Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Peace, Unity and Purity

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

I am grieved by the number of churches that have left the PC (U.S.A.), and by the losses of members in the churches that remain within the denomination. 

I know there are those who, when it comes to the peace, unity and purity of the church, take their stand on the side of purity that is when they understand purity conflicts with peace and unity.  Of course the problem with standing on the side of purity is that it can lead to intolerance, and at its worst it becomes violent.  On the other hand taking a stand for peace and unity over purity can creep into the church and waters down our theology, and at its worst leads to heresy.    

I take issue with publications such as the Presbyterian Layman which seems to take the side of purity and in so doing publishes one negative article after another about the PC (U.S.A.).  Some of those who have left the denomination were led to do so by the Layman; but to look to the Layman to give a picture of the PC (U.S.A.) is akin to trusting the Huffington Post to give an honest assessment of the Republican Party, or allowing Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh to give us a picture of the Democratic Party.

If we err in our desire to be faithful to Jesus Christ, we should err on the side of peace and unity.  Granted this will lead to diversity, maybe even a diversity with which we are uneasy, but a diversity which will make us grow.

When in conflict, I come down on the side of peace and unity in diversity.  I say this because the only prayer Jesus prays for the modern church is that we be one. 

Remember Jesus’ prayer in John 17.  He prays, “I pray for those who will believe in me through their message.”  That is us, we believe because of the message of the apostles. “That they may all be one.”  Sounds like a prayer that we seek peace and unity over purity, though I don’t want to throw purity out.  “…That the world may believe that you have sent me.”  WOW, that is the crux.  We all think evangelism is important, but we will not be very effective unless we are one.  For goodness sakes, lets learn to live with diversity, learn to live with each other, seek the glory of Jesus Christ, and make his love and salvation known to the world!


Friday, January 16, 2015

Why I am a Presbyterian?

There are ways to answer the above question.  First of all, I was born into a Presbyterian family.  My parents reared me from the cradle in the church.  My earliest memories are being in church with my family. 
I remain a Presbyterian because of the faith and practice of the Presbyterian Church.  The milieu of the church is solely based upon the magnificence, holiness, awesomeness and holiness of Almighty God who we can know, if only in a finite way, in person of Jesus Christ.  This is not to say anything about the wonderful nature of Christ, but an admission that I am human and thus I am limited in my ability to know God.  Let's face it, God is eternal and we are only blimp on the screen.  Yet in God's grace we can know God, and through Christ be baptized into the eternal, though on this side of glory we will never come close to understanding.  Our faith is that of a child who places his or her complete trust in a loving parent.
I remain a Presbyterian because of the worship of the church that refuse to draw attention to anyone and gives all glory to God.  There is no standing in the front of the church with a group of folks who sing with their eyes lifted to heaven with their hands held high so others can see how wonderfully they worship.  I prefer the pew when I am not leading worship, and I have to stand in front of the church when I preach.
I remain a Presbyterian because of the polity of the church.  The elect elders to govern the church.  Thank goodness I am not making pronouncements, apart from decisions of the Session (the elected elders).    There are no reverends.  That's right I am not Reverend Newton, but simply Steve.  Or, if I am a reverend then everybody in the church is a reverend.  I think it is called the priesthood of all believers.
I remain Presbyterian because of the church's emphasis on Mission.  At Westminster our people volunteer their time to various organizations that are caring for people in need.  They go on mission trips, and share the love of God.  And of course they give generously.  How fun it was earlier this year to sit with our Mission Committee and decide how we were going to spend $15,191 out of 2014 operating funds to make sure we spend at least 20% of our operating income on mission.
And I remain Presbyterian because of the wonderful people who make up the church. You cannot (at least at Westminster) find a group that expressed their love for God and for each other than the members of the church I serve.
Providentially Yours,



Sunday, January 11, 2015

OK the Cowboys Lost; but There Is Still HOPE!


      I apologize for the title of this post, I could not help myself.  Actually there is no hope for the Cowboys, their season is over, it ended this past Sunday; however, on Sunday it was our joy to have Denise Lee visit Westminster to tell us about HOPE.
      Denise shared with us the sad statistic that 25% of the Nacogdoches population lives below the poverty level.  That is about 8,000 people, many we see every day.  Of these 8,000 some 1,500 are fed through the ministry of HOPE, that is Helping Other People Eat.
      HOPE is staffed by volunteers and is dependent upon the charitable contributions to do their work.  This past Sunday, our church made a $5,048 contribution to hope.  This was the money we collected on Christmas Eve.  We also plan to hold our annual HOPE food drive in February; where we hope our members will bring one ton of food during the Sunday School hour, then we will haul it over to HOPE.  I hope you will participate.

      The above photo found on the home page of Project HOPE's webpage depicts part of the crew that delivered last year's ton of food.

      I found the following information on their website, “HOPE provides supplemental food to Nacogdoches County residents and the residents may collect food only once per month. HOPE helps feed more than 1,500 people in Nacogdoches, TX and accepts any and all donations in order to do so. Although it is not required in order to receive food at HOPE, people are highly encouraged to have an identification card and food stamps. HOPE provides assistance to those who do not have an identification card and food stamps by helping them register.” 

       “Anyone who would like to donate time, money, or food during a time of need can inquire about HOPE on Facebook, Twitter or the HOPE website, which will be launched in the near future. Those interested in helping other people eat in Nacogdoches and anyone who would like to use HOPE’s services can contact HOPE directly at (936) 559 –1801. HOPE is located on 2100 E. Main St. and open every Mon. and Thurs. from 9-11 a.m.”

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

WPC 2014 Mission Giving

One of the highlights of the year comes early.  It is the first meeting of the Mission Committee.   This year we met on January 4 at 7 PM.  We met later in the evening so the carnal minded preacher could watch the Cowboy playoff game with the Lions.  Yeah, the Cowboys won.

OOPS! Off the subject, back to the Mission Committee:  The Westminster congregation demonstrating their generosity and their passion for mission achieved our goal of giving 20% of our operating income to mission.  This means that from our 2014 budget we gave $68,943.  However, when you include special offerings (One Great Hour of Sharing, Christmas Eve, and others) we gave $87,585 to the mission of our Lord through this church. 

The reason the January Mission Committee Meeting is a highlight is that we always have a balance in our mission budget item that needs to be spent from the previous year (2014 this year), to achieve or goal of spending 20% of our operating income on mission.  When we met on Jan. 4 we had to spend $15,919.  What a joy it was to set aside money to send to support:

                Love in the Name of Christ
                Christian Women’s Job Corp
                Health Horizons of East Texas
                Community Rx
                New Opportunities for Romanian Orphaned Children
                Our Samaritan Fund
                New Hope Uganda (we support the ministry of
                                                     Tal Anderson and his family)
                Cho-Yeh (Our Presbytery camp outside of  Livingston)
                Mo-Ranch (Our Synod's conference center in Hunt, Texas)
                Project Belize (to purchase medicine)
                Heartbeat Pregnancy Center (to purchase 30 car seats)
                Bethany International (to support the
                                                        the training of missionaries)
                New Covenant Presbytery

                I constantly give thanks to God for allowing me the cherished gift of serving such a wonderful and generous church as Westminster.

                                Humbly yours,


Monday, January 5, 2015


As we progress through 2015, I could offer 52 high energy, entertaining worship services and all you have to do is come and enjoy.
I could remind folks of Westminster’s incredible music program that promises to tingle your spine and raise the goose bumps on your arms.
There could be the promise of enlightenment and spiritual truths that will help you make it through the year.
            There are a lot of idol promises I could make, but actually there is only one I can make with any confidence, and that being, every Sunday when you come to worship Jesus will be there.  He will be expecting you.  He will be honored by your presence. 
So I pray that as we begin this New Year may we remember our Lord’s presence with his people and that God will empower us to worship in spirit and in truth. 
See you in church!!