Saturday, January 31, 2009

Missionary Spotlight

Andrew Lamb, Florida

Andrew grew up in Lakeland, FL where he knew from his early years that God was calling him into missions. He attended Columbia International University and Reformed Theological Seminary with degrees in missions and theology.

Anne grew up in Miami and became interested in missions at James Madison University when she attended the Urbana Missions Conference. Anne has an M.S. in dietetics from Fl International University. Andrew and Anne met at Covenant Presbyterian in Lakeland, Fl and are blessed with four boys, Drew (11/11/88), Daniel (3/7/91), Michael (5/3/93), and Richard (5/24/95).

The Lambs spent their first two terms in Mexico City helping to start a number of churches across Mexico and developing partnerships between PCA churches and new national church plants.

The Lambs worked for six years, with MTW teams around the world helping them partner with PCA churches that are interested in partnerships in missions. They helped start partnerships in every region MTW serves. They have also been involved with the Church Relations Department of MTW helping churches grow in their missions efforts.

In 2007, Andrew moved into leadership in Latin America, he serves as Regional Director for Mexico and Brazil as well as Partnership consultant for partnerships in L.A.

While MTW has a number of missionaries serving in Mexico, there is still much to do in impacting northern Mexico with new church plants. They also have a goal of seeing the church in Mexico reach out to other people groups with the gospel of Christ as national missionaries. Brazil, while it has a good sized national Presbyterian Church ,there is much to be done in church planting, mercy ministries and world missions also.

Please pray that God will continue to raise up workers for the harvest and also partnering churches to walk along side the national church planters. Please also pray that the Lamb’s work will result in the kingdom of God growing and many churches planted in unreached areas. Please join them as a support and or prayer partner.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Men's Bible Study: Old Testament Survey

Frequently Asked Questions

I've received a host of good questions about the FPC Men's Bible Study the last several weeks, and since the questions are fairly similar in nature, I thought it appropriate to post short answers to your questions here.

Can I sign up even if I know I'm going to miss from time to time? Yes! The study is designed for you to step in an out if need be. As with most things, the more you can attend and participate, the more spiritual benefit you will receive. However, personal and work related conflicts will arise from time to time, but please don't let that keep you from signing up and being a part of the study as often as you can.

Can I bring friends or co-workers who are not members of First Pres.? Yes! This Bible study is primarily a place for the men of FPC to read God's Word together and enjoy gospel fellowship. But this is also the kind of study that has broad appeal to all Christians. So, please feel free to invite friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, or anyone you believe would benefit from a study of this nature.

What materials, other than the Bible, do I need? The only materials you will need are a Bible, a pen, and a journal/binder for notes. You will receive a weekly handout which could be placed in a binder for safe keeping.

What is the format of the Bible study? Each week the study will include teaching, Q&A, and prayer. The goal is to keep the teaching time to around 30/35 minutes, which leaves roughly 10 minutes for Q&A and 10 minutes for prayer. This may change slightly from week to week, but this is generally what you can expect from week to week. The Bible study will aim to finish around 7:30a.m. every week, so you can make it to work on time.

Should I want to study the Old Testament on my own, what resources would you recommend? Next week I will provide you a bibliography of resources on the Old Testament. If you are interested in going further than our weekly meetings together, please let me know. If there is a great interest in going further in some areas of the Old Testament, I would be glad to help and assist you, and even find a separate time for us to meet and discuss. FYI: I will specifically recommend Ryken's Bible Handbook, Leland Ryken, et al. (Tyndale, 2005) as the one resource I would strongly encourage everyone to pick up.

There may be other questions swimming around in your head. If there are, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. I can be reached at

Before I go, let me remind you to sign up if you have not already. Many of you have stopped me in the hallways at church and expressed interest in the study but weren't exactly sure if you could commit. If you definitely plan on attending some and haven't yet signed up, please take a moment and send Shannon Craft, Administrative Assistant of Discipleship, an e-mail at But if you forget to sign up, don't worry; just show up next Tuesday, Feb.3, in Miller Hall at 6:30am. We will have plenty of space and food for you.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fighting a Stubborn Enemy

Realizing who we are, and adjusting our lives accordingly, is what living the Christian life is essentially about. It involves an understanding that (in some sense) we died to sin the moment we first trusted in Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:2). Sin is no longer our master (Rom. 6:14); slavery to sin is something that belongs to our past (Rom. 6:17). 'The love of sin,' Thomas Watson noted, 'is crucified.'

But sin has not surrendered the fight. On the contrary, as Romans 7 indicates all too clearly, sin remains a powerful force in the life of every Christian. Far from surrendering, sin has retreated into the background to fight a kind of guerrilla warfare. Remaining sin, wrote Thomas Watson, ‘is not perfectly cured in this life. Though grace does subdue sin, yet it does not wholly remove it... Though the Spirit be still weakening and hewing down sin in the godly, yet the stump of original sin is left. It is a sea that will not, in this life, be dried up.'

The aim of the Christian life is to put this indwelling sin to death.

'If by the Spirit you put to death ['mortify' is the King James word] the deeds of the body, you will live' (Rom. 8:13); 'Therefore put to death your members which are on earth...' (Col. 3:5). 'Members' is the New King James rendition (the NIV has 'your earthly nature'). Neither is quite as graphic as the original which literally translated is 'appendages': the literal sense seems especially apropos here since what the apostle wants crucified are a list of sexual sins: 'fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and covetousness which is idolatry'!

Our aim is to destroy sin completely. That is our aim! And it is a life-long war of attrition. Lest we should be lulled into a false sense of security, Peter warns us of remaining sins which ‘war against the soul' (1 Pet. 2:11).

But how then do we engage in putting sin to death? There is far more than we have space to enlarge upon here, but we shall note a few of the essential features.

The first is to develop a Christian mind. To be ‘spiritually minded,’ Paul said, ‘is life and peace' (Rom. 8:6; cf. Rom.12:2). We need to have our minds changed, and changed about what sin is, and what sin does! It is interesting to note that the word most commonly used in the New Testament for 'repentance' is metanoeo, a word which literally means to change one's mind!

Second, we need to learn to run from sin. Running away from trouble is not necessarily cowardice; sometimes, in a moment of weakness, it is the sensible thing to do. 'Flee' was the apostle's word: 'Flee sexual immorality' (1 Cor. 6:18); ' Flee youthful lusts...' (2 Tim. 2:22); 'But you, O man of God, flee these things...' (1 Tim. 6:11; the 'things' Paul had in mind were 'foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition,' one of which was 'the love of money'). Did Paul have in mind the story of Joseph and how he fled from the clutches of Potiphar's wife (Gen. 39:13)? Retreat in battle in order to regroup is a wise thing to do. We are to take care to recognize the occasions when sin is likely to strike: 'he that dares to dally with the occasions of sin,' wrote John Owen perceptively, 'will dare to sin.'

Third, we need to develop a Christ-like character. After a list of what Paul calls ‘the lusts of the flesh’ in Galatians 5, Paul is careful to emphasize the positive side of sanctification: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (cf. Gal. 5:19-22). What are these but ways of describing the character of Jesus Christ! Every day we are to grow more like him. At the close of his lectures, John Calvin would engage in prayer. One such went like this:

Grant, Almighty God... that we, being endued with thy power, may boldly fight against Satan, and never doubt that thou wilt finally give us the victory, though we may have to undergo many troubles and difficulties; and may not the contempt of the world frighten or dishearten us, but may we patiently bear all our reproaches until thou at length stretchest forth thy hand to raise us up to that glory, the perfection of which now appears in our Head, and shall at last be clearly seen when he shall come to gather us into that celestial kingdom which he has purchased for us by his own blood. Amen

One day, God will make us perfect after the pattern of His own dear Son. Until then, it is a fight all the way; but one in which the Spirit is promised as our strengthener. We are to be resolute in our determination to rid ourselves of sin—waiting for that day when we shall be ‘like Him.’


Friday, January 23, 2009


Guess who just earned "Good Showing" in the category of "Best Local TV Preacher" in the Jackson Free press Best of Jackson 2009? Our own Ligon Duncan!


Missionary Spotlight

Robert and Linda Rahaim, Scotland

Robert & Linda have been serving as career missionaries with MTW in Dundee Scotland since November of 2004. They were invited by Scottish ministers to develop a family support ministry to address the counseling and support needs of families in and outwith the church.

Robert holds a Masters of Art in Marriage & Family Therapy from Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS and has worked in counseling ministry for the past 17 years. He has been an adjunct instructor at Belhaven College in Jackson, MS and has been a guest lecturer/instructor in the Marriage & Family Therapy program at RTS Jackson.

Linda has a BS in Family Sciences and has been a teacher and an encourager of young people and women over the years.

Together they offer help and encouragement to both Christians and non-Christians through counseling and relational ministry on both a professional and informal basis.

Linda also leads Bible studies in her home and teaches young people at the local church and Robert serves as a ruling elder at St. Peter’s Free Church in Dundee, Scotland.

God has blessed their ministry and used their relational skills to open several doors in Scotland.

Robert and Linda have 2 sons living in the States, Joseph (33) who is married with 3 children and David (25), who graduated from Belhaven College with a BFA in creative writing. Their 2 daughters are living in Scotland with them. Jessica (22) has completed her 3rd year at Dundee University majoring in English. She is engaged to be married next July to Mr. Paul Swaddle of New Castle, England. Sarah (18) has just completed her high school requirements and will spend this next year in Scotland before continuing on to university.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pastor's Perspective

Praying for our President, Barack Obama

It was my joy to sit with my dear friends, Al Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, Thabiti Anyabwile and John Piper in Louisville, Kentucky this morning, watching the inauguration of our new President. One of the things we talked about was how to pray for him. Al Mohler has some brilliant guidance here. I also want us, as members of First Presbyterian Church to think Christianly about how to think about and pray for our new President.

As Americans, I suspect that none of us can fully appreciate the far-reaching significance of this event, though our nation and much of the rest of the world are electric with the inauguration of Barack Obama as the new President of the United States of America. To say that this is historic, is a gross understatement.

Many are rejoicing at this very visible public realization of the ideals of the Declaration of Independence at the very pinnacle of our civic life. In the ascendancy of an African-American from less-than-privileged circumstances to the leadership of the free world, we see the fruit of aspirations of the Founders: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” You don’t have to read far in the newspapers of the world to see them marveling at yet another astounding accomplishment in the great experiment that is America.

Do you realize that our republic has now enjoyed 44 peaceful transitions of power in our two-plus centuries of existence. There is no parallel for this in human history. And we need to thank God for his singular blessing in bestowing it upon us, undeserving as we are.

But I said I wanted us to think about all this Christianly (and not just as grateful or concerned Americans, much less as giddy Democrats or grumpy Republicans!). And this presents us with some challenges, doesn't it?

As much as we may feel "this is my President and I want him to succeed," as much as we may feel sympathetic joy with millions who watched President Obama's inauguration with tear-filled eyes and hope-filled hearts, feeling themselves a part of the American story in a way they've never felt before, there lingers a question as to how to think about our leader in areas where his views and policies conflict with biblical conviction.

Many Christians find themselves profoundly conflicted because of some of the moral positions and social policies that Mr. Obama espouses. So how do you pray for your President when you disagree with him?

Thankfully, the Bible is not silent about such a question. After all it commands us to pray for all in authority (1 Timothy 2:2), no matter their party, policies or religion (or lack thereof). It is vital that we think Christianly, which is to say, biblically, about this issue (and not just as Democrats or Republicans who happen to be Christian). So, back to the question. How do we pray for Mr. Obama? Here are some ideas (and I want to thank Al Mohler and Justin Taylor for many of these thoughts and words) for praying for our new President, Barack Obama.

First, it needs to be said, that we ought to commit ourselves to pray for our new President, for his wife and family, for his administration, and for the nation. We will do this, not only because of the biblical command to pray for our rulers, but because of the second greatest commandment "Love your neighbor" and what better way to love your neighbor, than to pray for his well-being. Those with the greatest moral and political differences with the President ought to ask God to engender in them, by His Spirit, genuine neighbor-love for Mr. Obama.

We will also pray for our new President because he (and we) face challenges that are not only daunting but potentially disastrous. We will pray that God will grant him wisdom. He and his family will face new challenges and the pressures of this office. May God protect them, give them joy in their family life, and hold them close together.

We will pray that God will protect this nation even as our new President settles into his role as Commander in Chief, and that God will grant peace as he leads the nation through times of trial and international conflict and tension.

We will pray that God would change President Obama's mind and heart on issues of crucial moral concern. May God change his heart and open his eyes to see abortion as the murder of the innocent unborn, to see marriage as an institution to be defended, and to see a host of issues in a new light. We must pray this from this day until the day he leaves office. God is sovereign, after all.

For those Christians who are more concerned than overjoyed about the prospects of an Obama presidency, there should be a remembrance that as our President, Barack Obama will have God-given authority to govern us, and that we should view him as a servant of God (Rom. 13:1, 4) to whom we should be subject (Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). Thus, again, we are to pray for Barack Obama (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We are to thank God for Barack Obama (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We are to respect Barack Obama (Rom. 13:7). We are to honor Barack Obama (Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:17).

For those Christians who are more overjoyed than concerned about the prospects of an Obama presidency, there should be a remembrance of our ultimate allegiance: Jesus is Lord (and thus, He, not we, decides what is right and wrong), we serve God not man, and the Lord himself has promised to establish "the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him" (Malachi 3:18). Thus, where our new president opposes or undermines biblical moral standards in our society, fails to uphold justice for the unborn, undermines religious liberties or condones an ethos that is hostile to the Gospel, we will pray for God's purposes to triumph over our President's plans and policies.

Without doubt and whatever our particular views may be, we face hard days ahead. Realistically, we must all expect to be frustrated and disappointed. Some now may feel defeated and discouraged. While others may all-too-soon find their audacious hopes unfounded and unrealized. We must all keep ever in mind that it is God who raises up leaders and nations, and it is God who pulls them down, and who judges both nations and rulers. We must not act or think like unbelievers, or as those who do not trust God.

So, now, Christian. Let’s get to work. And pray.


Understanding the Times

Vicar! I've been converted!
“Vicar,” I remembering saying back in 1971, “I’ve been converted!”

“No you haven’t!” was the instant response followed by a discussion the next day in which this Anglo-Catholic vicar told me in no uncertain terms, “Too much religion is very bad thing!”

That was 1971 and I had, despite what my vicar said, been “converted.” He, the vicar, didn’t believe in conversion as such; at least, not the evangelical variety involving what has customarily been termed a “born-again” experience in which a discernible change takes place from a life of sin to a life of Christ-exalting godliness. But, thirty-five years later, I still insist I was right and he was wrong. I had been “born-again.”

The problem (one of many) is that different folk employ words to mean different things – a bit like Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland who, at one point, says to Alice, “I decide what words mean.” Take “born-again”, for example. It’s a perfectly good term, taken from John’s writings (Gospel and epistles), and especially the account of Jesus conversation with Nicodemus. We “must’ be born-again, Jesus insisted, else we will not enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 7).

But it has become fashionable in the media of today to employ this term for something less than what Jesus intended by the term. Thus, anyone who wants evangelical kudos will employ “born-again” in his or her resume to ensure the vote of the Bible-belt. But, we run ahead of ourselves. What does the Bible have to say about “conversion”?

The idea of conversion, a turning, or returning, to God lies behind a group of words in both Old and New Testaments, but chiefly by the word evpistre,fw [epistrepho] and refers largely to that decisive turning to God whereby, through faith in Jesus Christ and on the basis of what Christ has achieved for us in his life, death and resurrection, a sinner secures present entry into the kingdom of God and receives forgiveness of sins now as a foretaste of that which will be a reality in the world to come (Matt. 18:3; Acts 3:19). It is an unrepeatable event. You cannot be converted more than once!

It is fascinating, for example, that Paul employs this term when speaking to the pagan and supposititious folk in Lystra. Having arrived in the region where the Roman author Ovid had set his famour work, Metamorphosis – a story in which two of the Greek gods, Hermes and Zeus (Mercury and Jupiter), had assumed mortal flesh – the pagan population of Lystra, on hearing Paul and Barnabas speak and witnessing a miraculous cure of a cripple, began to exclaim: “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men” (Acts 14:11). Paul responded by saying to them, “we bring you good news, that you should turn from (the verb is evpistre,fw) these vain things to a living God” (Acts 14:15). Since Paul doesn’t cite any Scripture (he’s not speaking to Jews in a synagogue as he was in Pisdian Antioch, for example, but to pagans who didn’t know the Scriptures at all), it is nevertheless interesting that he insists that they are in the wrong and that they need to turn. In other words, he is underlining a concept of sin and te need for repentance (a turning away from sin and towards God).Conversion then involves repentance and faith. Thus Peter links the two ideas in his Pentecost sermon: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). Paul summarizes his early ministry before Agrippa in similar terms, saying that he had declared “to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20).

Again, in 1971, I was converted and its effects are with me to this day. Can you say the same?


Friday, January 16, 2009

Missionary Spotlight

Jeff and Patty Borden, South Africa

Jeff has just completed over eleven years at the Bible Institute of South Africa (BISA), and is now starting a new seminary in the second largest black township in Cape Town (population .75 million!). As far as he knows, there has never been a Bible training school at Cape Town. Most of the pastors do not have a high school diploma because they are usually very expensive.

Jeff’s goal is to provide a training school for future pastors in their context, on their level and at a minimal cost. Most pastors in these areas have NO training at all, and many are hungry for Biblical training.

A further update is that two of their family members have been diagnosed with cancer during the second half of the latter year. They have some serious health problems and ask for our prayers for better health.

Their oldest son is is in Africa and seeks to volunteer for the ministry. Please pray for his transition back to South Africa after a semester and for the Lord’s leading regarding his future.

Their second son, Matthew (18) is a senior and intends to study biology next year in the US, specifically Virginia Tech. Please pray in regards to his future.

Their daughter Lydia (11) has Celiac’s Disease (gluten intolerance). Please pray for her, and for his wife, Patty. She (Patty) has an abundant amount of food preparation due to Lydia’s dietary restrictions (no wheat, barley, rye or oats). This can be difficult due to the lack of ready-made gluten-free products available in South Africa.

Lastly, please pray for some much-needed rest during the holidays and for the next few weeks.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Understanding the Times

There's Something About Mary
Ligon’s sermons the past two weeks and my own teaching at seminary this week (a course on Christology) has got me thinking about Mary. No, not the doctrine of her Immaculate Conception or her perpetual virginity or her role as Mediatrix: none of which are true according to the Bible. Rather, it is the honor that is due her as the mother of our blessed Lord Jesus. “Blessed are you among women” (Lk 1:42). We honor her as the mother of our Savior.

Because he took half of his chromosomes from the genetic material of Mary (the other half created by the Holy Spirit – “that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” [Matt 1:20]), it is not beyond possibility that Jesus might even have looked like Mary. Perhaps, at the time of his birth, Elizabeth said to Mary, “He looks just like you!” If she had said that he looked like Joseph it would have been mere politeness on her part because there would have been no genetic explanation for it!

Mary did not volunteer for this role. She was never asked for her compliance. There is covenant between God and Mary in which she promises to undertake the task. It is simply announced to her that she is pregnant. She was entirely passive. Although she contributes half of the genetic material, her role is passive. According to a variant reading of John 1:13 which some have supported, Jesus “was born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” The pregnancy that she experienced was an act of divine sovereignty. It is resplendent of her piety that her compliance in it is without question.

But another honor is due her – for her parenting. Jesus was not only true God; he was also a true man. He possessed all the properties of our human nature (apart from sin). In contrast to the heresy of Apollinarianism (which basically denied that Jesus had a human mind) orthodoxy has insisted that we should give full credence to Luke’s observation that as a child he “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom” (Lk 2:40; cf. 1:80). That means that he learned the Scriptures initially at least from his mother. B. B. Warfield suggested that the source Luke consulted in writing his Gospel account of the Nativity and the early life of Jesus was none other than Mary herself. How often, for example, did she relate to her son the words of Gabriel as to the identity of her unborn son.

One imagines that she taught him Bible stories of the lives and exploits of Abraham and Joseph and King David. She would have related the familiar lines of the Shepherd Psalm (Ps 23) and the role of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. She might have recited to him promises of reassurance from favorite passages as she rocked him to sleep as a little boy. Since it is more than likely that Joseph died in Jesus’ early teenage years, it was Mary who contributed most to our Lord’s character formation during his transition from puberty to manhood. There is no doubt that the bond between them was unusually close and the tenderness with which he cares for her from the cross is among the most sublime in Scripture. One cannot imagine the pain that she experienced as the darkness of Calvary descended upon her beloved son.

Mary was not sinless. Her own redemption was by faith alone in the finished work of her son alone. But she was unique among women in the role that she performed. Of none other could it be said, “She is the mother of my Lord.” And we honor her appropriately.


Monday, January 12, 2009

The Mid-South Men's Rally

Speaker: Reverend Richard D. Phillips

Men, the 2009 Mid-South Men's Rally is right around the corner. I hope you are making plans now to attend and even spreading the word among your friends and coworkers. It promises to be another great rally this year with rich fellowship, hearty singing, and powerful preaching.

The Mid-South Men's Rally schedule for this year is as follows:

Friday, January 30, 2009

5:15 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Dinner served in Miller Hall, bookstore open
6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Session I - "A Few Good Men"
7:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Break, refreshments in Miller Hall, bookstore open
8:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Session II - "Faithful to the Call"

There is no charge for the rally or the dinner, and there is no need to register in advance. A freewill offering will be taken during the service.

Our speaker this year is Reverend Richard D. Phillips, the Senior Minister of the historic Second Presbyterian Church, Greenville, SC. Rev. Phillips served in the US Army for 13 years, holding command and staff positions in a number of combat units. While gaining his M.B.A. at the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia, he was converted to faith in Christ through the preaching of the gospel at Tenth Presbyterian Church. A few years later, while serving as assistant professor of leadership at West Point and holding the rank of major, he and his wife were persuaded of God's call into the ordained ministry. Resigning from the Army, they moved back to Philadelphia to attend seminary.

While still in seminary, Rick became minister to a large inner-city outreach to singles and within a few years was preaching weekly at Tenth Presbyterian Church in downtown Philadelphia, the very church in which he was earlier converted and where he had met Sharon. During that time he also served on the staff of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, a radio and publishing ministry led by Rick's mentor and senior pastor, James Montgomery Boice. He remains on the board of directors of that organization, currently serving as vice chairman. He also chairs the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, founded by Dr. Boice in 1974 and passed on to Rick's leadership after Dr. Boice's death in 2000. Rev. Phillips' preaching is heard nationwide on the radio program, God's Living Word.

Rev. Phillips focuses his ministry on what he refers to as the "3 P's": preaching, praying and pastoring. Additionally, God has called him to a writing ministry and he regularly authors books and articles. He has written numerous books on the Bible and theology, including commentaries on Hebrews and Zechariah, Jesus the Evangelist, and the recently released The Incarnation in the Gospels. Rev. Phillips frequently speaks at conferences on the Bible and theology and is active in overseas missions, especially in East Africa. In addition to his ministry duties, Rick likes to spend time with his wife and children and is an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox.

If you would like more information about the rally, please contact Shannon Craft in the Discipleship office at 601-353-8316 or


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Window on the World

From One Extreme To Another

You’ve probably witnessed the tendency in people, communities, and cultures to correct one extreme by choosing the equal opposite extreme. When this happens, the equal opposite is never understood to be an extreme but the only possible solution.

For example, if the culture is eating too much for supper, then the solution proposed is rarely to limit the portion size, resist the temptation for seconds, and cut out dessert. No, the solution is to cut supper out altogether! Easier it is to scrap the whole thing, or so the thinking goes, than to daily exercise wisdom and restraint.

Undoubtedly, of course, a generation will rise up far enough in the future to not understand (or at least not appreciate) why their forefathers decided to remove the tradition of supper eating in the first place. They will stare into the famished eyes of their neighbors at 6 o’clock every evening and will slowly but surely be convinced—after long deliberation, much resistance, and heated debate—that the decision to cut out supper was extreme, a complete overreaction. With resolve, they decide to recover the once long cherished tradition by reinstating, not just supper, but an extravagant feast every night of the week.

You see the problem.

We live in a time when the pendulum swing is making its way back across to the other side. And as is usually the case, we will learn something about the blindness and overreactions of previous generations. One of the extremes identified by the Emergent church and others is how post-enlightenment evangelicals have too often assumed that spiritual growth comes through the accumulation of the "right information" or "true facts." The charge is levied that at the bottom of many evangelical pastors and theologians minds there lies a cognitive behavioral assumption, or the belief that good educating in the right information will lead to spiritual maturity. This is why, allegedly, evangelicalism is known for word rather than deed, or as one emergent type put it recently, "... more for mission conferences than mission work."

Before we take a look at the proposed corrective, it’s important that we first come to terms with the assessment. These critiques are usually so generalized that it's very hard to measure the veracity of the claim, and I'm always squeamish when someone is telling me what's at "the bottom" of another's mind or heart. We're usually not privy to such information, and in the end, we may be glad we're not. That aside, it's probably safe to say, even though the critique is almost certainly overblown and not nearly as universal as the detractors think, that it's still a critique worth listening to. In fact, in some cases in may be spot on (maybe even more than we’d like to admit).

Have we not at times forgotten that Christianity consists in more than good educating and the right information? And when we've paused long enough to doubt our own assumption on the matter, have we not often consoled ourselves by saying, “No church is perfect. If I'm going to err on one side or the other, I think I’d rather err on the side of right information (the truth!), than blind action.” There’s something in that statement that strokes my own sensibility. What good is right action after all if it’s derived from wrong belief? Isn’t that Paul’s point in Ephesians? But the postmodern reformer responds with at least an arguable point. What good is right belief, if it’s not followed up with right action? Isn’t that what James tells us? Point well taken.

Let me propose that the faulty foundation of this argument can be spotted along the “if-I'm-going-to-err-in-one-direction-or-another” point, as if the calling of a Christian is to consider which error is best (or at least not as bad) and follow it. Are we to give up on the indivisible relationship between belief and practice and just pick one side over the other? If we pay attention to the whole counsel of Scripture, we quickly find that God is not so much interested in us aiming for one error over against another error. He is interested in the truth, the whole truth.

I genuinely appreciate the renewed interest in good works and spiritual practices among some postmodern theologians and pastors. But I’m deeply concerned when Brian McLaren for instance, one of the leading emergent thinkers, suggests that our unity should be “…built less around a list of things that one professes to believe and more around how one pursues truth and puts beliefs into action through practices.” (The Last Word and the Word After That, 197). In McLaren’s mind, the "truth" is in the practice; what matters is not what we believe but how we live, not words but actions.

Don't be fooled. An equal opposite is never a corrective only an error in the opposite direction. If evangelicalism has truly believed that right information is all one needs for sanctification (a highly debateable allegation), then it deserves to be wrenched back from the precipice toward the center—not toward the other edge. We are always to "follow the pattern of sound words" (I Tim. 1:12), for in them we find the competence and equipment "to perform every good work" (II.Tim. 3:17).

A true biblical corrective emerges at the moment we determine to hold profession and practice together; when we embrace both faith and work and treat them for what they are: two indispensable, absolutely necessary parts of one pure and indivisible whole.


Monday, January 05, 2009

Pastor's Perspective

Happy New Year!

Well, the Lord has seen fit to bless us with another year of life and service together. Let us make the most of it!

We had a good first Lord's Day. We continue in Luke on Sunday mornings. Our Communicants Class has begun. Derek's back in Nehemiah on Sunday evenings (Sarah Kennedy said to me afterwards: "Dad, I really liked Dr. Thomas' sermon - especially the part about camping!"). Read to the end of this post to find out what's starting during the Midweek Bible Study and Prayer Meeting this coming Wednesday Night.

There are a number of things to report on quickly:

2009 MID-SOUTH MEN'S RALLY - Friday, January 30, 2009
It is not too early for you to begin making plans to be present at the Men's Rally. Rick Phillips is our speaker. In addition to being a prolific author, he is also a retired Army Officer, taught leadership at West Point and graduated from the prestigious Wharton School in Philadelphia. Men, invite friends and relations! Who are you going to bring?

Year-End Giving and a Cause for Praise
Well, the dust still hasn't settled yet, and I'll give you more detailed information when I have it, but I can confidently tell you this: the Lord has blessed beyond all expectations. More than a million dollars was given to the church in the last four days of the year. More than 2 million was given in December as a whole. As a result, church giving well-exceeded our spending for 2008. We go into the new year with a surplus. And, our total indebtedness is now under $4 million.

The Lord is so good. He has taken care of us as a congregation through thick and thin in three different centuries. May He get all the praise and all the glory!

Men's Bible Study for 2009 – Starts in February
Nate Shurden, our Minister of Discipleship and Young Adults, is going to be leading a weekly morning Bible study (surveying the Old Testament) which will include teaching, guided discussion, prayer and a light breakfast. The Bible study will meet on Tuesday mornings from 6:30-7:40 a.m. in Miller Hall from February to May. To indicate your desire to participate (or for more information), please contact Shannon Craft, Administrative Assistant of Discipleship, at or call 601-326-9243.

Your "new" Executive Minister
Jeremy Smith is now officially our Executive Minister. His interim title was "Senior Assistant Minister." Bill Hughes, our long-time Executive Minister completed his year as Executive Minister-Emeritus and is now officially retired. Anne and I will take Bill and Mary Ann out to a "farewell" lunch this week, but we are so glad that they will continue their half-century-long fellowship with First Presbyterian Church even in their retirement.

Prayer Meeting – The Gospel Course
We will be covering the material (in an expanded form) from the Gospel Course in our Mid-Week Evening Bible Study and Prayer Meetings from January 7 to March 18, 2009. So, we start this Wednesday night! Spread the word, and come yourself. Billy Joseph is going to begin doing some evangelism-discipleship soon as well. Call him if you are interested, (601) 973 9124 or (601) 906 0459. Here's the schedule:

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism
January 7 - 1. What Is Evangelism?
January 14 - 2. Why Don't We Evangelize?
January 21 - 3. What Is the Gospel?
January 28 - 4. Who Should Evangelize?
February 11 - 5. How Should We Evangelize?
February 25 - 6. What Evangelism Isn't and What Isn't Evangelism
March 4 - 7. What Do We Do After We Evangelize?
March 11 - 8. What's Our Motivation to Evangelize?
March 18 - 9. Who Makes a Christian? and What Does It Look Like When Someone Comes to Christ?


From Dishes to Discipleship...

The Month of January in Women's Ministry

Ladies, as you are getting back into the swing of things with kids off to school and the un-decorating of all things Christmas behind you, let me encourage you to take a moment to open your calendars and prayerfully consider these great opportunities for Bible study and fellowship in the coming weeks (and there are links to make registration easy!). And husbands, this is for you, too--perhaps this will give you a way to encourage your wives to attend our retreat or the evening with Sharon Phillips or surprise her with help finding babysitters! And to our readers who are not FPC members...we invite guests to join us for all of these opportunities, just don't forget to RSVP!

Ladies’ Night Out with Sharon Phillips: Beauty That Really Matters
Friday, January 30th from 5:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Youth House Den

While the men are attending the Mid-South Men’s Rally, ladies, you have an opportunity for a fireside chat with his wife, Sharon! We will enjoy soup and fellowship together, followed by Sharon speaking to us on beauty that really matters-- issues of godliness and inner beauty in the life of Christian women. A nursery is provided, but registration is extremely important as we attempt to juggle all the men and women on this busy evening!
To Register, email:

Young Adult Girls: Breakfast with Sharon Phillips
"How Am I to Understand Dating and Marriage, Biblically, in a Postmodern World?"

Saturday, January 31st from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Location: The Home of Ashley Hall

This breakfast is especially designed with the young adult single woman in mind (college students and older). Rick and Sharon have written a book on this topic entitled: Holding Hands, Holding Hearts -- girls, you might want to pick up a copy before our breakfast with Sharon! This is an informal time where Sharon will do a bit of presenting and a lot of interacting. Come and enjoy breakfast, bring your questions, and be ready for good conversation!
To Register, email:

Ladies Retreat at Twin Lakes: Designed by God, Living in a Designer World
February 6th - 7th
Speaker: Ashley Hall

This is a weekend to leave all of the fast-paced busyness behind and retreat to Twin Lakes for encouraging Bible study and fellowship with the ladies of FPC. Our prayer is that you will find rest and encouragement during our girls weekend, as we take an honest look at how very different the world of the Bible is from our own designer world. Whether you are single, married, a mother, a wife, a grandmother, a daughter, or an aunt, we are effected both positively and negatively by our culture. If we desire to be salt and light in a watching world and pass on godliness to the generations following us, we first have to seek to understand where we live and then, how we as women of God, can go about redeeming the culture. Invite friends and sign-up early for the reduced cost!

Friday Evening:
4:00 - 6:00 Registration and Settling In
6:30 - Dinner and Fellowship
7:30 - 9:30 Session 1 - Where We Live is NOT the Garden of Eden - From Genesis to Jackson!
9:30 - Fellowship and Fondue!

Saturday Morning:
7:00 - 8:15 Continental Breakfast and Personal Devotions
8:30 - 10:00 Session 2 - Godliness in a Designer it Possible?
10:00-10:30 Coffee and Snack Break
10:30 - 12:00 Session 3 - Replacing Fast and Furious with Slow and Steady in a World that Values More and Better

Registration Costs: (Register online here!)
Before 1/15 - $45
Before 1/30 - $55


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Market Day of the Soul

The Sands of Time are Sinking

What a great hymn to sing at the dawn of a New Year. Rutherford’s moving words, versified by Anne Cousin, are a moving reflection on the person, and beauty, of our Savior.

The sands of time are sinking, the dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for—the fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark hath been the midnight, but dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

O Christ, He is the fountain, the deep, sweet well of love!
The streams of earth I’ve tasted more deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

Oh! Well it is forever, Oh! well forevermore,
My nest hung in no forest of all this death doomed shore:
Yea, let the vain world vanish, as from the ship the strand,
While glory—glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

There the Red Rose of Sharon unfolds its heartsome bloom
And fills the air of heaven with ravishing perfume:
Oh! To behold it blossom, while by its fragrance fanned
Where glory—glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

The King there in His beauty, without a veil is seen:
It were a well spent journey, though seven deaths lay between:
The Lamb with His fair army, doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory—glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

Oft in yon sea beat prison My Lord and I held tryst,
For Anwoth was not heaven, and preaching was not Christ:
And aye, my murkiest storm cloud was by a rainbow spanned,
Caught from the glory dwelling in Immanuel’s land.

But that He built a Heaven of His surpassing love,
A little new Jerusalem, like to the one above,
“Lord take me over the water” hath been my loud demand,
Take me to my love’s own country, unto Immanuel’s land.

But flowers need nights cool darkness, the moonlight and the dew;
So Christ, from one who loved it, His shining oft withdrew:
And then, for cause of absence my troubled soul I scanned
But glory shadeless shineth in Immanuel’s land.

The little birds of Anwoth, I used to count them blessed,
Now, beside happier altars I go to build my nest:
Over these there broods no silence, no graves around them stand,
For glory, deathless, dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

Fair Anwoth by the Solway, to me thou still art dear,
Even from the verge of heaven, I drop for thee a tear.
Oh! If one soul from Anwoth meet me at God’s right hand,
My heaven will be two heavens, In Immanuel’s land.

I’ve wrestled on towards Heaven, against storm and wind and tide,
Now, like a weary traveler that leaneth on his guide,
Amid the shades of evening, while sinks life’s lingering sand,
I hail the glory dawning from Immanuel’s land.

Deep waters crossed life’s pathway, the hedge of thorns was sharp;
Now, these lie all behind me Oh! for a well tuned harp!
Oh! To join hallelujah with yon triumphant band,
Who sing where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

With mercy and with judgment my web of time He wove,
And aye, the dews of sorrow were lustered with His love;
I’ll bless the hand that guided, I’ll bless the heart that planned
When throned where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

Soon shall the cup of glory wash down earth’s bitterest woes,
Soon shall the desert briar break into Eden’s rose;
The curse shall change to blessing the name on earth that’s banned
Be graven on the white stone in Immanuel’s land.

O I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved’s mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner into His “house of wine.”
I stand upon His merit—I know no other stand,
Not even where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

I shall sleep sound in Jesus, filled with His likeness rise,
To love and to adore Him, to see Him with these eyes:
’Tween me and resurrection but Paradise doth stand;
Then—then for glory dwelling in Immanuel’s land.

The Bride eyes not her garment, but her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory but on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth but on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land.

I have borne scorn and hatred, I have borne wrong and shame,
Earth’s proud ones have reproached me for Christ’s thrice blessed Name:
Where God His seal set fairest they’ve stamped the foulest brand,
But judgment shines like noonday in Immanuel’s land.

They’ve summoned me before them, but there I may not come,
My Lord says “Come up hither,” My Lord says “Welcome home!”
My King, at His white throne, my presence doth command
Where glory—glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

Read Your Bible in 2009

Justin Taylor has pulled together some excellent Bible Reading Plans. Here.

Join me in reading through the Bible this year. It was great to open New Year's Day reading Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Very appropriate.