Commitments for 2017

new-year-goalsThis is an excellent New Year post from Paul Tripp – which proposes an alternative to New Year resolutions (which aren’t all bad, by the way). Here is a summary of his key points:

DON’T MAKE RESOLUTIONS – MAKE COMMITMENTS
1. Be honest about your struggles
2. Rest in God’s presence and strength
3. Don’t look horizontally for what can only be found vertically
4. Deepen your relationship to the Body of Christ
5. Argue with your own heart
6. Work to assure that praise replaces complaint
7. Rest in the complete work of Jesus Christ.

Interested? You can read the whole article below or visit the site:

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. While I understand the desire for fresh starts and new beginnings, none of us has the power to reinvent ourselves simply because the calendar has flipped over to a new year. But since the gospel of Jesus Christ carries with it a message of fresh starts and new beginnings – because of the forgiving and transforming power of God’s grace – looking forward at the year to come does give us an opportunity to give ourselves anew to practical, daily-life commitments that are rooted in the gospel.

Let me suggest seven commitments that all of us have been empowered, and should be excited, to make.

1. Be honest about your struggles.

Denial of your daily struggles with temptation and sin is never a pathway to change. The work of Jesus frees all of us to be honest about our weaknesses and failures without fear of God’s judgment. The gospel welcomes us in our weakness to run to God and not away from him. The doorway to personal change begins with humbly admitting your need for the help that only God can give.

2. Rest in God’s presence and strength.

Refuse to load your personal potential and welfare on your small shoulders. Remember the Jesus is with you, in you and for you, and because he is, your welfare rests on his infinitely huge shoulders. When you measure your potential, don’t forget that your life has been invaded by his power and grace. You could argue that Jesus is your potential.

3. Don’t look horizontally for what can only be found vertically.

Don’t allow yourself to be seduced into believing that life can be found in the people, possessions, situations, locations and experiences of everyday life. Remember, the role of created things is not to give you life, but to point you to the One who is the Way, the Truth and Life. Refuse to try to satisfy your heart with things that will never offer you the satisfaction that you seek.

4. Deepen your relationship to the body of Christ.

You and I were never hardwired by God to walk with him on our own. God’s plan for us is deeply relational. We’re wired to be connected and dependent, not isolated and independent. Live close to God’s people, inviting those around you to intrude on your private world and to function as God’s tools of comfort, encouragement, confrontation, growth and change.

Remember, sin makes it hard for us to see ourselves objectively and accurately. Personal spiritual insight and growth really is the result of community.

5. Argue with your own heart.

It’s a theme of my ministry that I will continue to repeat: no one has more influence in your life than you do because no one talks to your more than you do. Don’t give way to self-talk that is marked by fear, despondency, futility, hopelessness or discouragement. Preach the gospel of God’s love, grace, presence, promises and power to yourself multiple times a day. Commit to carrying on a gospel conversation with yourself that never stops.

6. Work to assure that praise replaces complaint.

It’s sad, but true, that the default language of every sinner is complaint. Because sin causes me to think that life is all about me, it also causes me to constantly find reasons for being dissatisfied. But when you and I are living for something bigger than our own pleasure and comfort, and when we’re committed to counting our blessings more than we count our complaints, praise will fill our hearts and punctuate our conversations.

How about committing yourself to beginning every day by counting the many, many ways God has showered you with blessings you could have never earned or deserved on your own?

7. Rest in the complete work of Jesus Christ.

You have reason for rest, because even though the calendar has flipped to a new year, your Savior still greets you with new mercies every morning, he still will not send you without going with you or call you to a job without giving you what you need to do it, and he still reigns over all things for your sake. You can rest because you are in the good hands of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

So, as the new year unfolds, don’t fool yourself with grandiose resolutions that none of us has the power to keep. Rather, celebrate the gospel of Jesus Christ and it’s huge catalog of graces. Re-commit yourself to living every day in light of what you have been given in and through your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Happy New Year!”

http://paultripp.sitewrench.com/articles/posts/dont-make-resolutions-make-commitments

 

My top five – most viewed in 2016

thanksWordPress.com users published more than 595 million posts in 2016.  That’s slightly more than I managed to publish, but I do love the way much of my older content continues to be useful and encouraging to people all over the globe. Here are my top 5 most viewed posts this year. If you have only just followed me, you might like to check out why they are still popular. 

5. How to Encourage your music team even when you’re not the leader
How great would it be if every single player and singer and sound technician took up the opportunity to positively influence the way their team functions. Consider the following list, 10 ways team players can be more encouraging members of their music team. . .

4. All of Creation Sing with me now, the veil is torn
Without being zapped or burnt to a crisp we sinful humans can now see the “glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). Mercy Me’s song All of Creation gets quite a mention as well.

3. The Conundrum of Keys, Capos and Congregational Singing
This post contains four rules of thumb that I find work well when selecting singable and playable keys for church singing.

2. The Cross Has Made You Flawless
This post generated quite a lot of discussion – around the song Flawless. See what you think. In Christ we stand before our heavenly Father as perfect, flawless people. We are wrapped up in Christ’s righteousness.

1. Never Alone
This most viewed post shares a congregational song, Never Alone. It has a simple melody (great for church singing) and the lyrics bring such comfort. Christ is with us! We are not alone . . . no matter how alone we may feel.
“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(NLT Matthew 28:20)

Thanks for reading in 2016! Merry Christmas!

Ros

 

The Christmas Letter I’d like to write

nativitystorythe_photos_1“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

At this time of year many people write and share a recount of the year that has been. They assemble great photos to illustrate their ventures, and list the things they and their family have achieved at work, at school, at home, at church, the house renovations and holidays.

While it is great to reflect on and share all these blessings, in thankfulness to the God who grants them, I can’t help thinking the ‘rosy Christmas letter’ can be somewhat discouraging to others, to people who consider their own personal achievements as nothing but disappointing by comparison. Perhaps their circumstances and God’s plans have taken them down a more difficult and lonely path. (And if I am being honest, such loneliness occurs even in the midst of a busy household at times.)

So, if I were to write an honest Christmas letter about the struggles of the year, here are some of the things I would like to share – to help others know they are not alone. Life is hard and being a Christian doesn’t magically end the difficulties, but God is good and there is joy to be found in Christ amidst the difficulties.

In 2016:
* I have faced ongoing challenges as a parent, spouse, home owner and friend. I have fought to love my children and husband, to serve selflessly.
* I have faced various mysterious and apparently unrelated health issues, which have shown only slight signs of improvement. These challenges will continue in the New Year.
* I have fought the discouragement of watching others pursue fulfilment apart from Christ, and disappointment with myself for not knowing how/being willing to challenge others for such attitudes.
* I have fought to acknowledge the reality of God and his grace in my own thinking about the circumstances of day to day living.
* I have fought disappointment with myself when I see pride or envy, or any of the things Christ died for, rising up in me again.
* I have worked hard as a teacher, with many many unseen extra hours of toil. While this brings some moments of great joy, largely it is draining and I see little gain for all my efforts.
* I have sometimes been cold to others and showed little genuine concern for them.

* I have become more aware of my own sin and selfishness.
* I feel like I have aged more and had worse quality sleep this year than any to date. The ‘days of trouble’ that the writer of Ecclesiastes speaks of have certainly arrived (or at least made an appearance).
* I have been hooked on checking my phone notifications and other comforts that I selfishly enjoy.
* I have battled against staying up later than I should, mindless television and being more excited about things that have no eternal value than I should be!

But all these things do NOT bring me to a point of despair! (Sorry if it sounds that way.) These struggles prove that Christ is at work in me and this is the main reason I can be joyful this Christmas!

As James says (1:2-4): “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

The ‘World’ just doesn’t get this. They think we have bought into a big fat lie which only brings us guilt and hard work.
But we have met the risen Saviour, we have seen the glory of God in the face of Christ, God with us, Immanuel!
What else can we do but follow him?

Blessings to you this Christmas,
from Ros

All together – yet not connected?

alone together.pngA while ago I posted this on Face Book (with some degree of frustration). It was met with widespread affirmation!
“Wish this was in the Bible: Dear children, you will gain much freedom and respect by showing self-control in your use of digital technology, which feeds egos and selfishness (there is a reason for the label ‘i’ on many of these devices) and largely discourages you from living out your faith by acts of kindness and service. What really matters is faith expressed in loving action. Don’t be slaves to the inertia of the digital interface…but slaves of Christ, free children of God. You are my hands and feet, not just my fingers.”

It seems that many Christian parents are also struggling with the digital revolution and the changes it has made for how our teens are relating to us and each other.

Earlier this year our Sunday paper included a news article about “iPlods“- a rather sad nickname for the primary school children involved in their research. These children were so unfit and lacking in basic core strength, they didn’t have control over their core muscles. They exhibited “an inability to control what their spines were doing. . . The vast majority did not have the core strength, flexibility or co-ordination to achieve exercises considered “basic foundations” of movement.” (Schools put iPlods through their paces, June 30, Sunday Mail)

But the problem is not just potential long term physical damage, or missing out on the simple joys of childhood. The problem is for adults, teens and children alike. The problem is with the tendencies of our selfish hearts, expressed here in Philippians 2:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

How precisely does this nail what is wrong with this “i”-everything era? Paul could have penned this as a direct instruction to us in 2016! Despite its many useful applications, modern technology both feeds and makes socially acceptable (and desirable?) our desire to be selfish. We can now sit and play endlessly throughout the day and night, amusing ourselves and ignoring others. We (think we) look very sophisticated, very advanced. Yet this perception makes it just that much harder to disconnect from our self-interest and tune in to the needs and interests of those around us.

Casting Crowns, in the song ‘House of Their Dreams’ (Album:”Thrive” 2014), described this modern plight, or perhaps blight!
“Now they’re trapped in their own worlds, in their own wars
With their cell phones and the closed doors
It’s funny how quiet and peaceful that it seems
But they’re all alone together
In the house of their dreams.”
This chorus holds up to us a shocking mirror-image of the reality so many of us have fallen into – sitting in separate rooms, plugged into our own distractions and missing out on the relationships we have been planted in the midst of. Perhaps it is time to dig ourselves out of this sad situation?

It can start with simply putting the phone down – or unplugging the Wifi!

 

Is it worth remembering Christmas?

hith-christmas-raditionl-eThis is a post I wrote for Christmas 2012, when many of you hadn’t joined me on this Blog. Thanks for reading this year! Blessings to you for a wonderful Christmas.

Ever since the Roman church fixed Christmas on December 25 (440AD) there have been a vast array of opinions about whether or not we Christians should in fact be celebrating Christ’s birth in this way. Some people wholeheartedly support it, and go all out in their celebrations. Others try to avoid it, and mock or despise those who do celebrate Christ’s birth at the time of an old Pagan Sun-god festival. Some families I know refuse to partake in the gift giving of the day (with much sadness for their children).

In 1647 Christmas was abolished in Britain by Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan parliament. December 25 was a working day from 1644 to 1656. There were riots across the country. Christmas church services were broken up by armed soldiers. Shopkeepers came off the worst: if they closed then soldiers forced them to open; if they opened, the rioters forced them to close! Christmas decorations in London were torn down and burned by the mayor. Christmas puddings were banned.

In America the Puritan leaders followed suit and banned Christmas in some states (1659). A New England state law said:“Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas shall pay 5 shillings as a fine.” And you could buy a lot for 5 shillings! The Christmas ban was dropped in 1681 but it wasn’t until 1836 that Alabama said 25 December was to be a holiday, then everyone in the USA copied them. By then people in Victorian Britain had lost interest in Christmas, but when Charles Dickens published “A Christmas Carol” in 1843 they decided Christmas was a wonderful idea.

dec 25For me Christmas has always been a wonderful time of year, full of family fun and traditions – but does that justify the celebration? While the commercialism is distracting (and the concept of an jolly Father figure who rewards us according to merit is in total opposition to the forgiveness and grace found in Jesus) I do think there is a case for celebrating wholeheartedly as Christians.

And it all comes down to remembering.

Throughout the history of God’s redemptive intervention into our fallen world, He told us to keep remembering what he has done. For example, it was on the basis of covenant promises, given to Abraham, that Israel was rescued from slavery through Moses – slavery to both Egypt and sin. The Passover Lamb which saved them from death (well, God saved them!) was so important to remember that a whole special menu plan was devised. As people ate they would remember and teach their children to remember what God had done. When the new generation of Israel emerged from the wilderness wanderings (their parents caused), Moses spent a whole book (Deuteronomy) explaining how important it was to remember and obey all the laws God had given, to guide and direct their new lives in the Promised Land. They were to live lives worthy of their God and show the world what he had done for them. He rescued them into a covenant relationship, for the glory of His Name.

So why wouldn’t we remember the one event which reminds us of the time God stepped into human history Himself. This is when the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, to save us! While the Cross is the thing that saves us, we must remember the beginning of that journey to the Cross: Christ born as a helpless baby, fully God and fully man, in such lowly circumstances. He was born, destined to be despised and rejected, for our sake.

What a great opportunity we have at Christmas time, when even non-Christians are willing to celebrate the birth of a Saviour whom they do not know! They are remembering, even though they don’t fully understand. We have the full story to share – to explain to them what they are really celebrating! Let’s open the dialogue at every opportunity, even in those long line-ups at the checkout! Let’s show them how to remember in thankfulness and awe the Incarnation of God’s son, sent to save.

May the glory go to our great God this Christmas – as we remember!

You may also enjoy:

Great Christmas music                                    Is He really making a list and checking it twice?

Book of Luke in song

This is a post about an album and a song which is no longer new News, but in case you missed it, it may be worth a look: Songs for the Book of Luke by The Gospel Coalition

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/11/05/luke-album-named-best-of-best/

You can follow links here to listen and access sheet music for all the songs on the album: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/lukealbum/
https://thegospelcoalition.bandcamp.com/album/songs-for-the-book-of-luke

luke-songCome to the Feast (track 9) is a song about the lavish banquet of God’s grace that abounds for any and all who would have it. Yet, it is also a call for the church to serve as heralds of this feast, both to those who know their need (the poor) and those who don’t (the rich). It comes from the parable of the great banquet found in Luke 14:16-24 where Jesus gives us a picture of the gracious kingdom of God that woos and welcomes the most broken, sinful, and lost of people. The musical style is not the mainstream. You may find it a refreshing change. (If used for the congregation, I would suggest the tempo could go up a little.)

COME TO THE FEAST

Go to the highways and hedges, go to the farthest of fields
Go and compel, the sick and the well
For our Father’s house will be filled

Go to the streets of the city, bring in the crippled and blind
All who would taste this banquet of grace
Must come and waste no more time.

Chorus
Come to the feast, come to the table
The great and the least, the rich and the poor
Come to the feast, come to the table,
Come and hunger no more

In the robe of the lamb you’ll be covered
Dressed in his pure righteousness
For all of your guilt, his blood it was spilt
So come by your Father be blessed

Words and Music by Jeff Lawson © 2012 Jeff Lawson Music

 

Let Joy take temptation’s place

I just love the poetry in this song, which challenges us to see ourselves as a people ‘built by hands of love’ to ‘fight back darkness with delight‘. We are to be filled with God’s presence (we are your ‘cathedrals’). And I find this a great concept too: replacing temptation with Joy! These are things we can choose to focus on in our day, to actively make into habits in our living and attitudes. I trust you will be encouraged by these words.

“Cathedrals” by Tenth Avenue North

We were built by the hands of love
Redeemed in spite of what we’ve done
We are the spirit’s dwelling place
And now, children of the light
Fight back darkness with delight
Lift your eyes up to His face
Let joy take temptation’s place
Joy takes temptation’s placeOpen up our souls to feel Your glory
Lord, we are a desperate people
Your cathedrals
God, fill this space
Let joy take temptation’s place
We will taste and see You as You are

Father, let Your kingdom come
Keep us from our lesser loves
Nothing else can satisfy
Like the joy found in Your eyes
There’s joy found inside Your eyes
Your eyes

Open up our souls to feel Your glory
Lord, we are a desperate people
Your cathedrals
God, fill this space
Let joy take temptation’s place
We will taste and see You as You areMay we see You as You are

And our hungry souls reach out to whatever fills us up
But we’ll keep on falling down unless we fall in love
Our hungry souls reach out to whatever fills us up
But we keep on falling down until we fall in love

Lord, Lord, Lord

Grace Upon Grace

“My sin is erased, my heart is amazed by your grace upon grace.”

Here are some beautiful song lyrics from a recent song by Josh Wilson, on the album “That was Then, This is Now” (2015). 

“Grace Upon Grace”

Every morning I open up my eyes to see mercy’s brand new
Darkness disappears and the day reveals all You’ve carried me thru
You are so faithful and I am so grateful God

Heavenly Father
You love like no other
You call me Your own
You never let go
You are my rescue
How can I thank You?
My sin is erased, my heart is amazed by Your
Grace upon grace

Seems impossible, a love unstoppable that just won’t give up on me
You left the 99 to find a heart like mine that’s all the proof that I need
You are so faithful and I am so grateful God

Heavenly Father
You love like no other
You call me Your own
You never let go
You are my rescue
How can I thank You?
My sin is erased, my heart is amazed by Your
Grace upon grace

I am Yours, I am Yours
I was made for You, I was made for You
I am Yours, I am Yours
I will live for You, I will live for You (Lord)

Heavenly Father
You love like no other
You call me Your own
You never let go
You are my rescue
How can I thank You?
My sin is erased, my heart is amazed
Forever oh God I will give You my praise
My sin is erased, my heart is amazed by Your
Grace upon grace

Maybe we should begin with balloons?

2015 year 12s GrovesAs the clock ticks over the 11pm mark on this sultry summer eve, I am contemplating the year ahead. Yes, I know we have already celebrated the New Year (and for some reason I like even years better than odd ones! Is anyone else with me on that?) But in just 9 hours time the working day will officially begin and I will be “back” for the school year – along with a few hundred eager, or not-so-eager, students. I’ve spent the day, and the last few weeks, preparing for what is to come. This waiting period is often more stressful than the actual event. Once we are back at school the tasks become more about the day to day than staring blankly at a whole term or year and wondering how on earth we will get through it all.

The students will bring their own problems, concerns, interests and passions. It is up to us as teachers to teach them to be learners, life-long learners, who look at life with a positive outlook, take hold of opportunities and seek to be the change in situations that frustrate them. We encourage them not to let the problems they bring, or the excuses in their head, or their poor self-esteem, hold them back. As you can imagine, this task is no small thing. And half the time we have problems, excuses and doubts about how we as teachers can make a difference.

As Christian teachers there is an extra challenge – or two. We try our best to model Christ, to be Christ-like in our dealings with students. We seek to achieve restoration when students break trust or relationships with us and others. We try to share the Gospel –  ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us.

With all this on my teaching plate, I ask you fellow bloggers to spare a prayer for me when you can, that I can be some small positive influence in the lives of students this year – and that through me they can know a little more of Christ and the acceptance we know in Him.

Blessings!
Ros

(Note: The photo is the final day of school for the students I looked after as Year 12 Coordinator in 2015. Apparently the balloons were biodegradable, in case you were wondering. 🙂 Maybe we should begin with a balloon release.)

Songs of the Saved

IMAG3748_1 (1)Sharing today my two favourite songs from Emu Music‘s most recent album Songs of the Saved.
(You can listen to the album on Spotify). Both these songs would probably be good for a congregation to sing. I’m particularly keen on introducing Risen asap. It has such a triumphant chorus and bridge – and much encouragement! Blessings to you in your ministry.

Track 10: Risen 

1. When I am weak you are strong
When I am poor you are rich
When I am on my knees you are with me

2. When I lay down calm my fears
Death has no power you are near
Jesus my Lord will save
Jesus, you conquered the grave

Chorus
Jesus, you are our Saviour
Mighty, death has no hold
Risen, reigning forever
Jesus, you conquered the grave

3. Trumpets will sound, we will rise
Ashes and dust glorified
Never to die again
Never stop singing his praise

Bridge
You are wonderful, you are powerful
You are glorious, Jesus
You are wonderful, you are powerful
You are glorious, Jesus

© 2014 Michael Morrow, Philip Percival & Simone Richardson

Track 3: Rock of our Salvation

1. Have you heard the day is coming?
When the things our hearts have loved –
Dust and ashes ever-failing –
Will be seen for what they are

2. Can you hear a voice now calling?
Saying, “This is not the end
Come and walk new ways of blessing
And sing a new song to our Lord”

He’s the rock of our salvation
We will trust and be not afraid
He’s the sure and firm foundation
When every other ground gives way

3. Have you heard the condemnation?
Who could pay the dreadful price?
But, look, the silent suffering servant
Took on death to give us life!

4. Can you hear the voice of splendour?
Calling out “whom shall I send
To be a light to every nation?”
“Send me Lord God, here I am!”

The former things will be forgotten
A new creation descends at last
All fear and loss will be no more
All grief and sorrow and tears will pass

Mountains and trees will clap their hands
We’ll enter Zion with songs of joy
And every eye will see his glory
Our king exalted forevermore

He’s the Rock of our Salvation
Soon our hearts will be renewed
Crowned in everlasting gladness
And Jesus’ splendour fills our view

© 2013 Liv Chapman & Gavin Perkins