The Gospel and the Cultural Moment(s)

It seems that virtually every day there is a cultural event, even an act of horrific violence, that needs a pastoral response. Quite frankly, I struggle with what my role as your pastor should be in responding to such events. Should I take the time every Sunday to say something about racism, terror attacks, threat of nuclear war, etc…? Should I write an article and give my assessment of every cultural moment that we experience? I’m struggling with this.  I ask for your prayers that I can discern when and how to respond.

Though I’m wrestling with specific cultural events mentioned above, one thing is becoming crystal clear to me more and more every day.  The only solution to the problems of our world, the only thing that is worth commenting on and lauding everyday is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  As the author of Hebrews implores us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 ESV)  Regardless of the chaos before us, we do have a daily mission before us as Jesus has called us in Matthew 24:14 – to spread the Gospel of Christ’s kingdom coming. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  (Matthew 24:14 ESV)

The Gospel really is the answer to everything.  The light of the Scriptures shines good news onto any and every situation or cultural moment that comes our way. What is the solution to racism? It is more Gospel – more preaching with crystal clarity that we are all made in God’s image and have inherent value as created beings.

What is the solution to hate? It is the more Gospel that teaches we are called to “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31–32 ESV)

What is the solution to fear and terror? “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10 ESV)

What is to be our response to politics gone wild? “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1 ESV)  Yet this must be balanced with the Bible’s instruction to beware of those who would lead us astray (Matthew 24:11).

I heard someone say the other day, “The solution to our problems is not necessarily a Bible verse.” I disagree with this sentiment. Certainly, not one single Bible verse fixes all our problems and solves all the issues of the world; however, there is abundant wisdom from God that teaches us how to live, how to think and how to respond to our cultural moments. Here are a few:

  • “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1–2 ESV)
  • “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 ESV)
  • “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV)

May God help us to think more of Christ and His Gospel. May God help us to think Biblically about our cultural moments. May God strengthen us so that we may stand firm in Him.

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,


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)


Halloween and the Reformation

I had a parent ask me a great question today that I want to post to you:

Is there a good book that would explain the Presbyterian beliefs on Reformation versus Halloween?  I want to be able to discuss with the kids and have some true facts that make sense. Wikipedia has a lot of information, much to sort through and try to make basic sense of.  What do you suggest?


I’m glad you asked!  Great question!  No books that I’m aware of but some good articles and other resources:

Hope this helps!

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).

Wilson’s Weekly – Issue 8

It’s been a while … forgive me.  Here are some things that I have found good lately….

Read, Read, Read, to Your Children – I appreciate this article by Marty Machowski author of The Gospel Story Bible.  I’m so thankful for my wife, the mother of our children, because God convicted her before we had children to cultivate this habit in our home. Our children would rather have their parents read to them on most days rather than watch a TV show.  I highly recommend the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.

Recently I had the privilege to preach on the 5th commandment.  I believe this commandment has an important word for parents, not just children.  I invite you to listen here.


Wilson’s Weekly – Issue 7

Forgive me for not posting in a while.  Things have gotten pretty busy with having a 4th child, selling a home, and now trying to buy a home.  Here are a few interesting things to look at….

How to Miss a Childhood.  Thanks to my friends the Jones’ for pointing this out to me.  Great reminder of how we need to keep careful watch over our time with out spouses and children.

The Gospel Coalition. If you are not familiar with the Gospel Coalition, let me introduce you.  The Gospel Coalition is a fellowship of evangelical and reformed churches.  Their website: is worth checking almost daily.  You will find articles and blogs from some of the leading Christian thinkers and pastors that will encourage you daily in your walk with Jesus.

Speaking of The Gospel Coalition, here is a good article that reflects upon President Obama’s recent support for same-sex marriages: How to Win the Public on Homosexuality 

Wilson’s Weekly – Issue 6

We just had our 4th child – a little girl – so I’m a little behind on some posts but here are a few things of note….

The Donkey Who Carried a King is a great new children’s book by R.C. Sproul.  I’m impressed that this renown theologian can write a work this good for kids.  I recommend this for ages 4 and up.  It is pretty fascinating to see how prominent a donkey is in the Bible and to look at how God used them.  It is also very much about the Easter story.


One of the great benefits I have had in my walk with Christ over the years is the blessing of opening up the Word of God and studying it with a group.  Here is a great tool that I recommend using when studying a book of the Bible with a small group.  Click here.