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This past Sunday, we began a new sermon series during this Christmas season entitled “Shine The Light”. (Listen to the first message in this series here)

Since this is going to be more of a sermon series about the missional aspect of Christmas, I wanted to pass along some recommendations for you and your family to use that will help us focus on some of the things we more readily associate with the Advent season. Advent officially starts today, so this is a good time to start.

Scripture readings for all four gospels – Although we typically turn to the gospel according to Luke for the Nativity narrative, all four gospels speak about the first advent of the Messiah; from different perspectives and focusing on different aspects of this beautiful story. Petar Nenadov, who serves on staff at Lakeside Christian Church in Akron, Ohio, has provided a series of Scripture readings from all four of the gospels.

Good News of Great Joy, by John Piper – John Piper has compiled a collection of daily devotional readings based on a variety of passages from the Bible, focusing on the birth of Christ and it’s ultimate meaning and purpose. This ebook is a free download from desiringgod.org.

Behold The Lamb of God, by Russ Ramsey – This resource is a retelling of the Biblical narrative of the birth of Christ. Not necessarily a devotional resource, but a wonderful way to be immersed in the story of the first advent of Christ. Follow the link above to a short review of this book on the Gospel Coalition blog.

Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson – A great resource for family devotions.

Gospel-Centered Advent Devotionals – Another great family devotional resource, but this one is FREE, and can be downloaded immediately.

May The Lord lead us to think intently on the birth of His Son during this season, and how that wonderful truth can make a difference in how we live for Him today.

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This Saturday a team of 10 from NewBranch will fly up to Boston, MA (Medford, to be exact) for Serve Medford 2013. Serve Medford is a week long outreach of Redemption Hill Church to the local community. There will be a lot going on during the week, which means a lot to pray for. Here is a list:

NewBranch Team:

Dawn Koehler, Alex Koehler, Griffin Holloway, Lori Bleth, Brandon Mitchell, Reece Nobles, Kevin Sanders, Tim Sherwood, Bowdie Jenkins, and Ken Rucker.

Churches Participating and Their Travel:

  • Cave Spring Baptist Church, Roanoke, VA
  • Crosspoint Church, Clemson, SC
  • FBC Pickens, SC
  • FBC Owensboro, KY
  • New Branch Community Church, Dacula, GA
  • Renewal Church, Greenville, SC
  • Ridgecrest Baptist Church, Durham, NC

Ministry Opportunities: 

  • 8-9 Medford Parks (cleanup/construction and engaging families)
  • Kids Camp at Willis Ave.
  • Programming and Cleaning/Organizing at the Boys and Girls Club
  • Serve local businesses in Medford Square (cleaning, organizing, construction)
  • Give away 10,000 invites to Redemption Hill Church (T and Bus stops)
  • Hang 2000 door hangers inviting the community to Community Fun Night
  • Give away 5,000 invites to Community Fun Night**
  • ESL Class at Willis Ave.
  • Community Fun Night on 8/2/13 (last year we had over 700 people come)
  • Boldness among all of the teams to clearly display and declare the gospel. Pray that we would all live that week (and every week to come) with eyes wide open to the physical and spiritual needs of those around us and engage as the Spirit provides the opportunity.

NewBranch And Boston

This mission trip is unique for NewBranch as we prepare to send my family to Greater Boston to plant a church. Our projected timeline for departure is Spring 2015. This trip provides the opportunity for our church to catch the vision for church planting in Boston and serve alongside an existing church plant. For more information on church planting in Boston, visit the SEND Boston page over at NAMB.

Thank you in advance for all of your prayers. We can’t wait to get back and share testimonies of what God did during Serve Medford.

Stay updated via Twitter during the week by following pastors @kenrucker and @knsanders

I’ve been noticing a lot of good free resources floating around on the internet as we begin Holy Week. Use these resources to set your heart upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Raised: Doubting The Resurrection by Jonathan Dodson (ebook)
Available in Kindle (.mobi) iBooks (.epub) and .PDF format

Love To The Uttermost by John Piper (ebook) A devotional for Holy Week
Available in Kindle (.mobi) iBooks (.epub) and .PDF format

The Truth of The Cross by R.C. Sproul (ebook)
Available in Kindle (.mobi) iBooks (.epub) and for Logos Bible Software

Did The Resurrection Really Happen? by Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett
Available in Kindle format (.mobi)

Hallel Songs by Cardiphonia (Free Album Download): ‘”Hallel Psalms” is our sixth “flash mob” compilation. This collection of songs meditates on Psalms 113-118 often called the “Egyptian Hallel.” They were traditionally sung during passover, were sung by the disciples at the last supper, and make a fantastic set of texts to guide worship and devotion during Holy Week (March 25-30). ‘ You can download all of Cardiphonia’s albums HERE

Page CXVI is a project of a band called The Autumn Film. Their desire is to reintroduce ancient hymns of the faith to the church today. You can download  ALL 11 of their albums for FREE for a limited time.

We are introducing a new song in our congregational singing this month (starting this Sunday). I would like to give special attention to this song because of it’s focus on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As we approach Easter Sunday, I pray the lyrics of this hymn text will encourage you to celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For without the resurrection, our faith is in vain (1 Cor. 15:14-17)

I greatly value hymns of the Christian faith for both personal and corporate worship. A couple of years ago, wanting to dig a little deeper into hymnody, I purchased Our Own Hymn Book compiled by Charles Spurgeon. I began reading it as a devotional, marking texts that caught my attention. One of those was Ye Humble Souls That Seek The Lord by Phillip Doddridge. It’s a hymn encouraging believers to look to the empty tomb of Jesus Christ and joyfully celebrate his victory over death. I thought, “We should be surveying the wondrous cross AND the empty tomb!”

So I got to work on an original melody and some added choruses. I wrote, re-wrote, prayed, and so on until completing the finished product. You can read the original text HERE. The following is the version we will be singing in our gatherings (Note that I didn’t change much!)

He Is Risen
Oh, humble souls, that seek the Lord,       

Chase all your fears away;

And bow with joy your head to see

The place where Jesus lay.



Here, low the Lord of life was brought;

Such wonders love can do:

Here, cold in death his heart did lay,

Which throbbed and bled for you.
            


He is risen, He is risen

Weary souls rest in His name

He is Risen, He is risen

He has conquered the grave



So raise your eyes, and tune your songs,

The Savior lives again:

Not all the bolts and bars of death

Could Conqueror detain

Above angelic bands He rears

His once dishonored head;

And through unnumbered years He reigns,

Who dwelt among the dead.



The grave has no victory

death has no sting

Christ, the Lord is risen

He has set the captives free



With joy like His shall every saint

His empty tomb survey;

Then rise with His ascending Lord

To realms of endless day.

I’ll leave you with this quote from R.A. Torrey
“Gospel preachers nowadays preach the gospel of the Crucifixion, the Apostles preached the gospel of the Resurrection as well. (2 Tim. 2:8-Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead, according to my gospel.”) The Crucifixion loses its meaning without the Resurrection. Without the Resurrection the death of Christ was only the heroic death of a noble martyr; with the Resurrection it is the atoning death the Son of God. It shows that death to be of sufficient value to cover our sins, for it was the sacrifice of the Son of God.”

He is risen!
He is risen indeed!

Sermon Text: Matthew 14:1-12
Scripture Reading: Psalm 113

Songs:
1. Glorious Christ by Sovereign Grace Music
2. White Flag by Chris Tomlin, Passion
3. The Solid Rock by Edward Mote, William B. Bradbury
4. Here is Love by William Rees, Robert Lowry, Matt Redman

Sermon Text: Galatians 2:17-20

Song List
1. Forever Reign by Reuben Morgan and Jason Ingram
2. How Marvelous (I Stand Amazed) by Charles H. Gabriel
3. In Christ Alone by Keith and Kristyn Getty
4. All To Us by Christ Tomlin

2013 Bible Reading Plans

This is the time of year that many think about making commitments to read the Bible more regularly in the coming year.  I highly encourage everyone who desires to radically follow Christ in 2013 to prayerfully consider ways to engage the Word of God more regularly.  One of the tools that many have found useful (including myself) is a Bible Reading Plan.  There are a myriad of plans available, and Justin Taylor just posted an article this week on the Gospel Coalition Blog giving lots of helpful advice about following a Bible reading plans, as well as several links to some great plans.  (see that article here)

Several years ago, I created my own Bible Reading Plan, and have been using it ever since.  Everyone needs to find a plan that will fit them, and since I didn’t find one, I created my own.  For those who are interested in it, you can find it on our website HERE

Here are the essentials of the Bible Reading Plan I created, and use:

1. It covers “about” 2 chapters a day 

2. it goes through a complete book of the Bible at a time (so you’re not jumping from book to book day after day).  When you start a book, you’ll stay in that book until you finish it.

3. it switches between OT books and NT books.  In other words, after you finish an OT book, then you’ll start reading through a NT book.

4. between books, you’ll spend a few (2 or 3) days in Psalms and Proverbs.  Some don’t like this but I like it for two reasons.  One, going through Psalms and Proverbs all at once is like drinking water out of a fire hydrant.  They were meant to be absorbed in shorter, more bite-sized sections.  Two, these days give me a moment to pause and reflect over the previous book, and spend time in private worship before moving into the next book.

5. It is a two-year plan.  In two years you will go through the NT (and Psalms and Proverbs) twice, and the OT (and Revelation) once.  Why?  Again, this is mainly just my personal Bible reading plan, and the NT books, and Psalms and Proverbs tend to be the ones that feed my faith the most and turn my affections toward Jesus the most.

If this plan works for you, great!  If one of the ones Justin Taylor suggests works for you, awesome!  If you want to try your hand at creating your own, fantastic!

My encouragement would just be to pick one, and start.  Don’t be legalistic.  If you miss a day, catch up if you can.  If you start to miss several days in a row, then just pick up where you should be on the day, and don’t fret the stuff you missed.  The key is not to complete a Bible Reading Plan, but to spend more time communing with Jesus.  So, use it as a tool to help you in that regard, but extend yourself some grace when you get behind (like I always do).

Let me know what has or has not worked for you…and feel free to share some stories about Bible reading in general and Bible Reading Plans in particular that might be helpful to others.

Grace!

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