How Are You Spending July?

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Dear Friends,

Let me tell you about my July.

As many of you know, I spend a few weeks a year doing what is referred to as “study leave.”  Far from being a vacation time for me, I often put in more hours in the day during these times than when I am working out of my study at church.  This is the time when I think and pray and study about what we will be doing in worship for the year.  I try to plan out, as much as possible, the year with topics and sermons.  I think and pray, for example, about how I will communicate the message of Christmas and Easter in the coming year in hopes that I will do it in such a way that is meaningful to all who will be with us during those special worship services.  Of course there are all those other Sundays that happen in between the holidays that have to be planned as well.  Through the years I have found the week that I spend by myself reading and planning to be absolutely invaluable when it comes to my preaching throughout the year.  During this week of personal study I find myself reading the Bible a lot…and praying a lot…and thinking about you and your spiritual needs a lot.  This year I’ll do much of that sitting on a porch in Montreat with books and notes and commentaries and computer spread out before me.  It was during this time last year that I was challenged by a book called, “Simple Church” which ultimately led to our church wide study, “Connected:  My Life in the Church.”

You are not preaching week after week, but times when you can be alone with the Lord are important for you as well.  Sometimes God speaks to us in the quiet moments of reflection and meditation.  I treasure this time and am grateful to you and the Session for allowing me to spend that time without having to attend to the daily responsibilities that come when I’m sitting in my study or teaching or visiting.

I also recognize that we all need to be fed by others.  Most often I find myself in the “teaching” role.  I’m constantly preparing sermons and Bible studies and devotions.  In order to do those things I know I need to hear and wrestle with what others are studying and communicating.  Believe it or not, even after studying the Scriptures and preaching for all these years, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of the riches of God found in the Bible.

Last year I took an in-depth course on the book of Ezekiel.  This summer, I will also be taking an intensive Bible course on the Gospel of Luke at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove.  Singer, song writer and author of numerous books, Michael Card, will be teaching.  You can check out some of his excellent Bible teaching on RightNow Media.  It’s good stuff.  From Monday afternoon until noon on Friday of a week in July I will be in thirteen classes on this marvelous gospel.  I’m really looking forward to immersing myself in this gospel for an entire week.   I’m re-reading Luke’s Gospel now as a way to prepare for that course.

That will be the “working” part of my July.  I would ask that you keep me in prayer during this time, especially that it would be a productive time and I will be led in directions that will be of greatest benefit for our congregational study and spiritual growth.

In addition to these weeks of study, Diane and I will be taking some vacation time.  An annual week at the beach with kids and grandkids is greatly anticipated.  We will also take some other time away to visit family.

During my time away you will be led in worship by some great preachers who I know communicate the Gospel with conviction and clarity.  Make sure you are here on the Sundays you are in town to join in worship.

Finally, know that you will be well taken care of by Pastor Jeff and the session and deacons if you have pastoral care needs.  Just call the church office or send an email.

Although you will not see me much during the month of July, I will be spending much of my time praying for you and preparing for what we will do together through the end of this year and well into the next.

Together with you in Christ’s service,

Ray

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