Keeping Sabbath

By | Pastoral Letters

Beloved in Christ, This month, as we continue to discuss the spiritual life, I want to turn our attention to an aspect of Christian spirituality which is one of God’s greatest gifts to us in this life: the gift of Sabbath rest. And yet, it is a gift that is often misunderstood and neglected. For some of us, the word “Sabbath” (which is simply Hebrew for “Rest”) may evoke past experiences with overly legalistic interpretations of the Fourth commandment—days free not only from labor but also deprived of innocent play or enjoyment of creation (for example, the description of Sabbath keeping in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood). For others, the idea of resting for an entire day each week may seem unrealistic and hopelessly out of touch with the requirements of our modern pace of life. But, we must keep two things in mind. First, God does not intend our Sabbath rest to be a burden, but a gift (thus challenging legalistic rules). Second, God does not merely recommend Sabbath-keeping as a good idea for his people to consider, but he commands it (thus challenging the assumption that the Sabbath is like the modern idea of a vacation—something to squeeze into…

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Following Jesus

By | Pastoral Letters

Beloved in Christ, Before I get into my lesser commitments and priorities as a pastor, I wanted to start with that which is most primary. The most basic commitment I make to you as your pastor is to myself be a personally committed follower of Jesus Christ, with all the joy and cost that commitment requires. I cannot lead others where I am not myself willing to go. And I believe that at the heart of the Christian religion is a covenantally-bound and absolutely personal relationship with the man Jesus Christ—the one whom we confess by faith to be the Son of God and Savior of the World, the one who is risen from the dead and lives now at his Father’s right hand. The basic confession of the Christian man or woman is simply this: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” This bond is our only hope in life and death. All that we do as the church (that is, his body present on earth) flows out of our individual and corporate relationship with Jesus. There are two main implications of this commitment I want to explain: 1. My life is open to you in regards…

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Liturgical Hospitality

By | Pastoral Letters

Beloved in Christ, I am grateful for God’s presence with us, and for your hearty participation as we give him our praise and receive his service to us each week. I also feel fortunate for the time I’ve had with many of you over the last month in my office, in your homes, and over various cups of coffee and meals around Colleyville. In many ways, the most precious gift one human being can give is the unveiling of their lives to one another, and I’m thankful for the gift of your stories as you share them with me, and the opportunities I have had to pray for you and to walk with you in the various places of peace and rest as well as valleys of darkness in which God is presently shepherding you. This month as I continue to describe my sense of the vision I have for our church’s life together, I want to explore a phrase that I hope will be descriptive of our common life of worship on Sunday mornings in the years to come: My desire is for our worship to be faithfully liturgical as well as joyfully hospitable. By faithfully liturgical, what I…

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Hospitality

By | Pastoral Letters

Beloved In Christ, This month, I want to talk briefly about some of the new realities in the life of our congregation—the most prominent of which is the new parts of our body that are being added to us! We’ve already had several new families formally join us in membership this fall, and I anticipate that we will likely have more in weeks and months to come. In addition, there are often many new faces on Sunday mornings, some of whom are visiting our church for the first time. I’m so grateful for God’s provision in sending us these new saints. But I also know that growth and change is a challenge for all of us (just as it is for any group of people), whether one has been a part of Colleyville Presbyterian Church for a few months or a few decades. My constant prayer is that each of us who inhabit this community we’re shaping together, new and old, would count one another in humility more significant than ourselves and be disciplined in looking not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of one another. Right now, because of the time and place in which…

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The Preaching of God’s Word

By | Pastoral Letters

Beloved in Christ, The point in my philosophy of ministry I’d like to emphasize this month is the great significance of the preaching of God’s word. Our worship service each Sunday morning is intentionally centered on the means of grace given to us as believers: Word (the reading of the scriptures at different points in the service as well as the sermon), Prayer (our various corporate and individual prayers throughout the service, as well as our hymns, which are a form of sung prayers to God) and Sacrament (our weekly practice of the Lord’s Supper, along with baptisms when appropriate).  The preaching of God’s word is considered a real part of the means of grace that God has given us, because in some mysterious way, the word of God preached in the context of the worship of God’s people is actually God’s word. Listen to how our own Westminster Standards describe the act of preaching: “The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the word an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of…

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Delight, the Secret of the Spiritual Life

By | Pastoral Letters

Beloved in Christ, This month, the topic that I want to turn to as I continue to seek to describe my hopes and vision for our church is that of the spiritual life. We’ll discuss the spiritual life generally this month and turn more specifically to the practices of prayer and scripture reading in my letters to you in March and April. First, as your pastor, I want to you know that I am personally committed to an ordered spiritual life of prayer and scripture reading. But, this is something I am not only committed to for myself. Over time, I will seek to encourage similar practices in your lives as well.  What do I mean by an ordered spiritual life? Essentially what I mean is spiritual practices that are regular and incorporated into the patterns of everyday life. The reality is that each of us have habits and patterns of behavior that we engage in each day, and my desire is that the most central habit and pattern of each of our lives be scripture reading and prayer. My longing is for each of us to be like the blessed man in Psalm 1, whose life is marked by…

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Reading God’s Word

By | Pastoral Letters

Beloved in Christ, What does it mean to practice an ordered spiritual life that is centered on God’s word? That’s the question I would like to turn to this month, building on the ideas that we began to consider in last month’s letter. Very simply put, this kind of life means to be in the regular habit of reading (or hearing) the scriptures, trusting that they are in fact a means by which God himself speaks to us. The question of motivation is central to this practice. We must not seek to build a habit of reading God’s word as a means of securing his favor toward us or elevating our spiritual life in comparison to those around us. Not only will these motivations fill us with pride before God and others, but they also will never sustain a lasting spiritual life. If we are truly to grow in our reading of God’s word, we must do so with humility—because we trust that God will speak to us in his word, and we truly believe we need his voice to live day by day. Another way of saying this is given to us in the words of Jesus: “Man shall…

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Growing In Prayer

By | Pastoral Letters

Beloved in Christ, How is your life of prayer? I know that question can often provoke guilt or regret in our hearts over how little we actually pray, and how distracted we feel when we do choose to set ourselves to the task. And guilt can sometimes provoke us, at least in the short term, to pray more frequently as a way to ease our conscience. But guilt is not the emotion our Father wishes us to feel in response to our evaluation of our own lives of prayer. For guilt, like pride, is fundamentally incapable of forming a sound motivation for a mature spiritual life. Just as we are forbidden to look down on others in regards to their spiritual practices, it also does us little good to look down on ourselves. We will only be able to be offer to the God the kind of prayer he longs for from us if we learn to come to him as a grateful and confident son or daughter, not as a servant driven by guilt and obligation. So, how is your life of prayer? Perhaps, if you are able to listen carefully enough to the answer of your heart, you…

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A Life Of Prayer

By | Pastoral Letters

Beloved in Christ, As we continue to discuss what it means to grow in our personal life of prayer, it is helpful to consider Jesus’ own teaching. Luke tell us this: “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught this disciples.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name….’” (Luke 11:1-2). Notice the first thing Jesus does when his disciples ask him to teach them to pray—he simply gives them words to speak to God. According to Jesus, the main way we learn how to pray is not by developing a complex theology of prayer. Instead, we learn to pray by praying. There are no short-cuts to a mature life of prayer. In the end, the only way to learn how to pray is to pray—day after day, week after week, year after year. Just like any other important skill in life, prayer is something we learn only by doing it. With that in mind, here are some practical suggestions to guide your practices of prayer: 1) Pray every day. We may feel as though…

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The Centrality of Worship

By | Pastoral Letters

Beloved in Christ, Over the past year, my pastoral letters to you have largely focused on the spiritual life, especially the disciplines of a daily life of prayer and scripture study. With that groundwork, I now want to turn our attention to the spiritual discipline which undergirds all others – our participation in the worship of God on the Lord’s day with the gathered body (I likely should have begun with this topic in the first place!). There are many conceptions of what Christian worship is, or ought to be, in the wider evangelical world. In my mind, the best way to understand Christian worship is through two different, though related phrases. First, we should say that Christian worship is a time and place of holy adoration to which we are summoned by Christ our King. But that is not  the only description we should use. For Christian worship is also a time and place of rich nourishment to which we are invited by Christ our Host.  A time and place of adoration as well nourishment. A summons as well as an invitation. A God who is both King as well as Host. In my estimation, we must hold each…

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