The year (2021) has run parallel with our Genesis sermon series. We began that series November 2020, and here we are going into 2022 still trekking the rough, and often times dangerous, terrain of this book of beginnings. I feel very strongly that this series will shape our future together. The reason I say that is because at the center of this book, we’ve learned, is a sovereign God, who is writing a story of redemption. Chapter after chapter we’ve been confronted with the ugly truth that man is broken and needs a savior, and starting in Genesis 3:15 all the way through to the end of the book we see His plan unfolding as He uses the dysfunctional family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bless the world, ultimately in the coming of Jesus the Messiah. We have seen so far that He is the better Adam, the better Noah, the better Abraham, the better Isaac and the better Jacob, etc.
One of our hopes as a pastoral team is captured in a quote from James Hamilton commenting on Genesis: “it’s not enough to know the story of Genesis, it’s when we begin seeing our story in His story that everything changes.” We couldn’t have said it better. This coming year, we hope and pray that as a church united to Jesus, strengthened and knit together by love, fellowship, and prayer, that the effect would be that His story would become so much more beautiful than the pitiful one we’ve been conditioned to narrate ourselves. May the old, old story be ever new in our hearts in 2022.
Preparing for 2022
There is a term that theologians use called “means of grace.” The most effective means of grace that Christians can utilize in maturing in their relationship with God are regular bible reading, personal prayer, and reading theologically sound books.
One way to prepare for godliness in the new year is to have a plan in place. Below we have put together some thoughts and suggestions for how to cultivate healthy habits of growing in Christ. These are in no way to burden you! Many of you have likely already begun planning your new year with godly, biblical, categories in mind. But for those of you who haven’t thought about how to structure your time, this is for you.
We also have offered book recommendations from GCC’s pastor’s wives Sharon Hawkins, Michelle Earl and Andrea Beane that you can draw from if you so choose.
- Mcheyne Bible Reading Plan: Takes you through the Bible once in a year and the Psalms twice.
- Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Read the Bible semi-chronologically in a year, reading each day for 5 days, giving you Saturday and Sunday off, or any two days of your choosing. This plan also gives you two days to catch up, or to allow bringing other books into your reading diet.
- Grant Horner’s Bible Reading Plan: This is not for the faint of heart! In this plan you will read ten chapters from 4 different books of the Bible each day. I have tried this before, but failed. But it promises to be a great plan if you desire the intake of a lot of Scripture.
- The Bible Recap: This is a bible reading plan that goes through the bible chronologically. Each day you’ll read the scripture assigned to you, and then you’ll listen to a short 8-minute podcast that will highlight and summarize that day’s reading. You’ll not only read through the bible in a year, you’ll love doing it. Many of our ladies already are using this method.
2. Cultivating Your Prayer Life
Apart from the daily habit of hearing God speak to us through His word, we also want to encourage you to speak back to Him in prayer. Below are some helpful tips to cultivate your prayer life.
- Use a list by utilizing index cards. Take each card and make it a separate category to pray about. Very simple, and you can keep your index cards near the same place you read your bible. This plan is described here.
- Concentric circles. Closest relationships first, then extended family, friends, then Grace City Church, co-workers, neighbors around you, the city of Wilmington, global missions, etc. This is one way to utilize your list, and of course you don’t have to pray about everything on the same day–you can space it out throughout the week.
- Use the Word of God. Pray the Word of God over the people in your life. This will keep your prayers from being merely repetitive. Read the word of God first. Meditate on it. Pray on it. Then pray what God shows you from the word for the people that are appointed to be prayed for that day.
- General and specific prayers. A general prayer may go something Like “draw the city of Wilmington to Yourself Jesus,” and a specific prayer may be “Lord please draw Tim to Yourself as I share about Jesus with him.”
- Be quiet. Be silent after reading Scripture and think about how God wants to answer your prayers in light of what you’ve read.
3. Create a Book List for 2021
Aside from the daily habits of hearing God speak to us from His word and us talking back to Him in prayer, it’s also a healthy habit to think through where you are now and where you’d like to be spiritually. Reading good, theologically sound books is one way to cultivate personal discipleship. One way to do this is to pray about where you feel God wants you to grow this coming year and then put a book list together. For instance, if this past year you really wanted to grow in Evangelism, I would suggest a book list like this:
- Mack Stiles, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus
- Rico Tice, Honest Evangelism: How to Talk about Jesus Even When it’s Tough
- And then a biography of Christians who faithfully proclaimed the gospel, even though it cost them much (e.g. Jim Elliott, Richard Wurmbrand, or Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ by John Piper, featuring a biography of John Paton).
Or if parenting was tough, or marriage needs attending you could choose a book as a married couple and read it together. Remember you can do it anyway that best fits your life, the most important goal is growth in godliness. We recommend using this site for choosing good books to read, and always feel the freedom to ask your pastors for good book recommendations if you get stuck.
Also, what squeezes the most juice out of any book is being able to share with others. So, pick someone within GCC and ask if they’d like to read a book together, or spend time over coffee sharing what you’re learning in the book you’ve been reading.
Book Recommendations from Sharon, Michelle and Andrea
- Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full
- Gospel meditations for moms
- J. Alisdair Groves and Winton T. Smith, Untangling Emotions
- Helps us think biblically about emotions
- Ellen Vaughn, Becoming Elizabeth Elliott
- A memoir of journal entries. If you aren’t familiar with Elizabeth, you will be inspired by her faith
- Elizabeth Elliot, Suffering is Never for Nothing
- Want to suffer well?
- Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands
- Do you desire to grow in caring for others like Jesus?
- Marty Machowski, Parenting First Aid
- Hope for dads and moms who are discouraged in parenting
4. Time Management
Lastly, we know that time management (how to prioritize and best use your time) is very difficult. We are so distracted. Below are three helpful resources to look at that have benefitted your pastors.
Well dear church, this blog post is long, but we do pray that it serves you as you prepare to enter 2022. This new year we desire nothing more for you than to see you grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ together!
On behalf of the pastors,