A New Journey for the Shirleys

Dear Friends,

Below is a letter that went out to my congregation over a week ago.  I wanted to share it here as well as update that I have accepted a call to be the first pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, AL.

Dear Highlands Family,

It is with mixed emotions that I write this letter to you.  After much prayer and consideration the Lord has shown Laura and me that He is calling our family to walk with Him on a new journey.  It will be ten years this spring that I have served at Highlands in various ministry capacities. During this time, Laura and I have been tremendously blessed as we have grown in our love for the Lord and for you.  Also during this time we were blessed with four children all of whom are covenant children of our sweet congregation.  We are so thankful for how you have helped disciple and nurture our children and lead them to a deeper love of their Savior.  What a blessing it has been for us to serve in a church that truly has been our family.

As it stands now, I have been selected as the nominee by the Search Committee and Session of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, AL to be their pastor. On Sunday, January 19th the congregation will vote to extend me a call, and Lord willing, I will appear before the Providence Presbytery in North Alabama for transfer on Tuesday, February 11th.

This is a big step of faith for the Shirleys. We are very saddened to leave Highlands, a church that we call home and a place where our dearest friends are. However, we are sensitive to the Lord’s leading and we know that He is calling us to be a part of His kingdom work in Huntsville.  Cornerstone is a sweet congregation that I hope and pray will have deep bonds with Highlands.

One of the greatest joys of my time at Highlands has been serving with such a wonderful and gifted staff which makes it more difficult to leave. We are praying for Highlands, for her future and her ministry.  Please pray for us as we transition to Huntsville in late February to early March.  We look forward to fellowship with you in our remaining time in Mississippi.  May God bless you and your family.


He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:24, ESV)


By His grace and to His praise,


From a Father to a Son: Proverbs 1

The book of Proverbs is a discipleship manual for parenting. Here are some key instructions from a father to a son from Proverbs 1.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7, ESV)

Get wisdom! Heed instruction from the LORD! (v.7)

Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” (Proverbs 1:29-33, ESV)

Son, if you choose to hate knowledge and to despise the fear of the LORD, you will be destroyed by your sin. This destruction will come by going your own way and not the LORD’s way.  Listen to the LORD’s instruction and you will be secure on a firm foundation. (vv.29-33)

Teaching My Children to Pray

One of the most over-whelming yet joyful responsibilities we have as parents is teaching our children how to pray.  I suspect that most parents struggle at teaching their children to pray because they themselves feel that they are not very good at praying.  I know I’ve felt this way and hey, I’m a pastor! I mean I’m the guy at all the family functions that has to say the blessing because “it’s my job.”

But I’m hear to tell you that consistent, daily, simple prayer with your children is one of the most profound things you can do to impact your child’s heart.  Just the other day one of my children asked if he could say the blessing at our evening meal.  I was glad to let him take leadership in doing this (after all, I’m trying to teach him how to lead a family one day).  I was moved by his prayer.  I was encouraging to see how he was able to articulate grace and thanksgiving all in a few sentences.  That evening it was his turn to pray for whatever was on his heart and some other requests that were made.  Again, I was blessed by the heart of his prayer.  Thank you Lord that from the “mouths of babes” you teach us and declare Your praise!

What was so encouraging about his prayers were not just that he was able to articulate praise and thanksgiving – it was that we believe he was truly praying out of a converted heart.  This is only something that God the Spirit can do and we are thankful for that.

As I have reflected on his prayers I realized that he did not learn this over night. He learned it in several different ways:

  1. He learned it from his parents.  When Ephesians 6:4 says that parents are to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord this certainly includes prayer.  How do parents train their children to pray?  Is their a curriculum? Do they have to take a special class on prayer at church? NO! Parents teach their children to pray by simply praying with them.  It is that simple. Pray with your children.  If this is overwhelming to you, start by saying simple blessings at meal times, then move on to a season of prayer with your children before bed. The important thing to do is to do it. Give them a chance to pray and show them how to do it.
  2. He learned it from his Sunday School teachers.  I’m very thankful to work and belong to a Bible-believing, Gospel-loving church. Because of this blessing our children are around godly men and women teaching them the scriptures and teaching them how to pray. I’m thankful to those at church that pour time, energy, and love into my children to help disciple them. In the matter of prayer, my children have learned to pray because they have had the benefit of other dear believers pouring into their lives and modeling prayer for them. Do your children have this added blessing each week of being involved in a Sunday School?
  3. He learned it from school.  I’m not advocating any form of schooling for your family, that is up to each individual family, but my children have the blessing of attending a Christian school. This school is not only Christian by name but Christian in practice. What I mean by this is that everything the school does is intentional in pointing them to Christ. Part of this intentionality is prayer. Everything they do at the school is covered in prayer. Think about this, every day, before my child begins an activity or a lesson, they begin with prayer. Again, I’m thankful that while I’m away from my children, I know they are being prayed for and are seeing prayer modeled by their teachers. Maybe your child is not at a Christian school, how can prayer be cultivated throughout the day in their life? I’m thankful for the youth workers at my church who 3-4 times a week lead students in prayer over a prayer breakfast at a local eatery before school. Maybe you could think of something like that for your child.
  4. He learned it from worship. It’s the age-old debate of when should our children join us in worship. I’m not here to bind any families conscience on this matter but certainly when your child is old enough to follow your instruction and sit still for at least 30 minutes, they should join you in corporate worship. Bible-based corporate worship should consist of regular, God-centered prayers. At our church there are at least 3 key prayers through the service from different pastors and leaders. I want my child to hear these prayers. By watching, listening, and participating in corporate worship my child has been exposed to Christ-exalting prayer that I know are changing and cultivating his heart – thereby teaching him how to pray. Is it time for your child to join you in a worship service to pray with other believers?
  5. He learned it from his church family. Much of what I have just written explains this point but learning to pray is not all about programs at church. You see our church family is much like our real family. We do life with these people. Our kids interact with each other outside the church walls. My wife and I made a covenant to assist these families in raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Likewise these families have covenanted to do the same with my children. Therefore I want my children around these families because they are being prayed for and prayed over. Do your children have other families that are praying with and for them?
May the Father help us as we as parents impress the holy religion of Jesus Christ upon their hearts.
[5] You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [6] And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

(Deuteronomy 6:5-7 ESV)


A New Favorite

For years I have been a huge proponent of Sally Lloyd-Jones work The Jesus Storybook Bible, and now her new work, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing is another to add to my recommended list of resources for families.

I just finished previewing the book and here are some of my initials thoughts:

  • This book would be GREAT for children learning to do a personal devotion with God on their own.
  • This book would be a GREAT supplement to family devotions – perhaps a quick “thought” to read at breakfast before everyone goes their separate ways for the day.
  • Great tool to use one-on-one with a child – perhaps during “man-time” with your son or a daddy/daughter date.
  • This books is perfect for the family that wants to spend more time talking about God’s Word and discussing the magnificent truths and promises of the Bible.

I highly encourage you to pick up a copy.

ESPN 30 for 30: BROKE and the Human Heart

Last night I watched ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 installment called BROKE.  I really enjoyed it.  It was a fascinating look into sports culture and the devastating effects of instant wealth for professional athletes who come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds.

I really enjoyed Broke for several reasons:

  1. I’m glad I’m not rich.  Seriously!  I thought these former wealthy athletes who once had it all and now have nothing said it best, “Mo money, mo problems.”  They all seem to indicate that they wish they had come into all that money later in life.  They all bemoaned the fact that all their wealth and fame brought about more problems and pain than they could ever imagine.
  2. It made me thankful.  I’m thankful to hear about their problems that they had in their 20s and 30s, and to now hear the wisdom that they have gained from their mistakes now that they are in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.  You can tell these men has “grown up” and seen the foolishness of their youth.  I try to listen and glean wisdom from anyone who cries out in the same tone and tenor as King Solomon, “It’s meaningless.  It does not satisfy.  I’ve tried it all and had it all and it can not and will not bring you happiness.”
  3. It made me mad.  I hate sin…I really do.  I most especially hate my own sin.  But I hated to see how sin ruined the lives of many of these professional athletes who had so much going for them (at least from a worldly perspective).  There is one area that most of these men missed the reason for all their problems….and it wasn’t money, nor was it that they are now all broke (financially).

What these men did not report was that there was something far more “broke” with them than they realized, their hearts.  They were spiritually bankrupt.  Jeremiah 17:9 lays it out for us,

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

We could substitute the word broke for sick.  The Bible makes it clear that our hearts are broken (Romans 3:23) and that we desperately need a Savior to repair them (Romans 3:24).

Another theme that was continually repeated throughout the film Broke was one of the most mis-quoted Scriptures in all of the Bible.  You’ve heard it before, “Money is the root of all evil.”  It sounds good, doesn’t it?  It sounds true! Therefore we just go along with it and agree, “Yes! That’s the problem. We should get rid of all money because it’s evil!”  But as we have clearly stated before, the problem is not money, it is the heart.  

This often misquoted verse comes from 1 Timothy:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
(1 Timothy 6:10 ESV)

The Apostle Paul never said “money is the root of all evil.”  The Bible states implicitly and explicitly that the “love of money” births “all kinds of evils.”  Money is not the root of evil.  Our sinful, broken hearts are the root of evil.  Our sinful hearts take things like money and make them into an idol (to put money in the place of God). Money does not cause “many pangs,” it simply exposes what’s already in the heart.

When we give ourselves over to this form of idolatry and make money our object of worship we get what these men in Broke self-describe as brokenness, pangs (I love this word – sharp, instant emotional pain), diaster, “mo problems”, and in many cases utter ruin.

I’m glad these men went on camera to tell their story.  It is a story we all can relate to.  We’ve all given our lives over to something that we though could satisfy but it simply left us broken.  This is not a bad thing because God uses brokenness to bring us back to Him and to show us that only Jesus can satisfy.

I love this song…it’s called Satisfied, and I think it tells the story of how Jesus is our “untold wealth” that never fails us and never fails to satisfy.  

All my life long – I had panted – for a drink from some cool spring…That I hoped would – quench the burning – of thirst I felt within.


Chorus: Hallelujah!  He has found me, the One my soul so long has craved! Jesus satisfies – all my longings – through his blood I now am saved.


Feeding on the – filth around me – ‘till my strength was almost gone. Longed my soul for – something better – only still to hunger on.


Poor I was and – sought for riches – something that would satisfy. But the dust I – gathered ‘round me – only mocked my soul’s sad cry.


Well of water – ever springing – Bread of Life so rich and free. Untold wealth that – never faileth – my Redeemer is to me.

Thoughts on Family Worship

I am convinced that fellowship around the Word of God is absolutely necessary for the survival of today’s family.  The souls of our children are at stake in today’s world and parents must be at the front-lines of the battlefield.  The only way I know to fight this war and win is with the Sword of the Spirit (Hebrews 4:12), the Word of God.

In many Christian homes the Word of God is taught, learned, and celebrated through an ancient tradition called family worship.  Family worship is not a church service in your home every night but it is a reverent, important, set-apart time to fellowship around the Word and to teach children about worshiping the Triune God of the Bible.  Other important elements of this time are prayer, singing, and thanksgiving.

Rob Reinow has an important word for us on the importance of family worship and teaching our children about corporate worship.

Family Worship is a foundation for corporate worship on Sunday.  If children do not regularly experience worship in their homes, how can we expect them to feel comfortable in church on Sunday morning? Without family worship as a catalyst, worship in church on Sunday can be a rather bizarre hour of their week.  All of a sudden they are expected to sit, listen, sing, follow along in their Bibles, and turn their hearts to spiritual things. The reason many children cannot sit still in church services has nothing to do with a so-called short attention span. It is most often a lack of training.

This thought was another great reminder this week to my wife and I.  It reminded us to pray about and work on our family devotion times.  We were both convinced that this is the time to talk to our young children about corporate worship and how to worship.  It is an important time for us to disciple our children (Deut. 6:4-9).

No Condemnation – Romans 8:1

This semester I have the privilege of teaching through the entire chapter, verse by verse, of Romans chapter 8 to the Highlands Presbyterian Church College class on Sunday mornings.  One of the commentaries that I am gleaning much insight and wisdom from is D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones exposition of Romans. It is quite a work – in fact it is 14 volumes on the book of Romans that he preached for many years.

Below is a wonderful quote from Lloyd-Jones on Romans 8:1.

‘No condemnation’. ‘There is therefore now no’. ‘Therefore’, ‘now’, ‘no’ – what important words they are! The words remind us of our position now as Christians. Look at that word ‘no’ – ‘No condemnation’! What a statement! ‘No’ is a little word of two letters; but are we aware of its full meaning? It is entire, it is complete, it is absolute. In other words, Paul is saying that a Christian is a person who has been taken entirely outside the realm of any possible or conceivable condemnation.  The Christian has finished with the realm of condemnation; he has been taken right out of it; he has nothing more to do with it. There is no condemnation to the Christian ‘now’ and never can be! Have you realized that? Not only is the Christian not in a state of condemnation now, he never can be; it is impossible.

This news is simply GLORIOUS!

Wilson’s Weekly – Issue 9

Why Read the Bible?  This is a very helpful, short video where D.A. Carson helps us understand why reading our Bible is important and how Scripture transforms us daily.  Watch it here!

Because today is national support Chick-fil-a day I think it is fitting to remember what Christian comedian Tim Hawkins has to say on the matter.  Watch it here!  Here is another one I like – click here!