Category Archives: Pastoral Letters

COVID-19 Pastoral Letter No. 9

Dear Church Family and Friends,

We opened up for in-person worship this past Sunday for the first time since March 23.  It was a great joy to see those of you who were able to make it.  This was a huge step in our effort to once again be able to gather together as a congregation as social distancing measures are eased.   This week, we are getting RSVPs for worship attendance.  If you would like to come to morning worship and haven’t sent in an RSVP, there are still a few spots open.  No RSVP is required for evening worship.

As long as social distancing is recommended, if you decide to stay home for reasons of conscience or from an abundance of caution, we honor, respect, and support your decision. We continue to offer livestream service at 11 AM and 5 PM here.  If you find that there are still starts and stops and gaps in the livestream service, you may access the recorded service, which is available shortly after the conclusion of the livestream.  This should eliminate those difficulties.  If neither of these works well, our audio sermons are available at Sermon Audio.

SUNDAY SCHOOL TIME CHANGE

Our Adult Sunday School start time has been moved back to the regular time of 9:40, to allow time for those of you who can come to church to be able to make it.  Julian Zugg will continue to teach his class on the Holy Spirit.

READING MATERIAL

Here are a few items for your reading pleasure.

First, I’ve been thinking through the whole idea of ambition in the Christian life.  Often, we associate ambition with self-promotion and self-seeking, which are not behaviors that God calls us to.  But we are to be ambitious to live godly lives, and as Paul writes to the Thessalonians,” to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands . . . “(1 Thess. 4:12, NASB).  This article does an excellent job addressing this in a concise way.

Here is a short article about trusting God through trials and walking by faith, particularly when we don’t know what the Lord will require of us, or when a trial will end.

I doubt many of you are associating COVID-19 with the mark of the beast, but this writer takes the opportunity to address this topic and to redirect us to the purpose of the Book of Revelation, which is to reveal the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over all his and our enemies that he has won for us.

Here’s an inspiring tribute to a man who faithfully pastored the same church for seventy years!  While most of us would have some doctrinal differences with him, this kind of faithfulness to our Lord is rare, and is to be celebrated.

I enjoyed the blessing of taking six classes from Dr. R. C. Sproul when I was in seminary.  As much as these classes helped to form me into the pastor that I am today.  However, this three minute video on how Dr. Sproul found immense comfort in the promises of God during his final illnesses is one of the most encouraging words that I’ve received  from him.

During this time, I am very grateful for the leadership, care and the hard work of our officers.  It’s such a blessing to see each man put his gifts into action, and for us to all work together to care for our congregation.  If you need anything, please contact one of the pastors, your shepherding elder, or deacon.  We want to pray with and for you, and help you with any spiritual or material needs that you have.  Especially, please let us know if you are sick, have a specific need, are out of work, or have a reduced income from COVID-19 circumstances.  This is the time for the Body of Christ to all work together and in dependence on him, to pull through this situation, and come out of it with greater unity and maturity in Christ.

Personally, I have greatly missed seeing each one of you, and the conversations that we’ re able to have by just showing up.  I really look forward to seeing you again whenever you are able to attend worship.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Clay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 Pastoral Letter No. 8

Dear Church Family and Friends,

The big news this week is in light of the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions by the State of Texas, we were able to have our dress rehearsal last Sunday to ensure that we can expeditiously carry out the procedures that we have implemented to reduce the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus.  This went very well.  Now, are able to open to 25 percent of our building capacity.  We sent out RSVP requests by email on Tuesday.  We have taken all of the reservations that we can for this Sunday.

We thank you for your patience as we are still learning this “dance” of administrating social distancing while facilitating the gathering of God’s people.

If you didn’t get your RSVP in but would like to worship with us this Sunday, you may worship with us Sunday evening at 5:00.  No RSVP is necessary.

Pending confirmation by the session, we will have a similar process next week of RSVP for the morning service, so  No RSVP will be necessary for the evening service. Watch for the email early next week about worship on May 17.

Here’s what you can expect when you arrive at church for morning or evening worship:

  • Bulletins and hand sanitizer will be available in the narthex.
  • There will be no nursery.
  • We strongly urge you to wear a mask upon entering and exiting the building.
  • The deacons will direct you to a reserved spot to provide for social distancing.  If you are at high risk, let the deacon on duty know so that you can be seated in the back and dismissed first.
  • The entire order of service, including music, will be included in the bulletin so that hymnals and Bibles don’t need to be touched and passed around.
  • Parents will need to be in control of their children at all times. This means entering, exiting, and going to the restroom.
  • Protocols will be in place to eliminate hand-to-hand contact in the distribution of bulletins and the collection of offerings.
  • Dismissal will take place back to front.
  • Upon being dismissed, we urge you not to congregate in the narthex, but to proceed directly outside.

As long as social distancing is recommended, if you decide to stay home for reasons of conscience or from an abundance of caution, we honor, respect, and support your decision. We continue to offer livestream service at 11 AM and 5 PM here.  If you find that there are still starts and stops and gaps in the livestream service, you may access the recorded service, which is available shortly after the conclusion of the livestream.  This should eliminate those difficulties.  If neither of these works well, our audio sermons are available at Sermon Audio.

Watch your email for the Zoom links to Adult Sunday School, which runs from 10:00-10:45 and the Zoom chat after Evening Worship, which begins around 6:15.

PRAYING FOR MISSIONARIES

One of the ways that we can serve the Lord during this time of social distancing is by praying for our missionaries.  Most missionaries say that their greatest need is prayer.  Is this just “spiritual language” because it sounds unspiritual to ask for financial support?  Apart from the Lord answering the prayers of his people, all of the financial support in the world will not accomplish anything for God’s kingdom.

Here are the missionaries that our church supports and the venues in which they serve:

Nick Bullock:  Ministry to the Military and Internationals, Covenant Fellowship Church, Stuttgart, Germany.

Brenda Carter:   Mission to the World, Taiwan.

Mike Cuneo:  Mission to Italy, Viterbo, Italy.

Mat Lamos:  Blue Ridge Presbytery, PCA, Gent, Belgium

John Rug:  Mission to the World, Valparaiso, Chile.

Kaz Yaegashi, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Japan

Julian Zugg, Miami International Theological Seminary, International Theological Education.

Names of missionaries who work in sensitive areas have been redacted.

As far as how to pray, here are seven prayer requests for missionaries from Wycliffe Bible Translators.  And Mission to the World, our denominational missions agency, has a nine week prayer plan broken down to one prayer request per day that you can pray.

READING MATERIAL

Here are a couple of items for your reading pleasure.

Tim Challies is going through a study of Thomas Watson’s All Things for Good, a very helpful Puritan book less than 150 pages long.  In this week’s section, he writes about “when the very best of things work together for evil.

Here is a short article by a pastor in Zambia about how COVID-19 exposes the lies of the prosperity gospel.

During this time, I am very grateful for the leadership, care and the hard work of our officers.  It’s such a blessing to see each man put his gifts into action, and for us to all work together to care for our congregation.  If you need anything, please contact one of the pastors, your shepherding elder, or deacon.  We want to pray with and for you, and help you with any spiritual or material needs that you have.  Especially, please let us know if you are sick, have a specific need, are out of work, or have a reduced income from COVID-19 circumstances.  This is the time for the Body of Christ to all work together and in dependence on him, to pull through this situation, and come out of it with greater unity and maturity in Christ.

Personally, I have greatly missed seeing each one of you, and the conversations that we ’re able to have by just showing up.  And I really miss my Sunday School class and the children of the church, and look forward to seeing them back soon!

Love in Christ,

Pastor Clay

COVID-19 Pastoral Letter No. 7

Dear Church Family and Friends,

     The big news this week is in light of the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions by the State of Texas, we are beginning to reinstitute in-person public worship.  We are having a dress rehearsal this Lord’s Day to ensure that we can expeditiously carry out the procedures that we have implemented to reduce the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus.  On May 10 and May 17, we will be able to open to 25 percent of our building capacity.  We will do so by RSVP.   Look for an RSVP email to come to you next week!

     As long as social distancing is recommended, if you decide to stay home for reasons of conscience or from an abundance of caution, we honor, respect, and support your decision. We continue to offer livestream service at 11 AM and 5 PM here.  If you find that there are still starts and stops and gaps in the livestream service, you may access the recorded service, which is available shortly after the conclusion of the livestream.  This should eliminate those difficulties.  If neither of these works well, our audio sermons are available at Sermon Audio.

    Watch your email for the Zoom links to Adult Sunday School, which runs from 10:00-10:45 and the Zoom chat after Evening Worship, which begins around 6:15.

THE MINISTRY OF TOUCH

     I wouldn’t consider myself a “touchy” or a “huggy” person.  But touch is probably what I have missed the most during the COVID-19 pandemic.  No hugging, no shaking hands, and no ability to comfort people through touch.

     This has made me think about how much ministry is carried out thought touch. Whether it’s a handshake, a hug, putting my hand on someone’s shoulder as I pray for them, patting someone on the back . . . all of these are small gestures that communicate love and care.

     While I support and respect the current social distancing measures in place, I’m reminded that we can’t go on indefinitely without touch.  People need to know that they are loved.  Sometimes, words aren’t quite adequate to express this.

     I’m reminded of the time my family and I visited a church on vacation whose pastor had been influential in my development.  I visited to experience the worship of that church and to hear the pastor preach.  I have no recollection of the sermon, or of any of the elements of the worship service, but there is one thing I will never forget.  Nobody got out the door without a handshake, a hug, a pat on the back, or some form of touch from that pastor.  This made me realize that for all of his wisdom and eloquence, the quality that people would remember most about this man is that they felt loved.  That’s what we miss when we are deprived of touch.

  READING MATERIAL

     Here are some items to encourage you:

     Tim Challies summarizes Eight Ways Temptations Work for our Good from Thomas Watson’s All Things for Good.

      Are you battling sin?  Part of putting ofF the old man and putting on the new man is changing our preferences.  Even secular psychologists tell us that if we are trying to break a bad habit, we need to replace the undesirable behavior with a greater good.  Thomas Chalmers writes about how the only way to dispossess our heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new affection.

  1. C. Ryle writes concerning dealing with besetting sins:

     “Look less at yourself, and more of Christ, and you will find besetting sins dropping off and leaving you, and your eyes enlightened more and more every day (Holiness 426).

THANK YOU FOR BIRTHDAY WISHES

     Thanks to you who wished me a Happy Birthday this week!  It was a great day!  I stayed home, exercised, read, enjoyed time with our family, and played with my grandson!

     During this time, I am very grateful for the leadership, care and the hard work of our officers.  It’s such a blessing to see each man put his gifts into action, and for us to all work together to care for our congregation.  If you need anything, please contact one of the pastors, your shepherding elder, or deacon.  We want to pray with and for you, and help you with any spiritual or material needs that you have.  Especially, please let us know if you are sick, have a specific need, are out of work, or have a reduced income from COVID-19 circumstances.  This is the time for the Body of Christ to all work together and in dependence on him, to pull through this situation, and come out of it with greater unity and maturity in Christ.

     Personally, I have greatly missed seeing each one of you, and the conversations that we’re able to have by just showing up.  And I really miss my Sunday School class and the children of the church, and look forward to seeing them back soon!

Love in Christ,

Pastor Clay    

COVID-19 Pastoral Letter No. 6

Dear Church Family and Friends,

We have much to give thanks for as a congregation.  The Lord’s care and protection upon us has been evident.  While some of us have who have loved ones in assisted living facilities still have cause for concern, the Lord has remarkably preserved our congregation from COVID-19 infection so far.  Many of us have been grateful for the additional time that we have been able to spend with our families during the present stay-at-home order.

Yet, we also look forward to getting back together.  Back to church, back to work, and back to seeing people outside of our families face-to-face.  While our state and local governments are sending out mixed messages, it appears that there may be some relaxation of the stay-at-home orders soon.

CHURCH NEWS

Adult Sunday School:  We had our first Zoom Adult Sunday School class with Pastor Julian Zugg this past week. It went off with relatively minor hitches.  Julian and I are watching videos and learning more about Zoom to improve the experience.  Watch your email for the link to this week’s class.

Live-streamed Worship:  Many thanks to our deacons for their service in being the production team for our live-streamed service.  The church was able to upgrade our internet service this past week.  From what I hear, it made a great difference in the worship experience.  We continue to work to improve week-by-week.

Resuming in-person worship:  The officers are working on plans to resume in-person public worship services when this becomes feasible.  We will have to adhere to social distancing guidelines, as well as follow other regulations, such as wearing face coverings.  We are blessed to have a large sanctuary that can accommodate small, in-person gatherings while maintaining social distancing.

We will encourage people who are risk for contracting COVID-19 to stay home, and respect and support the liberty of those who choose to stay home for reasons of conscience or caution.

To aid in this, we plan to continue to livestream and record our worship services.  We will keep you informed of developments and let you know what you can expect as specifics develop.

As we contemplate this step, we understand that people will express many opinions about the propriety of taking this step, and the measures involved.   Among the officers, several different perspectives have been advanced, and full and frank discussions are taking place.  As we work through these matters, we must all seek God’s grace to exercise patience and forbearance towards one another as we seek to advance the peace, unity, and purity of the church.

I’ve expressed to some that this re-opening “is going to be like a wedding.  Nobody will get everything they want.” But we will move forward together toward the common goal of physically worshipping together as a congregation once again.

Most likely, it will be some time before we can resume administering the sacraments.  We’re moving one step at a time.  Our desire is to continue to move forward while exercising all necessary caution.

We don’t yet have the data to determine when we will be able to provide nursery, Sunday school, fellowship meals, or any activity that would violate social distancing measures.  Our first objective is to make attending in-person public worship as safe and feasible as going to Trader Joe’s.   So, we really need for you to pray that the Lord would give us wisdom in all of this.

SERVICE INFORMATION

We continue to offer livestream service at 11 AM and 5 PM here.  If you find that there are still starts and stops and gaps in the livestream service, you may access the recorded service, which is available shortly after the conclusion of the livestream.  This should eliminate those difficulties.  If neither of these works well, our audio sermons are available at Sermon Audio.

Watch your email for the Zoom links to Adult Sunday School, which runs from 10:00-10:45 and the Zoom chat after Evening Worship, which begins around 6:15.

During this time, I am very grateful for the leadership, care and the hard work of our officers.  It’s such a blessing to see each man put his gifts into action, and for us to all work together to care for our congregation.  If you need anything, please contact one of the pastors, your shepherding elder, or deacon.  We want to pray with and for you, and help you with any spiritual or material needs that you have.  Especially, please let us know if you are sick, have a specific need, are out of work, or have a reduced income from COVID-19 circumstances.  This is the time for the Body of Christ to all work together and in dependence on him, to pull through this situation, and come out of it with greater unity and maturity in Christ.

Personally, I have greatly missed seeing each one of you, and the conversations that we’ re able to have by just showing up.  And I really miss my Sunday School class and the children of the church, and look forward to seeing them back soon!

Love in Christ,

Pastor Clay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastoral letter No. 4: COVID-19

Pastoral letter No. 4:  COVID 19

Dear Church Family and Friends,

One of the common desires that people have shared with me during the COVID-19 shutdown is a desire to improve their prayer life.  Some of the reasons for this desire:  a growing realization of our dependence upon God, the uncertainty of life, begin physically isolated from other believers, and for many of us, time on our hands to redeem.  We are beginning to learn to “hold things lightly.”  We are realizing more than ever that “man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps.”  Our plans are dependent on “if the Lord wills.”

I’m preparing to preach another sermon from the prayers of Paul from 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13.  Two truths from this passages that really struck me are that love strengthens prayer, and that prayer strengthens love.

If we want to strengthen our prayer lives, we must grow in love for one another.  This truth is often overlooked.  Forty or so of Paul’s prayers are recorded in the Scripture.  Some are only a sentence or a phrase.  Some are much more comprehensive.  But in almost all of them, he is praying for other people.  If you read the lists of greetings at the end of each epistle, it’s striking how many personal relationships he has with each church to whom he writes.  His love for people motivated him to pray.

If we grow in love for one another, we will be more motivated to pray for each other.

My mother-in-law has been meeting with the same group of women to pray every Tuesday morning for over thirty years.  She, along with the other women that she prays with, have made long-term commitments to pray for specific people.  This is a concrete expression of my mother-in-law’s love for people.  To know her is to know that you are loved.

I also think of one of the fathers of our presbytery in Ohio describing the influences that led him to Christ.  His father was of the World War II generation, a generation of men who were not known for being demonstrative with their love.  But this pastor said, “I knew my father loved me, because I saw him on his knees praying for me every day, and I believe that his prayers brought me to Christ.”

Love of people strengthens our prayer life.  But prayer strengthens our love of people.

It’s hard to nurse a grudge against someone whom you pray for regularly.  You will either resolve your differences, or you will stop praying for that person.

Praying for one another makes us less self-centered and more interested in one another.  As we pray for one another, our conversations become more directed to the specific concerns of the people for whom we pray.  We learn to listen better.  We learn to ask better questions.  We learn to be more considerate of one another.  And we become more empathetic.

One of the truths that I have begun to recognize during the current distress is that I probably won’t be the best version of myself every day.  But I also need to allow that others will not either, and be more patient and forbearing than ever.

One of the best ways that I can serve you is to pray for you.  So, please send me your prayer requests, and know that I am bringing you regularly before the throne of grace, that you may receive grace and help in time of need.

Other resources

      This past Lord’s Day was the first Sunday I spent at home, rather than helping with our streaming services.  Here are some of my reflections about the experience of livestreamed worship vs. in-person worship.

I’ve also written a piece on getting the most out of a streamed worship service.

Finally, Pastor Lou is preaching a series on the Gospel of Matthew.  In this series, we’ve arrived at the Sermon on the Mount.  There are some outstanding resources available to enrich your understanding of this portion of Scripture.  Sinclair Ferguson, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and John Stott have all written excellent and accessible commentaries.  Perhaps my favorite on the Beatitudes is Thomas Watson.  The electronic version of this commentary is available for free.

Amy and I love you dearly, and miss you greatly, and are praying for you.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Clay

 

 

 

 

Pastoral Letter No. 3: COVID-19

Dear Church Family and Friends,

I hope this letter finds you well. Just a few weeks ago, this was a social pleasantry that people wrote as an email introductory sentence to someone when asking for a favor. In this present emergency, this is no longer a social pleasantry, but an expression of true concern.

The officers of the church conferred on Tuesday and determined that on this Lord’s Day, we will again offer only streaming worship. This was before Judge Hildalgo extended the Harris County Stay-At-Home order through April 30.

Here, I must issue the disclaimer that in this matter that in what follows. I don’t speak for any of the officers other than myself. But it seems to me that the Lord is calling upon Christians worldwide to make the great sacrifice of not being able to worship corporately. That for a time, we are to give up what is most near and dear to us other than Christ himself for a time. It will not be forever. Right now, this is the overwhelming position of Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Christians throughout the world.

It’s true that “because everyone else is doing it” doesn’t prove the point. But there does seem to be a worldwide consensus emerging that the people of God are being called to sacrifice something very dear to us for the greater good.

So, what are we to make of this?

First, Christ is still on the throne.

This morning, I came to Hebrews 1 in the course of my regular Bible reading, and I came across Hebrews 1:8:

But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.”

COVID-19 has not and cannot change this. There is no force in heaven or on earth that can dethrone our Lord Jesus Christ.

Second, Jesus has ordained all things for the good of his people.

He has ordained all things for the good of his people, even public health emergencies. We must trust that in these uncharted waters, Jesus is doing to us as he did to Peter. Peter attempted to walk on water to meet Jesus, but as he began to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus responded by taking Peter by the hand, and saying to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:30-31).

Third, this situation is not “without precedent.”

One of the consequences of the Babylonian Captivity of the Old Testament Church was that they were not able to engage in temple worship. The Babylonians physically removed the Jews from Israel, and destroyed the temple, so that the people of God could not engage in the sacrificial worship that God has appointed. So, for seventy years, the people of God were not able to worship him as he had appointed in his Word.

This is when the Jews instituted the worship of the synagogues, local gathering of the people of God centered around prayer and the reading and preaching of God’s Word. While the Jews said, “how can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Ps. 137:4), they used the means of grace that were available to them. And the Lord blessed this.

In this situation, “the Lord was doing a new thing.” In the New Covenant, the synagogue, not the temple, would be the model for corporate worship. Prayer and praise, the reading and preaching of God’s Word, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the centerpieces of worship today.

While the descendants of some of the exiled Jews returned to the land, the majority stayed in Babylon. The book of Esther shows us that God continued to care for his dispersed people and his people who returned to the land. I think we can infer from this that neither group was disobedient – the ones who returned to the land, or the ones who stayed. The Lord continued to love, care for, and preserve both groups through centuries of extreme hardship and persecution.

Over the centuries, the Lord blessed the Jews of the dispersion, with far-reaching consequences. First, Greek became the majority language, rather than Hebrew. So, the scholars of this period translated the Old Testament into Greek in a version that we know as the Septuagint. Many of the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament are not from the Hebrew Bible, but from the Septuagint.

The other far-reaching consequence was that the Lord purified his Church. In the New Testament, the Greek-speaking Jews were far more responsive to the preaching of the gospel than the Hebrew-speaking Jews. The Jews of the Dispersion became the seed of the Church.

One could not foretell this at the time of the Exile, but the Lord was on the move to build his kingdom. Through the dispersion, a “portable” form of worship developed that would be the model for New Testament worship. God scattered his people in order to reclaim them with the gospel and launch the missionary enterprise of reconciling peoples of every tribe and tongue and nation to himself and the Church through the preaching of the gospel, an enterprise that still continues today.

So, with the present distress, we don’t know exactly what God is doing. But we can be sure that he is on the move. And we can be sure that he will use this to advance his kingdom.

The Lord calls upon us to trust in him in ways that we have not before. The upheaval that we are experiencing to ordinary life is not easy. It is not pleasant. But we can trust the Lord that if we remain faithful, he will use this experience to purify his Church, to separate us from our idols, and to enable us not to take the gathering of public worship for granted, but for us to see the great goodness in it, and that once corporate worship is restored, for us not to neglect the grace of assembling ourselves together for worship.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Clay

Pastoral letter No. 2: COVID 19

Dear Church Family and Friends,

Many of us are adjusting to the “new normal” that COVID-19 has brought into our lives.  “Social distancing” (I prefer the term “physical distancing instead because the last thing we need to do is to isolate ourselves!) is the order of the day.  Those of us who are still able to work are learning to work “virtually,” using GotoMeeting, Zoom, or some other conferencing service.  In one week, we took our worship services, officer’s meetings, and Bible studies to the virtual world.  And I was able to teach my Latin class of four students in the church on Google Hangouts.

It was really encouraging to hear of how many of you tuned into the worship services last week!  I’m told the Facebook page had over 300 hits!  Now, we don’t know who they were, but the feedback we are getting has been good.  We will correct some of the issues that we had with the lighting and the glare this week.

While there is much benefit to be had from such services, we earnestly look forward to regathering for live, in-person worship, and particularly, the celebration of the sacraments.

During this time, I am very grateful for the leadership, care and the hard work of our officers.  It’s such a blessing to see each man put his gifts into action, and for us to all work together to care for our congregation.  If you need anything, please contact one of the pastors, your shepherding elder, or deacon.  We want to pray with and for you, and help you with any spiritual or material needs that you have.  Especially, please let us know if you are sick, have a specific need, are out of work, or have a reduced income from COVID-19 circumstances.  This is the time for the Body of Christ to all work together and in dependence on him, to pull through this situation, and come out of it with greater unity and maturity in Christ.

Personally, I have greatly missed seeing each one of you, and the conversations that we’re able to have by just showing up.  And I really miss my Sunday School class and the children of the church, and look forward to seeing them back soon!

Live streamed worship will take place Sunday at 11 AM and 5 PM. You can find it  here.  There is a video recording posted soon after the service here.  And our church’s sermon audio page, which has all of our recorded sermons in recent member, is here.  And here’s a link to the  Facebook page for the Bible Study on James led by Scott Baker, which will be recorded Thursday at 7 PM.

Hints with Technology

If you have a slow internet connection, you may want to try the recorded version of the service, which is posted minutes after the service.  Even if the download is slow, you can take the time to let it load and then watch it.  If this proves to be “unwatchable,” you can also listen to the recorded sermon on Sermon Audio.

Family News

The COVID-19 has had a silver lining for the Clay family.  Stuart, our youngest son, and his family came to us from New York.  We are having tremendous fun with them and really enjoying the time with our grandson, Rory!  Our daughter, Hannah, will be coming down from Boston this weekend.  Our oldest son, Sterling, and his wife are holed up in Manhattan, presumably for the duration.  We would really appreciate your prayers for Sterling and Leah during this time.

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Follow-up from Pastor Lou’s devotional last week

Last week, Pastor Lou sent out a devotional.  One of the suggestions that he made was to read, study, or review the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms.

If you are new to our church and unfamiliar with these documents, these are the standards that officers must subscribe to, and possibly, the best summary of Biblical teaching to be found anywhere.

Here are some helps to guide you through the Standards.

For the Confession of Faith, the church has copies of Joey Pipa’s Westminster Confession of Faith Study BookAnother helpful resource on the Confession of Faith is Chad Van Dixhoorn’s  Confessing the Faith.

The Larger Catechism is perhaps the most neglected portion of the Standards.  It is well worth your time.  J. G. Vos’s Westminster Larger Catechism is a great resource, and is very approachable.

My favorite resource on the Shorter Catechism is the Puritan Thomas Watson’s trilogy:  A Body of Divinity, The Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s PrayerThese are clear, readable, devotional, and encouraging.  If you want to start reading the Puritans, this is probably the best place to start.  You can find the ebooks for free at  monergism.com.

What I’m reading

 Those of you who know me well know that I am a big reader.  You could say that I’m a compulsive reader.  But I have a good excuse!  During most of my formal education, I was a rather indifferent student.  Then, I was called into the pastorate and after about two years, found out how little I knew, and realized I had a lot of catching up to do!  And I still feel like I’m catching up!  And when I went into teaching 13 years ago, this was compounded.

So, I actually resolved to read fewer books and spend more time with people this year!

I’ve really gotten into J. C. Ryle this year.  He was an evangelical Anglican bishop in England in the 19th century.  I’ve used his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels in preparation for my sermons on the Upper Room Discourse, and I’ve started reading the section on Matthew prior to the morning worship service.  He quickly gets the major points out of each passage and his writing is clear, direct, challenging, and brief.  As part of my morning devotions, I’m reading Holiness, which is not as brief, but is clear, direct, and challenging.

And the other book I’m reading is Ron Chernow’s GrantI got it as a Christmas present from one of my sons back in 2018.  And I’ve finally plunged into this doorstop of a tome.  If you are an American History buff or a Civil War enthusiast, this book will grab you from page one.  General Grant had his faults.  Chernow is very up-front about Grant not being a good judge of character, and doesn’t hide his drinking problem, which to his credit, he battled mightily.  As a general, he was a strategic and tactical genius, a man of great humility, and loved by his men.  Peter Drucker, the 20th century leadership and management guru, said that leadership is borne from competence and character.  General Grant possessed both of these characteristics in abundance.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Clay

Pastoral letter during COVID-19 No. 1

Dear Church Family and Friends,

Last night, your officers met and reluctantly agreed to cancel in-person worship and ministry activities through the end of March.  Between this and the reports we are receiving on the current public health emergency, it’s likely that it may be some time before many of us will see each other in person.

There are some of us whose lives are being changed dramatically, while others of us are experience few changes except for the long lines and supply chain hiccups at HEB.  During these uncertain times, you can be comforted that the Lord is with you.  He promises that he will never leave you or forsake you.  And he invites you to cast your cares upon him, for he cares for you.

The church office will be sending out information on our live streamed worship which will take place on Sunday at 11 AM and 5 PM.

Knowing that many of you are going to spend significantly more time at home than normal, here are some resources and things that may be of interest to you.

Worship

Now is a great time to get into the routine of family worship.  If you need some helps, look here.  There are also copies of Terry Johnson’s book, The Family Worship Book  which can be picked up at the church.

If you are trying to help your children or teens learn to listen to sermons and take notes, here are some sermon note taking guides

Teaching

Ligonier Ministries has made their entire teaching library free to stream.

Ever wanted to start reading a Christian classic?  Monergism has over 500 free ebooks from the Church Fathers through the Puritans up through much of the 20th century for free!

Living through the Coronavirus

Here is an article on how some Christians in Italy are making the most of their time during a virtual lockdown.

Things to do at home

Brett McCracken of the Gospel Coalition gives a list of 30 Edifying Things To Watch When Stuck at Home.

Haven’t played a board game in a while?  Here are some game suggestions.

Your pastors and officers will step up their efforts to reach out to you during this public health emergency.  Please let any of us know if you have any specific needs, any prayer requests, are sick, or need any other kind of help.  We are praying earnestly for you.  We love you and want to serve you in any way we can.

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