It is a new year and a new beginning in many ways.  I want to take this opportunity to thank Faith Church for so graciously allowing me to have a sabbatical this past fall. Like so many other things in life a sabbatical cannot be truly appreciated until you have a chance to experience it first hand.  Think about trying to describe eating strawberry ice cream to someone who has never had it and you’ll get a feel for what I’m talking about.  Now don’t start thinking a sabbatical is the “be all end all” because it is not.  However, a sabbatical can be very necessary.  I needed the rest; I didn’t realize how much I needed it until I started experiencing it.  I needed time away for reflection, time to think and to examine what it is I have been called to do.  I needed the time to ask myself some hard questions. 

 Now there are a couple of things I should address.  First let me address the idea that a sabbatical is some sort of signal that the pastor is leaving.  I don’t know what your experience has been, but let me assure the congregation that I have no intention of leaving.  I’ll be here, Lord willing, for a long time.  He has not released me from this call nor am I seeking to be released.  Until the Lord calls me elsewhere, I’m here and my prayer is that He will make me faithful and fruitful here at Faith Church.  That said; let me now say that I’m returning from sabbatical with an intention of making the most of this opportunity to start over, to start fresh, and that is exciting.  Now join me in praying for the patience to walk before I try to run.  What am I talking about?  I’m not talking about making any major changes.  I’m talking about focusing on those things that are most important. All of us who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior by grace through faith are called to be disciples.  One of the best definitions of a disciple is seen in the motto of the Presbyterian Church in America: “Faithful to the Scriptures, True to the Reformed Faith, and obedient to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.”  That is who we are called to be in the PCA and by God’s grace that is who we will be.  That is my prayer; I invite you to join me in it. 

 As we enter 2016 there is much that needs to be done and much that needs to change.  You are a part of that need because you are a part of this branch of Christ’s visible church here in Frederick.  Just like me, there are things you need to do, and there are things about you that need to change.  Praise God!  He doesn’t leave us as He found us.  For His glory He is committed to transforming us into the image of His Son as the Holy Spirit applies the Gospel to our hearts and lives.  He has done exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ask or imagine and He will continue for that is in keeping with His immutable character.  He has saved us to the uttermost, let us shout it from the mountaintops!