Church Blog

Do You Pray?

“The question is one that none but you can answer. Whether you attend public worship or not, your minister knows. Whether you have family prayers in your house or not, your relations know. But whether you pray in private or not, is a matter between yourself and God.”

J.C. Ryle, Do You Pray?

The Evangelical Bishop of Liverpool, J.C. Ryle, took it as his great concern that the people of his congregation actually become holy and so he encouraged them to pray. We have been doing the same through recent weeks by looking at a few of the prayers that Paul prayed for the churches. The premise is simple, if Paul prays these things for the churches, we should pray them for our church also.

So, let us pray. Let us ask God for what we really want. Let us take up the Sunday bulletin at the dinner table and ask God to bless those 3 names listed every week. Ask God to bring health to our sick ones, to comfort our struggling ones, to restore our wandering ones. Ask Him! What if we truly asked for these things and what if He answered by giving them to us?

The Simple Prayers of these last Weeks:
Don’t know what to pray? Start with these simple sentences.

Lord, I know all too well that I remain unlike Christ. Please restore me by your Spirit.

Lord, we do not expect our elders to be perfect but we ask that you do not let them settle for less. Bring them to perfection for your glory, their joy and our good.

Lord, I ask that you meet ____ in the place where he is bent. Straighten him with growing faith in Jesus and growing holiness in the Spirit.

Lord, thank you for your Word and for all the good teachers you have given us. Overcome our true difficulties with learning, overcome our laziness and overcome our actual sin…so that our hearts may be transformed by your Word and our church may be filled with wisdom and understanding.

Lord, our prayer is that you make us holy by the Spirit’s application of your Word. Bring a whole life integrity to us individually and together and fulfill our desire to see the next generations of our physical and spiritual children know you, love you and obey you.

And the 100 Year Prayer:
Eternal God, you gave this place to your resurrected Son when you gave Him the end of the earth to the end of the age. Give us the next 100 years. Give us 100 years of believing children and their children. Give us 100 years of deep adult believers who spread the gospel broadly. Give us 100 years of adult believers who will lead this place and these people according to your will. We ask this so that your kingdom come and your will be done in this place as it is in heaven. We asked this in the name of the one who rules heaven and earth and will never leave us or forsake us. Amen and amen.

I am not Bishop Ryle and I likely will never be, but I am one thing that he will never be, I am your Pastor. I took vows to God and to you to love you, serve you and pastor you until either I bury you or you bury me. I took vows to labor to see you become more like Christ and for your children to become more like Christ. I pray for you and I am encouraging you to pray for one another and for the whole of our church.

Our hope is to pray more together and learn to pray more together this fall at The Table (our midweek groups) by reading old prayers from The Valley of Vision, learning about the God they pray to and what they pray for before we reword them to pray for our own church.

So, I ask, along with the old saint of Liverpool, “Do you pray?”
Pastor Robert

Summer 2022

Returning to the Hall

After 100 gracious and wonderful Sundays in the vineyard, we will be returning home to the Santa Margarita Community Hall on Sunday, April 24. We’ve been out for 100 Sundays and many of you have never been at the Hall at all. Here is some important and helpful information as we make the transition home.

First of all, the Santa Margarita Community Hall is located at 22501 I Street in Santa Margarita. Santa Margarita Community Church Chapel is right next-door at 22525 I St.

We are grateful for the use of both of these facilities, made possible by the good people who have gone before us. We stand on their shoulders.

Worship services, as adult Sunday school, will be held in the Community Hall. Children’s Sunday School, the cry room and mid-week Bible studies will be held in the Chapel.

Sunday school

Families with children will probably want to park at the Chapel in order to check their children in for Sunday school. Please arrive with enough time so you can follow the check-in procedures and have them ready to begin with Miss Jean or Miss Janine at 9:00 AM. Children will continue their study of the Bible using the curriculum called Generations of Grace which leads our children through the Bible once every three years.

Adult Sunday school, continuing our theological study using the 1689 Confession, will meet in the community hall at 9:00 AM.

We are hoping to have nursery care available during the Sunday School hour.

Worship Service

Worship will begin promptly at 10:00 in the Community Hall – please arrive in enough time to park as you may have to park on the street. There is parking available behind the Chapel, on I St beside the Hall and on Murphy in front of the Hall.

In order to accommodate all of us, we will make our fellowship area on the side of the building between the Hall and the Library. Your coffee and donuts will be waiting for you there as well. Please enter through that side door. If you’ve been worshipping in the Hall with us for 10 years, this will be different for you – please do follow this pattern as it will allow us to accommodate more for worship.

During the service, an unattended cry room will be set up in the Chapel for those moments when you need to take your little one out to settle down. The service will be streamed onto a monitor so that you do not have to miss any part of it while you work on raising up those little worshippers. Remember, the cry room is an aid so that you can return to the service as soon as you and your child are able. Don’t plan to watch the entirety of the service from there.

A few things to remember 

Again, parking is difficult and much of it is on the street – please be considerate of our neighbors. They have been wonderful to us over the years.

We will be getting our money’s worth out of the room, so be patient with each other and give thanks to God for giving us each other and so many children! 

And…the restrooms in the Community Hall are awkwardly placed. When we are seated for worship, they are unfortunately on the front side of the room. The ladies’ is even worse than the men’s. We are working on additional doors or curtains and are working on the possibility of adding additional temporary (but nice) restrooms at the Chapel.  Meanwhile, there is a bathroom at the chapel if you need one during the service.

God has been good to us in these last 100 Sundays. I am eager to see what He has in store as we return home.

Why do we do that? Corporate Confession

“Many Evangelical churches do not often include a time of corporate confession as part of their weekly services. This is, I believe, a weakness of our gatherings.”

Greg Strand, EFCA Executive Director of theology and credentialing

We confess our sins together as a part of corporate worship each Lord’s Day. In the past, the Pastor has offered the confession sometimes on behalf of the congregation while the congregation prayed responsively at others. This is one area where our study of the Book of Leviticus has strengthened your Pastor to be better and to grow. Why do we do that? Why do we confess our sins together? There are at least 5 things that are taking place when we pray a corporate prayer of confession on the Lord’s Day:

We are being obedient to the order of worship given in the Bible. We confess our sin, we are consecrated by the Word preached that declares Christ as our substitute and we communion with God in a meal that celebrates that we are at peace with Him.

We acknowledge the confidence we have in full forgiveness that is found in Christ alone. Because we have been forgiven and are right with God because of Jesus, we are free to confess the smaller, daily sins that break fellowship with Him and with each other. 

We declare what kind of community we are. We are a community of sinners who have covenanted together for better and for worse. There is no perfect person in the room. We are a community of priests who have direct access to God in Christ. The Pastor is not the priest, he may not confess for you. We confess together because it is true of all of us.

We are repenting of actual known sins we committed in the previous week. You may have done all the confession necessary on Thursday. Amen to that. This time becomes a grateful acknowledgment of the restoration of fellowship that we have through Christ.

We declare that we are (right now) not what the Call to Worship is calling us to be and we declare that we need Christ to be our substitute and the Spirit to be our help.

Corporate confession shapes our loves and gives us a vision of the good life. We love the forgiveness that we have because Jesus paid for all our sins. We long for the day in which every one of us in marked by the maturity that comes with regular, joyful repentance. Amen! 

Upon your profession of faith, your confession of sin and the promise of God in His Word, be assured today that your sins are forgiven in Jesus’ name.

Why do we do that?: Congregational singing

We are a singing people; we sing often; we sing joyfully (Ps. 100:1), and we want to continually be singing more skillfully (Ps. 33:3). 

What We Sing: We sing congregational songs so that the whole congregation can sing together on the Lord’s Day. That is, we sing songs that are fitting for 100+ voices (skilled or unskilled!) to sing together.  When we come together on the Lord’s Day, the congregation is the choir, and the congregation’s voice is the primary instrument of praise. 

We sing songs that are biblical in content, representative of Christian history, pastoral, and written for multiple voices.

Why We Sing: We sing congregational songs because of what the Bible teaches about singing on the Lord’s Day. Singing is a result of the church being filled with the Spirit! We are to sing together to the Lord and we are to sing to one another (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).

We sing congregational songs because of what the Bible teaches about the church. The church is the people of God gathered on the Lord’s Day in response to the call of God. In worship we act as one body, and not as group of individuals. Therefore, when we sing, the whole body must join in, and so we enable all to sing by the songs we choose and how we lead them.

We sing congregational songs because of our mission to the community. Congregational songs are musically accessible to everyone, as soon as they walk in the door. This is an act of love to visitors and recent attenders.

We sing congregational songs because of our multi-generational mission. Congregational songs can be sung by young ones—they can be learned and sung at home. Just watch how kids in the service sing and lift their hands. We exist to raise up generations of Christians to be adults. Congregational singing best supports that mission in our worship.

Now what?: What are you to do with congregational singing? First, and most importantly, love your neighbor enough to want them to be able to sing with you. Be happy when someone who has a hard time singing can take part because of the songs chosen and the way they are led. Second, love your neighbor enough to sing with them and sing to them. Third, get better. Listen to the the Sunday playlist and improve your own skill of singing. This is what it means to be a congregational choir.

SMCC Christmas Eve Candlelight Service Explained: What We Do and Why

Each year we mark the celebration of Christmas with a Christmas Eve Candlelight service. This is a reflective service rejoicing in God’s salvation come in the birth of Christ. This year we will continue with how SMCC has traditionally observed this service: with scripture readings, singing carols, and candle lighting. We will relight the four advent candles we have lit throughout advent, culminating in the lighting of the Christ candle to mark the birth of Christ. At the end, the congregation will light each other’s small candles from the flame of the Christ candle.

For the order of the scripture readings and prayers this year, we will follow the plan of the “Nine Lessons and Carols” service. Why this model? For over a hundred years now, many churches have followed this same service order on Christmas Eve. It consists of nine short “lessons” (scripture readings) which tell the story of man’s fall through to the birth of Christ, interspersed with carols sung by the congregation or a choir. Though first begun in 1880, the form followed today was set by Eric Milner-White in 1919. He began the service on Christmas Eve 1918, just 6 weeks after the end of the First World War, with the goal of focusing on the warmth and delight of Christ’s birth to comfort a grieving people. The service is thus beautiful in its simplicity and fitting for reflecting on the wonder of the incarnation. The service leads us in just what it encourages us to do in the opening call to prayer: “Let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child.”

Please join us to celebrate together on December 24th, 6 pm, at the Oyster Ridge Barn.

Remembrances: Bible Study

Fall started off with a rush this year. I think it was just wonderful to be able to gather again in what feels like a normal routine. Whatever the reason, we are gathering and we are growing. We added Sunday school Classes, Table Groups and more Bible Studies than ever.

Our Bible Study method, a manuscript style inductive study, has brought a ton of unexpected fruit to those involved. Perhaps we should have expected that opening the Bible together in depth week after week would change us even if we couldn’t have imagined how much. Here is a link to know more about the Manuscript Bible Study.

These men and women, gathering 4 different times during the week, are doing the hard work of showing up. They are putting their heads down to study the Bible and then discuss it. Above all, the Spirit of God is using the Word of God in the mouths of the people of God to change their hearts.

There are few things that make a Pastor’s heart happier than seeing his people study the Bible. I am grateful for you.

Keep it up and keep paying attention the work of God going on in our church. We are gaining ground.

Pastor Robert

Inductive Manuscript Bible Study

Many people enjoy watching the Olympics. It’s thrilling to see world records broken as athletes perform better than anyone ever before. However, seeing a world record broken cannot compare to the athlete’s experience of setting a new world record. This is why we do manuscript Bible study. While it can be instructive, convicting, and intriguing to hear a lecture or read a book about a Bible passage, it doesn’t compare to the thrill of understanding a passage and being convicted by what we learn from our own study. As athletes work hard to train for competitions, we have to work to do manuscript study, but the fruit of those efforts makes worthwhile. So, what is inductive manuscript Bible study?

Group Study

Manuscript studies are group studies. God gifts people differently for the benefit of the group. My first manuscript study was discouraging. I had trouble making observations and asking questions. I sat and listened. Often at the end of the discussion, I would say, “So, are we saying…?” When I mentioned my frustration, the leader said not to worry about quietly listening. My gift was summarizing what we learned in the passage. I gained from the groups’ comments. They gained from me pulling it all together. Group study allows us to benefit from each other’s gifts and learn more together than we would alone.


Our manuscript studies are inductive. This means we look closely at the text to discover what it means, then we apply it to our lives. We intentionally use a particular thinking pattern to study. We label the steps and purposely walk through them slowly. The steps are simple. Everyone uses them daily: Observation, Interpretation and Application. Want to see a movie? You read the movie listings. (Observation) You consider your schedule, the movie schedule, what you want to see and you choose your movie. (Interpretation) Finally, you see the movie. (Application) In Bible study, we look at the text. What does it actually say? How does it say it? (Observation) Then, we ask questions about the text and decide what it is teaching us. (Interpretation) Finally, we think about how it applies to us today. (Application)


Manuscript study does take effort. However, the fruit is tremendous. First, we learn much more studying together. Second, it becomes normal for us to have spiritual conversations. Third, we gain confidence studying scripture. We begin to see how the Old and New Testaments are connected. Fourth, we use Bible resources to find answers to our questions. Fifth, we develop a hunger for God’s word. Finally, we grow individually and corporately as we regularly apply God’s word in our lives together.

Remembrance: The Parish School

I mentioned last Sunday morning that the passage on memorials encouraged me to pay more attention to those things that I am (or at least should be) grateful for in the life of our church.

While so much seems to be standing still in our world, we are clearly gaining ground. I see it and I want to celebrate it with you. I see it in the strength of our fully functioning staff and how well we are working together; I see it in the beauty of our meeting place out at Oyster Ridge; I see it in the growth of our congregation with so many of you only a part for a few months; and I see it in the size of ALL of our midweek groups, just to name a few.

Overall, I am just grateful to be your Pastor and I hope that you are grateful to be part of this church.

Today, I want to celebrate the children and families at The Parish School. As you know, education has been complicated for Christian families for a long time and it became increasingly so in the last school year. Many of our families have gathered together to support each other in some version of home schooling. Some attend charter programs on other days and some do all of their schooling at home.

We determined that we would gather together in order to form a common culture that is centered on the life of the church. We share those things that shape a local culture: we learn the Bible together (also learning those passages at home), we learn the same catechism and we sing the same songs together each Wednesday morning.

This is so encouraging because we can clearly see that the simple efforts to read, pray and sing really do produce fruit in our lives and in the lives of our children.

I wish I had a picture of 20 children piled up around me as I read the Bible to them or show them pictures of Gideon’s shophar, but I do have a little video of the children singing Psalm 67C, God Show Mercy to Us. They really are able to learn it and to sing well. One of the books that Miss Jean (Collins) provided for our music instructors (Claire Daniels on Wednesday morning and Caleb & Maegan Campbell on Wednesday night) said this, which we have found very encouraging in the goal of giving our children the gift of music:

“By third grade, at least 95% of students I have taught since Grade One match pitches accurately.”

Enjoy. Be encouraged. Keep making efforts to learn the Psalm for yourself and keep gaining ground.

Watch Video Here.

Pastor Robert

1000 Generations

Four Truths that Stand Test and Time

This weekend we begin a series of sermons highlighting 4 key doctrines that stand up to both testing and time. If we were to believe differently in these areas it would produce a very different kind of fruit, if you could call it fruit at all.

Aug 1. The Godness of God: We start with God because God starts with God. God is. God is simple. God simply remains the same.

Aug. 8 The Condescension of God: the only way that this God can relate His creation is by stepping down to do so. We call the form of God’s condescension a covenant. We are born into a covenant with Adam. We are born again into a covenant with Christ.

Aug. 15 The Worship of God: The God who exists by His own power and condescends to be in relationship to man regulates His own worship by His revealed Word in the Bible.

Aug 22 The People of God: The people of God confess the faith together once for all delivered to the saints. That truth has been summarized, put in forms to be learned and passed on from generation to generation.