News & Notes

Bulletin for December 24, 2023

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Bulletin for December 17, 2023

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Reeds in Exodus 2

Last Lord’s Day, I briefly mentioned the significance of Moses’ name. Moses’ name means “one who draws out,” and he draws the people out the Red Sea in Exodus 14. His name points forward to that event.

But there’s an interesting linguistic connection between these two events (Moses’ birth and the crossing of the Red Sea) as well. In Exodus 2:3-5, Moses is placed bassuph, “among the reeds.” Now, our English translations of the Bible give us the common name of the Red Sea, the name we use for it in the English-speaking world. But, in Hebrew, it is called the yam suph, “the Sea of Reeds.”

In other words, just as Moses was drawn from the reeds by Pharaoh’s daughter, so the Israelites were drawn from the reeds by Moses. In fact, the whole story of Moses in Exodus 2 has implications for the rest of the Exodus. Exodus 2 is the story of Moses’ preparation to be the redeemer of God’s people. I’ll try to point out where these connections are, but have your antennae up for these kinds of connections!

A Hymn for Sunday

This Sunday, since we’re reading through Luke, we’ll have a chance to hear Zechariah’s song, traditionally called the Benedictus. Since we’re reading it, we’ll also sing it in worship. It is a song after all!

Here are the words. We will sing to the tune of Come, Thou Fount.

1. Blest be God, the Lord of Israel; he has come to set us free! And a horn of full salvation he has raised from David’s seed. God has visited his people to redeem them as foretold in the promise he had spoken thro’ his prophets from of old.

2. God has come in might to save us from the hatred of our foes. From their cruel hand he frees us, and his tender mercy shows mercy promised in his cov’nant to our fathers whom he chose. He will keep his oath to Abr’am to release us from our woes.

3. God has sworn to grant deliv’rance and restore us to our place: serving boldly in his presence, just and holy all our days. You, my child, will be his Prophet, called and sent by God Most High. You must go before the Lord now to prepare his ways aright.

4. Bring the knowledge of salvation to God’s people in their sin. Preach that God is tenderhearted, and by him are sins forgiv’n. His great mercy, like the sunrise, brightly shines in deepest night, guiding those who sit in darkness to the way of peace and light.

The video should start here automatically, but the song begins at 5:00.


  1. Madeleine is preparing to serve lunch on Christmas Eve after worship. We know that you’re all preparing for your own family Christmas celebrations on top of the many ways you are all serving the church this month, so we wanted to give you a chance to rest and enjoy fellowship together on the Lord’s Day. Be sure to let Madeleine know if you’re joining us. This is not a potluck, but if you want to bring extra food, we won’t turn you down!

  2. Don’t forget our special service on Christmas Eve at 6PM! The kids have been preparing over the last couple of weeks, so come along to support them and sing along with them!

  3. We will have communion on December 31st, so be sure to prayerfully prepare your hearts. If you want something to reflect on, I suggest looking at Larger Catechism 171.

Q.171. How are they that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper to prepare themselves before they come unto it?

A. They that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves of their being in Christ, of their sins and wants; of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance; love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong; of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.

Your friend in Christ,

Bulletin for December 10, 2023

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From the Cutting Room Floor

While we’re preaching our way through Exodus, you’ll notice that I’m taking pretty big sections of Scripture each week. For the sake of time, I’m going to have to skip through some of the details of the text. But I do want to occasionally share some things that didn’t make the sermon.

Last week, we read Exodus 1. In every Bible translation I checked, the first word of Exodus is missing–“and.” (The King James and some translations put “now” there.) This is important because it tells us something about the relationship between Genesis and Exodus, namely, that they go together. When you are reading Exodus, the underlying assumption is that you have already read Genesis. So there’s a sense in which we’re starting in the middle of the story. “And” is also the first word of Leviticus and Numbers, but not Deuteronomy. If you want a Bible study question to think about, you might look into why that’s the case.

And of course, if you haven’t read Genesis, it might be a good idea to do that at some point during this series. Also, providentially, we’re studying Genesis in adult Sunday school as well. So if you want some guidance on Genesis, be sure to join us at 9:30 on Sunday mornings.

Hymns You’ve Never Heard

“Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People” is a hymn based on Isaiah 40, the main prophetic account of John the Baptist’s ministry. What I really love about this song is the tune: Geneva 42. This tune was written for Psalm 42 during John Calvin’s time there. What people often don’t realize is that traditional Protestant church music is usually based on folk music, not classical music. Our tendency is to think of traditional music as kind of dull, but as you’ll hear in the recording below, it was actually quite lively when it was written.

1 Comfort, comfort ye my people, speak ye peace, thus saith our God; comfort those who sit in darkness mourning ’neath their sorrow’s load. Speak ye to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them! Tell her that her sins I cover, and her warfare now is over.

2 Yea, her sins our God will pardon, blotting out each dark misdeed; all that well deserved His anger He will no more see nor heed. She hath suffered many a day, now her griefs have passed away; God will change her pining sadness into ever-springing gladness.

3 For Elijah’s voice is crying in the desert far and near, bidding all men to repentance, since the kingdom now is here. O that warning cry obey, now prepare for God a way; let the valleys rise to meet Him, and the hills bow down to greet Him.

4 Make ye straight what long was crooked, make the rougher places plain, let your hearts be true and humble, as befits His holy reign; for the glory of the LORD now o’er earth is shed abroad, and all flesh shall see the token that His Word is never broken.

Here it is as sung by First-Plymouth Church in Nebraska.


  1. We’ll be having a special service on Christmas Eve at 6PM. I got to see some of the kids’ program Wednesday, and I’m excited for everyone else to see it as well!

  2. On December 31st, Bob Bradley from Diamondhead will be in town to serve the Lord’s Supper. Be preparing spiritually for that Lord’s Day as it approaches.

  3. Information concerning Jackie Merritt’s funeral service is listed in the bulletin. Thank you for your continued prayers for her family.

Your friend in Christ,

Bulletin for December 3, 2023

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Getting Ready for Christmas

The past few days, I’ve been working on a seminary paper related to C.S. Lewis’ views on Christmas. The two essays that Lewis wrote on Christmas are Xmas and Christmas and What Christmas Means to Me. Both are found in God in the Dock. These are very different essays, but his point is pretty much the same. Lewis distinguishes between two different kinds of Christmas: Christmas the religious holiday and Christmas the “commercial racket.” His concern is that the second will subsume the first, that the cultural and commercial event will overcome the real “reason for the season.” This is, in fact, one of the reasons that the Reformers opposed the celebration of Christmas and other holidays. Calvin, Knox, and later Presbyterians and Puritans opposed the celebration of Christmas on the basis that it took away from the regular worship of God. And most Protestant Christians were on the same page for a long time. As late as 1899, the PCUS (commonly called the “Southern Presbyterian Church”) declared that Christmas ought not be celebrated.

Now, over the past hundred years, Reformed Christians have come to a more moderate position, and we now do regularly celebrate Christmas. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be reflecting on the advent and incarnation of Jesus. But I do think it’s wise to take the concerns of our forebearers and of C.S. Lewis seriously. We tend to guard our hearts against distraction in other seasons. It’s easy to talk about sports seasons, hunting seasons, or vacation seasons as potential having potential to distract us from Christ. But during Advent and Christmas, because they are so tied up with the story of Jesus, it’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking that we’re doing something spiritual when we’re really not. During this season, secular artists sing songs about Jesus. Walmart puts out nativity scenes. We send each other cards with Bible verses. All these things have potential to take us away from the true worship of God.

Of course, I don’t intend that as a condemnation of any of those thing as such. When Charlie Brown reads the Bible on national TV, we ought to say, “Glory to Christ!” But Charlie Brown can’t sustain your soul. That’s the job of the Spirit working through the ordinary means of grace: Word, sacrament, and prayer.

So over the next few weeks, enjoy Advent and Christmas. Enjoy the decorations, the parties, the movies, and the music, but don’t neglect your calling as a Christian. Come join us in worship to hear the Word read and preached and to pray together with the saints. Let the Word and prayer be heard in your home as well. And prepare yourself to receive the Lord’s Supper on December 31st. It is good to remember Christ in a special way during this season, but let’s not neglect to meet him in the places he’s promised to meet us.

Hymns You’ve Never Heard

Another thing I want to do over the next couple of weeks is share some less well-known Christmas and Advent hymns. One of my favorites is “This Little Babe” by Robert Southwell. Here are the words:

1 This little Babe so few days old Is come to rifle Satan’s fold; All hell doth at His presence quake, Though He Himself for cold doth shake; For in this weak unarmed wise The gates of hell He will surprise.

2 With tears He fights and wins the field, His tiny breast stands for a shield; His battering shot are babish cries, His arrows looks of weeping eyes, His martial ensigns cold and need, And feeble flesh His warrior’s steed.

3 His camp is builded in a stall, His bulwark but a broken wall, The crib His trench, haystalks His stakes, Of shepherds He His army makes; And thus, as sure His foe to wound, The angels’ trumps the charge now sound.

4 My soul with Christ join thou in fight; Stick to His tents, the place of might. Within His crib is surest ward; This little Babe will be thy Guard. If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy, Then flit not from this heav’nly Boy!

There is a congregational setting for this hymn, but the most popular setting is by Benjamin Britten. Here it is as sung by the University of Minnesota women’s choir.


  1. We’ll be having a special service on Christmas Eve at 6PM. The kids are preparing music and a pageant. Be sure to join us, and invite your neighbor!

  2. On December 31st, Bob Bradley from Diamondhead will be in town to serve the Lord’s Supper. Be preparing spiritually for that Lord’s Day as it approaches.

  3. If you haven’t been with us for Wednesday night, be sure to join us! Over the next few weeks, we’ll be doing a study on the Lord’s Prayer.

  4. Finally, this Lord’s Day, we’re starting a new sermon series in the book of Exodus. I highly recommend that you prepare by reading the Scripture ahead of time. Due to the nature of the book, we’ll be working through fairly large sections each week, so it will help you to have read those sections prior to worship so that you will be familiar with the story as it progresses.

Your friend in Christ,

Bulletin for November 26, 2023

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I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Thank you to all of you that joined us for the Community Thanksgiving Service. It was a great time with our community! Next time you see someone from Vernal Full Gospel, be sure to thank them for hosting us. If you were unable to join us but would like to read my portion of the sermon, let me know, and I’ll get you a copy.

There are no new major announcments this week, but be on the lookout for Advent and Christmas updates very soon.

Your friend in Christ,

Bulletin for November 19, 2023

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Vernal Community Thanksgiving Service

The annual community Thanksgiving service is on Sunday at 5PM at Vernal Full Gospel. Since this is a change, please be sure to spread the word to others in the community!

More on Baptism in 1 Peter 3

As I continue to get questions about 1 Peter 3, I came across Matthew Henry’s comments on the passage. I happily agree with everything he says. You can read it here.

Matthew Henry’s Bible commentary is quite possibly the most popular complete commentary ever published. (It also may very well be the first complete commentary published in English, but I can’t confirm or deny that.) It’s been lauded by the likes of George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, and John Wesley. The original was written in the late 17th and early 18th century, so you might want to look at an edition with updated language. I recommend this one.

A Recommended Resource

If you’re looking for a good YouTube channel to follow, check out Matthew Everhard. He’s currently a PCA pastor in Pennsylvania, but he formerly served an EPC church in Florida. I’m drawing your attention to his content because this most recent video on leading your family in the faith is particularly good.

Your friend in Christ,

Bulletin for November 12, 2023

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  1. Operation Christmas Child boxes are due Monday at 2PM. The kids packed 35 boxes on Wednesday, and we’re excited to add your boxes to our count!

  2. The Community Thanksgiving service is scheduled for November 21, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. This year, it’s going to be held at Vernal Full Gospel. I’m meeting with the other ministers involved on Sunday afternoon, and we should have more details (including time) after that. So be on the lookout, and go ahead and put it on your calendars!

  3. If you haven’t been with us for our Wednesday night adult Bible study, this is a great week to join us. Over the next couple weeks, we’ll be talking about prayer. So if you find prayer hard (and lots of people do), this may be a great way to get a kick-start toward a healthier prayer life. We’ll be in the back Sunday school room at 6:30. See you there!

Your friend in Christ,

Bulletin for November 5, 2023

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Thinking About the Apostles’s Creed

This week, I’ll be preaching on 1 Peter 3:17-22. If you’ve read this, it’s probably immediately clear to you that this is a difficult passage. Of course, verse 21 is complicated, but there’s also this odd thing about Christ preaching to the “spirits in prison.” I’ll talk about that verse in detail during the sermon, but I wanted to share this Bible study I did a few months ago on the Apostles’ Creed and the phrase “he descended into hell,” especially since Christ’s descent into hell is more of a side point in Sunday’s text. Hopefully, if you have questions, this will help you orient yourself some to what we’re talking about. And if there’s anything you’re still struggling with, feel free to ask about it.


  1. Don’t forget to change your clocks tonight! We’re falling back one hour!

  2. Be sure to continue bringing items for Operation Christmas Child. We have about one more week to get everything packed.

  3. Thanks to all of you for praying for and bearing with our family this past month. The wait was longer than we wanted, but everything went wonderfully. Lois and Madeleine are both happy and healthy, and we’re all finally at home for the forseeable future!

Your friend in Christ,

Bulletin for October 22, 2023

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How We Pray

A couple weeks ago, I gave a brief reflection on the Lord’s Prayer. This week, I want to turn to the broader biblical basis for public prayer in worship. The key passage is 1 Timothy 2:1-10.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness–with good works.

There are several things to notice about the ways this passage informs our public prayers.

  1. Paul commends several different kinds of prayer. In worship, we engage in all these kinds of prayer. Supplications are prayers where we specifically ask God to provide for our own needs; we pair this with our prayer of confession because our primary need is forgiveness from sins. Intercessions are prayers for others which we lift up in the long prayer after the sermon. We give God thanksgiving following the offertory. We also find warrant for the invocation (which is also a prayer of adoration) and confession of sin in other parts of Scripture, most notably in the Lord’s Prayer.

  2. We are specifically called to pray for all kinds of people, including our political leaders. You’ll hear a prayer for our leaders every time we do an intercessory prayer, included with our prayers for the needs of all sorts of people. Of course, we want our political leaders to believe the gospel, but even when that does not happen, we are to pray for the sake of peace. The Westminster Confession of Faith says, “As nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord.” This is something we should seek even when the civil magistrate is unbelieving.

  3. Paul says that part of his purpose in his call as a preacher is to pray. In Roman Catholic theology, the minister stands between the people and God. The Reformers rejected that in favor of the biblical notion that the minister serves as a mouthpiece for the congregation. Certainly, I am always praying for you, but in worship, we are all praying together. Even as one person speaks, we are to join together as the priestly people of God with one heart.

  4. Paul gives specific instructions to men and women to pray with pure hearts. You’ll notice that Paul’s instructions are very similar to what we saw in 1 Peter 3:1-7. Our prayers can be hindered by anger and quarreling or by distracting ourselves with our outward appearance. In public worship, we’re called to put those things aside so that we can pray with a singular focus on the work of Christ, who intercedes with us and for us in heaven.

(As an aside, this passage is one of many that describes the most common posture for prayer in the Bible: hands raised. That’s why I normally raise my hands during prayer. If you’re comfortable, I invite you to do the same. It’s a bodily sign of our prayers being lifted up before God. The second most common posture in the Bible is kneeling.)

So as we pray in worship, don’t sit idly. Be attentive and focused. Join the prayer of your heart with the prayers of those around you as we join with the communion of saints. We are just a few people here on earth, but when we worship, we participate in the eternal heavenly worship that always rises before God.

And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. – Rev. 8:3-4


As of Friday night, we still don’t have a new baby, so I’m planning to be with you this Sunday. That means we won’t have communion just yet, but continue to be prepared!

I also received the following announcement from Presbyterian Women this week regarding Operation Christmas Child:

Presbyterian Women have ordered boxes to pack for Samaritan’s Purse OCC. They will be here within 2 weeks. Please pack your boxes with love and prayer or let Janet know ASAP if we want to plan a night for the children to pack boxes. The deadline for boxes to be delivered to the Church is November 14th so we can get them to the area pick up site. Postage will be $10 per box. If you wish, PW will pay your postage.

Your friend in Christ,

Bulletin for October 15, 2023

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As many of you have likely noticed, I am very fond of the Westminster Catechisms. As I’ve been thinking about that over the past week, I was reminded of the following article written by Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. Warfield served as Professor of Reformed Theology at Princeton Seminary from 1887 to 1921. In a time when liberalism was beginning to take hold in the Northern Presbyterian church, Warfield took a strong stand for the trustworthiness of the Bible and the importance of the Westminster Standards as a faithful summary of biblical teaching.

The Shorter Catechism is, perhaps, not very easy to learn. And very certainly it will not teach itself. Its framers were less careful to make it easy than to make it good. As one of them, Lazarus Seaman, explained, they sought to set down in it not the knowledge the child has, but the knowledge the child ought to have. And they did not dream that anyone could expect it to teach itself. They committed it rather to faithful men who were zealous’ teachers of the truth, “to be,” as the Scottish General Assembly puts it in the Act approving it, “a Directory for catechizing such as are of a weaker capacity,” as they sent out the Larger Catechism “to be a Directory for catechizing such as have made some proficiency in the knowledge of the grounds of religion.”

No doubt it requires some effort whether to teach or to learn the Shorter Catechism. It requires some effort whether to teach or to learn the grounds of any department of knowledge. Our children–some of them at least-groan over even the primary arithmetic and find sentence–analysis a burden. Even the conquest of the art of reading has proved such a task that “reading without tears” is deemed an achievement. We think, nevertheless, that the acquisition of arithmetic, grammar and reading is worth the pains it costs the teacher to teach, and the pain it costs the learner to learn them. Do we not think the acquisition of the grounds of religion worth some effort, and even, if need be, some tears?

For, the grounds of religion must be taught and learned as truly as the grounds of anything else. Let us make no mistake here. Religion does not come of itself: it is always a matter of instruction. The emotions of the heart, in which many seem to think religion too exclusively to consist, ever follow the movements of the thought. Passion for service cannot take the place of passion for truth, or safely outrun the acquisition of truth; for it is dreadfully possible to compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, to find we have made him only a “son of hell.” This is why God establishes and extends his Church by the ordinance of preaching; it is why we have Sunday schools and Bible classes. Nay, this is why God has grounded his Church in revelation. He does not content himself with sending his Spirit into the world to turn men to him. He sends his Word into the world as well. Because, it is from knowledge of the truth, and only from the knowledge of the truth, that under the quickening influence of the Spirit true religion can be born. Is it not worth the pains of the teacher to communicate, the pain of the scholar to acquire this knowledge of the truth? How unhappy the expedient to withhold the truth–that truth under the guidance of which the religious nature must function if it is to function aright–that we may save ourselves these pains, our pupils this pain!

An anecdote told of Dwight L. Moody will illustrate the value to the religious life of having been taught these forms of truth. He was staying with a Scottish friend in London, but suppose we let the narrator tell the story. “A young man had come to speak to Mr. Moody about religious things. He was in difficulty about a number of points, among the rest about prayer and natural laws. ‘What is prayer?’ he said, ‘I can’t tell what you mean by it!’ They were in the hall of a large London house. Before Moody could answer, a child’s voice was heard singing on the stairs. It was that of a little girl of nine or ten, the daughter of their host. She came running down the stairs and paused as she saw strangers sitting in the hall. ‘Come here, Jenny,’ her father said, ‘and tell this gentleman what is prayer.’ Jenny did not know what had been going on, but she quite understood that she was now called upon to say her Catechism. So she drew herself up, and folded her hands in front of her, like a good little girl who was going to ‘say her questions,’ and she said in her clear childish voice: ‘Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.’ Ah! That’s the Catechism!’ Moody said, ’thank God for that Catechism.’ "

How many have had occasion to “thank God for that Catechism!” Did anyone ever know a really devout man who regretted having been taught the Shorter Catechism–even with tears–in his youth? How its forms of sound words come reverberating back into the memory, in moments of trial and suffering, of doubt and temptation, giving direction to religious aspirations, firmness to hesitating thought, guidance to stumbling feet: and adding to our religious meditations an ever-increasing richness and depth. “The older I grow,” said Thomas Carlyle in his old age, “and now I stand on the brink of eternity, the more comes back to me the first sentence in the Catechism, which I learned when a child, and the fuller and deeper its meaning becomes:

What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

Robert Louis Stevenson, too, had learned this Catechism when a child; and though he wandered far from the faith in which it would guide his feet, he could never escape from its influence, and he never lost his admiration (may we not even say, his reverence) for it. Mrs. Sellars, a shrewd, if kindly, observer, tells us in her delightful “Recollections” that Stevenson bore with him to his dying” day what she calls “the indelible mark of the Shorter Catechism”; and he himself shows how he esteemed it when he set over against one another what he calls the “English” and the “Scottish” Catechisms–the former, as he says, beginning by “tritely inquiring ‘What is your name?,’” the latter by “striking at the very roots of life with ‘What is the chief end of man?’ and answering nobly, if obscurely, ‘To glorify God and to enjoy him forever.’”

What is “the indelible mark of the Shorter Catechism”? We have the following bit of personal experience from a general officer of the United States army. He was in a great western city at a time of intense excitement and violent rioting. The streets were over-run daily by a dangerous crowd. One day he observed approaching him a man of singularly combined calmness and firmness of mien, whose very demeanor inspired confidence. So impressed was he with his bearing amid the surrounding uproar that when he had passed he turned to look back at him, only to find that the stranger had done the same. On observing his turning the stranger at once came back to him, and touching his chest with his forefinger, demanded without preface: “What is the chief end of man?” On receiving the countersign, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”–“Ah!” said he, “I knew you were a Shorter Catechism boy by your looks!” “Why, that was just what I was thinking of you,” was the rejoinder.

It is worth while to be a Shorter Catechism boy. They grow to be men. And better than that, they are exceedingly apt to grow to be men of God. So apt, that we cannot afford to have them miss the chance of it. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Supporting Jerusalem

A couple of you have asked about ways to support Christian work in Israel. Denominationally, the EPC is heavily involved in Muslim missions and has missionaries all across the Middle East. You are, of course, always free to give to EPC World Outreach to support their work. You can find a list of various projects here.

For an organization specifically focused on Israel, I recommend looking at CMJ Israel. This is a trustworthy organization that stewards their resources well. They are also under the supervision of Christ Church Jerusalem. They have been established in Jerusalem for over two hundred years and share our biblically Reformed convictions. I have personally spent time with several of their leaders. Here is a prayer service they held on Sunday if you want to hear some of things they are praying for right now.

Locally, we have several things coming up on the church calendar. Be sure to check out the announcements listed on the last page of the bulletin.

Your friend in Christ,
Reid Roberson