search icon search iconSearch A-Z Index Members IconMember Portal Members IconOnline Giving
Members Icon


Welcome to the First Presbyterian Church portal. Please choose an option below to see our events, small groups or to give online.


First Thoughts Blog

Author: Scott Graham, Associate Pastor of Pastoral Care and Prayer

The Perfect Re-Gifting

Re-gifting. To most of us, this is a word that brings to mind bizarre statuettes, frozen smiles and “future white elephant party” fantasies. We try to pass off things we receive, but don’t want, to others who, we hope, won’t figure out that we took an unwanted gift and gave it away ourselves. But what if we re-gift the things that are most precious to us? It’s likely that our Christmas or birthday celebrations would be clothed in an experience of joy we’ve rarely known. Kristina’s Oma presented her with a carnelian pendant set in gold that belonged to her for many years when Kristina went for a visit in Amsterdam as a teenager, and she treasures it to this day. 
The Apostle Paul tells us of such a re-gifting. The Corinthian church he planted and pastored was filled with a large group of colorful characters. Some were catching onto the Christ-centered life, but others . . . not so much. There were problems involving sex, money, power and social relationships that Paul addressed with this young but undisciplined congregation. Finally, he turns to gifts from the Holy Spirit.
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed . . . there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12: 1, 4-7) 
Do you see that last sentence? EVERY believer in Jesus Christ receives a gift from the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of how God works among us. This includes abilities such as leadership, mercy, words of knowledge, craftsmanship and faith. There is a lively debate within Christian circles, including our wider Presbyterian family, over the continuing presence of all the gifts mentioned in Scripture, but all agree that the Father and the Son send the Spirit to each believer in the church. Yet what is the purpose of receiving these gifts? They are for the COMMON GOOD. In other words, Fred may receive the gifts of faith and help, but they are only activated as he uses them to bless Judy, John, and others in the church and beyond. Marjorie has gifts of shepherding and healing, but they only work as she acts on them toward others. Re-gifting is the whole point of spiritual gifts, and as we give away what God has given us to bless and serve, our church will see the ministry of Jesus Christ unfold and blossom both inside and outside the walls of our church. Talk about Christmas all year round! 
Unfortunately, many of us are simply uninformed about spiritual gifts, in particular the gifts God has given to us to share. This fall I am launching a Sunday school class, beginning August 13, that will spend several weeks looking at what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit, his work among us, and in particular, the spiritual gifts we may have to use. By the end of our time together, you should have a good idea of what your spiritual gifts may be, and how you can give them away in service! This is tied into our upcoming stewardship season and I’m so looking forward to what the Lord will show us! Instead of re-gifting that bald headed chia pet in your closet, you’ll have some “precious jewels” to pass on to your friends, neighbors and even the acquaintances in your life. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9: 15)

Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction

Many of you know that I am your Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care. This means you’re likely to see me if you’re in the hospital, homebound or in a Senior Care or rehab facility. But the other part of my title is Associate Pastor for Prayer which includes aspects of spiritual formation. This includes prayer, obviously, and numerous other spiritual disciplines, such as meditative reading of scripture, fasting, and retreats. Two other responsibilities under this heading are pastoral counseling and spiritual direction, which are often confused with each other. What is the difference?
Pastoral Counseling typically involves a defined focus on a life challenge, such as a relationship difficulty or a behavior where change is desired. Scripture, prayer in various forms, anointing with oil, and theological reflection and a recognition that the worshiping church family is a resource for healing are usually included in pastoral counseling at some point. We are blessed to have an outstanding team of Christian counselors right here on the third floor at the Baton Rouge Christian Counseling Center, and typically I will make a referral to one of our licensed therapists if more extensive work is needed. Yet there are certainly times when counsel with a pastor is the right approach, or a good beginning. 
Spiritual Direction is an opportunity for intentional, set-apart, prayerful presence, usually in a one-on-one setting, where the director creates and holds open space for the directee to notice God’s presence and the voice of the Holy Spirit in a more attentive and developed way. The goal is to shape the directee into fuller life in Jesus Christ. Meeting with a director can be helpful when one is facing a new “chapter” in life, such as an empty nest, a change in jobs or retirement, or a reevaluation of life due to a dramatic life event or a ‘tug’ from God through a sermon or prayer time. My doctoral work at Gordon-Conwell is in Pastoral Theology in Practice, which focuses on these two related, but distinct, pastoral responsibilities. Consider this a friendly invitation to meet with me over coffee or in my office if you want to explore either of these options in your adventure of Christian faith, as we follow Jesus, who has come “that you may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10: 10).

Saying Goodbye to Everything Familiar

What would cause an apparently sane pastor and his beautiful wife to say goodbye to everything familiar in western Pennsylvania and move 1200 miles to Baton Rouge?
Before I answer that question, let me share a little more about myself. My wife Kristina and I are Midwesterners, and met in music school at Northwestern, outside Chicago. We’ve been married 33 years, and have three grown children: Jessica, married to Taylor, and their darling 1 year old daughter Ruby, who live in Tacoma, WA; son Emerson, in Pittsburgh; and our youngest, Ian, and his wife Sarah, who reside in Washington DC. Our only companion at home currently is our black sheepadoodle, Schubert, who is an excellent social coordinator and face licker!
Kristina and I enjoy hiking, music and concerts of all sorts, conversations over open Bibles and good food, and traveling. In fact, I would say we’ve developed a healthy sense of adventure over the years, based on following God’s call, what the Iona Christians in Scotland several centuries ago called "chasing the wild goose." My Masters of Divinity was gained at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, with a year of post-graduate study at Blackfriars, Oxford University, a Dominican (Catholic) priory. I tell people that year I felt like Julie Andrews in reverse! I’ve been in ordained pastoral ministry since 1992, serving Presbyterian churches in the Cincinnati and Pittsburgh areas. I’ve also had the opportunity to do some mission teaching in Albania and Sierra Leone, and am currently serving as board chair for an organization called Edunations, which has been planting EPC churches as well as schools across several rural villages in West Africa, presenting the gospel to several tribes that have never had the opportunity to hear of Jesus Christ’s saving love before.
My role at FPCBR is Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care, Prayer, and Spiritual Formation. Kristina and I were mostly minding our own business one evening when an email popped up on my screen from Gerrit Dawson. I certainly knew and respected Gerrit and First Presbyterian from a distance (my only previous time in LA was when you hosted the 2012 EPC General Assembly!), but I had never considered pastoral work in the south, much less THIS far south! Yet when the search committee sent the job description my way, we could tell the Lord was very much at work. I am extremely grateful for Biblically grounded, excellent preaching. I rejoice over gifted choirs and praise teams glorifying God with the congregation. I insist on being a part of a community of faith committed to mission both locally and internationally. But I also recognize that for many, growing in faith and trust in God’s character come when we are faced with difficulty or suffering. Pain, loneliness, grief, or crisis often provide the richest soil for biblical faith to flourish (see Hebrews 11). So, to answer my opening question: we’re in a new place because we’re excited to participate in the adventure of faith, hope, and love in Christ with you. Our Triune God is doing his wonderful work in the sanctuary, around the dinner table, and even by the hospital bed. It will be a joy to sit beside yinz/y’all as he does!