Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Men of the Covenant

John McVey

Men, this week will be a Men of the Covenant Lunch on Thursday (April 1) in Miller Hall from 11:45-1:oo. We have the privilege of hearing Dr. John H. McVey, Sr. address us.

Reservations are not required and the cost of the lunch is $5. If you have any questions, please contact Joshua Rieger in the Discipleship office at 601-326-9243 or joshr@fpcjackson.org


Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Viewing Creation

The Pastor’s Perspective

Vol. 33 Num. 12

“Viewing Creation”

First Published: March 17, 2000

For the many families in our congregation with school-age children, I trust that you had an enjoyable and relaxing Spring Break. It was most gratifying to look out last Wednesday night and see the strong attendance. Our Minister of Teaching, Derek Thomas’s Wednesday evening series on prayer has been outstanding. His introduction to the Lord’s Prayer was inspiring, and I have been much encouraged by the robust praying of our people for the last several weeks at the Prayer meeting. If you haven’t been attending regularly, start this week.

By the way, also in the nature of encouragement, I have been meaning to mention to you, ever since the officer elections, how high was the number of people voting. The election managers indicated to me that the number of ballots cast was the highest in their memory, approaching 1000 in each of the rounds. Indeed, on the second Sunday of the elder election, we very nearly ran out of ballots! I thank God for your faithful and prayer participation. Do continue to pray for our newly elected officers and for the many fine men who went through the training. We have plans to begin some special discipleship activities for all of these brethren, especially in light of the role they have to play in the future health of our congregation.

On another subject, last week, I shared with you a bit about our work on the PCA’s creation study committee. As I said, there are at least four different views of the nature of the creation days on our committee (the Traditional view, that is 24-hour or normal day view; the Framework view, that is, that the days are literary devices to describe the real historical events of God’s creation but do not tell us anything about how long or in what order God actually made things; the Analogical view another figurative view, that says the days represent real events, and may even speak broadly to the sequence of creation, but are a literary device for establishing an analogy between “God’s creation days” and the days of our work week; and the Day-Age view which says that the days were long ages, aeons).

What I need to stress is that every member of the committee affirms the historicity of Genesis 1-3, the reality of God’s special creation of the world and rejects Darwinian evolution. The committee is desirous that the PCA would affirm a range of core commitments regarding the doctrine of creation that would allow for a limited, principled diversity on some matters relating to the doctrine of creation, while ensuring that secularism and naturalism gain no foothold in our circles. When the report is published, we’ll make it available for your perusal in the church library.

Perhaps next week I can share a little about my recent visit to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Monday, March 29, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Studying Creation

The Pastor’s Perspective

Vol. 33 Num. 10

“Studying Creation”

First Published: March 10, 2000

I want to thank you for your generous giving toward the work of missions this past year. Another exceedingly large anonymous gift was given toward our mission work just this last week. This means that our church has supported the expansion of Christ’s kingdom through evangelism, discipleship, church planting and missions with around $2,000,000 in the last year alone. We all ought to be rejoicing over this. Thanks be to God, that in his grace he has seen fit to use us as instruments of blessing to his people, as well as to those who will become his people, around the world.

If you have not yet made a Faith Promise commitment, now is your time to join in on the blessing. From the very beginning, God’s covenant of grace has entailed our being a blessing to the nations (see Genesis 12:1-3). This means that, as Christians, we must care about all the lost wherever they are, pray for them, and be committed to doing everything we can to disciple the nations. As Joe Novenson reminded us, the covenant of grace means that we are no longer “guests” here, but “hosts.”

This last week I spent two days in Atlanta for the final face-to-face meeting of the PCA’s Creation Study Committee prior to our submission of a written report. For two years, we have been working on the assignment of dealing with the biblical, theological issues connected with Genesis 1-3, as well as working to ascertain the precise original intent of the Confession’s phrase “in the space of six days.” The reason why the committee was formed was because their was a widespread concern that the PCA might be softening its stand against modern evolutionary science and allowing secular, naturalistic thinking to impact the way the Scriptures are read, understood, taught and preached in our circles. Additionally, many presbyteries have failed to ordain and install certain men because what were deemed to be aberrant views on this subject.

The committee has researched the matter vigorously and debated the matter comprehensively. We have not come to an identical point of view, but we have all been drawn closer together (I think) in our mutual understanding. There are at least four major views of the Genesis days represented on the committee. The Traditional view (often known as the 24-hour or normal day view) that Genesis days were basically calendar days as we know them is the position of the majority of the committee (perhaps 7 of the 12 members). The Framework view (that Moses does not mean to indicate a specific sequence and duration of time in speaking of the six Genesis days, rather these days refer to the real historical events of God’s creation but do not tell us anything about how long or in what order God actually made things) also had a representative on the committee. In other words, this view says that the events of Genesis 1-2 are real history, but that that history is recounted in a literary framework of a “week.” The Analogical view (that the days represent real events, and may even speak broadly to the sequence of creation, but are a literary device for establishing an analogy between “God’s creation days” and the days of our work week. The main architect and proponent of this view served on the committee. Finally, the Day-Age view (which says that the days were long ages, aeons) was represented as well. This view has been around since the advent of the new geology at the turn of the nineteenth century and has been held by many famous Reformed theologians. More about this next week. Enjoy your Spring Break!

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Applying Christ's Love

The Pastor’s Perspective

Vol. 33 Num. 9

“Applying Christ’s Love”

First Published: March 3, 2000

This Lord’s Day morning, the Lord willing, we will come to the end of our studies of Jesus’ crucifixion and death in Matthew 27. Then, it’s on to Matthew 28 and in another three weeks we’ll have finished the book. It’s hard to believe. It has been a great privilege to work through the Gospel of Matthew with you over the last three years or so (we started the first Sunday of January, 1997!). I am so thankful for your enthusiasm in response to our study of this great book. It has been enormously helpful to me to prepare these messages. I have learned and grown along with you (one of the great advantages of expository teaching).

Our study of the trial, torture and crucifixion of our Lord has been helpful and convicting to me. And, of course, it forcefully displays his love for his people. One reason that I have wanted to dwell on these things for so long is because of their important for Christian living. The cross of Christ is at the center of Christian salvation and experience. For that reason, I thought it would be useful for us to meditate today on a couple of the practical applications of the doctrine of Christ’s Love for the Church.

For one thing, an apprehension of Christ’s love for the church not only teaches us what true love is--it evokes it from us. Love to God and neighbor flow from God’s love to us, in Christ. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus teaches that our prime duty in life is to love God with all of our being. That’s why J.C. Ryle could rightly say that “Love is the grand secret of true obedience to God.” But Jesus, and his disciple John, also emphasized that this kind of love for God flows from God’s prior love to us. “We love, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

What is love? Delighting in God (love of God himself) and seeking others best interest because of delight in God (neighbor love). What are the roots of love? Knowledge of God in his grace. That’s why, if you don’t know God savingly you cannot love him. What are the evidences that we possess this kind of love? Well, there is:

(1) love of communion with him and love of his ordinances;

(2) contentment in God [we love the God of our blessings more than the blessings of God];

(3) hatred for sin;

(4) sympathy – grieving over the things that grieve him;

(5) desire to draw others to him [true love cannot be silent];

(6) we ache in his absence;

(7) we cheerfully do his will even when it conflicts with our ideas and agenda;

(8) willingness to suffer for him.

Another practical implication of the doctrine of Christ’s love for the Church concerns our assurance of salvation. Christ’s love for the church is essential for and foundational to our assurance. That’s why Jesus stresses to his disciples in John 15:9 that “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” You see, if you think that the grounds of your assurance of salvation are found ultimately in what you have done you will never gain assurance. Even your repenting needs repenting of! Why, ultimately, do you persevere in the faith? Because of the perseverance of Christ’s love. Jesus loves us to the end (John 13:1).

So, as you continue to reflect on the love of Christ for you, as it is displayed in his death on the cross, think on these implications (and others). Pray that God will enable you to know and experience his love. And give him thanks for his matchless love.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: "Family Talks"

The Pastor’s Perspective

Vol. 33 Num. 5

“Family Talks”

First Published: February 3, 2000

I cannot believe that January is already gone. For months we were anticipating the coming of the new year, with all the attendant Y2K hoopla, and now the first month has already passed. “Tempus fugit,” as our Latin teachers used to quip.

I was in Memphis, Tennessee two Sundays ago (the weekend of the 23rd) for the Fifth Annual Christian Life Conference at Second Presbyterian Church. Anne and I had accepted the invitation to the conference over a year ago, and were looking forward to a few days away together and time with one of her former professors, David F. Wells. The weekend was close to the date of our eighth wedding anniversary (January 25), so I thought we could mingle business and pleasure. Much to our surprise and delight, however, last June we discovered that we were expecting (about the time of the conference!), and Anne, being now great with child, was unable to attend. So, I drove up on Friday morning just in time to speak at a Pastor’s luncheon and drove home on Sunday night, after the evening service, and wore my pager the whole time (except during the Sunday worship services!).

The time there was most encouraging. Second is a remarkable church and our friend Sandy Willson, their Senior Minister, is not only doing an excellent job, he is very much loved by his people. David Wells’ addresses were superb. It was good to meet so many relatives and friends of our congregation. As always, though, it is good to be home again at First. Every time I am away (and I try carefully to select and limit those times), I appreciate you more. My thanks to Derek Thomas for filling the pulpit so ably in my absence.

We have all enjoyed Glen Knecht’s teaching and preaching over the last week. We are thankful that we were able to have the meetings at all, given the weather. It’s the first time that Donna Dobbs has ever prayed against snow!

Glen’s talks for our family conference were well-received, his messages at the Mid-South Men’s Rally were strong, and his sermons on Sunday were challenging and timely. Many things stand out in my mind, reflecting on Glen’s messages.

His point, shared with husbands and wives on Thursday evening about “clarification” was a most helpful piece of sanctified common sense learned through years of study and experience. You’ll have to listen to the tape if you missed the meeting!

Glen’s second and third sermons at the Men’s Rally were especially meaningful to me. And his Sunday morning message was encouraging and stimulating. His call for us to long to draw near to God has stuck with me over these last several days, and his remarks about humility being derived from a high view of God (rather than an improper view of self) are worth further contemplation. I was also struck by his suggestion that the most important way we can impact our society and culture was to cultivate and experience the presence of God in the church.

Remember the Missions Conference is set to begin on Sunday, February 13. Mark the various activities on your family calendar, make plans to attend, and pray for God’s blessing on the conference. Meanwhile, this Lord’s Day we continue our study of the cross in the morning, and we conclude our study of the life of Jacob in the evening.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Monday, March 22, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: The Peace of Christ at Christmas

The Pastor’s Perspective

Vol. 32 Num. 48

“The Peace of Christ at Christmas”

First Published: December 14, 1999

Last time, we asked the question: “Is this a peaceful season for you?” Specifically, “is this really a peaceful season, a time in which your soul is refreshed in and focused upon Christ?” Though there are many obstacles thrown up against our experience of God’s peace, we know that Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:16 “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.” So, God himself tells us that it is possible to experience his grant of peace, in every situation – good or bad.

We also asked “what is peace?” and suggested that peace is that state of the heart in which we rest comfortably in God because of his free favor to us in Christ. The peace of which we are speaking does not mean the absence of difficulties, challenges, or disappointments, but rather spiritual peace entails a sense of the presence of God and a free submission to His will. We repose in God, who is our refuge, because we have been reconciled to him through Christ Jesus and we delight to do his pleasure. Now, how does a believer experience this kind of peace?

We must recognize some of the things that hinder us from the apprehension of God’s peace. Sometimes we allow our troubles to overshadow our trust in God. For some of us, our circumstances have become the occasion of overwhelming worry. We must recognize this for what it is. Sin. Paul tells us not to worry about anything! Of course, some of us suffer from temperamental fearfulness. That is, we have a natural tendency to worry. We, too, must recognize this proclivity and arm ourselves in prayer against it. Then again, you may be in the midst of a season in which you sense a lack of God's presence. You feel distant from God. For a non-Christian, this may be the result of conviction or anger at God. For a Christian this is sometimes the result of a trial or the warning sign of a weak walk with the Lord. Prayerlessness is another thing that robs us of peace. Even mature Christians are quickly undone without prayer. Then again, misplaced priorities can undercut our experience of peace. For instance, when we set our hearts on things as a source of contentment, we are killing ourselves to obtain something that can’t deliver. God created with a “God-shaped void” within us. Only he can fill it. Some of us lack peace because our dread of consequences. We are fearful of what may happen, and peace is blocked out. And still others of us are haunted by regret over our past wrongs. We often kick ourselves endlessly over past sins and mistakes. All these things can be hindrances to our enjoyment of Gospel peace.

So what are the antidotes to these impediments to peace?

Well, if our troubles (hard circumstances) are robbing us of peace, we need to pray for God to grant our hearts a whole submission to his SOVEREIGNTY and GOODNESS. As when the Psalmist prayed: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8) If our fearfulness (worry) is confounding our peace, let us determine to fortify our hearts with a reliance on and confidence in God's SOVEREIGNTY and RIGHTEOUSNESS. As when Isaiah promises: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) If we lack the sense God's presence (feeling distant from God), let us draw near to him in PRAYER. And if we discover our priorities misplaced (which is basically idolatry), let us determine to seek CONTENTMENT only in God (rather than in people, circumstances, and temporal prosperity). As Paul said: “For He Himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14).

More on peace next time.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: The Peace of Christ

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 32 Num. 48
“The Peace of Christ”
First Published: December 7, 1999

Is this a peaceful season for you? Come on now, nobody else is listening. You can tell me. Is this really a peaceful season, a time in which your soul is refreshed in and focused upon Christ?

Well, whatever the case is with you, in the next few weeks literally thousands of cards will be sent out proclaiming “Peace on earth” when it will patently be the case that: (a) there is no such peace, (b) many senders and receivers do not have a clear conception of what peace is, and (c) many senders and receivers have not experienced (or are not experiencing) peace.

Now granted, there are some peculiar difficulties in this season which make it especially difficult. There is an increased busy-ness. The pace of life seems to speed up and we are often exhausted. There are past memories (good and bad). The good memories sometimes tempt us to present discontentment (“I wish it could be that way again and now”). The bad memories sometimes keep us from contentment with present blessings, because they preoccupy us and overshadow the many things for which we ought to give thanks. The separation of families is another thing that creates tension in this season. Perhaps parents or grown children live far away and we are unable to spend time with them during the holidays. This, in and of itself, can depress us. Or perhaps conflict occurs when trying to decide which set of parents or grandparents are going to visit or be visited. Then there are those unfulfilled expectations. We begin the season hoping that it will be our best ever and determined to relish ever moment, every carol, every smile. But then reality falls short of our dreams. Furthermore, family problems seem more acute at this time of year. Marital problems are intensified. Bitterness and frustration is sharper for those whose marriages have fallen apart. Then again, anxieties over fulfillment of obligations sometimes drown our joy (did I get the right present for so and so?). Extra pressures seem to abound at work. And so many feel forgotten, overlooked, and struggle with an aching loneliness.

These kinds of things often leave many people (even Christians) feeling totally overwhelmed and experiencing very little peace. But, dear friends, what an opportunity we have at this time of year to minister to others who are not presently enjoying the peace of Christ! Yes, this season can bring a challenge to our abilities to cope; but it also offers an opportunity for spiritual growth and service. There are multiple opportunities to: minister to the downcast, exhibit a good Christian model, evidence a sense of right priorities, and reflect the inextinguishable joy of inner peace with God.

So, how do we do it? Well, let’s start by defining peace (since we have already said that many don’t understand about the kind of peace that the Bible promises). What is the peace promised to and possessed by believers? It is not an absence of war or human conflict in this age. That kind of peace will only exist in the age to come. Nor does it refer to an absence of difficulties, challenges, or disappointments in our lives. No, for Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:16 “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.” Clearly, then, peace is not circumstantial.

So, what is peace? Peace is that state of the heart in which we rest comfortably in God because of his free favor to us in Christ. As Goudge says: “Grace is the free favor of God; peace is the condition which results from its reception.” Thus, spiritual peace entails a sense of the presence of God and a free submission to His will. We repose in God, who is our refuge, because we have been reconciled to him through Christ Jesus and we delight to do his pleasure.

How does one gain this kind of peace? We’ll talk about that next week. In the meantime, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Thinking about Elders

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 32 Num. 41
“Thinking about Elders”
First Published: November 30, 1999

What a blessed Thanksgiving Morning service we had: strong attendance, good singing, challenging message and wonderful fellowship with family and friends. Derek Thomas reminded us all of the importance of giving thanks as he preached to us from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This verse, he said, gives us a command, a context, and a constraint for thanksgiving. It commands us to give thanks. Christians are to be thankful people and failure to give thanks for the Lord’s mercies stunts our spiritual growth. The context of this command is comprehensive. Paul doesn’t say: “give thanks when things are going well.” Rather, he says: “in everything, give thanks.” Though we may be burdened with great trials, yet we are to be a thankful people. And Paul adds a constraint to this command when he says: “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Think of it, in every circumstance of life it is God’s will that we thank him. We often wonder: “what is God’s will for my life?” The answer is sometimes hard to come by. But not when it comes to the matter of thanksgiving. We know, no matter what and no matter when, that God wants us to give thanks. May God grant us all a spirit of thanksgiving in this season of the year in which we particularly focus on his greatest gift.

We begin our elder elections this Lord’s Day, so do be in prayer about this most important of events in the life of this church. As you prepare to vote remember Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” Paul gives us much fuel for thought and prayer here.

, he says that the eldership is a work. Do the men for whom you plan to vote, truly desire to do the work of shepherding the people of God?

, Paul says that elders must be “above reproach” – in other words, they must be men of impeccable Christian character. Do you see these qualities in those for whom you will vote?

, he says that elders must be good spiritual leaders in their homes. Paul doesn’t say: “Vote for the man most successful in his profession” but rather “seek men who are good spiritual leaders in the home, good Christian husbands and fathers.”

Fourth, Paul says the elder must be able to teach, which means that the man has a good grasp of Christian doctrine and the ability to explain it.

, Paul says that the elder must have a good reputation with those outside the church. Let’s pray through these things as we prepare to vote.
Your friend,
Ligon Duncan


Monday, March 15, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Reflecting on the work of Reformed University Ministries

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 32 Num. 38
“Reflecting on the work of Reformed University Ministries”
First Published: November 2, 1999

As we approach Commitment Sunday this week, I can think of many reasons to pledge ourselves to the support of the church. It is an act of wise stewardship. It helps us count the cost before we get into the ministry of the coming year. It moves us to deliberate about what we will commit to the Lord’s work at First Presbyterian. We could name many other reasons. But one of the best reasons to pledge and give to First Presbyterian is because of the tremendous Christian ministries that our tithes go to support. Reformed University Ministries is one of those ministries.

Consider the following excerpts from the Mississippi Joint Committee on Campus Work (MJCCW) report. “The 1998-1999 school year for Reformed University Ministries/Mississippi was an exciting year filled with many blessing from our God. With pleasure, we report to you what God has been doing on the various campuses which we serve. . . . Campus ministers served on seven campuses supervised by the Mississippi Joint Committee on Campus Work. The Rev. Jeffrey Lancaster completed his sixth and final year as campus minister at the University of Mississippi. As of June 1999, Jeffrey is now pastoring a church-planting ministry in New Orleans. We are grateful to God for the years of effective and faithful service that Jeffrey has given to campus ministry. The Rev. Les Newsom completed his fifth year as campus minister at the University of Memphis and is now campus minister at Ole Miss. We anticipate having a seminary student fill the position at the University of Memphis for one year, during which time a more permanent candidate will be sought. The Rev. Brian Habig completed his fourth year as campus minister at Mississippi State University. The Rev. Ricky Jones completed his fourth year as campus minister at Delta State. The Rev. Jeremy Jones completed his third year as campus minister at the University of Southern Mississippi. The Rev. Robbie Hinton completed his second year as campus minister at the University of Tennessee at Martin. The Rev. Corrie Pelton completed his third year at Belhaven College. James (Bebo) Elkin completed his sixteenth year as coordinator of the Mississippi/West Tennessee campus ministries. Other staff includes Ruth Falls, as the office manager, and Beth Whitney and Heather Ferguson, who assists Mrs. Falls.” Furthermore, “Five full-time interns and two part-time interns served in the Mississippi area,” including our own Roger Fakes at Mississippi College.

“The staff of Reformed University Ministries is breaking ground in the secular culture of college and university campuses through student-led ministries that reach out to other students. These ministries work to accomplish their goal in four major areas: Evangelism and Missions, Growth in Grace, Fellowship and Service, and a Biblical World-and-Life View. Weekly large group meetings, small groups for study, prayer, and fellowship, and one-to-one staff-student sessions provide the framework for campus ministry. Through these, students are fed a steady diet of Bible exposition, examination and discipling, evangelistic encounters, and the building of relationships. The work of Campus interns makes possible a much broader outreach on campus. Interns attend large group meetings and other fellowship activities individually, and train students to reach out to others. On the campuses that we serve, attendance at the weekly large groups ranged from 30-300. Topics of study included the Parables of Luke, Judges, Isaiah, The Ten Commandments, Hebrews, Proverbs, the Gospel of Mark, and topical studies on Dating and Marriage, The Cross of Christ, and “Why Do We Do What We Do?” Approximately 30 small groups sponsored by local Reformed University Fellowships were held this past year. These groups studied a wide range of topics, including Basic Theology, the Hard Sayings of Jesus, Mortification, Psalms, Evangelism, and A Godly Woman.”

Your giving to First Presbyterian Church helps vital ministries like RUM do the work of the Gospel. And that’s a great reason to give.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Sacrifice, losing, and finding

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 32 Num. 37
“Sacrifice, losing, and finding”
First Published: October 26, 1999

A few days ago, my brother Melton sent me a wonderful excerpt from a book by wartime correspondent Ben Robertson. Robertson was a South Carolinian from good Baptist stock and authored one of our favorite books: “Red Hills and Cotton.” The words of the excerpt are stirring and reminded me why I think that Pat Buchanan is dead-wrong in his view that the U.S. should not have been involved in the Second World War. These words also fill me with renewed gratitude for the courage and self-sacrifice of the “greatest generation.” What an inspiring legacy the World War II generation has left us. The words also are filled with spiritual implications. They remind me that the lives of Christians are caught up in a greater meaning. We live for more than just our own personal hopes and dreams and agendas. Above all, there is the kingdom agenda: to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But enough of my musings, enjoy the quote!
“No journalist could stay away from Dover after he had sat all day on Shakespeare Cliff and watched those battles. Nowhere in England could the fighting be observed with such detachment and perspective. We could see the raids start, see them fought and ended, and we could get some idea of their general aspect, of how their tactics changed from day to day. The cliff was almost a stage-setting, so perfect was it as an observation point, and as a result the press of the whole democratic world gathered on it.
“Those were wonderful days in every way–they changed me as an individual. I lost my sense of personal fear because I saw that what happened to me did not matter. We counted as individuals only as we took out place in the procession of history. It was not we who counted, it was what we stood for. And I knew now for what I was standing–I was for freedom. It was as simple as that. I realized the good that often can come from death. We were where we were and we had what we had because a whole line of our people had been willing to die. I understood Valley Forge and Gettysburg at Dover, and I found it lifted a tremendous weight off your spirit to find yourself willing to give up your life if you have to–I discovered Saint Matthew’s meaning about losing a life to find it. I don’t see now why I ever again should be afraid.”
In light of this moving reminder of the sacrifices of our forbears for national and world liberty, let us commit ourselves to the work of sacrifice for spiritual freedom. One small way in which we can do this is in the way we allocate our resources and the way in which we give to the work of the Lord. Stewardship season is upon us and we will meditate upon Luke 16:11 and its context next week (Sunday, November 7). That scripture reminds us that we are stewards (nothing that we have belongs to us, we hold it in trust for the Lord) and that how we handle worldly wealth will show whether our hearts are really set on things above. What we are not willing to sacrifice for, we probably don’t really care about. That’s why one Christian has said: “The sign of our professed love for the gospel is the measure of sacrifice we are prepared to make in order to help its progress.” Let us then manifest our love for the gospel and our care for the church in our sacrificial giving.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective:

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 32 Num. 36
“Praying that our children would grow to be men and women of integrity”
First Published: October 19, 1999

Last week, I shared with you some prayer suggestions gleaned from the program of the recent PCA Women in the Church Conference, held in Atlanta, Georgia. Praying for the covenant children of the Church is, of course, something that should be a priority for us all. One of our ruling elders often challenges us with the words: “If we don’t pray for our children, who will?” Indeed.

Since I know that many of you gather weekly to pray together for your children and many of you pray individually on a daily basis, I offer the following prayer suggestions to you as an incentive to and aid for specific intercessory prayer on behalf of our children. As we pray, let us pray for our children:
1. That they will know Christ early in life. “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, "I have no delight in them."” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (II Timothy 3:14-15)
2. That they will have a hatred for sin. “Hate evil, you who love the LORD, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”(Psalm 97:10)
3. That they will be caught when guilty. “It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.” (Psalm 119:71)
4. That they will be protected from the evil one in each area of their lives: spiritual, emotional, physical. “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:5) “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)
5. That they will have a responsible attitude in their interpersonal relationships. “O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor takes up a reproach against his friend; In whose eyes a reprobate is despised, But who honors those who fear the LORD; He swears to his own hurt and does not change; He does not put out his money at interest, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken. (Psalm 15:1-5) “Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit.” (Daniel 6:3)
6. That they will respect those in authority over them. “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” (Romans 13:1) “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12)
7. That they will desire Godly friendships. “My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent. If they say, . . . Throw in your lot with us, . . . My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path . . . .” (Proverbs 1:10-19) “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Psalm 1:1)
8. That they will wait for the mate of God’s choosing. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (II Corinthians 6:14-17)
9. That they will remain sexually pure until marriage. “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (I Corinthians 6:18-20)
10. That they will submit to God and resist Satan. “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
11. That they will be single-hearted in following Jesus. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
12. That they will be hedged in by God’s faithfulness and loving kindness. (Hosea 2:6)

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Monday, March 08, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Praying for our Children

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 32 Num. 35
“Praying for our Children”
First Published: October 12, 1999

One of the things that was emphasized at the recent PCA Women in the Church Conference, held in Atlanta, Georgia and attended by many of our ladies, was praying for the covenant children of the Church. This is, of course, something that should be a priority for us all. One of our ruling elders often challenges us with the words: “if we don’t pray for our children, who will?” Indeed.

I’ve adapted some of the prayer suggestions given in the program of the PCA Women’s Conference, and I offer them to you hear as an incentive to and aid for specific intercessory prayer on behalf of our children. Here are a few, I’ll continue this list in future issues of the First Epistle.
1. Lord, we earnestly pray that all the parents and members of our church, who vowed in the sacrament of Baptism to be covenant parents and to assist parents in the Christian nurture of our covenant children, will faithfully tell the next generation of the Lord, in accordance with your Word. “Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.” (Psalm 78:1-4)
2. We ask O Lord, that by your grace, the parents of this congregation will teach our children God’s Word as the “language of faith” from their earliest days. “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)
3. We ask you, our heavenly Father, to move us and all the parents of the congregation to teach our children to depend upon the Lord only, to desire him as their ultimate reward, and to show our children that we know they are a blessing from the Lord. “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127)
4. We ask you, our gracious covenant God, in accordance with your covenant promises, that you will remove the sinful hearts of our children and create in them a new heart. “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, . . . and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” (Ephesians 2:1-3) “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Acts 2:39)
5. Sovereign God, turn the minds of our children toward your Word and away from captivity to the ideals and philosophies of this world. (Psalm 119; Colossians 2)
6. Blessed Savior God, grant that our children will put on the full armor of God, make them mighty in prayer, and protect them by your kind providence. (Ephesians 6)
7. Triune God, we ask that as each of our children grow into adolescence and young adulthood they would know that their church family loves them with a real, persevering love. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
8. We pray, Almighty King, that all our sons and daughters will obey your call to fulfill your Kingdom purposes. (2 Timothy 1:1-14)
Your friend,
Ligon Duncan


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Continuity and Vitality from the Ordinary Means

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 32 Num. 34
“Continuity and Vitality from the Ordinary Means”
First Published: October 5, 1999

This week I have had the privilege of reviewing our congregation’s history in my mind as I taught the Officer Training course on Sunday afternoon and Wednesday night, and as I wrote some new material for our informational packets for prospective members. My heart is flooded with awe and thanksgiving when I think of God’s faithfulness to us over the years. But two words in particular stand out. Continuity and vitality.

Let’s take continuity first. Has it ever hit you that we have only had seven senior ministers since 1858? It really is astonishing when you think about it! But more than that, there has been a continuity of approach to ministry. Gimmicks and fads have come and gone in other churches. Theologies are changing all around us. Churches are trying all manner of schemes to attract members. But First Church has been committed for over a hundred sixty years to a simple and unified strategy for building the church: preaching Christ and him crucified. Sure, the numerous programs and ministries of the church have attracted and been a blessing to many. But at the very heart of what we are doing is the proclamation of the Word.

Generations of ministers and elders at First Church have been committed to the sentiments that C. H. Spurgeon expressed last century about how to build the church and draw people to Christ. He said: “Come, ye Christian workers, be encouraged. You fear that you cannot draw a congregation. Try the preaching of a crucified, risen, and ascended Savior; for this is the greatest “draw” that was ever yet manifested among men. What drew you to Christ but Christ? What draws you to Him now but His own blessed self? If you have been drawn to religion by anything else, you will soon be drawn away from it; but Jesus has held you, and will hold you even to the end. Why, then, doubt His power to draw others? Go with the name of Jesus to those who have hitherto been stubborn, and see if it does not draw them. No sort of man is beyond this drawing power. Old and young, rich and poor, ignorant and learned, depraved or amiable — all men shall feel the attractive force. Jesus is the one magnet. Let us not think of any other. Music will not draw to Jesus, neither will eloquence, logic, ceremonial, or noise. Jesus Himself must draw men to Himself; and Jesus is quite equal to the work in every case. Be not tempted by the quackeries of the day; but as workers for the Lord work in His own way, and draw with the Lord’s own cords. Draw to Christ, and draw by Christ, for then Christ will draw by you.”

In addition to continuity, the Lord has graciously granted us vitality. Our congregation is historic but not petrified! Have you ever stopped to think how God has chosen to use ministers, elders and members of First Church to play a significant role in establishing the PCA (the nation’s largest conservative Presbyterian denomination), Reformed Theological Seminary (a leading theological training center for evangelical ministry with campuses in Jackson; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Orlando, Florida), and Reformed University Ministries (a nationwide campus fellowship)? Each of these is at least partially indebted to the Spiritual energies of Christians who have been impacted by God’s Word in the fellowship of First Presbyterian Church.
Now, I hasten to say, that neither our continuity nor our vitality is a cause for pride. They are gifts given to us by God, and so we ought to give him the glory alone for them. But they are a trust and a bequest and a responsibility. All of us who serve the Lord here are indebted, not only to “Him who saved us” but also to the generations of faithful men and women before us. How will we show our gratitude to God? Let’s do it by prayer and faithfulness.

Your friend,
Ligon Duncan


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Men of the Covenant
March 4 - Mr. Bebo Elkin

Please join us for our Men of the Covenant luncheon on Thursday, March 4, from 11:45 - 1:00 p.m. Our speaker will be Mr. Bebo Elkin. Bebo has served as the Mississippi Area Coordinator for Reformed University Ministries for twenty-six years. Before assuming his present position, Bebo served on the campus staff at University of Southern Mississippi, and later as headmaster of Presbyterian Christian School in Hattiesburg, MS. He has been a visiting lecturer at RTS, Jackson, MS, and Charlotte, NC, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO, and Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Greenville, SC. He holds degrees from Belhaven College, RTS, the University of Rhode Island, and Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, VA. Bebo and his wife, Jan, have three children, Amanda (31), Emelie (28) and Jamey (27). Bebo lives in Jackson, and is a ruling elder at FPC.

Reservations are not required and the cost of lunch is $6.00. Please contact Shannon Craft in Discipleship if you have any questions.

601-326-9243 or shannonc@fpcjackson.org


Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: "That we would fear only Him"

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 32 Num. 35
“That we would fear only Him”
First Published: September 14, 1999
This past Lord’s day we thought and prayed and sang about the fear of God. “Fear Only God” ought to be the Christian’s motto. I have been helped by Spurgeon’s words on this subject. While meditating on Hebrews 13:6 “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me,” Spurgeon says: “Because God will never leave nor forsake us, we may well be content with such things as we have. Since the Lord is ours, we cannot be left without a friend, a treasure, and a dwelling-place. This assurance may make us feel quite independent of men. Under such high patronage we do not feel tempted to cringe before our fellow men, and ask of them permission to call our lives our own; but what we say we boldly say, and defy contradiction. He who fears God has nothing else to fear. We should stand in such awe of the living Lord that all the threats that can be used by the proudest persecutor should have no more effect upon us than the whistling of the wind. Man in these days cannot do so much against us as he could when the apostle wrote the verse at the head of this page [editorial note: Hebrews 13:6]. Racks and stakes are out of fashion. If the followers of false teachers try cruel mockery and scorn, we do not wonder at it, for the men of this world cannot love the heavenly seed. What then? We must bear the world’s scorn. It breaks no bones. God helping us, let us be bold, and when the world rages let it rage, but let us not fear it.

I know of no better way to cultivate the fear of God than by deliberately adoring him and his attributes in prayer. Let us study to pray regularly to God about God. We ought to (1) Honor God for His nature: "You are God, and there is none else; your name alone is Jehovah the Most High. Who in the heavens can be compared to the Lord, or who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to our God? All nations before you are as nothing, and they are counted in your sight less than nothing and vanity. You are the first and the last, the only true and living God, your glorious name is exalted above all blessing and praise." We ought to honor him (2) for His attributes: "You are very great, O Lord, you are clothed with honor and majesty. You are the blessed and only Potentate, King of kings, and Lord of lords. All things are naked and open before your eyes. You search the heart of man, but how unsearchable is your understanding? and your power is unknown. You are of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Your mercy endures forever. You are slow to anger, abundant in goodness, and your truth reaches to all generations." We ought to adore him (3) for His works of creation, providence, and redemption: “You, Lord, have made the heavens and the earth. The whole creation is the work of your hands. You rule among the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth you do what pleases yourself You have revealed your goodness towards mankind, and have magnified your mercy above all you name. Your works of nature and of grace are full of wonder, and sought out by all those that have pleasure in them.” And we ought to praise and honor him (4) for His relation to us as Creator, Father, Redeemer, King, almighty Friend, and everlasting portion. May God help us to be truly God-fearing, and to learn the awe of God in our prayers.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Monday, March 01, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Reflecting on 3 years. . .while in Peru

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 32 Num. 27
“Reflecting on 3 years. . .while in Peru”
First Published: August 12, 1999

I cannot thank you all enough for allowing me the privilege of working on our summer missions project in Peru. I missed you while I was away. It was poignant to spend my third anniversary of ministry at First Presbyterian (August 1) preaching in two small Presbyterian churches in Cajamarca, Peru. But what a blessing.

Alonzo Ramirez has a huge vision for Peru. He is committed to an aggressive plan of church planting, evangelism, discipleship, church revitalization, seminary education, campus ministry and societal witness. His work ethic is prodigious. I have dubbed him “the Latin Patton.” The Third Army never moved so much, so far, so fast!

Alonzo is one of those rare individuals who comes along only once in a generation or so. He is brilliant, well-educated, upright, godly, and humble. Soon after we left Peru, Alonzo left to minister in the Amazon jungle region of Peru. The journey took him 30 hours by bus. He went because many of the other ministers thought that working with those exceedingly poor and uneducated people was beneath them. They wouldn’t go. But Alonzo did! Here he is, the leading churchman among the Presbyterians of Peru, humbly serving the people of the undeveloped Amazon region.

I am so thankful that we are supporting this important ministry. It is worth every penny we give it. And more. Bill and Allen Bradford are a great encouragement to Alonzo, and their Spanish is very good. We are proud of them.

On Monday, August 2, I lectured to High School students at the Isaac Newton School in Cajamarca. I did an overview of U.S. History, stressing the historic importance of the influence of Christianity in our society. There were many good questions and ties were strengthened that our Peru mission can capitalize on.

I think that many of us would have our eyes opened were we to see this land of Peru. We would have to re-evaluate our use or our prosperity. We would be shaken from our complacency about the enormous temporal blessings the Lord has given us and would be convicted of our ingratitude. Perhaps we would be moved by the needs of the church here, and would become permanent champions of the ministry.

I hope you will make a point to talk to the members of this large summer missions team, and learn more about their experience. Perhaps you will go next year]? May our gracious God prosper the work of this ministry and use it to win many to Christ and employ it to build up a firm witness to the truth and cause it to encourage and strengthen the saints.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

Editorial Note: FPC Peru Mission 2010 is June 26-July 4, contact Ruling Elder D. Story at DStory2@comcast.net