Thursday, June 16, 2011

Evangelism 101

The "E" word -- Evangelism, is scary to many Christians.  There is the fear of rejection, or even the distaste one has for evangelism due to the irresponsible ways some have gone about the task.  Maybe it will help to know that the job of an evangelist and the job of a preacher are two different tasks, and require diffent gifts. 

Yes, we should be prepared to be able to share our experience of salvation.  As Peter says, "Always be ready to give account of the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15)."  But we need to always remember that the success of our witness does not depend on us, it depends on God.  From another angle, our call is to declare the glory of God with our lives and leave the results to God.

One way we can evangelize is to prepare ourselves for the Lord's Day worship, and make every effort to be present.  It speaks volumns to those who visit our church to see a full sanctuary of Chrisitians who joyfully worship God.  It also is important that we are a welcoming church, so that everyone who enters into our worship is greeted and made to feel at home. 

Another way we witness is by making disciples, and what better place than Sunday School or some other small study/prayer group.  To be able to invite neighbors and friends to come and learn and worship together, for it is in such settings that the Holy Spirit can move in ones life. 

You may not be one to knock on doors, or start a conversation about Jesus Christ on an airplane, but you can come to worship prepared to honor God and you can attend Sunday School.  You can even invite a friend.

Let's keep our focus on Christ, and our witness to the Good News.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What do Presbyterians Believe?

What do Presbyterians believe?  That is an interesting question to ask about a church as diverse as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  Most Presbyterians believe the sky is blue and when they view a magnificent sunset they think of God.  Many Presbyterians believe that Barak Obama is a great president, and many Presbyterians believe that George Bush was a great president.  Some Presbyterians believe that our country needs a strict immigration policy, while other Presbyterians believe that we should be a bit more liberal.  Most Presbyterians believe that many of the illegal aliens in our country are Christians.

I see our diversity as a strength and a weakness.  It is a strength for when we gather as a close knit covey of like-minded individuals we begin to stop thinking, for we stop challenging each other’s views.  It is a weakness, for diversity often causes controversy.  However, by God’s grace, He calls us together to be a church, and in the midst of our differences we worship and work together for the glory of God.

So, what does the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) officially believe?  Well you have to be careful here for often we allow others to tell us what we believe.  You can go to some websites that will tell you that Presbyterians see the divine in trees and we make trees the object of our worship.  Or, that we worship the goddess Sophia, what nonsense.

The official beliefs of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are contained in Part One of the Church’s Constitution which is our Book of Confessions.  Of course the 1.5 million Presbyterians in our denomination are going to have different beliefs, but one cannot say what Presbyterians believe without quoting the Book of Confessions, which are theological documents, written over the centuries which are grounded in what we believe Scripture teaches. 

The Book of Confessions contains eleven documents: The Nicene Creed, The Apostles’ Creed, The Scots Confession, The Heidelberg Catechism; The Second Helvetic Confession, The Westminster Confession of Faith, The Westminster Shorter Catechism, The Westminster Larger Catechism, The Theological Declaration of Barmen, The Confession of 1967, and A Brief Statement of Faith. 

Maybe the best summary statements that contain the basic tenets found in our Book of Confessions are given by Dr. Jack Rogers.  These statements are:

A.  What makes us Catholic:
            1.  We believe in the mystery of the Trinity
            2.  We believe in the incarnation of the Eternal Word of God in Jesus Christ

B.  What makes us Protestant
            3.  We believe that Justification is by faith alone through God’s grace alone.
            4.  We believe that Scripture is our authority.

C.  What makes us Reformed (Presbyterian)
            5.  We believe that God is sovereign.
            6.  We believe that God elects people for salvation and service.
            7.  We believe in the Covenant life of the Church ordering itself under the  Word  of God.
            8.  We believe we should be faithful stewards of God’s creation.
            9.  We believe the sin of idolatry is chief among sins.
            10.  We believe in response to God grace we are to seek justice and live in obedience to the Word of God. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

James 1:1-4

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."    James 1:1-4

From my vantage point, it seems that we, as a church,  have been going through a trial over the past six weeks.  It has saddened us all that because of the trial, caused by a change in ordination standards of the PCUSA, we have lost some of our cherished members.  On the other hand, these members, understanding the God alone is Lord of the conscience, they had to follow their conscience, and we cannot argue againat conscience.

My response to the passage of Amendment 10-A was contained in the sermon I preached on May 22, and I understand this is the first sermon to be posted on our church web-page.  I believe you can go to and click on the worship page, then on the sermon page, to find the text. 

As for the trial we have been though, I pray that it is now behind us and that we have grown in our faith.  Or as James reminds us, trials can be used by God to make us comlete in our maturity.  WOW, as we grow in our faith, and allow God to bring us into a higher level of Christian maturity, how exciting it is to sit at my deak and dream about the work we will continue to do for the glory of God.

To God alone be the glory,

Friday, April 15, 2011


The Service of Tenebrae has ancient origins, and as it is passed through the generations its form changes.  Tenebrae comes from the Latin for shadows or darkness, and the Tenebrae service, in a small way, hopes to recreate the emotions of those who followed Jesus to the cross.  Many find this service to be an import part of their spiritual pilgrimage, for one cannot fully experience the joy of Easter without first living, at least for a moment, at the foot of cross where Jesus suffered.

In some churches this service has a formal liturgy, and it can be offered on Wednesday of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday or Good Friday.   Different liturgies will focus on the various aspects of Jesus’ Passion.  For the past several years, here at Westminster, we remembered the seven last words of Christ.  But this year our Tenebrae Service will remind us of cross and the events that led to it.  We will be reading Scripture text that tells of the shadows of those final days in Jesus’ life that ends in total darkness.   Specifically we will be looking at texts that tell of the shadow of betrayal, the shadow of denial, the shadow of aloneness, the shadow of accusation, the shadow of suffering, the shadow of crucifixion and the shadow of death. 

On Thursday, April 21 we will celebrate our Maundy Thursday Communion service at 7:30 PM, and on Friday evening, April 22 we will approach the cross during the Service of Tenebrae.  The Tenebrae service will also be at 7:30 PM.

Over the past eight years attendance has grown at our Tenebrae service, but the sanctuary is still pretty sparse on Good Friday.   The testimony of many of those who attend tell us that attendance at the Tenebrae service heightens the experience of Easter and it is my hope, whether or not you attend the Tenebrae service that as Easter approaches we will all be struck with the horror of the cross, the glory of the resurrection and the wonder of God’s love.


Friday, April 8, 2011

The Twenty and the One

How about something light, and thank you to the person who sent me this story:
     A well-worn one-dollar bill and a similarly distressed twenty-dollar bill arrived at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired. As they moved along the conveyor belt to be burned, they struck up a conversation.  
     The twenty-dollar bill reminisced about its travels all over the country.. "I've had a pretty good life," the twenty proclaimed... "Why I've been to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the finest restaurants in New York, performances on Broadway, and even a cruise to the Caribbean  ..." 
     "Wow!" said the one-dollar bill. "You've really had an exciting life!" 
     "So, tell me," says the twenty, "where have you been throughout your lifetime?" 
     The one dollar bill replies, "Oh, I've been to the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, the Lutheran Church  ..." 
     The twenty-dollar bill interrupts, "What's a church?"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

You Got to See These Photos

I received an email from one of our members saying that she had posted some photos on the church's "shutterfly" page.  My first thought was, what is "shutterfly"?  And where on earth is the "shutterfly" page?  I looked in the library, then the offices.  I checked the bulletin boards, but could not find the "quacking insect."  I finally remembered being told something about how to post photos on the church webpage, so I checked there, and low and behold, I was in for a wonderful surprised.  There are hundreds of photos there and you need to take a look, for it will certainly lift your spirits.

To view the photos, you first must go to the church webpage --  "Click" on the tab that says "Church Life."  Then click on the Photo Gallary.  And finally on "" and start viewing.  However looking at what I just typed, maybe all you have to do is enter the "shutterfly" address which is in green in the above line.

In my last post, I wrote about an issue that is facing the Presbyterian Church USA.  And I know when the news breaks about the passing of General Assembly Amendment 10-A, there will be some who will think that the Presbyterian Church, as we know it, is in trouble.  Well, I think if you look at the photos on the "shaking  arthropod," (I mean "shutterfly"), you will know that all is well at Westminster as we work for, and worship Jesus Christ as a church family.


Friday, April 1, 2011

A Pastoral Letter Concerning Ordination Standares

Dear Church Family,

            Last summer, at the General Assembly meeting, the commissioners voted to make a change to paragraph G-6.0106b in the Book of Order:

            Currently, paragraph G-6.0106b reads, “Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.”

            Once a majority of Presbyteries vote to make a change, and at this point this will happen in mid to late April, the old language will be erased from the Book of Order and the new language will read, Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

            The first thing people notice is that the new paragraph does not contain the “fidelity and chastity” clause which was added to the Book of Order about fifteen years ago.  There are some in our denomination who are very concerned about this omission; however the Book of Order was never meant to be a book with specific rules, but a book of principles.  So rather than listing one particular sin among many, the new wording states, “Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.”  This one sentence expresses what a list can never do, for our faith is not a list of rules to keep but it is about a Lord whom we serve.

            With this said I must be up front and point out that the upcoming change to the Book of Order comes with a measure of controversy.  Though, the wording of the new paragraph is superior to the wording of the old paragraph, the intention behind this change is to open the way for the ordination of gay and lesbian persons, which is of course a hot issue that faces several other denominations. 

            I do not want to labor on this issue, but in short, it is the task of a Presbytery to examine, ordain and install ministers.  Please note, there are no mandates which would instruct a Presbytery to ordain gay and lesbian persons.  However, some Presbyteries may interpret that an actively gay person is called by Jesus Christ, and has the gifts for ministry, and ordain that person.  Mike Cole, our Presbytery Executive, told our Session that what the PCUSA is doing would best be described as “The Local Option.”  That is some Presbyteries may choose to ordain active gay and lesbian persons, and some will choose not to do this. 

            What does this mean for Westminster?  Well it depends on your perspective.  I like to think that there will be no change.  We will continue to be part of a Presbytery that I assume will not ordain gay and lesbian ministers.

            Now let me be frank (or Steve).  I know that this change in the Book of Order and its implications for the PCUSA will, and has caused a level of distress in our church.  And I will be open with you and say that accepting the Old and New Testament to be the unique and authoritative witness and God’s word to me, I am not convinced that the ordination of gay and lesbian persons is something that is appropriate for the church.  However, with that said, I must be willing to love and accept anyone who enters our church doors. 

            So, it is late-April and you pick up the Daily Sentential and the headline reads, “PRESBYTERIANS VOTE TO ORDAIN GAY AND LESBIAN PERSONS,” I hope you understand that what we are actually doing is allowing a local option for Presbyteries and Sessions, and  this means some gay and lesbian persons may be ordained in the PCUSA, but of course this is already the case.

            And when this happens what do I plan to do?  I plan to pick up my hammer and go to the Habitat work site on Tuesday and Saturday mornings and help build a house. I will continue to teach a Pastor’s Class, a Sunday School class when called upon, work in Vacation Bible School and teach Confirmation Class.   I will enjoy watching the members of this church lead this community in mission: as you mentor young children in the public schools, teach ESL classes, help evacuees during hurricane season,  serve on various charitable boards in our community, deliver furniture for Love in the Name of Christ, feed people through Project hope, teach Vacation Bible School both here and in Romania, make prayer shawls, meet for Bible Study and prayer in circles, and who knows what else we do, along with giving beyond the call of duty to support this church and our mission in the world.  What did Jesus say, “By their fruits you will know them.”  I also expect to see everyone on Sunday morning as we join our hearts and voices in the praise of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave his life that we may be free from the chains of all that would hold us back in sharing his love.

            Finally, since I know that many of our members will have questions, our Session has set aside Sunday evening, April 10 for anyone who wants to come and hear a little more about this issue, express your concerns, and asks questions.  This meeting will begin at 7:00 PM and we are planning to meet in the Sanctuary.  If only a few come we may move to a smaller room.

            Please keep the church and our mission in your prayers.


Friday, March 4, 2011


      The Pastor's Class will resume this coming Wednesday, March 9 at 6:15 PM.  For you that desire to sing in the Westminster Choir, we will be finished at 7:30. 
       We will be covering Parts II and III during the season of Lent.  As with Part I, I will be leading a discussion on the Biblical Text used in the Lebretto.  (That was a word I did not know before we started this class).  Dr. Ron Anderson, will tell us about Handel's musical presentation. 
       If you were not part of the first round and need a Participants Book, I still have three in my offce.  They cost $20.
       I hope we have a large turnout as we discuss such great text as:
       "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world."  (John 1:29)
       "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way and the Lord hath laid on him the inquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6)
       "But thou didst not leave his soul in hell, not didst thou suffer they holy one to see corruption." (Ps. 16:10)
        "Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth."  (Revelation 19:6)
See you in class,

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Dear Friends,

                For our guidance as a church, we have in our Book of Order the Six Great Ends of the Church.  The second on the list is, “The shelter, nurture and spiritual fellowship of the children of God.”  The third one is, “The maintenance of divine worship.”  Well here at Westminster we have had a collision of the two, now what to do?
                When it comes to the “maintenance of divine worship,” our traditional order is to offer our resources and our lives to God following the sermon.  Actually, the offering is to be thought of as part of the Communion Service, for it is at the Table we offer ourselves to God in response to the Word which has been proclaimed, and in the elements Jesus Christ offers Himself to us.  When we do not celebrate the Sacrament, we should understand that the offering is still, in a sense Communion though the regular elements are not present.
                Now for the clash; when I was a child my mother gave me one dollar a week for my allowance, actually she gave me ten dimes.  The purpose was to teach me to tithe, because I was not to spend this small fortune until I had placed one dime in the offering plate.   This brings me to the problem.  We are missing out on a great educational opportunity by sending our small children to the Shepherding Time before the offering.   
                So what do we do when “The shelter, nurture . . .,” clashes with the “maintenance of divine worship?”  That is a “no brainer.”  We change our order of worship so the children can participate in the offering.
                Now you adults need to remember a few things:
                     1.  The purpose of the offering is to respond to God’s word, even though we have now placed it in a less than traditional place.                  
                     2.  Of course the offering is an appropriate response to the fact that we are forgiven, and in our new order we will place the offering following the Assurance of Pardon.
                    3.  It is the responsibility for all of us to teach our children by our word and example, (hummmmm, does that say something about tithing).

Just a thought,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Dear Friends,

       After watching Julia and Julie, or was it Julie and Julia, I finally learned what a blog is, and now I have one.  I hope you will be patient as I learn how to use this "new fangled stuff."  My biggest fear is that I am used to writing for the ear, and if anyone is actually going to read what I write, I send it to my editor, who happens to be my best friend.  Sooooo, with the great fear of misspelled words and poor grammatical habits, I venture off into the "bloggisphere."
       My hope is to use this space for educational purposes, to remind folks what is coming up at the church, to brag about Westminter Presbyterian Church, to offer (for what it is worth) what is on my mind, and maybe an occasional joke.
       Anyway I hope you not only enjoy the new Westminster website, but that you will find this blog worth reading.

       May we all experience God's love today,