Two Nativity Plays

Sorry for the radio silence! Many of you will know that I now have a new job and you can mostly find me online at the Online Pastor website and associated social media accounts. There are all kinds of resources including an online video discipleship series, some new daily devotions, and a little gospel video. Check it out!

Here’s something which is not part of the job, though. It’s a little ebook featuring two nativity plays for churches. It’s called Two Nativity Plays For Churches. One is my Natwivity play from last year. The other is called The Donkey, the Cow, the Sheep and the Camel and is by an actual comedy scriptwriter, James Cary.

The ebook is free to download and you are welcome to perform either or both plays wherever you like.

If you would like to make a donation to the Barnabas Fund for the book, we would love you to do that. They provide hope and aid for the persecuted church. Many Christians around the world won’t be having much of a celebration this Christmas. Your donation will go to help them.

Download the book:

Epub:
nativity-plays

Mobi (for Kindle):
nativity-plays

Pdf:
nativity-plays

40: Lent readings

A series of readings for Lent 2015, reflecting on significant times in the Bible’s narrative:
40 days of rain in Genesis;
Moses’ 40 days on the mountain with God;
40 years of testing for Israel in the desert;
Solomon’s 40 glorious years to reign in Israel;
Nineveh’s 40 days to repent;
Jesus’ 40 days of testing in the wilderness;
and finally the 40 days of Jesus’ resurrection before his final ascension into glory.

These periods were often times of trial, temptation and preparation. I hope that reading and reflecting on them through this season of Lent will help us to reflect on our own trials and temptations, as we prepare once again to celebrate Christ’s great triumph over death this Easter. My plan is simply to make time each day to read, reflect and pray through these readings. I hope you will join me.

Click here for the printable pdf.

Why aren’t there 40 readings?
40 is the thematic link, not the number of readings. Traditionally, the forty days of Lent includes the period from Ash Wednesday until the day before Easter Sunday, but it excludes Sundays since these are always ‘feast days’ rather than ‘fast days’ because every Sunday is a mini-celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Some of the Sunday readings reflect that idea of feasting and celebration.

Here are a couple of questions you might like to think about as you read:

What is the purpose of this time of waiting, testing or preparation?
How does this time reflect the experiences of the Christian life as we wait for the final resurrection?


Week 1 Forty days of flood

Feb 18 Genesis 6:1-8
Feb 19 Genesis 6:9–7:5
Feb 20 Genesis 7:6-23
Feb 21 Genesis 7:24–8:14
Feb 22 Genesis 8:15-22

Week 2 Forty days on the mountain

Feb 23 Exodus 24:1-18
Feb 24 Exodus 32:1-14
Feb 25 Exodus 32:15-35
Feb 26 Exodus 33:1-11
Feb 27 Exodus 33:12-23
Feb 28 Exodus 34:1-16
March 1 Exodus 34:17-35

Week 3 Forty years in the wilderness

March 2 Numbers 13:1, 16-33
March 3 Numbers 14:1-19
March 4 Numbers 14:20-45
March 5 Numbers 20:1-13
March 6 Numbers 20:14-29
March 7 Numbers 21:1-9
March 8 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Week 4 Forty years of the kingdom

March 9 1 Kings 3:1-15
March 10 1 Kings 6:1-13
March 11 1 Kings 8:1-21
March 12 1 Kings 9:1-9
March 13 1 Kings 10:1-13
March 14 1 Kings 11:1-13, 41-43
March 15 Psalm 72

Week 5 Forty days to repent
March 16 Jonah 1:1-6
March 17 Jonah 1:7-16
March 18 Jonah 1:17-2:10
March 19 Jonah 3:1-10
March 20 Jonah 4:1-11
March 21 Luke 11:29-32
March 22 Luke 15:1-7

Week 6 Forty days in the wilderness
March 23 Luke 4:1-4
March 24 Luke 4:5-8
March 25 Luke 4:9-13
March 26 Hebrews 2:5-18
March 27 Hebrews 3:7-19
March 28 Hebrews 4:14-5:10
March 29 James 1:12-18

Week 7 Forty days of resurrection

March 30 Luke 24:1-12
March 31 Luke 24:13-35
April 1 Luke 24:36-49
April 2 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11
April 3 1 Corinthians 15: 12-34
April 4 1 Corinthians 15: 35-49
April 5 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Reading Christian books

Over the past few years, my reading of Christian books has largely been focussed on books relevant to the PhD, books for review, and books we’re reading as a staff team at church. This year I want to make sure I get to read some other things of my own choice. So I’m planning to have at least one book on the go each month. For longer books, I’ve found it really helps me to read on my Kindle. Partly this is because the Kindle is lighter, smaller and more portable. I also love the progress bar – I know that if I read about 3% each day, I stand a good chance of getting to the end of a book in about a month. Of course some books can be read much more quickly than this, but even a 500 page book only needs just over 16 pages a day to be finished in the time. That seems manageable to me.

If you can’t commit to reading a book a month, how about committing to reading a chapter (or two) a week? I like to set aside an hour or so on a Sunday afternoon for this, but you could find another time that suits you. Some books are better read at this slower pace, with plenty of time to think and reflect as you go. Or maybe find a couple of other people at your church and commit to reading the same book, then meeting up to discuss it.

I haven’t finalised my list yet, but here are some of the books I’m hoping to read in 2015:

Chance and the Sovereignty of God: A God-Centered Approach to Probability and Random Events, Vern Poythress
Dr Poythress is possibly the cleverest man I’ve ever met and I’m really excited about this book which combines his two fields of doctoral work: maths and theology.

Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine, Kevin Vanhoozer
I love Vanhoozer’s work on scripture and the divine speech-act and I’m pleased that he’s written a more accessible book on the subject.

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More — Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist, Karen Swallow Prior
I don’t really know anything about More, but I do like to read Christian biographies.

PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace, Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones
I am judging this book by its cover, which I love!

Our Father, Richard Coekin
Because it’s always good to have more help and encouragement to pray.

The Gospel and the Mind, Brad Green
I’m always glad to see evangelicals taking seriously the command to love God with our minds and I’m interested to see what Brad has to say on the subject.

Desiring God, John Piper
This has been on the shelf for years. Maybe in 2015 I’ll finally read it!

Reading the Bible in 2015

It’s that time of year when many of us are thinking about our intentions for Bible reading in the coming months. Last year I attempted a modification of this scheme (download the pdf here). The idea is to read 10 chapters of the Bible each day, taking you through the whole Bible in less than a year. In that time, you’ll have read some books multiple times, while you’ll have read others just once. I adapted the lists a bit and then made myself a ten-stranded ribbon bookmark, so that all I had to do was follow on each day, moving the bookmark as I went. Here are the sections I recommend:

Genesis – Deuteronomy (187 chapters)
Joshua – 2 Kings (151 chapters)
1 Chronicles – Esther (98 chapters)
Psalms (150 chapters, though you might want to split 119 across more than one day)
Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (93 chapters)
Isaiah – Lamentations (123 chapters)
Daniel – Malachi (137 chapters)
Matthew – John (89 chapters)
Acts – 2 Corinthians (73 chapters)
Galatians – Revelation (98 chapters)

There are several advantages to this sort of scheme. First, you get a good sense of the big picture of the Bible in a relatively short space of time. Within six months or so, you’ll have read all of it at least once and some parts multiple times. It’s not intended for close reading of the detail of the text. Read at about the same speed you’d read a novel or a newspaper. I find I can read 10 chapters in under half an hour, but your mileage may vary. The other thing I really love about it is the way it lets you make connections between different parts of the Bible that you might not normally notice. It’s also great for getting you through the parts where you might normally be tempted to give up on this sort of scheme – you do still have to read the genealogies and allocations of the land and so on, but you’ll always have plenty of other chapters to read on those days. It’s very flexible, too, since it’s not fixed to specific days. At times when I was very busy, such as on camp, I just read one or two chapters so that I spread a day’s worth of readings out over a week.

I admit, I got stuck about halfway through this last year and switched to a different Bible reading plan for the last few months. My bookmarks are still in place, though, so I could pick it up again.

There are plenty of other plans for reading through the Bible. The classic McCheyne scheme is simple and easy to use. If you find it helpful to have some notes to guide you with your reading, you might like Don Carson’s ‘For the Love of God’ which uses the McCheyne system and comments on one of the readings each day.

If you’re finding the idea of these plans overwhelming, then I have two other recommendations. I have really enjoyed Paul Tripp’s books of meditations ‘A Shelter in the Time of Storm’ on Psalm 27 and ‘Whiter than Snow’ on Psalm 51. These are really great for anyone struggling through hard times but useful for everyone, I think. I think that it’s just as important to spend a lot of time dwelling on a single short passage of scripture sometimes as it is to do the big picture reading I was talking about before.

Finally, for a fresh take, I highly recommend Nailed It! Sarcastic Devotions for Angry or Worn Out People by Anne Kennedy. I have loved this book and found that it has given me new insights and new delight in God’s word.

Natwivity

The script I wrote for the Castle Church 2014 Natwivity with directions for staging it at your own church next Christmas. Mostly based on Matthew’s account with an additional scene from Luke. There are no shepherds. Or blue birds.

Download the pdf here.

For a little while

Nine group Bible studies on the book of 1 Peter, including notes for leaders.

The theme of suffering and persecution strongly suggests that these Christians were under attack for their faith and lifestyle. Peter writes to encourage them through times of hardship by reminding them that suffering proves their faith, pointing to the example of Christ, and showing their future hope. His letter shows how Christ is the model for Christians: as the firstfruit of the resurrection; as the cornerstone of the house we’re being built into; as the exemplar of patient, undeserved suffering and submission; as the chief shepherd of the flock.

Download the studies here.

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