Thursday, December 20, 2012

I will… smile

As I recently shared in reflection upon the smile of a dear saint's service of witness to the resurrection and the life, I was led to search for the word "smile" in various translations of the Holy Scriptures. One collection of three consecutive verses from the Bible caught my eye.


Job 9:25-27 (NIV1984)

25 "My days are swifter than a runner;

    they fly away without a glimpse of joy.

26 They skim past like boats of papyrus,

    like eagles swooping down on their prey.

27 If I say, 'I will forget my complaint,

    I will change my expression, and smile,'


Here, the Old Testament character of Job presents us with one whose relationship with God is replete with conversations which depict the height and depth of human suffering for one whose plight in life is faced with challenges that strain much of his dialogue with the very Lord of the universe.


As swiftly passing by the days of life may run their course, seemingly flying away without even as much as a glimpse of joy, skimming past like fleeting boats of papyrus as Scripture tells us, not unlike eagles swooping down upon their targeted prey below, we are presented with a choice in the wake of this Advent season of Thanksgiving and Christmas following into the New Year ahead. We are given occasion to choose what kind of attitude we may respond with whatever life may bring our way. Come what may, we can adapt in the midst of our situation(s) by deciding to adopt an attitude of gratitude, or give in to griping, begrudging and complaining.


Despite the potentially debilitating predicament of Job in the Bible by which he could have easily denounced with deep despair his sordid, sobering situation in utter despondency, he instead gives remarkable consideration to saying, "I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression, and smile"! :) While the rest of the passage provides greater context for this statement in which we find Job in further ruminations, lamenting his sorry state of late, the chapter ends with a telling turn of phrase from another translation.


Job 9:33, 35

33 If only there were a mediator between us,

    someone who could bring us together.

35 Then I could speak to him without fear,

    but I cannot do that in my own strength.


The Scriptures of the New Testament tell us that we have indeed been given a mediator in Jesus Christ. In the apostle Paul's first letter to Timothy (2:5) we read, "there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus" whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. The book of Hebrews (9:15; 12:24) refers to Christ as "the mediator of a new covenant". Jesus himself embodies the love of God that drives out all fear as expressed so affectionately in the Johannine accounts (John 3:16) and letters (1 John 4:8,18). Because of Jesus the Christ, we can have close conversation with God in prayer without being afraid as we approach the throne of grace. But, as Job points out, we cannot do this in our own strength. Only by grace can we do so. As Paul wrote to the Philippians (4:13 CEV), "Christ gives [us] the strength to face anything."


My hope and prayer for you and yours, and for all of us in this New Year in the Lord, is that God would gift us with renewed capacity of strength imbued upon us in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Blessed with certain temerity of resolve and determination toward the better future God has in mind for us, may we forge ahead into the New Year knowing that God is smiling on us with wisdom and favor from on high.


Numbers 6:24-26

The Message (MSG)

24 God bless you and keep you,

25 God smile on you and gift you,

26 God look you full in the face

    and make you prosper.


Pastor Rex

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Of Christ in Christmas: In the Garden of Eden, God Planted the Seed

'Twas the week before Christmas but nobody knew,

No stockings, no ornaments, no gifts or good news.

All the world had lost hope; all the people felt fear.

Now listen; I'll tell you why Christmas came here.

Has your heart ever had a big secret to share?

A surprise no one knew that you planned with much care?

Did it tickle your tummy? Were you so excited?

God, too, has a mystery; and we're each invited.

From long, long ago our God knew what we'd need;

In the Garden of Eden, He planted the seed.

Like a scavenger hunt, He left hints through the years

How to find His great gift, Who was soon to be here.

(the Narrator in What God Wants For Christmas excerpted from FamilyLife)


Around Christmastime, one of the rituals in which our family has participated in years past was that of opening up our storage boxes containing Christmas tree ornaments. We would take things out of their containers and then consider out loud together how we might specifically trim the tree for the occasion at hand. We would at times set the scene beforehand and build the experience up as a great and wonderful adventure to unearth things from the past. What wonders we might find in the vast numbers of various possibilities of trimmings awaiting for us to rediscover amidst the sea of boxes large and small all spread out across the living room floor!


While our practice of this yuletide rite may seem simple and ordinary enough to reenact, there was for us in this blessed event a special aspect that served as an opportunity for us to be drawn closer to one another in Christ at Christmas. In this case, it involved not only the physical task of finding and putting the various ornaments in place upon the tree, but the mental, spiritual and emotional exercise of remembering the significance of each piece and its association with a particular treasured memory in our common journey(s) of faith together.


One remembrance comes to mind of a Christmas prior to our having children when we as a couple had but only a few ornaments to choose from. Among the precious items laid out on our apartment's beautiful hardwood floor was a Christmas tree ornament from a previous trip to a place out west where we had spent some time by the ocean. Melissa and I loved to walk along various coastlines and visit lighthouses by the sea. It was on one of these our earlier travels when we discovered she was bearing the first seed of our blessed union. Little did we know, that seed would be the first of six blessings for us to bless others with from above.


I was recently asked why it is that in our annual Christmas Eve Service of Lessons & Carols we first include narrative readings from near the beginning of the Old Testament book of Genesis—the account of Adam and Eve. My initial response was that according to the Holy Scriptures, Jesus Christ is referred to in the New Testament as the second Adam. That is, "Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come," (Romans 5:14) however sinned; whereas Christ, who was, and is, and is yet to come again, instead obeyed. As we may read further in Paul's letter to the saints in Rome:


"Yes, Adam's one sin brought condemnation upon everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness makes all people right in God's sight and gives them life.

Because one person disobeyed God, many people became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many people will be made right in God's sight."

Romans 5:18-19 (NLT)


Along with my first responsive inclination, Jesus is also referred to at the beginning of the Bible as the seed of the woman, Eve when God addresses the serpent:


"And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed ; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel." Genesis 3:15 (NAS)


Because of both the first and second Adam, and especially God's seed of the woman, Eve in Christ who sets us free from sin and the enemy of our souls, we beloved are delivered to be "children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God" from above (John 1:13). Jesus, God's Seed of Christ in Christmas celebrates us as God's own dearly loved ones, even as we celebrate the Christ child at Christmas. May the truth and reality of our spiritual identity be made more so evident for you and yours this Christmas.


In Christ Jesus,

Pastor Rex

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Caleb's Heart: Has it really only been a week?

Caleb's Heart: Has it really only been a week?: It blows my mind that it was a week ago right now that I was filling out paperwork to admit Caleb to the hospital for a heart cath... it fee...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fall Into Love With Jesus

Fall Into Love With Jesus

Thursday, October 18, 2012


One of the prevailing habits characteristic of my prayer life is what I sometimes refer to as "drive-by prayers". Having lived in semi-suburban neighborhoods not too far from inner-city urban U.S. metropolitan areas during my childhood, I grew up hearing reports of "drive-by shootings" in places such as greater L.A. and other densely populated sections of our nation. Rather than dwelling on the negative images associated with those incidents of violence, promoting a positive [re]appropriation of the term(s) became for me a way of participating in the spiritual transformation and ministry of reconciliation that I am called to as a follower of Jesus Christ.


Just recently, I again found myself praying (with my eyes wide open, of course) while driving on the highway as I passed by a number of different residences, businesses and churches along the way into town. As I lifted them up to the Lord, asking for God's blessings upon one place of work, home and/or congregation after another, I came across a sign that caught my eye as the Spirit stirred my heart and soul. It read, "Fall into Love with Jesus".


With the leaves on the trees turning in this season of transition toward winter, the lush foliage of autumn colors spreading across the luscious landscape of the midwest is filled with opportunity for experiencing the wonder and awe of God's creation. It is a time in which we can indeed once more for the first time fall into love with Jesus all over and over again and again. Visions of children brushing upon mounds of fallen frond-like laden unfallowed ground come to mind, covering the once greener grass of the past spring into summer last.


We are blessed beloved to be able to behold and appreciate the grandeur of our Lord in the splendor of God's majesty attested to by the entire universe and in nature all around us. The very heavens and earth surrounding us elicit a response of gratitude and praise to Almighty God Who is worthy above all to receive blessing, glory, honor and power. As David proclaimed in the Psalms (19:1a), "The heavens declare the glory of God!"


As we approach the celebration of Thanksgiving dinners and other holiday festivities in this season of harvest time, we remember the blessed inheritance bestowed upon us in Christ through generations of saints before us. Members of the body of believers throughout all time and space remain in our collective memories as we may observe All Hallows' Evening on the eve of All Saints' Day. And we commemorate our continued traditions by re-appropriating them in service and sharing the blessings of our communal bounty in the spirit of God's love for others among us in time of need.


In this regard, we give thanks and praise to God once again for the mission and ministry of members effected through the efforts expended in holding our recent semiannual community rummage sale. Would you join me along with others also called by grace through faith in "shouting out" "drive-by prayers" of blessings of God's love showered upon nearby neighbors for the common good of all in our community? Will you prayerfully consider serving in a soup kitchen or helping stock up a food pantry in the coming weeks? Might each of us greet and pay a friendly visit with our neighbor's household or invite another family into our home for some refreshment and conversation? Could we in the process discover ourselves falling into love with Jesus in one another's lives all over again?


May it be so in this season of faith in Christ's love for the world, without end, Amen.


Pastor Rex

Saturday, September 15, 2012

the called, solitary flight... of the way, the truth, the life

...can perhaps be caught and held in a picture....

like a photograph of a bird in flight... Such is the solitary vocation. For, of all.... the solitary knows least where they are going, and yet more sure, for there is one thing they cannot doubt: they travel where God is leading them. That is precisely why the solitary doesn't know the way. And that too is why, to most others, the way is something of a scandal. (Thomas Merton)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Up in the Air — A Personal Perspective in Mid-Flight Over and Above the 220th General Assembly

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

What a blessing to stand with fellow delegates and colleagues at this year's General Assembly! Like a jumbo jet revving up its engines in preparation for takeoff, gaining momentum upon acceleration down the runway and setting its trajectory upward at the sky, the commissioners who gathered with others on the renewal partners' team this month flew and drove into southwestern Pennsylvania, standing firm together in faithful witness to the Word. With the Spirit's empowerment, we witnessed God's faithfulness prevail amidst the assembly's deliberations through committees and in plenary session.

While I continue in recovery upon reentry from the aftermath of serving as commissioner to GA220, I am at the same time feeling somewhat "up in the air" about all that transpired and am in the process of discerning even more intensively, it seems, following such an exhaustively productive, if enervating experience.

As the pastoral letter from Presbyterians For Renewal (PFR) following the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Pittsburgh, PA states:

The PC(USA) "train" has left the "station" of orthodoxy and is headed into an undefined future where, seemingly, anything is possible. Individuals and congregations who are skittish about the risks and challenges of transferring their affiliation to a different denomination must understand that continuing on with the PC(USA) is not for the faint of heart
either. In the decision of affiliation there is no status quothere is no easy path. The only question is where is God calling you to engage in ministry? [Emphases added.]


This is not at all what many of us expected where we would be at this point as a denomination. Those among us commissioners who were of a more conservative, evangelical bent were initially anticipating that Christian marriage would be redefined and that divestment from companies engaged in business involving non-peaceful pursuits affecting the Israel/Palestinian conflict in the Middle East would be approved. Instead, these initiatives among others were held at bay.

"If nothing else, [I believe] this Assembly confirmed the [critical] role of The Fellowship of Presbyterians in maintaining the unity and integrity of an evangelical and Reformed witness across denominational lines."

As such, I urge us all to strengthen our resolve in prayer for God's wisdom to preside upon our leadership's deliberations in the process of discerning the Lord's will concerning His church.

May the Lord meet us "up in the air" as we pray for safe landing under God's sovereign grace.

Together in Christ's Service,

Pastor Rex

Thursday, June 21, 2012

On "Christian Marriage" at this year's General Assembly

In the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s Book of Confessions, the Westminster Confession of Faith (6.131) states:


"Christian marriage is an institution ordained of God, blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ, established and sanctified for the happiness and welfare of mankind, into which spiritual and physical union one man and one woman enter, cherishing a mutual esteem and love, bearing with each other's infirmities and weaknesses, comforting each other in trouble, providing in honesty and industry for each other and for their household, praying for each other, and living together the length of their days as heirs of the grace of life."


Next week, into the month of July, the 220th General Assembly will consider if the definition of marriage defended by Jesus in Matthew 19 and Mark 10, expressed in our Confessions, and stated in the Directory for Worship in the Book of Order, stands in the PC(USA). Four overtures are seeking to change the wording in the Directory for Worship from "man and woman" to "two people." Six overtures are calling for authoritative interpretations that would allow for "same-sex marriages". (An authoritative interpretation can be adopted by a simple majority of one assembly and would not require ratification from/by the presbyteries.) Three overtures have been submitted toward affirming and strengthening the current definition of marriage. (1)

For those among us who may currently express more conservative, evangelical convictions of faith, these are challenging times. In the so-called mainline denominations within the tradition(s) of western Christianity, we are being affected by an increasingly progressive postmodern cultural context that, in our continually unfolding experience, threatens the undoing of the established institutions we have grown up with and have come to appreciatively esteem through generations past. While we continue to espouse the reformation's cry of reformata et semper reformanda—reformed and always reforming—we wonder and ask if the following qualifier "according to the Word of God" continues to be applicable as we are encouraged in our commitment to submit ourselves to always "being reformed".

As you might imagine, in the aftermath of losing my spouse to cancer and now being a single parent of six, the issues concerning the subject of this article bear profound significance for me personally in my family's and my own journey of faith. And as a pastor called to help empower and equip leadership in the church for the shelter, nurture and spiritual fellowship of the children of God, I believe the Holy Spirit is calling us to pray with even greater zeal and fervor in the Lord for the welfare of our community.

In a recent committee meeting of your leaders, we discerned the Lord calling us to gather at the service this Sunday morning together as a congregation for a conversation regarding the current state of our denomination, sharing with one another questions and sentiments surrounding the issues before this year's General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). May the Lord lead us in our continuing conversations and deliberations, for the glory of God in Christ,

Pastor Rex


Outlook Forum: Marriage: A covenant among God, a man, and a woman


TRACIE MAYES STEWART is associate pastor of Lake Murray Presbyterian Church in Chapin, S.C. BILL TENG is pastor of Heritage Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Va. LISA COOPER VAN RIPER is an elder at First Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Is the Word of God to be read by all?

Q. 156.  Is the Word of God to be read by all?

A.  Although all are not permitted to read the Word publicly to the congregation, yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves, and with their families; to which end the Holy Scriptures are to be translated out of the original into the language of every people unto whom they come.  (from the Larger Catechism)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pray Without Ceasing . . . Leading Up to and for the upcoming 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

At a recent gathering of evangelical leaders hosted by the Presbyterian Coalition with the support of other Presbyterian Renewal Network partners, the presenter(s) encouraged and exhorted those in attendance. If we did not yet have a group of intercessors praying for us, especially over the next few months, we had better ask some prayerful people to intercede before the throne of grace on our behalf.


The meeting for the orientation and equipping of like-minded commissioners and overture advocates repeatedly emphasized for me the importance and urgency of the task(s) at hand. In obedience to the Lord, we are to be continually trained as a team to remain in Take Effective Action Mode (T.E.A.M.) in a concerted effort to purposefully and prayerfully participate in cooperation with one another and the Holy Spirit to effect God's will through due diligence in our deliberations concerning our common life together in faith. This requires much prayer in the Lord, shaping the better future God has in mind for God's people at this time and place.


At this month's presbytery meeting in Camp Pyoca, several presbyters were prayed for and commissioned as representatives to the national gathering of the PC(USA)'s General Assembly. Our Presbytery of Whitewater Valley has affirmed nominating and electing me as one among other teaching and ruling elder commissioners and advisory delegates from our presbytery among others from the presbyteries in the Synod of Lincoln Trails (comprising Indiana and Illinois) to represent us at the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), June 29 - July 7, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Many overtures have been submitted from several presbyteries nationwide concerning a myriad of topics and issues coming before the GA. In a random selection process, (after having been blessed to go on pilgrimage last November in a tour of the Holy Land,) I have now only recently this month been assigned to serve on the committee on Middle East Peacemaking issues. We will also be electing a moderator and vice-moderator of the PCUSA's General Assembly to represent and promote the GA's deliberations for the next two years.


In view of these and recent events in the life of our denomination, for the proclamation of the gospel in the context of issues concerning our society and culture, I strongly urge our participation in raising intercessions before the Lord our God for a fountain of prayers to be lifted up, pleading for God's mercy and grace to preside over our deliberations at this year's assembly.


Please join with us and others in praying for the 2012 General Assembly.  One helpful tool for this important work is a 40-day guide of prayers and quotations from the Book of Confessions, prepared by Presbyterian Elders in Prayer.  The guide begins on May 20, 2012 and can be found elsewhere in the First Presbyterian church newsletter for May into June.


This 2012 Prayer Guide is a resource to help us together take effective action mode through the 40 days of prayer leading up to the 220th General Assembly (2012) in Pittsburgh, PA.

"This is my prayer:  that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ."   (Philippians 1:9-10)


Prayerfully yours, and His,

Pastor Rex

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pray Without Ceasing . . . for the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Pray Without Ceasing . . .

Please join us in praying for the 2012 General Assembly.  One helpful tool for this important work is a 40-day guide of prayers and quotations from the Book of Confessions, prepared by Presbyterian Elders in Prayer.  The guide begins on May 20, 2012.  Click on the link to download a pdf of the full guide, or use the version printed below.


2012 Prayer Guide

40 days of prayer leading up to the 220th General Assembly (2012) in Pittsburgh, PA.


"This is my prayer:  that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ."   (Philippians 1:9-10)


Day 1  May 20   Read Psalm 1

O Lord, our God, we lift up our prayers on behalf of the commissioners and advisory delegates who are preparing to serve in the upcoming GA.  Provide them with the time, focus, and heart to meditate on your law and delight in it.  They will read so many reports in the next 40 days…but may nothing take precedence over the reading of your Word….


Q. 156.  Is the Word of God to be read by all?

A.  Although all are not permitted to read the Word publicly to the congregation, yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves, and with their families; to which end the Holy Scriptures are to be translated out of the original into the language of every people unto whom they come.  (from the Larger Catechism)


Day 2   May 21  Read Psalm 1 and James 1:5

We confess, Lord God, that we have often chosen to follow the wrong advice, and take paths that have led us away from your calling on our lives.  We ask your forgiveness for ourselves and for that part of your church called the PCUSA.  For this day and all the days ahead, we pray for a generous outpouring of your wisdom….


Q. 157.  How is the Word of God to be read?

A.  The Holy Scriptures are to be read with an high and reverent esteem of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very Word of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them; with desire to know, believe, and obey, the will of God revealed in them; with diligence, and attention to the matter and scope of them; with meditation, application, self-denial, and prayer.  (from the Larger Catechism)


Day 3   May 22   Read Psalm 1 and John 15:5

Gracious God, we pray that each commissioner and advisory delegate will remain close to Christ in the days leading up to the GA, the days of the GA, and the days following the GA.  We pray for a season of unprecedented fruitfulness for each one, and for your Church as a whole.  And remind us each day that apart from Jesus we can do nothing….


Q. 1.  What is your only comfort, in life and in death?

A. That I belong—body and soul, in life and in death—not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation.  Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.  (from The Heidelberg Catechism)


Day 4   May 23   Read Acts 1:21-26

Faithful God, in every season you provided leaders for your Church…even our small part of it.  We believe your Holy Spirit gives us the gift of discernment to help us choose not only good leaders, but the best leaders for this time in our denominational life.  Help us to treat all who feel called to leadership with kindness and respect…and reveal to us the best leaders for the PCUSA at this time.  We pray specifically for the candidates for Moderator, Vice Moderator, and Stated Clerk….


The church thus orders its life as an institution with a constitution, government, officers, finances, and administrative rules.  These are instruments of mission, not ends of themselves….(from the Confession of 1967)


Day 5   May 24   Read I John 5:9-13

Jesus, our one and only Savior, give us a greater hunger for you, for your presence, your power at work in our lives now and forever.  We pray for that greater hunger for you to be growing in everyone who will be a part of the General Assembly in Pittsburgh….


Q. 31.  What is effectual calling?

A.  Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.  (from the Shorter Catechism)


Day 6   May 25   Read John 17:6-19

How blessed we are, Lord God, to know your Name.  We receive this and every word from Jesus as a gift from you to each one of us.  We pray that your Name will be remembered, lifted high and exalted, as our part of your Church prepares for and gathers in Pittsburgh.  And at the name of Jesus may our knees bow and our tongues confess his Lordship….


Q. 32.  But why are you called a Christian?

A.  Because through faith I share in Christ and thus in his anointing, so that I may confess his name, offer myself a living sacrifice of gratitude to him, and fight against sin and the devil with a free and good conscience throughout this life and hereafter rule with him in eternity over all creatures. (from Heidelberg Catechism)



Day 7  May 26   Read John 17:6-19

Jesus, our Lord and Savior, how humbled we are to remember how you prayed for us before you were crucified…and you continue to intercede in prayer for us today.  You know how hard it is for us to be "in the world but not of the world."  You know how much we need protection from evil.  May our prayers join your prayers, especially for all those who will be preparing for, attending, participating in, and reporting on the GA….


Q. 44.  How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?

A.  Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering himself a sacrifice without spot to God, to be a reconciliation for the sins of his people; and in making continual intercession for them.  (from the Larger Catechism)


Day 8  May 27  (Pentecost Sunday)  Read Acts 2:1-21

We praise you, O God, for the outpouring of your power, love, and mercy through the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  We praise you for the birth of the Church of Jesus Christ.  We pray for a mighty outpouring of your Holy Spirit on our small part of the Church…before, during, and after the General Assembly gathering.  We pray for a mighty outpouring of your Holy Spirit on your Church throughout the world—we all need a new Pentecost!


Q. 53.  What do you believe concerning "the Holy Spirit"?

A.  First, that, with the Father and the Son, he is equally eternal God; second, that God's Spirit is also given to me, preparing me through a true faith to share in Christ and all his benefits, that he comforts me and will abide with me forever.  (from the Heidelberg Catechism)


Day 9   May 28   Read Acts 2:14-36

We pray for a very strong and personal outpouring of your Holy Spirit on all those who will be participating in the GA…those sons and daughters, old men and young men, men and women, and any who are enslaved by sin.  Reveal yourself to them, Jesus.  Speak to them and through them.  And may those you call to speak in committees and in plenary sessions be empowered by your Spirit to speak with the faith, clarity, and brevity of Peter….


In a broken and fearful world the Spirit gives us courage

  to pray without ceasing,

  to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,

  to unmask idolatries in church and culture,

  to hear the voices of people long silenced,

  and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.

In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit,

  we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks

  and to live holy and joyful lives,

even as we watch for God's new heaven and new earth,

  praying, "Come, Lord Jesus!"

(from A Brief Statement of Faith)


Day 10   May 29   Read Ezekiel 37:1-10

Come, Holy Spirit, breathe life into your people.  So many of your churches, presbyteries, and denominations look and feel lifeless.  We pray for our own…and for others'.  We pray that your Spirit will breathe life into us, and restore strength and vitality…not for the sake of institutions but for the good and the glory of your kingdom….


We trust in God the Holy Spirit,

  Everywhere the giver and renewer of life;

The Spirit justifies us by grace through faith,

  Sets us free to accept ourselves and to love God and neighbor,

  And binds us together with all believers

  In the one body of Christ, the Church.

(from A Brief Statement of Faith)


Day 11   May 30   Read Psalm 104:24-34In just a few weeks, Lord, a great number of your Presbyterian children will gather in a busy city.  We trust you to provide all that is needed:  food, shelter, safety, and a very holy space to meet and worship.  We pray that you will find joy in our songs and words of praise, and that all our meditations and deliberations will be pleasing in your sight.  May your glory endure forever…

Q. 1.  What is the chief and highest end of man?

A. Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and to fully enjoy him forever.(from the Larger Catechism)


Day 12   May 31   Read John 15:26-27

O Lord our God, already we are swamped by overtures and reports…and rumors of reports.  We need the Counselor, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from you and testifies to Jesus.  So many words will be written, read, and spoken.  We open our minds and hearts to the Spirit of truth.  We long to hear YOUR Word….

"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body is joined and knit together." [Ephesians 4:15-16]. 

The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and Sacrament through the Holy Spirit.  As the church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and wants to live solely  from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance.

We reject the false doctrine, as though the church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions. (from the Theological Declaration of Barmen, 3


Day 13   June 1   Read John 16:4b-15

Jesus, as we prepare for our GA in Pittsburgh, we pray that each person involved will come with a spirit willing to be convicted of sin.  May each one walk in humility and repentance.  And may each one listen so closely to the guidance of the Counselor that fruits of righteousness will be abundant.  We pray this not  only for the sake of our part of your church, but for the sake of all those who will be watching and listening as well….

Q. 2.  How many things must you know that you may live and die in the blessedness of this comfort?

A. Three.  First, the greatness of my sin and wretchedness.  Second, how I am freed from all my sins and their wretched consequences.  Third, the gratitude I owe to God for such redemption.  (from The Heidelberg Catechism)


Day 14   June 2   Read John 16:4b-15

Lord we pray for an anointing on our hearing.  We have been so fearful of hearing truth…but the hearing of truth is exactly what we need most.  Please send your Spirit of truth…speaking words of truth directly from your heart.  Help us to hear and receive your truth, even as you declare to us what is to come.  May we hear your glory, even in Pittsburgh….

Q. 160.  What is required of those that hear the Word preached?

A.  It is required of those that hear the Word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.     (from the Larger Catechism)


Day 15   June 3   Read Isaiah 6:1-8

Powerful Savior, your Presbyterian children have not been well-known  for seeing visions.  We are much more comfortable reading about visions your prophets saw many centuries ago.  But, Lord…we dare to pray for visions now…visions of your glory, your power, your call upon our lives and our churches.  And most of all, we are desperate for a vision of our Lord seated on a high and lofty throne over our General Assembly meeting….

By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit all believers being vitally united to Christ, who is the Head, are thus united one to another in the Church, which is his body.  He calls and anoints ministers for their holy office, qualifies all other officers in the Church for their special work, and imparts various gifts and graces to its members.  He gives efficacy to the Word and to the ordinances of the gospel.  By him the Church will be preserved, increased, purified, and at last made perfectly holy in the presence of God.   (from the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter IX, 4)


Day 16   June 4   Read Isaiah 6:1-8

Lord God, we are people of unclean lips.  We are surrounded by people of unclean lips.  When we think of all the things we have said to and about each other—even within our churches—we bow our heads in shame.  Forgive us, Jesus. Anoint our lips for speaking your words, in your tone of voice, with YOUR truth and grace….

Q. 112  What is required in the 9th commandment?

A.  That I do not bear false witness against  anyone, twist anyone's words, be a gossip or a slanderer, or condemn anyone lightly without a hearing.  Rather I am required to avoid, under penalty of God's wrath, all lying and deceit as the works of the devil himself.  In judicial and all other matters I am to love the truth, and to speak and confess it honestly.  Indeed, insofar as I am able, I am to defend and promote my neighbor's good name.   (from the Heidelberg Catechism)


Day 17   June 5   Read Psalm 29

Our God, we love to pray for your peace within the church.  We crave calm, we want all things to be done "decently and in order"…and to go according to our plans, of course.  You are the God of peace…but you also shake.  The power of your Word shakes people, nations, opinions, and the church at all levels.  We dare to pray that YOU will shake us where and when and how we need to be shaken at this time.  Help us to discern your shaking from other forces—especially sinful forces—that would shake the church.  We trust that your shaking will lead to true peace and strength….


The most wise, righteous, and gracious God, doth often-times leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, until they be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.   (from the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter V, 5).


Day 18    June 6    Romans 8:12-17

Because you know us inside and out, you know just how often and how easily we live by the flesh.  We prefer to take the "easy" way…we would rather "win" in challenging situations…we avoid suffering whenever possible…even if these patterns lead to sin.  Help us to be faithful and obedient to the leading of your Spirit.  We do not want to live as slaves to sin, and to the spirit of fear that comes with that.  Both inside and outside the church, help us to live as your children, led by your Spirit….

Q. 36.  What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?

A.  The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification are:  assurance of God's love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.  (from the Shorter Catechism)


Day 19   June 7   Read  John 3:1-17

O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, help us to seek Jesus.  Help us to come to this day (and to the General Assembly in Pittsburgh) seeking a deeper understanding of Jesus' wonders and his teaching.  Even as well-educated Presbyterians, there is so much we do not know.  We pray for hungry, humble, and teachable hearts.  We also pray for repentant hearts….

The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts; and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word:  by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and  prayer, it is increased and strengthened.     (from the Westminster Confession of Faith, 1)


Day 20   June 8   Read  John 3:1-17

Come, Holy Spirit.  Come into our homes, our local congregations, our workplace, our denomination, our committee plans, our GA.  We know that like the wind, you blow where you will…we cannot "see" you, but we can often feel your presence and we can see the effects of your power.  Blow through us, Holy Spirit, as we prepare for and meet as the General Assembly.  Blow through us with gentleness when we need a cool breeze of encouragement.  Blow through us with great force when we battle with sin and rebellion.  Blow where and when and how you will…for we would be born of your Spirit….

Our faith and its assurance do not proceed from flesh and blood, that is to say, from natural powers within us, but are the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; whom we confess to be God, equal with the Father and with his Son, who sanctifies us, and brings us into all truth by his own working, without whom we should remain forever enemies to God and ignorant of his Son, Christ Jesus.  For by nature we are so dead, blind, and perverse, that neither can we feel when we are pricked, see the light when it shines, nor assent to the will of God when it is revealed, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus quicken that which is dead, remove the darkness from our minds, and bow our stubborn hearts to the obedience of his blessed will.        (from the Scots Confession, Chapter XII)


Day 21    June 9    Read John 3:1-17

Oh Jesus, how simple, how beautiful, is the core of your gospel.  You came to us out of love…you were sent not to condemn, but to save.  Us.  The world.  Your Church…and our small part of it.  We long for abundant life and eternal life for ourselves, our churches,  and the world.  Give us a spirit of gratitude for who you are and what you have done (and are always doing!) for us.  Give us a passion to share the simple, beautiful, and powerful message of your gospel…

Q. 33.  Why is he called GOD'S ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON, since we also are God's children?

A. Because Christ alone is God's own eternal Son, whereas we are accepted for his sake as children of God by grace.  (from the Heidelberg Catechism)


Day 22   June 10   Read Psalm 138

Lord Jesus, we pray for the spiritual fruit of humility to grow throughout your Church, and especially in our small part of it.  We pray for humility to grow in those who are making preparations for the GA, those who will serve on-site, those who will be reporting on the activities and decisions made, and those who will be in the Exhibit Hall.  And as you help us to remember that we are not the center of the universe—or even the church—help us to prayerfully remember our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who are living under intense persecution for their faith.  For them and for us, Lord, please do not abandon the works of your hands….

Q.116.  Why is prayer necessary for Christians?

A.  Because it is the chief part of the gratitude which God requires of us, and because God will give his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who sincerely beseech him in prayer without ceasing, and who thank him for these gifts.  (from the Heidelberg Catechism)


Day 23   June 11   Read 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

May we believe, speak, and pray out of deep, authentic faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior.  May the power that raised Jesus from the dead be at work within us…not for our glory, but for his.  May our words, actions, and prayers become a Spirit-led means for the grace of Christ to spread far and wide.  May our prayers of thanksgiving overflow to the glory of God….

Since there is no other way of salvation than that revealed in the gospel, and since in the divinely established and ordinary method of grace  faith cometh by hearing the Word of God, Christ hath commissioned his Church to go into the world and to make disciples of all nations.  All believers are, therefore, under obligation to sustain the ordinances of the Christian religion where they are already established, and to contribute by their prayers, gifts, and personal efforts to the extension of the Kingdom of Christ throughout the whole earth.  (from the Westminster Confession of Faith, 4)


Day 24   June 12   Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Merciful God, so many of your children struggle with afflictions and discouragement.   For those who will be a part of the GA, afflictions and discouragement are intensifying.  We pray for your strength and protection over their health and well-being, and for the health and well-being of their families and local congregations.  Through your Word and your Spirit, speak clear words of  encouragement to them today….

Q. 100.  What doth the preface of the Lord's Prayer teach us?

A.  The preface of the Lord's Prayer, which is, "Our Father which art in heaven," teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others.   (from the Shorter Catechism)


Day 25   June 13   Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1

Wise Lord, teach us to focus on what is unseen.  We are grateful for the assurance that you see what we see in the here and now…we are even more grateful for your eternal perspective.  Christ is Lord over what we see and what we cannot yet see.  As our General Assembly meets this summer, help us to see with your eyes.  How will our deliberations and decisions look from an eternal perspective?  Knowing our time on this earth is limited, help us all to use that time faithfully….

We confess and acknowledge one God alone, to whom alone we must cleave, whom alone we must serve, whom only we must worship, and in whom alone we put our trust.  Who is eternal, infinite, immeasurable, incomprehensible, omnipotent, invisible; one in substance and yet distinct in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  By whom we confess and believe all things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, to have been created, to be retained in their being, and to be ruled and guided by his inscrutable providence for such end as his eternal wisdom, goodness, and justice have appointed, and to the manifestation of his own glory.   (from the Scots Confession, Chapter 1)


Day 26   June 14   Read Mark 3:20-35

O Lord our God, you know us so well.  You know that when we find ourselves in crowded, confusing situations we are unlikely to be at our best.  We can become so irritable, so full of misunderstanding, blurting out words that are foolish and hurtful.  The gatherings of our General Assembly are no exception.  We are part of your family.  Help us to act like a family at its best…doing God's will with Jesus' clarity and his love….

What is the Church?  The Church is an assembly of the faithful called or gathered out of the world; a communion, I say, of all saints, namely, of those who truly know and rightly worship and serve the true God in Christ the Savior, by the Word and Holy Spirit, and who by faith are partakers of all benefits which are freely offered through Christ.  CITIZENS OF ONE  COMMONWEALTH.  They are all citizens of the one city, living under the same Lord, under the same laws, and in the same fellowship of all good things.  For the apostle calls them "fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Eph.2:19), calling the faithful on earth saints (I Cor. 4:1) who are sanctified by the blood of the Son of God…  (from the Second Helvetic Confession)


Day 27   June 15   Read Mark 3:20-35

O Lord, sometimes we are stunned by the way people reacted—and still react—to the person and teachings of Jesus.  Sometimes we are stunned by our own reactions, and the reactions of others within our church family.  We all want Jesus to say and do as we would say and do…but, praise God, he does not.  Forgive us for resisting Jesus and his authority in our daily life and in the life of the church.  In Christ alone is our unity….

CHRIST THE SOLE HEAD OF THE CHURCH.  It is the head which has the preeminence in the body, and from it the whole body receives life; by its spirit the body is governed in all things  from it, also, the body receives increase, that it may grow up.  Also, there is one head of the body, and it is suited to the body.  Therefore the Church cannot have any other head besides Christ.  For as the Church is a spiritual body, so it must also have a spiritual head in harmony with itself.  Neither can it be governed by any other spirit than by the Spirit of Christ.  (from the Second Helvetic Confession)


Day 28   June 16   Read  Mark 3:31

O Lord our God, in so many of our gatherings—including past General Assemblies—we have demanded that you come to us…to our opinions, agendas, demands.  We pray for a different spirit this year.  Show us how to come to you, to meet with you in a circle of humility, listening to your Word, seeking to obey your will….

And those who are such in the Church have one faith and one spirit; and therefore they worship but one God, and him alone they worship in spirit and in truth, loving him alone with all their hearts and with all their strength, praying unto him alone through Jesus Christ, the only Mediator and Intercessor; and they do not seek righteousness and life outside Christ and faith in him.  Because they acknowledge Christ the only head and foundation of the Church, and, resting on him, daily renew themselves by repentance, and patiently bear the cross laid upon them.  Moreover, joined together with all members of Christ by an unfeigned love, they show that they are Christ's disciples by persevering in the bond of peace and holy unity.   (from the Second Helvetic Confession)


Day 29   June 17   Read I Samuel 16:7

Jesus, we live in the midst of a society that judges everything and everyone by outward appearances.   We fall into the same pattern every day.  Forgive us for judging people, homes, and even church facilities by how they look on the outside.  We are grateful that you see below the surface, behind the wall…and judge the heart.  As our General Assembly meets in just a few days, help each participant to see as you see.  By the power of your Spirit, prevent us from being dazzled by that which has no right to dazzle us.  Help us to be spiritually alert for those unexpected and even unimpressive leaders and speakers…who may just be people after your own heart.  And we pray that none of us will be like Saul, who grieved the Lord with his disobedience and unfaithfulness….

We must not judge rashly or prematurely.  Hence we must be very careful not to judge before the time, nor undertake to exclude, reject or cut off those whom the Lord does not want excluded  or rejected, and those whom we cannot eliminate without loss to the Church.   On the other hand, we must be vigilant lest while the pious snore the wicked gain ground and do harm to the Church.  (from the Second Helvetic Confession)


Day 30   June 18   Psalm 20

Lord Jesus, we pray that you will be victorious in the work of your Church, including our own denomination.  Help us to take pride in you alone, and not in our chariots and horses, our agendas and organizations, our reports and our handouts in the Exhibit Hall.  Lord Jesus, we know that only in your victory will the Church (and our small part of it) rise and stand firm….

What is faith?  Christian faith is not an opinion or human conviction, but a most firm trust and a clear and steadfast assent of the mind, and then a most certain apprehension of the truth of God presented in the Scriptures and in the Apostles' Creed, and thus also of God himself, the greatest good, and especially of God's promise and of Christ who is the fulfillment of all promises.  (from the Second Helvetic Confession)


Day 31   June 19    Read Mark 4:26-34

Jesus, our Teacher, as we reflect on the simple but so powerful parable of the mustard seed, help us to see the General Assembly in perspective.  This meeting is part of a much bigger picture…a picture that includes our mission partners and churches around the country and the world.  Our prayers seem so small…but we offer them to you in faith.  Come, Lord, and grow your kingdom among us and far beyond us.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven….

Q. 123.  What is the second petition?

A. "Thy kingdom come."  That is:  so govern us by thy Word and Spirit that we may more and more submit ourselves unto thee.  Uphold and increase thy church.  Destroy the works of the devil, every power that raises itself against thee, and all wicked schemes thought up against thy holy Word, until the full coming of thy kingdom in which thou shalt be all in all.  (from the Heidelberg Catechism)


Day 32   June 20   Read 2 Corinthians 5:6-10

While our GA is meeting there will be time for many things, Lord:  listening, speaking, trying to find our place on the laptop, worship, prayer (both private and public), debating, voting, fellowship around the table, fellowship in the exhibit hall.  By the presence and power of your Holy Spirit, help all those in the Assembly gathering to make it their aim to please Jesus.  In everything, may our confidence and our satisfaction be found in Christ….

FAITH EFFICACIOUS AND ACTIVE.  The same apostle calls faith efficacious and active through love (Gal.5:6).  It also quiets the conscience and opens a free access to God, so that we may draw near to him with confidence and may obtain from him what is useful and necessary.  The same faith keeps us in the service we owe to God and our neighbor, strengthens our patience in adversity, fashions and makes a true confession, and in a word, brings forth good fruit of all kinds, and good works.  (from the Second Helvetic Confession)


Day 33   June 21   Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-13

Compassionate Savior, not only do you teach us not to judge others by their outward appearance, but you also teach us not to take pride in our own outward appearance.  Within ourselves as well as within others, the heart is what matters to you…and the condition of the heart is what must matter to us.  We pray for the gift of your compassion, Jesus.  Help us to be alert at all times to those who struggle with physical disabilities, those who will find it hard to simply get around the Assembly area, those who will find it painful to sit for hours, those who struggle to see or hear clearly, those less skilled in communication technology.

May all who are a part of this upcoming General Assembly be commended by Christ, because of what is in our hearts….

Q. 107.  Is it enough, then, if we do not kill our neighbor in any of these ways?

A. No; for when God condemns envy, hatred, and anger, he requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to show patience, peace, gentleness, mercy, and friendliness toward him, to prevent injury to him as much as we can, also to do good to  our enemies.  (from the Heidelberg Catechism)


Day 34   June 22   Read  2 Corinthians 5:14-21

Almighty God, as many people prepare to participate in the GA, and many others prepare to pray over and for that Assembly, we ask to be compelled by your love in Christ.  We long to be a new creation, not bound by the old sin and rebellion and animosity, but new in Christ Jesus.  We thank you for his forgiveness and the work of reconciliation he has done in our lives.  We want to see that grow…and we want to be a part of it.  Help each one of us to be faithful ambassadors for Christ—not for a worldview, mindset, or people-pleasing positions—but for Christ alone….

"Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption."  (I Cor. 1:30)  As Jesus Christ is God's assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so in the same way and with the same seriousness is he also God's mighty claim upon our whole life.  Through him befalls us a joyful deliverance from the godless fetters of this world for a free, grateful service to his creatures.

We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords—areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him. (from the Theological Declaration of Barmen)


Day 35   June 23   Read I Samuel 17:1a, 4-11

Ancient of Days, it looks like our part of your Church is not just facing one Goliath, but is surrounded by them.  Of course, our Goliaths go by other names:  Financial crises, Discouragement or even exhaustion of church leaders, Churches Closing, Membership Dwindling, Presbyteries Fighting, Missions in Need of more than we have to give, Seeming Irrelevance in our communities…and many others.  We look so small and feel so weak.  But you are our God, and you are mighty.  As we approach our GA, help us to put our hands in yours, our trust in your power and provision.  Give us faith, Lord Jesus.  Your hand is not too short to save….

"Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."  (Matt. 28:20).  "The word of God is not fettered."  (II Tim.2:9)  The church's commission, upon which its freedom is founded, consists in delivering the message of the free grace of God to all people in Christ's stead and therefore in the ministry of his own Word and work through sermon and Sacrament.

We reject the false doctrine, as though the church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans.  (from the Theological Declaration of Barmen)


Day 36   June 24   Read Psalm 9

With overflowing hearts, we praise you.  We will sing your praises and tell of your wonders.  As final preparations are made for our Assembly in Pittsburgh, we choose to remember that you are our refuge, you judge with righteousness and govern with justice.  We will not trust in our own personalities, or the size of our groups, or the number of our overtures.  We will trust in you, for you, O Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Q.28. What advantage comes from acknowledging God's creation and providence?

A. We learn that we are to be patient in adversity, grateful in the midst of blessing, and to trust our faithful God and Father for the future, assured that no creature shall separate us from his love, since all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they cannot even move.  (from the Heidelberg Catechism)


Day 37   June 25   Read Psalm 133

Our Father, we are in great need of some goodness and much pleasantness when our General Assembly meets in Pittsburgh.  We pray for unity…a unity we have not known in many years.  We do not pray for a false sense of unity, or a forced unity which is no unity at all.  We pray for real unity, which is found only in our devotion and obedience to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit….

THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH IS NOT IN EXTERNAL RITES.  Furthermore, we diligently teach that care is to be taken wherein the truth and unity of the Church chiefly lies, lest we rashly provoke and foster schisms in the Church.  Unity consists not in outward rites and ceremonies, but rather in the truth and unity of the catholic faith.  The catholic faith is not given to us by human laws, but by Holy Scriptures, of which the Apostles' Creed is a compendium.   (from the Second Helvetic Confession)


Day 38   June 26   Read 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Our loving and merciful Savior, we pray that this will be "an acceptable time" for you to listen to us, your Presbyterian children.  We pray that this will be "an acceptable time" for your to pour out your wisdom upon us.  We pray that we will not place stumbling blocks in anyone's path, especially those traveling to Pittsburgh from places far away.  We pray that all of our guests and helpers, as well as commissioners, will be treated with understanding, patience, kindness, and sincere love in the Holy Spirit….

Q. 86.  Since we are redeemed from our sin and its wretched consequences by grace through Christ without any merit of our won, why must we do good works?

A.  Because just as Christ has redeemed us with his blood he also renews us through his Holy Spirit according to his own image, so that with our whole life we may show ourselves grateful to God for his goodness and that he may be glorified through us;  and further, so that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by its fruits and by our reverent behavior may win our neighbors to Christ.  (from the Heidelberg Catechism)


Day 39   June 27   Read 2 Corinthians 6:3-10

On this June day, Lord God, we offer up two prayers of our hearts.  First, we pray for those current Christians, who, like the early disciples, have or are enduring afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments…sleepness nights, hunger.  Help us to honor them with our attentiveness and prayers.  As so many of us gather to meet in the comfort of hotels, restaurants, and large meeting spaces in Pittsburgh, may we never forget the millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have never known such luxury and safety.  And for the few persecuted ones who will find themselves with us in this General Assembly, may we be generous with our care and support.  And secondly, we pray to  come to Pittsburgh with our hearts open wide to our merciful Savior, Jesus Christ…and to all those who come in his Name…..

By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit all believers being united to Christ, who is the Head, are thus united one to another in the Church, which is his body.  He calls and anoints ministers for their holy office, qualifies all other officers in the Church for their special work, and imparts various gifts and graces to its members.  He gives efficacy to the Word and to the ordinances of the gospel .  By him the Church will be preserved, increased, purified, and at last made perfectly holy in the presence of God.  (from the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter IX, 4)


Day 40   June 28   Read Mark 4:35-41

How we need this clear reminder that you, Lord Jesus, can calm storms.  We pray for safe travel for everyone making their way to Pittsburgh for our GA.  We pray for safe travel for all the local presbytery volunteers who will be rushing around the city making last minute plans.  We pray your protection from last-minute "storms" at home, work, local congregations…and for any storms that would disrupt the technology we'll be using in the work of the church.  When turmoil and crises threaten, let us hear your voice.  "Peace, be still."  "Be still, and know that I am God."

Q. 129.  What is the meaning of the little word "Amen"?

A.  Amen means:  this shall  truly and certainly be.  For my prayer is much more certainly heard by God than I am persuaded in my heart that I desire such things from him.   (from the Heidelberg Catechism)


"I am the way, the truth, and the life:  no one comes to the Father, but by me." (John 14.6)


"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber . . . I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved." (John 10:1,9)


"Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death. We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God's revelation." (the first evangelical truth listed in the Theological Declaration of Barmen)


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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Showers, Flowers, and The Hours

This is now my upcoming third round in experiencing a remarkable celebration for a blessed child's passage of matriculation from secondary school into further undergraduate studies through higher education. There seems to be so much wrapped up in the process of helping usher a no-longer-so-little one in their progress through living life to the fullest in the Lord our God Who is the resurrection and the life, the One Who came that we might have life and have it to the full—and abundantly so.


The saying, "April showers bring May flowers," comes to mind once again as I write on this spring day in the early days of the season of Easter as we traverse through the church's liturgical calendar. The poet's and prophet's words reign down upon us in seasons such as these, showering blessings unto us from above.


As the rain and the snow

   come down from heaven,

and do not return to it

   without watering the earth

and making it bud and flourish,

   so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

   It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

   and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11 (NIV)


Isn't that what these passing years, these days, these hours are about? Seeing that which comes to fruition by the very hand of the Lord Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth to the glory of God our Father, manifest in the lives of dearly loved ones, blessed to be a blessing upon the world that God so loves—that God gave God's only Son that whosoever believes in should not perish but have eternal life.


In the Pullitzer Prize (1999) winning novel of fiction, The Hours, by Michael Cunningham, the author writes beautifully, venturing into a poignant exploration of the depths of relationships, living and dying, and love. In the book and also in the film, the reader/viewer finds a leading character reflecting at the end of the day:


...this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) know these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning, we hope, more than anything for more. Heaven only knows why we love it so.

To look life in the face. Always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it. To love it for what it is, and then, to put it away… Always the years. Always the love. Always the hours.


To this the apostle Paul in Acts 17:24-28 (NIV) reminds me:

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth… [God] gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and [God] determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.'"

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Rex

    P.S. You are invited! For graduating seniors' open house info, please see the church calendar.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Wary Ides of March

There's an often quoted line of Shakespeare from Julius Caesar in which Rome's emperor is given a message by a soothsayer warning of his death on that day. "Beware the ides of March."


Words that ring true in a number of ways for me these days through the season of Lent. In the wake of two years this week since the death of my beloved wife, Melissa, some such words in seasons of grieving at times triggers an overwhelming feeling of pain and loss amplified in a new way once again. These "grief bursts", as sometimes referred to, can likely occur at particularly expected and/or unexpected events which may or may not be anticipated among loved ones who have together experienced the common loss of a dearly loved one.


For me personally, it happened a month ago upon hearing of the death of Whitney Houston—a gifted gospel/pop singer Melissa and I enjoyed from our early days of dating back in the 80's and into the early 90's when we lived in the New York/New Jersey metro area. I found those nights during the week of Valentine's Day following Whitney's death last month particularly challenging and difficult for what seemed at times to my mind no real, good reason.


And yet, the thought occurs to me of how fearfully and wonderfully made we are as human beings created in the image of a holy God Who fashioned and designed us out of dust with profound feeling(s) and awe built-into our very nature. We are after all as one of my mentors once said, "human beings, not human doings." It is in our nature to be affected with heartfelt emotions because of a God Who greatly loves us with great, lavish affection. Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called children of God! And that is who we are!!!


I realized in hindsight that God's purpose may have been for me to experience my own grief burst a month earlier so that I might be there for the grief bursts of my children which did come this past week when I was then more able to be present with and for them in their time of need. That is how much our God loves us, dearly beloved ones!


Reverberating as it were throughout the ages, a wariness around this time of liturgical reflection upon the passion of the Christ similarly ensues over those of us given to delve more deeply in devotion and become embraced by that foreboding sense of betrayal anticipated, expected and experienced by Jesus himself at the hands of a trusted friend and follower. As Luke (22:47-48) recounts for us, upon his approach, Jesus asked, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"


I imagine Jesus, exuding such great love at the time of his betrayal and arrest, experiencing the bittersweet prospects of love, life and death itself all at the same time. He knew what he was about to and already going through for the sake of us whom He loved so dearly, even the one who was at that moment the betraying instrument of his impending suffering and sacrifice.


Is this the time now again in which we are to witness and experience the profound act of submission and surrender our Savior willingly gave Himself over to?


This spring break of Holy Week from Palm/Passion Sunday through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the in-between void of Holy Saturday, we are gifted, privileged and blessed to consider anew as Paul's prayer for the Ephesians (3:18) tells us how wide and long and high and deep is the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. To know this love that surpasses knowledge that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God!


This is my prayer for us in this fellowship. May we be brought unto the celebration of the resurrection and the life at Easter with joy and thanksgiving in the knowledge of Him who saved us! Glory to God,


In the Spirit of Christ the King,

Pastor Rex Espiritu

Thursday, February 16, 2012

reEngage the Faith!

reEngage the Faith!

a biblical study of confessional essentials


As recently stated in the foreword to a document issued by The Fellowship of Presbyterians, it is worthwhile and timely for us "to identify the statements of our confessional heritage that connect us with the one holy catholic apostolic church and express our distinctively Reformed convictions within that church."


In the Presbyterian Church, we provide new members, confirmation classes and officers of the church who have been elected to serve in leadership a number of resources toward deepening our life in faith lived together in community for the glory of God. One of these is the Book of Confessions which, as stated in the ordination vows for both teaching and ruling Elders as well as Deacons in the PCUSA, promotes "the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do." Leaders vow to "be instructed and led by those confessions as [we] lead the people of God." With Jesus Christ as Lord, church leaders vow to serve together "in obedience to Jesus Christ under the authority of Scripture and continually guided by our confessions."


While the above is true, we have room for improvement in increasing one another's biblical and theological literacy in the church. As expressed by the task force on theology for The Fellowship of Presbyterians:


Casual affirmation of our theological heritage by our generation has severely weakened our worship and witness. We are squandering the gifts our confessional heritage could give us. We confess we have not been good stewards of the Faith. We must now reengage the Faith of the Church in ways that are more deeply committed to its truth and thus its value in ordering our life toward faithfulness.


Beloved, we are in need of re-formation! I wonder how many of us have really mined the depths and/or recently re-examined the jewels of the Christian faith to be found and rediscovered in the Presbyterian and reformed stream of Christianity. How much have we truly treasured the gifts of God given for us in the reformed tradition to uniquely share with our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ in order to bless the world which God so loves?


Contrary to the notion that affirming the uniqueness of our particular expression of Christianity is not as important as promoting our unity and oneness in the Spirit of Christ, we may actually be doing the world and ourselves a disservice by hiding that aspect of our light under a bushel! If in our diversity we are all created in the image of God, then by downplaying our distinctiveness we could be robbing one another of the opportunity to more fully display the richness of the deeply broad heritage and desirably divine beauty of the body of Christ. The Fellowship Theology Taskforce goes on to say:


We reject the proposition that theology divides. Instead, we affirm the proposition that truth tends toward unity.

This depth may be challenging for some. We acknowledge this and we encourage you to read more than once, and to read together with others. This is a teaching moment. Let us use this to deepen our knowledge of the Reformed Faith.


In this season of Lent, let us together approach with confidence the confessions of our faith anew with reverence and awe for the glory of God in Christ! Join one another in Christian Living at Sunday School this winter into spring! See you in C.L.A.S.S.

Pastor Rex