Resources for Praying, Singing, and Studying the Psalms

By | Pastoral Letters

August 2018 Dear Colleyville Family, Martin Luther, in his preface to the newly translated German Psalter in 1545, wrote this: “In my opinion, any man who will but make a trial in earnest of the Psalter will very soon bid the other pious prayers adieu, and say, ‘Ah, they have not the sap, the strength, the heart, the fire, that I find in the Psalter; they are too cold, too hard, for my taste!’” I began making my own earnest trial in praying the psalms eight years ago, and I have to say that I am in complete agreement with this wise pastor’s words. My hope is that we as a congregation will continue to grow together in our appreciation and use of the these ancient prayers given to us by the Spirit to pray in union with Jesus himself. As a follow up to my sermon this past Sunday, I wanted to send a pastoral letter to you sharing some of the most helpful resources I have found on the psalms. This is a long list, but I want to share with you some of the wealth I have discovered in my own studies in the hope that you will find some…

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Church Calendar

By | Pastoral Letters

Beloved in Christ, Though at times we may instinctively divide our lives into categories titled on the one hand, “spiritual,” and on the other, “everything else,” the reality is that the spiritual life is not something that we can relegate to only a part of our experience as human beings. Rather, to grow spiritually means that whatever it is we do—eat, drink, pray, sing, speak, rest, work, play, etc., should be done under the guidance of, and by the power of, the Holy Spirit. Not least of these human activities that we seek to bring under the Spirit’s direction is the way that we mark time itself. Since they are made in God’s image (he who made the passing of the seasons and marked one day out of seven as holy), human beings in every culture have always practiced different ways of keeping time. The question is not whether we will distinguish one day from another, and mark the passage of time with special (or holy) days, but how we will do it. Our culture keeps time in its own way, of course—a calendar that is centered on official “national holidays” (or holy days) when we are encouraged to rest…

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Thoughts on Lent

By | Pastoral Letters

More and more evangelical Christians these days are seeking to engage in the season of Lent in the church year. Here are some brief thoughts offered regarding these practices. This is not all that could be said, nor is it intended as a rejection of the season (which is clearly part of the historic tradition of the church) — merely pastoral advice in response to how some modern evangelicals seem to keep Lent. — In the Old Testament, God gave Israel a “church calendar,” describing how she was to live in community as the people of God during the year. In that calendar, the Lord commanded Israel to keep something like 80-90 days of feasting (52 Sabbaths, the feast of Passover, the feast of Unleavened bread, the feast of Firstfruits, the feast of Weeks, the feast of Trumpets, and the feast of Booths), and only one day of fasting (The Day of Atonement). Read Leviticus 23 to feel the weight of this ratio. If we emphasize the entire season of Lent as a season of fasting (40 days), we may be in danger of reversing the biblical ratio of days of feasting to days of fasting.

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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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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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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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