Friday, September 30, 2005

An Opportunity to Help in the Wake of Katrina

FPC is putting together another Disaster Response Team for October the 8th. This group will be going to Slidell, La. to do clean up work. If you have an up-to-date Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B shot and have health insurance and want to help please call Billy Joseph's office (601-973-9126) to sign up. Details of the trip will be communicated by Friday, October the 7th by Bill Moore.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Prayer for those in Authority

An Invocation at the Opening of the Senate of the State of Mississippi
State Capitol, Senate Chamber
Jackson, Mississippi
10 o’clock in the morning, September 29, 2005

Triune God – you are the God of storms, wind and waves. Nothing in this whole universe is outside of your control. You have the whole world in your hands. We are so thankful for that truth and reality – because we are overwhelmed by the devastation wrought upon our State and people by the great storms Katrina and Rita. So help us this day; Calm our troubled hearts; give us courage and determination; Grow us up in Grace through adversity; Increase our love in trials and make us truly thankful for your mercies.

Almighty God, you are also the Ruler of all the earth, the Establisher of justice, freedom and government. We come before you this day humbly asking for your presence with and your mercies and blessings on these men and women who shoulder the shared burden of governance and to whom has been entrusted the sacred, noble and public vocation of furthering the rule of law and promoting the general welfare of this great State.

Grant these Senators, heavenly wisdom. So that they would not choose the path that is easiest, but the path that is good, and right, and best. Grant that they would look far into the future as they make their decisions, so that what they choose will serve the interests of our people’s well-being in the generations to come, and not just a few years hence.

Use them not only for the promotion of our people’s economic well-being, but also their moral well-being. And remind them that “He who rules over men righteously, Who rules in the fear of God, Is as the light of the morning when the sun rises, A morning without clouds, When the tender grass springs out of the earth, Through sunshine after rain.”

This I ask, for all of them, in Jesus’ name. Amen

[The Governor of Mississippi called a special session of the Mississippi Congress in order to respond to the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the State]

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Katrina Relief Update - Local Volunteer Opportunity

The CUMC Distribution center has transitioned into it's own non-profit: H.A.N.D.S. (Helping Americans Needing Disaster Services).

While the church is not overseeing this non-profit, the founders of the Distribution Center from CUMC are on the board of directors and will be actively involved in directing and running it (Scott Thigpen, Jeff Redding, Betsy and Robin Cox.) The Winn Dixie has been secured for another month.

The needs, especially on the Coast, are still great, and Rita has done nothing but increase those needs and many have come into shelters again.

HANDS is looking for volunteers to work in the Distribution Office Monday -Friday 8a.m. - 6 p.m. and Saturday 8a.m. - 12 noon. The volunteer jobs available are answering phones, filing, coordinating drivers, coordinating orders, pulling orders, and manning the order/driver desk. Of course there are still some needs in the warehouse with sorting,...

Please call the Distribution office at 601-914-7139 if you can work a 2 or 3 hours shift this week or next or anytime this month.

Thanks to all of you who have been working tirelessly for the past several weeks!

To see pictures and find out more info go to “Katrina Relief”

Liz Griffin
Director of Women’s Ministry
First Presbyterian Church of Jackson

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rita Tornado Strikes in Belzoni, MS

As Rita rumbled through Mississippi this past weekend, she spawned Tornadoes. One hit our friends in Belzoni. Richard Wiman, the faithful pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Belzoni, gives this inspiring report:

"Saturday afternoon a little after 4:00, a tornado roared right through our neighborhood. Four homes on either side of ours were either totally destroyed or sustained major damage. Other than broken windows, holes in our roof and lots of shingles gone and some holes from flying missiles, fence blown down and trees down all around our house, we survived. I was watching the weather when I heard the trademark train coming. I looked out of the window of the room I was in, which was facing the direction from which the tornado was coming, and there it was already on us. I yelled for Dorothy and our daughter Lindsay to run for the bathroom.

We didn't get there before it was on us. The pressure was enormous. If felt as though the house was going to explode. Flying debris hitting and breaking open a window saved us in that regard. It couldn't have lasted more than 10-15 seconds. I wasn't too shook up till I walked outside and started seeing the destruction all around us. Three houses south, destroyed. Two houses south, the parsonage for Eastside Baptist Church, partially destroyed. A huge oak down on our next door neighbor's house, skip us and the house next to us on the north, and then the next two houses both destroyed, and major damage to an old manufacturing plant only a few hundred yards to our north and west. The tornado continued its destructive path northward and took the life of an Hispanic worker in a mobile home.

God was awesome in His power, goodness and grace. The three of us were totally calm in the midst of our experience, knowing where we were headed. What an incredible confirmation of the reality of our faithful God and His saving grace in Jesus Christ.

When I got to the church and started reading over my morning message, I started laughing out loud. God is not only good and gracious, He's got a great sense of humor. Here is what His Spirit had led me to write earlier in preparation for Sunday morning. Bear with me. I don't ordinarily think this much of any of my messages, but this is incredible. Based on Luke 11:33-36, and entitled, "The Light of Your Life," this is the way the introduction began:

'What lights up your life? Entergy or a rural electric power association? One thing's clear. If we aren't able to receive power from our service provider, the lights won't work. In the case of our homes and businesses, the power that serves as the light of our lives comes from an outside source. Many times, the storms of life interrupt that service, and the lights go out. We're left in the dark, and as we've repeatedly seen over and over again through hurricanes, tornadoes, and ice storms, we don't do very well when the light of our lives goes out.'

'When the electricity goes out, flashlights, candles, oil lamps and such become real important. Living without electricity is at least an inconvenience, but if we're forced to live totally in the dark, it really cripples us, doesn't it? Imagine this scenario. The electricity goes out just as the sun is going down in the evening.'

'All of this was exactly what happened to us. To say that the folks were paying attention to the message yesterday is an understatement. God reached out and grabbed our attention. We're so thankful to be here to tell of His wonders and praise His mighty name. Yours in Christ, Richard Wiman.

P.S. If anyone's interested, pictures of the damage from the tornado can be viewed at Our house isn't pictured, but it's directly behind the home of Billy & Melissa Davis, which I think is the second picture in the list.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

An Encouraging Big Picture, Indeed

Liz Griffin, our outstanding Women's Ministry Director, wrote an excellent email to our ladies today. I post it here so that more of them (and our men too) can see how our faithful Christian women have been at work responding to the overwhelming needs in the wake of Katrina. Liz says:

Dear Ladies,

As e-mails have been flying over the past several weeks since the hurricane, I thought it might be good to step back and try to paint a bigger picture of what is happening in all the sharing of information, as well as add some personal stories. Some of you were involved in some of these stories, and others have many MORE of your own stories that you could share from the places where you have stepped up to serve. I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time out at our Brandon PCA Disaster Response office, and it was eye-opening to say the least. Dr. Duncan painted the picture for those of us who were at Wednesday night prayer meeting.

As Dr. Duncan mentioned Wednesday night, the work of the PCA Disaster Response office is not bureaucratic paper pushing. Instead, it is a managed chaos of phones ringing, some devoted to incoming calls and some for workers to make outgoing calls. As workers take those phone calls, voice mails stack up in numbers waiting for them when they hang up. All seem urgent. Some are the voices of tired and strained relief workers on the coast needing someone to step up to relieve them. Perhaps a man in charge of feeding hundreds or even a 1000 people in a few hours, yet calling to say he needs a truck pronto because he is out of food and water. Another from a site coordinator wanting to know where the cell phones he asked for were, because his volunteers could not coordinate with one another. Yet another is from a church (one of hundreds?) calling to say they want to mobilize a team and want to know what to do next. Another from a team who are ready to go but need a location that needs them. Another from a site that has room to house 30 volunteers that they desperately need for clean up. The Disaster Response office takes all these calls and connects needs with help wanting a place to plug in. They direct these ever changing needs to the local churches who then communicate out through a myriad of ways. It is amazing to watch the Lord direct and connect needs with help on an hourly basis as the phones buzz. In the meantime they also respond to the Cajun shrimp fisherman who shows up on their doorstep (in his boots no less!), needing help finding a place to live. The food our Circles are providing to that office is there to be offered to the walk-ins as well as the workers. They also take the call regarding a family with a newborn baby that has lost everything. They call CPC (Crisis Pregnancy Center) and arrange for one of their packages to be sent, and then the Disaster Response volunteers go to Wal-Mart and with their own funds purchase anything else the family needs for the little one. All this is then on its way in record time to the family. From individual requests to large requests, they take them all. They work through several staging sites close to the coast, and then on down a chain to individual churches which are their doorway to move help out into the surrounding community.

That brings in the bigger picture. As I was being trained for my volunteer time, I was told that the key was “network, network, network. Do NOT reinvent the wheel. We do not have time for that!” What has evolved from the hour to hour changing needs in the past few weeks is an amoeba-like network of agencies and churches all over, each working a piece of the puzzle. Our PCA Disaster office could not function without Christ United’s Distribution site, who they call when they need to load a truck for one of our sites on the coast. Christ United couldn’t function without sites like our Disaster Response office that coordinate where the needs are on the coast to send the collected goods. We call CPC for the newborn package. The Red Cross visits our office to check to see if we can help connect someone in their shelter with housing through our housing registrations on the website. All over our area people are working together to respond and it is an amazing thing.

Finally, there are the stories coming back. I met a trucker just returning from running a load to a small town on the coast. There he was met by the mayor of the town and the police. The mayor was so glad to see them, that after they unloaded he provided them with a police escort to the one restaurant open in town (a fish house!) for a meal ON THE TOWN.

A special thanks to all of you who have stepped up to contribute in some way. Wherever you have plugged in to help, you have plugged into this amoeba network that is working to provide help to the coast. The Lord is at work, and it is exciting to see His people be His hands and feet to those in need. As we continue to press on in this marathon, our WIC theme verse FOR THIS YEAR provides us much needed encouragement:

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galatians 6:9-10

In His Service,

Liz Griffin
Director of Women’s Ministry
First Presbyterian Church of Jackson

Journey's End

This Sunday evening, we reach the end of the journey for Christian in Pilgrim's Progress as he reaches the Gates of the Celestial City along with Hopeful. The description is breathtaking:

"I saw in my dream, that these two men went in at the Gate; and lo as they entered they were transfigured, and they had raiment put on that shone like gold. There were also those that met them with harps and crowns, and gave them to them, the harps to praise withal, and the crowns in token of honour. Then I heard in my dream, that all the bells in the City rang again for joy; and that it was said unto them, 'Enter ye into the joy of the Lord.' I also heard the men themselves, that they sang with a loud voice saying, 'Blessing, honour, glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever.'

"Now, just as the Gates opened to let in the men, I looked in after them; and behold, the City shone like the sun; the streets also were paved with gold, and in them walked many men with crowns on their heads, palms in their hands, and golden harps to sing praises withal. There were also of them that had wings, and they answered one another without intermission, saying, 'Holy, holy. holy, is the Lord.' And after that, they shut up the Gates; which when I had seen, I wished myself among them."

The Puritans (pastors like Bunyan) believed it was very important that Christians talk about heaven and long to be there. As we bring this summer series to a close, it is my fervent prayer that you may have this assurance that heaven awaits you. It is an assurance that Chistians (and only Christians) can maintain.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Mark of a Disciple

It seems for ever since we were in Mark's Gospel, but tonight we start afresh in Chapter 11. As it happens, this is a new section where Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey (Mark doesn't actually tell us this). It is the original Palm Sunday, with its message of a King riding into the city. JESUS IS LORD! "Hallelujah" the crowds said. And we say, "Amen."

Monday, September 19, 2005

Volunteers needed for PCA MNA Disaster Response

Ron and Judy Haynes, who head up our PCA MNA Disaster Response work (currently based in Brandon, MS) have just sent me this message: "Dear Ligon, We are looking for volunteers who are on standby to respond right away. Please call us at 636-299-1422 or 636-299-1424 to get scheduled."

Please call and help if you can

Friday, September 16, 2005

For FPCJ Families with Children in the Home

Cindy Mercer just sent me this article by a good friend of this congregation, Al Mohler. I'd seen this on Al's blog awhile back and had meant to draw it to your attention (but, in my growing senility, forgot! -- thanks for the nudge Cindy).

Want to do something revolutionary for your children? Eat with them. Everyday. Read on -

Start a Revolution: Eat Dinner With Your Family
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

"What if I told you that there was a magic bullet--something that would improve the quality of your daily life, your children's chances of success in the world, your family's health, our values as a society? Something that is inexpensive, simple to produce and within the reach of pretty much anyone?"Miriam Weinstein begins her book The Surprising Power of Family Meals (Steer Forth Press, 2005) with those two questions and then suggests that the "magic bullet" missed by so many families is as simple as a shared meal.

Weinstein, a filmmaker and journalist, has collected an impressive body of data in order to make her case that the institution of the shared family meal represents something of vital importance for human life. Even as the family meal is fast disappearing, Weinstein has issued an eloquent call for its recovery.As she explains, the research indicates that a shared family meal leads to the strengthening of family bonds, the deepening of relationships, and higher levels of satisfaction and effectiveness among family members.

According to Weinstein, the research shows how eating ordinary, average, everyday supper with your family is strongly linked to lower incidents of bad outcomes such as teenage drug and alcohol use, and to good qualities like emotional stability. It correlates with kindergartners being better prepared to learn to read (It even trumps getting read to.) Regular family supper helps keep kids out of hospitals. It discourages both obesity and eating disorders. It supports your staying more connected to your extended family, your ethnic heritage, your community of faith.

That's not all. Weinstein also argues that the regular rhythm of family meals will "help children and families to be more resilient, reacting positively to those curves and arrows that life throws our way. It will certainly keep you better nourished. The things we are likely to discuss at the supper table will anchor our children more firmly in the world. Of course eating together teaches manners both trivial and momentous, putting you in touch with the deeper springs of human relations. "Weinstein makes a compelling case, and her book is sure to prompt many parents to think about what has been lost as the family meal has been eclipsed by other activities and by the cult of individualism that has undermined our communal life.

At the same time, Weinstein understands the complexities of modern family life. She does point back to a golden age of shared family meals in the past, but she acknowledges that families now find themselves drawn in too many directions all at once. In once sense this is the larger problem, and the eclipse of the family meal is only a symptom of what has gone badly wrong.In reality, families did not merely decide to stop eating together. The rhythms, complexities, and chaos of today's lifestyles simply produced a reality that made shared family meals almost impossible.

Any number of factors play a role in marginalizing shared family meals, but Weinstein points to some of the most easily identifiable among these factors. For parents, the issue is often work schedules and fatigue. As millions of mothers have moved into the workforce, the elaborate ritual of the nightly family meal has often given way to the urgency of getting family members fed as a necessity of human need--rather than as the focus of a shared event. For adults, evening hours are often filled with extended work, social commitments, and the practicalities of keeping life together in the midst of frenzied lifestyles.

For kids, the enemies of shared family meals include burdensome homework and extracurricular activities--especially teen sports. A study conducted by the University of Michigan Survey Research Center indicates that between 1981 and 1997, the amount of time that children spent watching other people play sports rose five-fold. This study doesn't even take into account all the time children now spend playing sports themselves.

"We are living in a time of intense individualism in a culture defined by competition and consumption," Weinstein observes. "It has become an article of faith that a parent's job is to provide every child with every opportunity to find his particular talent, interest, or bliss. But somehow, as we drive-thru our lives, we have given up something so modest, so humble, so available, that we never realized its worth. Family supper can be a bulwark against the pressures we all face everyday.

"The shared family meal fulfills more than the function of feeding the family. In the intimate sphere of the shared meal, children learned how to engage in conversation and how to enjoy the experience of hearing others talk. The family meal became the context for sharing the events of the day, for dealing with family crises, and for building the bonds that facilitate family intimacy. Parents taught children how to think about the issues of the day by making these a part of the conversation that was shared around the table. Gentle admonitions and direct correction taught children how to respect others while eating, instilling an understanding of the basic habits that encourage mutual respect and make civilization possible.

Weinstein may hold what some view to be a rather romantic understanding of the shared meal, but she defends her argument by asking readers to remember the family meal times of their own childhood. For most of today's adults, there is still at least some memory of shared family meals and the experience of respecting meal times as a priority.

Something even more fundamental is at work here. Throughout human history, meals have been important opportunities for the establishment and maintenance of relationships--for the forging of bonds and the deepening of intimacies. The shared family meal--especially the shared supper--is one of the few opportunities when parents and children look each other in the face for a sustained amount of time and have the kind of contact, matched with conversation, that they desperately need.

On this point, Weinstein marshals a considerable body of empirical data. In 1996, the national Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University [CASA] ran a study intending to see what differentiated kids involved in substance abuse from those who were not. CASA has repeated the surveys every year since. "And every year, eating supper together regularly as a family tops the list of variables that are within our control," Weinstein reports "Kids who eat more family dinners do better than those who eat a few. Kids who share a few dinners weekly do better than the ones who have none at all."The 2003 survey indicated that children and teens who share dinner with their families five or more nights a week were 32% likelier never to have tried cigarettes, 45% likelier to have never tried alcohol, and 24% likelier never to have smoked marijuana. "Those who eat lots of family dinners are almost twice as likely to get A's in school as their classmates who rarely eat as a family," Weinstein adds.

These days, many families find themselves eating in the car, scattered throughout the house, or facing a television set. Weinstein interviewed Witold Rybcezynsky, author of some of the most influential recent books on architecture and community, and asked him about the most beneficial setting for a shared family meal. In a fascinating response, Rybcezynsky largely ignored the question of place, but pointed to a more urgent issue. "We eat facing each other," he insisted. "It's the facing each other that's important.

"Writing from a Jewish perspective, Weinstein understands the importance of ritual and structure in the lives of families. She is undoubtedly correct that the shared family meal becomes a barometer of family life and priorities. Her encouragement to restructure family schedules and priorities in order to recover the shared family meal is eloquently and convincingly sustained by her argument.

Christians recognize an even deeper dimension of what Weinstein observes. Christian parents should understand that the shared family meal takes on an increased significance given our responsibility to teach our children faithfully, to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and to inculcate in them a respect for family life that focuses ultimately on the glory of God.

Parents in this generation now face the opportunity--and the responsibility--of recovering shared family meals as a way of recovering sanity and security in family life. Oddly enough, recovering the priority of a shared family meal represents something of a revolutionary stance against the individualism and immediacy of the larger culture. Now is the time to start a revolution--and determining to share family supper together is an important place to start.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to Send feedback to Original Source:

Jerry Bridges to Speak in Jackson

I just got an email indicating that our sister churches, Redeemer and Highlands (along with YBL - Young Business Leaders) are sponsoring a conference with my friend and colleague, and fellow Alliance Council member, Jerry Bridges on the weekend of Sept 30-Oct 1. It looks great! Here's what their advertisement says:

Highlands Presbyterian Church, Redeemer Church, PCA, and Young Business Leaders of Jackson are honored to sponsor a weekend conference with renowned author and speaker Jerry Bridges. The conference will be held at Highlands Presbyterian Church, 1160 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, on September 30 & October 1. Please see below for more information.

Jerry Bridges Conference
September 30 & October 1

Jerry has been asked to present four sessions that would represent a summary of his
life work for this conference.

“Gospel-based Spiritual Growth”
**Living by Faith and the Righteousness of Christ — Living in the present
reality of justification. How do we relate to a God of grace?
**Living by the Power of the Holy Spirit — Dependence upon the Spirit of God
**Responding to Grace — Romans 12:1-2
**The Garments of Grace — Colossians 3:12-14

Jerry Bridges is a staff member of The Navigators Collegiate Ministries where he is involved in staff training and also serves as a resource person to those ministering on university campuses. He has been on the staff of The Navigators since 1955. From 1979 through 1994, he served as Vice President for Corporate Affairs. In addition to his work in the Collegiate Ministries, he also serves from time to time as a guest lecturer at several seminaries and speaks at numerous conferences and retreats, both in the U.S. and overseas.

Jerry is the author of several books. His most well known is The Pursuit of Holiness, which has sold more than a million copies. Other titles in print are: The Practice of Godliness, Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, Transforming Grace, The Discipline of Grace, The Gospel for Real Life, The Crisis of Caring and The Joy of Fearing God.

Jerry and his wife Jane live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They have two adult children and five grandchildren.

Highlands Presbyterian Church, Redeemer Church, PCA, and Young Business Leaders of Jackson are honored to sponsor a weekend conference with renowned author and speaker Jerry Bridges. The conference will be held at Highlands Presbyterian Church, 1160 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, across from Wright and Ferguson Funeral Home. This conference will be for all ages. Nursery will not be provided.

Time: Friday – 7:00–9:30 PM; Saturday – 9:00–11:30 AM
Cost: There will not be a charge for this conference.

Derek at Ligonier this weekend

Our beloved Minister of Teaching, Derek Thomas, will be preaching at Ligonier's Regional Conference in Akron, Ohio this weekend.

Follow this link to see the details:

He'll then be in Cleveland on Sunday to preach for the Parkside Church (where Alistair Begg serves)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

New Book on John Bunyan for young children

Day One Publications have just released this 32 page book (12x10) on John Bunyan, designed for the younger ones. Those who have loved getting into Pilgrim's Progress over the summer and think that your children or grandchildren should have a love for it too will find this a great gift to give. It's cost is around $6 (roughly--it is three pounds sterling). I heartily recommend it. The puzzles are a hoot!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

FPC Coral Springs/Margate and FPC Gulfport

Here is some incredibly encouraging news from Florida on how a sister PCA congregation is helping our friends in Gulfport.
The Relief Flight We Sent on the Ground in Mississippi

First of all, we thought it would be helpful to put some faces on the people we are helping in Gulfport. Click this link to see a picture of FPC Gulfport's Sunday Worship service on the porch of an elder's home.

In addition, we wired $44,000 to FPC Gulfport's Bank Account this morning. Our plan is to keep a small amount on reserve in case they have different needs, but we will send a wire of any additional funds each Monday.

We are in the process of working out the logistics of another shipment of goods this week, this time by truck.

Finally, here is Pastor Phillip's letter from this Sunday, which contains some great information:

Hurricane Katrina Relief Update

Psalm 133 says, "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!" Mt. Hermon was in a different part of Israel than Mt. Zion, so the Psalmist was talking about the sharing of blessings among the people of God, even when far apart. That is what we have been doing for our brothers and sisters in Southern Mississippi. And how good it is! Let me provide some facts about what we are and have been doing for First Presbyterian Church of Gulfport, MS, one of the churches hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina:

* Our special offering last Sunday raised almost $18,000. Together with the generous matching gift and with subsequent donations, we have raised over $40,000 for this church. They have not yet achieved the ability to receive this money, but as soon as they can we will provide it to them. I praise the Lord for this wonderful outpouring of love and support!

* On Thursday morning, our church chartered an airplane that delivered two tons of donated food. The plane was met by volunteers in Gulfport and the food (along with some clothes and hygiene articles) was taken to the house of one of the elders where it was distributed that day. The PCA churches in Gulfport and Biloxi are providing food to over 250 families, so this supply operation was a big help. From speaking with their pastor, I can assure you that this was a great encouragement to them.

* We have collected clothing in our narthex that will be taken this coming week via truck to Mobile, AL, which is the staging area for Gulfport relief. They simply lack the storage capacity in Gulfport, so these items will be housed in Mobile (an hour away) until they can use them. At present, we are not asking for more donations of clothing, since they are getting quite a lot.

Here are some of the things we intend to do in the future to support FPC Gulfport:

* We will continue to take up special offerings for their support. They have material needs in the congregation, financial needs for the restoration of their church facilities, and a need for operational funds to keep the church going. We are partnering with a number of other churches to meet the need, which is great.

* We will partner with other churches to send construction teams to help rebuild the church and other projects. Our goal is to have the church operating so as to be a center of community life as Gulfport is rebuilt. It is my privilege to convey to you the overwhelming thanks of Pastor Guy Richard of FPC Gulfport and his congregation. Despair has been a real threat to them, and we have greatly helped to restore their hope. I am sure they will never forget it, and I know it greatly honors the Lord. The generosity of our church has made me proud to be your pastor, and I deeply appreciate the many who labored hard this week and others who gave sacrificially. The work is not done, but it is well begun!

In Christ's Love,

Pastor Rick Phillips

Guy Richard and Gulfport via National Media

Check out this picture of Pastor Guy Richard, taken during the Sunday morning service of the congregation of First Presbyterian Church, Gulfport al fresco!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

First Presbyterian (PCA) Gulfport, MS

Pictures courtesy of Phillip Parker

Friday, September 09, 2005

Understanding the Times this Sunday Evening

Tomorrow afternoon, I am being interviewed by Mr. Lee Webb of the 700 Channel on the campus of RTS about the theological implications of Katrina. It is to be broadcast early next week. Many of us are asking the great questions: Where was God in all of this? Why did this happen? How can God claim to be good and destroy so many lives?

Some leading evangelicals have been supplying answers: God was not present; God allows us so much freedom that he can only advise; His hands are tied by the forces of nature. Such responses of course may bring us temporary intellectual relief, avoiding the need to "justify" the ways of God; but in the last resort we know that it is morally and theologically bankrupt as an explanation of why bad things happen. This Sunday, in about 5-6 minutes, I will try and reflect on what the Bible might suggest by way of a response in the section Understanding the Times at the beginning of the evening service.

Appreciating Christian History with Dr. Mark Noll

In our weekly radio interview for First Things today (Friday) I interviewed Dr. Mark A. Noll-- the McManis Professor of Christian Thought, and co-founder and Director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, at Wheaton College, Illinois. He is a widely recognized expert in American religious history, and the author of numerous books and studies on the history of Christianity. I asked him (among other things), what would he recommend to parents trying to cultivate in their children an interest in Christian history. He mentioned two things: First, the quarterly magazine Christian History (published by Christianity Today)

and, second, the series of books published by Inter-Varsity Press (IVP Histories series) such as, Francis of Assissi and his World, or Augustine and His World:


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

FPCJ Katrina To Do List

First Presbyterian Church, Jackson’s

What First Presbyterian Church is already doing
* Working with PCA Disaster Relief, Salvation Army, Red Cross, and various area churches
* Brokering support and assistance for numerous PCA churches on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
* Networking to provide specific relief to individuals and congregations in South Mississippi
* Working to come up with a plan to help Desire Street and Desire Street Academy
* Housing evacuees at Twin Lakes Conference Center and in many homes of the congregation

What you can do

Pray with us for those impacted by this disaster at Prayer Meeting,
every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Miller Hall

Pray, in your family and private worship, for those whose family and friends have died in the storms. For those who are left without homes in which to return. For all who will have to rebuild their lives and their homes and recover from their losses. For God’s wisdom and guidance, as we look for the best ways to serve and to testify of God’s mercy and grace in these difficult times.


Give money:
Continue to faithfully give to First Presbyterian Church. We are and will be assisting in relief efforts in various ways. Stay tuned for opportunities to make special offerings for disaster relief through the church.

Give to our Denominational Relief Agency. Donate to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Mission to North America (MNA) Disaster Relief Effort. Give online at or call 678-825-1200. There are great financial needs, both for the expenses of relief operations and for direct assistance to PCA families. Checks should be made to MNA, designated for Hurricane Relief. You may also donate by credit card on the MNA website, or by sending your credit card donation information in writing to MNA.

Give food and new clothing to:
Salvation Army, Presto Lane Location.


Indicate your willingness to be on call for service opportunities as they arise.
Please call Ann Smith or Billy Joseph at 601 973-9124, or 601 353 8316, ext.286.

Volunteer with PCA MNA: Ron and Judy Haynes are currently coordinating PCA volunteer efforts out of Brandon Presbyterian Church. All types of skills and time commitments are needed, including clerical work and data entry. You may register on the PCA MNA website at or send an email to, or call them at 636 299 1424 or 601-383-3512.

Our relief efforts are rapidly developing. Please call the church or access our website and weblog for more information.
(601) 353-8316

To view information about all PCA churches affected by Katrina, go to

Church Schedule Resumes - Info

Church schedule for Wednesday, September 7th through Sunday, September 11th

Wednesday night supper, prayer meeting in Miller Hall will be as usual
Children will be in the Gym and on the Playground this Wednesday night
EE will resume tonight.

Children choirs and discipleship groups will start next Wednesday, Sept. 14th

All Ladies’ Bible studies will resume as scheduled:
MOMS on Wednesday at 9:15
Hebrews on Thursday at 9:45
2 Corinthians on Thursday at 9:15

Sunday services (and Sunday School) will be as usual this Sunday.

All youth activities will resume their regular schedule.

Church offices are open from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Monday - Friday

First Presbyterian Day School will begin tomorrow.

Twin Lakes does have electricity and water….still in the process of cleaning
the area in order for it to be usable. Phones are not working.

Report on PCA churches in Greater Hattiesburg, MS

Amy Marquez, an Administrative Assistant here at First Jackson, called the following PCA pastors/churches in the Hattiesburg/Petal area today to get a report on their status. Here is who she called and what she found out.

Bay Street Presbyterian – 601-582-1584
Rev. Brian H. Davis

Not much damage
Lost some of roof
Water damage
Minor repairs needed, roof repair
Manse lost shingles and broken window
Members are safe – some home damage, but insured
Do have power and water
Manse has no power
Primarily working with those in Hattiesburg who need help
Church will recover from physical problems

FPC Hattiesburg – 601-268-0303
Asst. Minister Norman Bagby – 601-606-0690

Haynes (MNA disaster team) coming tomorrow – Hattiesburg will be their base of operations
Lost shingles, some water damage in sanctuary and fellowship hall
Did pretty well
Have power and water
Will work with MNA disaster team with member need
Sr. citizens -- 2 members with immediate needs – everyone else did pretty well
Need to talk with Dr. Silman, Sr. Minister (was out)

Woodland Presbyterian – 601-264-2538
Got answering machine at church.
Called Ralph Davis at home – 601-296-7710

Can’t say much right now
Hasn’t been able to get in touch with many members because of phone problems
Widows are accounted for
No needs that he can tell right now
Most people just cleaning up right now
His hunch is that it will be a week before they know much about needs of congregation (insurance and such)
Hattiesburg hard hit, but not as bad as other places – relatively, they are in good shape
Sanctuary came though unscathed
PCS came through pretty well
Trees in playground were leveled
Buildings in ok shape
School and church have power
Tree people have been contacted to help at PCS elementary
PCS High has repair costs – water damage
Giving me number of PCS Elementary/Scott Griffith (601-268-3867)

Presbyterian Christian School – 601-268-3867
Scott Griffith
Got answering machine

Petal Presbyterian – 601-582-4772
Rev. Kenneth E. Ribelin
Got answering machine at church
Pastor called me back (he is also pastor at New Augusta Presbyterian)

No one seriously hurt
Petal church had some roof damage
New Augusta lost some roofing, some water in it
Compared to other places, both are fine
Most of both congregations are fine, but hasn’t been able to get in touch with some
Many people left town

God and Katrina

(from Ottawa, Canada)

Some time ago I wrote the following in relation to Job's suffering. It now seems relevant again as we think about Katrina and its effects upon us:

Where is God in all of this?

The disturbing thing for some of us is the realization that behind what happens here lies the hand of God. That’s the problem, isn’t it? It isn’t so much that Job suffered. We are used to that. We see examples of that every day.

No, the problem here is God!

Stating it like that is shocking, isn’t it? How can God be a “problem”? But the issue we have to face in this and the subsequent chapter of Job is how can God allow this to happen? No, it is stronger than that. It is not, as Calvin observes so often in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, a matter of God “allowing” as though God was somehow passive in all of this. God actually instigates the trial. He puts the idea in Satan’s head. It is God’s doing. That, is the problem.

Stating it that way reminds us again that the book of Job is primarily a book about God. It is the issue we shall have to return to again and again as we unfold its message. It is not so much, why do we suffer? But, why does God make us suffer? When we come full circle to the end of the Book, we shall observe that Job is given a revelation of the majesty of God rather than an answer to his many and pointed questions.

His response is to “worship” (1:20). It is always appropriate to worship. Job seems utterly submissive and servant-like. It is the epitome of trust. The beautiful words of verse 21 are stunning:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
May the name of the LORD be praised. (1:21)

All of us who love God desire to respond to trials like this. It could be a prayer that we make each
day: “Lord, when difficulty comes, no matter what it may be, help me to say what Job said.”

These words recognize that…

this world is not our home; that God’s purpose transcends this life
everything we have comes from God
we are stewards
we must never attribute to God anything that is evil.

But wait a minute! Have we not already seen that God is the one who instigates this trial? Indeed, we have, though Job did not know that. Nevertheless, here is a mystery:

God foreordains everything that comes to pass.
Trials and sin come to pass.
But God is not the author of sin.
God does not tempt us to sin.
God does not condone sin.

“God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin…”

Sometimes all we can do is state the principle; logic evades us.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Ora et Labora (Pray and Work)

I asked many friends around the US and World to pray for us, here at First Presbyterian Church, specifically, (1) that we as a congregation would care for others more than for ourselves, (2) that we would bear good witness to Christ in word and life, (3) that we would be able to contact and help evangelical churches on the coast and South of I-20, (4) that we would get power back at the church, and (5) that the ministers would be able to get fuel for our autos so that we can do visitation and be of more help during this hard time.

I am struck today at how the Lord has answered all those prayers. First, daily I am learning about how various members are taking a lead in the relief operations here and on the coast. It causes my heart to rejoice every time I hear of it. Keep on in love and good deeds. Second, in connection with the first, the strong attendance at public worship yesterday coupled with the way families are taking in those who have been displaced, are surely good witness to the glory and grace of God, in Christ. Third, I have been able to make significant contact with PCA ministers south of I-20, plus there will be important efforts this week to coordinate our relief work with other area evangelical churches and leaders. Fourth, the power came back on at First Presbyterian Church on Saturday evening. We hope to be able to resume a reasonably normal schedule of activities. Fifth, a church member enabled our ministers to get fuel for their cars that should last us to the end of this week. God is good. Keep praying.

The Mercies of God are new every day

Check out this story of God's provision through his people over at the Reformation 21 blog.

PCA MNA Katrina Relief

Hurricane Katrina

As we continue to follow the news from New Orleans, reports tell us of increasing flooding and loss of life continues to grow. Accordingly, we are realizing the need to respond at a level unlike any previous natural disasters in recent history in North America.
Within the next few days, Mission to North America will gather a group of PCA key leaders from Louisiana and Mississippi to make plans for relief efforts. Mission to the World has also graciously offered to seek involvement from those who normally assist with disaster response overseas.

We seek your active involvement:
Prayer: For those whose family and friends have died in the storms. For those who are left without homes to return to. For all who will have to rebuild their lives and their homes and recover from their losses. For God?s leading to us, as we look for the best ways to serve and to testify of God?s mercy and grace in these difficult times.

Volunteers: Ron and Judy Haynes will coordinate PCA volunteer efforts. Over time, all types of skills and time commitments will be welcome. Please register on the PCA MNA website, or send an email to, or call them at 636 299 1424.

Financial Donations: we anticipate great financial needs, both for the expenses of relief operations and for direct assistance to PCA families. Please prayerfully consider making a generous financial contribution. Checks should be made to MNA, designated for Hurricane Relief. You may also donate by credit card on the MNA web site, or by sending your credit card donation information in writing to MNA.

Donations of food, clothes, etc: for now, make these kinds of donations to other organizations who are making appeals for them in your area. If we later seek specific types of donations, we will let you know.

Thoughts from Canada

I'm back in civilization again (almost) having spent the weekend in a poor version of Twin Lakes (cabins, and cold!) about 2 hours west of Ottawa. Now I'm back in Ottawa itself and am due to give some lectures and preach at the convocation of the Reformed Presbyterian Church's Theological College. Thought about you all (y'all--I just refuse to use that expression) on Sunday morning. The camp took up an offering for relief in Mississippi and I will be handing it over to Ligon when I get back for distribuation as the church sees fit.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Was Katrina Intelligent Design?

This is an excellent article by John Piper. (HT: Cindy Mercer)

Was Katrina Intelligent Design?
September 2, 2005 — Sermons Edition
By John Piper
Permanent Link

Salvation Army - Immediate Needs for Local Relief

Lesley Davis sent me the following from Sylvia Powell at the Salvation Army, today.

The Salvation Army indicates the following items are immediate needs for those displaced and impacted by Katrina. If you have them or can get them, please take them to the Presto Lane location and drop them off.

They prefer that, as people donate at the Presto Lane location, you choose one or two items and bring those particular items in bulk or "palletized" (like from Sam's or WalMart). That way, the Salvation Armystaff are not sorting through grocery bags, and can instead, actually deliver the items to the people who need them. (However, the Salvation Army will not turn away any donation, even if it is unsorted.) Here is what they need (* = especially needed items)-

All types of water, juices, microwavable foods, canned goods and non-perishable items, specifically: Razors (Men & Women); Shaving Cream; Shampoo; Conditioner; Soap; Toliet Tissue; Kleenex; Paper Towels; Paper Plates; Paper Cups; Deodarant (Men & Women); Toothpaste; Mouth Wash; Tooth Brushes; Can Openers*; Pillows*; Blankets; Contact Solutions; Panties of all sizes (Plus sizes as well); Bras of all sizes; Socks of all sizes; Baby items*; Baby Food; Diaper rash ointments; Disposable Diapers; Baby Wipes; Baby Shoes; Underwear of all sizes; Hair products for African American/Caucasian/etc; Tampons *; Pads*; Depends; Dog Food; Cat Food; Sippy Cups*; Baby bottles*; Baby Clothes of all sizes*; Pacifier; Wash Cloths; Towels; Washing Powders; Bleach; Softner; Dishwashing Powder; Shoes of all sizes; House shoes; Bath robes; T-Shirts (Men); Pants ( Men and Women); Hand Sanitizers; Lotions; Combs; Brushes; First Aid Kits; Children's Tylenol; Tylenol; Asprin; Advil; Tums; Laxatives; Preparation H; Chapstick; Facial Products (cleanser, toner, moisturizer); All Femine Hygiene Products; Q-Tips & Cottonballs; Eye Drops; Hot Curlers; Hair Dryers; Sun Screen; Band-Aids; First Aid Ointment; Denture Cream; Batteries of all sizes; Flashlights; Finger nail Kits; Books; Games - basically, since these folks have lost everything, they are starting over and need everything from scratch.

Photos of the Outdoor Morning Worship Service

Gary Silber has sent me some of the pictures he took of today's service (Kate Irby and Billy Joseph also took pictures so that we can preserve this memory for ourselves and posterity. Here are a few more of Gary's shots (the four pics in the previous posts are his too). Thanks Gary!

Outdoor Service Pics


Report on Sunday Morning Worship

I don't normally post on the Lord's Day, but today I'll make an exception, in order to offer encouragement and to help the congregation in deeds of mercy. Watch the upcoming entries for information on how you can help those who have lost so much in Katrina. We have also received notes of encouragement from pastors and congregations around the country and world - and I want to tell you about them.

But first, I want the members of our congregation, and its friends, who were not able to be with us this morning for public worship, to know what a blessing it was to meet and praise our God, outside on the pavillion and playground.

I don't know how many were there (500-600?), though I know we printed out 450 hymn-sheets and handed them all out and people were still having to look on, but it was so good for my soul to be there with you, and I trust it was an encouragement to you as well. Thank you all so much for coming (in spite of the tenuous situation with area fuel supply, power outages, etc.).

We sang the Doxology, Watt's rendition of Psalm 90 ("Our God, Our Help in Ages Past"), the Gloria Patri, Great Is Thy Faithfulness and Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners. We confessed our faith using the Apostles' Creed. We prayed. We heard God's word read from Job 1. And we heard his Word proclaimed. We'll post the service and sermon at some point. And then, after the benediction, you stayed and fellowshipped and talked. What a joy it was for the Lord's House to meet (even with no house to meet in!) and give praise to God.

Around 30 or so of our members out in Brandon also met this morning, at Earl Davis' home, and Jim Baird (our beloved former minister) led them in a service. And tonight Jim and Sue Watts are hosting a neighborhood vesper service at 6:30 at 1757 Hillview Drive, on their front lawn.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

David Wells "No Place for Truth

Over on the Reformation21 blog, I have been posting summaries of David F. Wells incredibly important book No Place for Truth. When I first came to First Pres. a number of the newly elected elders bravely read through it with me. More recently, my Thursday morning small group has read through it (along with two others of David's books). The guys in the small group are actually producing their own outlines and notes for the book. Here are mine. The links will take you to the Reformation21 site.

No Place for Truth - Overview
Chapter 1: A Delicious Paradise Lost
Chapter 2: World Cliche Culture
Chapter 3: Things Fall Apart
Chapter 4: Self-Piety
Chapter 5: The Rise of Everyperson
Chapter 6: The New Disablers
Chapter 7: The Habits of God
Chapter 8: The Reform of Evangelicalism

It is a very challenging book, and even these summaries can be a little dense. But it is also a very important book for evangelical Christians -- to help us understand what has happened to us over the last hundred years, and why, and what is going on in our culture, and how we need to respond.

Sunday Worship at First - Outdoors at 8:30 AM

Well, there is still no power in large parts of the church, but we will gather to worship anyway. This Sunday morning I'll lead a worship service on the church playground, next to the pavillion at 8:30 AM. We'll sing the Word, pray the Word, read the Word and preach the Word. I recognize that many of you do not have sufficient gas in your autos to get here (and have no way of acquiring any), that traffic lights are still out in your neighborhoods, that you do not have power in your homes, and that others of you would have a hard time climbing the steps up to the pavillion - so if coming presents a problem, please take all care for your personal safety.

However, we are a church family, and Sunday is the Lord's Day, and Katrina or not, he is more glorious and important than anything in the world. So we will gather to declare that, and to praise him for his grace to us, in Jesus Christ.

We will have some chairs available, but some of us may need to stand. The temperature should be cool (in the 70s) at that time in the morning, and the playground should be dry other than the morning dew. Dress casually. Spread the Word. Use our parking lots. Earl will open the gates to the playground.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Derek off to Canada for a few days

I will be heading for Canada (Ottawa, Ontario) at the weekend to speak at a Family Conference for the St. Lawrence Presbytery of the reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, encompassing several Canadian congregations as well as several in upper New York. Naturally, my thoughts are with the dear folk at First Presbyterian Church, Jackson and I will be praying for you as I head for cooler temperatures. This will be an important weekend as we come to terms with God's providence in the lives of so many of us: lost property, physical hardship, and emotional stress. But our hearts go out to our brothers and sisters in southern Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. We need to pray and then ask the Lord: what would you have me to do now in response to this?


Derek's New Hymn

Our own Derek Thomas has written a hymn text that has been set to music by Paul S. Jones. This would be a good one to study, sing and meditate upon in these days in the wake of Katrina.

Sunday's Coming

Dearest friends, I wanted to give you an update on FPCJ and the activities of the week to come. The church offices are closed probably until at least Tuesday, September 6. We've got a skeleton crew (Earl, me, Marie, Missye Rhee, Billy, Brister, Jimmi and a few others) keeping a few minimal necessities going here in the office.

The church picnic is cancelled for Monday at Twin Lakes. Twin Lakes is without power and sustained some damages. The staff is safe, thankfully.

Because of Katrina's damage to area electrical lines, at the 1390 North State Street campus, we have minimal electricity for lights, very limited air conditioning, and the city water supply is currently unsafe to drink. Power is on in only part of the office area. The internet system is down (though you can still access the website). But we have no power in Westminster Hall, Lowe Hall, the Study Center, etc.

A decision will be made Saturday morning regarding Lord's Day worship services. A critical factor in that decision will be whether light and air conditioning can be restored to the temporary sanctuary (gym).

At present, plans are to use internet, radio and television to notify the city at large in the event that services must be cancelled. I am tempted to hold outdoor services in the Day School playground, early Sunday morning, in the event that we can't meet inside. But I'll let you know.