospel proclaimed and we tell ourselves, “Well that’s good to know. If I ever need a savior, I’ll know where to turn.”  We treat God’s grace like something that can be shelved and stored for later, and we never really take it in and apply it to our lives.

A. W. Tozer, in his book, The Pursuit of God, writes that God’s gift of saving grace in Jesus Christ must be received and cultivated in our lives.  While never waivering from the teaching on the sovereign grace of God in our salvation, Tozer does warn that it often leads to a “sterile passivity.” Written in 1948, Tozer seems timeless in his analysis of the contemporary stagnation of the Church and it’s remedy.

The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast-growing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar. (My emphasis. Doesn’t this describe much of what we call “devotion time”? Will the “smartphone” age swipe right for God?!?)

The tragic results of this spirit are all [around] us: shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasireligious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit. These and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.

For this sickness that is upon us no one person is responsible and no Christian is wholly free from blame. We have all contributed directly or indirectly, to this sad state of affairs. We have been too blind to see, or too timid to speak out, or too self-satisfied to desire anything better than the poor, average diet with which others appear satisfied. To put it differently, we have accepted one another’s notions, copied one another’s lives and made one another’s experiences the model for our own. And for a generation the trend has been downward. Now we have reached a low place of sand and burnt wire grass and, worst of all, we have made the Word of Truth conform to our experience and accepted this low plane as the very pasture of the blessed.

It will require a determined heart and more than a little courage to wrench ourselves loose from the grip of our times and return to biblical ways. But it can be done… What God in His sovereignty may yet do on a world scale I do not claim to know. But what He will do for the plain man or woman who seeks His face I believe I do know and can tell others. Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days.

Any man who by repentance and a sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held, and will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards, will be delighted with what he finds there.

Tozer, A.W. The Pursuit of God. (Moody Pub.; Chicago, Ill. 2006) pgs 75-77.