Category Archives: Prayer

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.


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.


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

When people are not at their best

One of the features of the COVID-19 emergency is that we are around fewer people, and often, the people we are around aren’t at their best.  And if we look at ourselves honestly, we often aren’t at our best either.  Over the long term, I think we can become more sanctified, more gracious, and more resilient.  But this doesn’t mean that we can expect these traits to present themselves in other people each day.

Many people have expressed this, but we are in a time of upheaval unlike anything most of us have ever experienced.  Long standing routines have had to be abandoned.  We’re experiencing isolation from most of the people we know.  However, if you are married, have a family, or even a roommate, you interact with such people constantly.  These interactions may bring out latent tensions in such relationships.

On top of this isolation, we experience uncertainty about the spread of this pandemic, our job, and the ability to maintain our present standard of living.  Even if we are getting together with our church family using technology, it still lacks the immediacy of face-to-face interactions.

With all of these conditions coming together, tempers will flare.  Frustrations will erupt.  We will become peevish and irritated with one another.  Our tendency to grumble and complain will emerge.

So, we will often not be at our best.

This is an opportunity for us to grow in the fruit of the Spirit, to exercise great love, patience, and forbearance with each other.  This is the time to practice the habit of not letting the sun go down on your anger.

While our current conditions are new to us, the chaos that experience now was the normal condition of the lives of most of our forefathers in the faith.  This is what the “great cloud of witnesses” of Hebrews experienced day by day.  They lived faithfully and fruitfully in their day, and because of this, God commends them to us.

May we seek God’s face, that we would glorify him, and bring forth the fruit of the Spirit and exercise great patience and forbearance with one another, knowing that often we will not be at our best, and that those whom we interact with will not be at their best.

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





Church Coronavirus Update

Dear Church Family and Friends,

Many of you have asked questions about the coronavirus and its potential impact on our church gatherings.  I am writing to encourage you that as we enter into this weekend and the upcoming Lord’s Day, your officers are working together to implement appropriate protocols so that we can continue to enjoy worship and fellowship together.  We will let you know as plans develop for this.

I want to encourage you that this is an opportunity for us to remember that as Christians, we are secure in the Lord Jesus Christ.  While there will be disruptions in the normal routines of our lives, the Lord has ordains our steps for good and not for harm.  This is an opportunity for us to remember that our faith and trust are in Him, rather than how well we can prepare for any eventualities that may occur.  While most of us have not experienced anything like the current conditions with the coronavirus, the Church has throughout her history.  And the testimony of the saints of ages past was not one of fear.  It was a testimony of faithful trust in Christ, out of which flowed peace and calm assurance.  The fruit of such faith was that  loving and encouraging one another, and loving and serving their neighbors, and even putting themselves at great risk at times to care for others in need.  So, this is an opportunity for us to grow in faith, in hope, in love, in maturity in Christ, and service to those in need.

Know that your pastors and officers love you, and are praying for you.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Clay

Know and Tell, Part Two

I previously posted about a book called Know and Tell:  The Art of Narration by Karen Glass.  If you are a teacher, homeschool parent, or are interested in helping your children develop oral fluency, I highly recommend this book.

I’ve written about the instructional benefits of narration, but I also see some great spiritual benefits of this practice, particularly applied to the Bible and rich Christian literature.

Narration is an excellent tool for family worship.  Reading a passage of Scripture and asking your children “what happened?” is an excellent way to help them hide God’s Word in their heart.  It enables them to participate not only in building listening skills, but in learning to explain and apply the Scripture.

Narration is an excellent way to move into private and family prayer.   Narrating the content of a Bible passage is a natural bridge to beginning to address God based on God’s revelation of himself and the promises that he makes in the passage.  If one does not know what to pray, or how to pray, or what to pray for in a particular instance, or just has one of those days when it seems that prayer is simply reading a prayer list, this may be a way to break through to “praying in the Spirit.”

Narration is an excellent way to prepare to teach.  This may be more like what Mrs. Glass calls “silent narration,” when one reads a portion of a text and rehearses the content, but not aloud.  I do alot of his in my sermon and teaching preparation.  Often, the notes that I take while I’m studying are not an outline of the content, but a retelling and a description of connections that I make from the text to other Scriptures and other writings.  To be able teach well, one must have something to say and be able to say it well.

Mrs. Glass cautions that it takes time to develop narration skills, and that we must be patient with those whom we teach.  She also tells us that unless one is a “natural narrator,” that this will not be a student’s favorite practice.  But the benefits are rich, and the time and effort devoted to narration will yield many benefits.

Follow up on prayer and fasting

Our church had a voluntary day of prayer and fasting Wednesday.  Some of us opened and closed the day with a short prayer meeting, and went out for a meal afterwards.  Here are some concluding thoughts:

It was much easier with a group than it would have been to do this on my own.  The feeling that “we’re in this together” helped out immensely.  I don’t think I would have done it on my own.

Going without food was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be.  I expected to have hunger pangs throughout the day and that every minute would be a battle of the will.  The only time I felt slightly bad was right before lunch, but there was no question of breaking the fast then.

It did give me a greater awareness of the need to pray and the desire to pray.  Since the day was to be focused on prayer, I thought more often of the need to pray and ways to pray.  I wasn’t able to spend that much time in prayer because I had a full day’s worth of work to accomplish, but I was able to “fill in the corners” of my schedule.

Thoughts for next time:

I would prepare more in advance through planning times and material for meditation and prayer.  This would have made a great difference.

I would attempt to get work done in advance so that I could devote more time to prayer.  I didn’t realize that to be as effective as possible, planning should go into this for how to make the time to devote the day to prayer and preparation in how to invest the time.

Voluntary Prayer and Fasting

Our church is having a voluntary day of prayer and fasting.  We began with a prayer meeting that was available in person and remote (I chose to attend remotely so that I could be in front of the fire in my living room with my pajamas on) and will close with a prayer meeting at 6:30 pm.

I have not done this for a long time, and I felt intimidated at the prospect of fasting for a day.  Of course, I had to fast prior to my surgery in September.  But that was different.  I was laying in a hospital bed with every conceivable need cared for, except for food.  Today, I’m trying to live more or less a normal day, but with times of prayer instead of meals.

This morning was surprisingly easy.  We had our corporate prayer time, and then I engaged in my normal prayer routine.  Afterward, I went to the gym to do my rehab (I’m still rehabbing the knee I had surgery on in September).  Other than feeling a little light-headed on some of the exercises, it was fine.

Now that’s it’s after lunch, it’s a little harder.  It’s tempting to say, “it’s only five-and-a-half hours until I can eat.”  It’s not like I’m going to break down and have a snack or anything.  But I am experiencing a feeling of deprivation.  What do I do with this?

Well, first of all, many people all over the world, perhaps the majority of the world’s population, is not able to have adequate nutrition.  So, this is a normal feeling for most of the people in the world.  Many of these people are my brothers and sisters in Christ.  So, it’s good for the soul to be able to participate, even for a short while, in their deprivation for them, and to pray that the Lord would give them this day their daily bread.  This is something that I can meditate on and be more intentional in my prayers.  I often pray for the spiritual concerns of the church around the world, and for the persecuted church, but how often do I pray for my brothers and sisters the simple request that they will have enough to eat?

Another benefit is that this slight momentary deprivation reminds me of the poverty of my spirit, and is hopefully developing a hunger for God.  I long to treasure his words more than my necessary food, as Job did.  My hope is that I can devote time to prayer, or a least some more time today, rather than just devoting it to work.  Lord, help me to do so.

A final benefit is that this is another opportunity to pray in solidarity with others.  In most churches, the Wednesday night prayer meeting is a thing of the past.  For our church, I don’t think it’s a lack of desire, but it’s because we are a “destination church” rather than a parish church.  People in Houston typically have long commutes, and often, this includes church.  It may be worthwhile to consider having get-togethers for prayer in neighborhood homes, even occasionally or “one-time” events.   We do have Bible studies, which I enjoy.  But it may be worth exploring inviting people to pray together, and making it easier to do so.

So, this invitation from our elders to participate in this day of prayer and fasting is opening my eyes to some things I haven’t thought too much about, and is stretching me, and I hope it will do so for others.

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