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True Piety Is Not Self-Centered (via Hywel Jones)

The experience of Job recounts a faithful and human expression of trust in God through a time of great suffering and confusion.
Hywel Jones points out that we should be encouraged to know that God was not an inactive party throughout Satan’s assault on Job, and that after Job’s vindication there is a touching example of true graciousness toward those who had been part of Job’s affliction by their error:

…it might seem as if Job is left unaided in his struggle with the powers of darkness. That is not the case. The Lord boasts of him to Satan and has his eye on him all the time. Throughout his struggle Job is graciously, though unconsciously, supported by God, and occasionally he is given some glimmers of light as he pioneers his way toward God. His very persistence in addressing God by way of appeal and accusation and also arguing with his friends and rejecting their counsel is a manifestation of his being upheld by God. It is not only dark thoughts that spring up in the mind unbidden, but also thoughts that inspire hope, even if it is only faint hope. Finally and climactically, when he is sure that he is about to die, he is given to know that his “kinsman-redeemer lives,” who will ensure that Job will see God again on his side. This is a sovereign intervention in a situation where Satan seems dominant. It is, as James says, great compassion.
Job has found solid ground under his feet. His outlook clears and he sees that the argument of his friends—that suffering is always traceable to sin—is a paper tiger, for the wicked do not always suffer (chapter 24). He gains the ascendancy in the argument and reduces his friends, and with them Satan the accuser, to silence. Job triumphs over Satan for God and godliness.
God therefore had his own purpose in allowing Satan to test Job. This is what James calls “the end of the Lord.” It is to show great compassion and mercy and to bless Job more than he had previously done. When the Lord appears, it is to judge and to save as James declares (5:9 and 11). He humbles Job for his outspokenness but still owns him as he did before the trials began, calling him “my servant.” Surprisingly, God says that Job had spoken what is right about him, whereas the friends had not.
This probably refers to the issue that is at the center of the debate between Job and his friends, namely whether God is punishing Job on account of his sin or not. God says that Job is not a hypocrite, and God further exalts Job by telling the friends to go to him as to a priest and that he will accept Job’s prayer for them. It is striking that Job prays for them before he is restored, and that it is as he prays for them that he himself is restored. True piety is not self-centered.

Read the whole post at Core Christianity.


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The Spiritual Dangers Of Disconnecting From Creation (via Scott Martin at Gospel Coalition)

I do spend an hour and a half outside most days walking, but I’m not a huge fan of nature.
To say the least.
It’s a pretty well-known thing that anyone who knows me has heard about.

This article by Scott Martin points out how not experiencing creation on a regular basis cuts a person off from experiencing aspects of God’s presence, power, and character.

From the article:

… in our post-industrial societies, humans are growing increasingly distant from the wonder and communicative power of creation. Climate is controlled by a thermostat. Our windows rarely open. We need not notice weather, the seasons, and other cycles of creation unless we want to. Our food is delivered without any dirt getting under our fingernails, from places we know not where, in seasons of harvest we know not when. We barely notice when trees bud or creeks rise.
What do we lose in the Christian life without meaningful, intentional immersion in and connection to creation.
We lose a dimension of the grandeur and glory of God. We lose a sense of the sublime that we experience standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, staring down mortality in a Class V rapid, or intentionally exposing ourselves to the brutality of a winter storm. We lose a sense of wonder when we aren’t planting flowers, harvesting food in our garden, or watching a bird built a nest. We miss opportunities for gratitude and worship when we don’t take time to pause before the simplicity of a tree, taking in its bark, leaves, shape, form—and realizing this little piece of nature is perfectly achieving the purpose God set for it. John Calvin said, “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in the world, that is not intended to make us rejoice.” But when we are far from the grass and colors of the world, we miss opportunities to rejoice.
We also miss a sense of healthy proportion and orientation. Exposure to creation reveals that we are small and God is big. It humbles us and reminds us of who we are in relation to a holy God.

Read the rest, along with some suggestions about how to reconnect with creation at the Gospel Coalition.


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Aligning Ministry Service With Personal Narrative (via Stephanie Judd)

Stephanie Judd writes about aligning Christian service ministries with the personal narrative of individual Christians.

The church is not a sausage factory. It’s a dynamic, diverse group of people that God has brought together in Christ. That’s what makes the church so amazing. But what this means is that to see people really fly as volunteers, leaders of churches need to resist the urge to be more concerned with filling gaps in rosters than they are about helping people serve in a way that aligns with their personal narrative. We need to sit down with people and ask the following questions:

  • What does it look like for you to live faithfully and courageously for Christ this year?
  • What excites you?
  • What energises you?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What ministry sparks your interest? Why?
  • What do you want to get out of serving?
  • What are your present commitments and what do they demand from you?

Asking these questions can tell you a lot about a person. Not only is it going to give you a good idea of what role is going to see them thrive and be a source of ongoing joy and motivation, it also gives you a touch-point to come back to. Six months down the track in enables you to say: ‘At the beginning of the year you told me that you wanted to join the welcome team to connect with more people at church. Is that happening for you?’

Read the whole post at Gospel Coalition Australia.


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The Need To Keep Margin In Our Lives (via Michael Kelly)

In a culture that encourages fear of missing out there is a price to be paid in having every cent and every moment spoken for.
As Christmas gives way to thoughts of New Year, Michael Kelley writes about the margin that God wants us to factor into our lives and why we shouldn’t reap to the edges of our fields:

We live in a margin-less world. Everything from our time to our money is pretty much spoken for. We are reaping to the end of the fields. In fact, we are going back over the fields of our lives a second and third time, looking for any spare cent or second that has not been accounted for.
This isn’t how we were meant to live. It’s certainly not how we should live if we expect the Lord to bring gospel-oriented opportunities into our lives. Living in a margin-less way is, at the root, a lack of faith in God’s character. Think about it from the perspective of the farmer: What might cause a farmer to reap everything, even the edges, instead of obeying this command of margin?
At some level, it’s fear. Fear that there wouldn’t be enough. Fear of missing some profit. Fear that at some point in the season, the family would be in need. The way you combat that fear is with faith. You believe that God is generous – that God will provide and that God will give us enough. That’s how you leave the edges unreaped.

Read the whole post


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On Stuff And Stinginess (via Jared Wilson)

I knew a lady who hated the word ‘stuff’. When we meet as one of the small groups that she belonged to and one of us uses the word we all fall silent for a second and then, having heard her remonstration about using that word echo in our minds, all laugh and try to think of a better word to describe what it is that we’re referring to.
Jared Wilson wouldn’t know that, of course, so he’s forgiven.
Here he writes about what it is to have a God shaped hole in our hearts, and how futile it is to try and fill that hole with anything less.

…in Ecclesiastes 3:11, God has put eternity into our hearts. This is that God-shaped hole we hear so much about. Because we are made in God’s image, we were made for eternity, to carry the glory of the infinite. Because of sin, we are fallen. The glory is obscured; the hole is a wound. We feel the ache, but we don’t know how to heal ourselves. And yet we try. With pleasure, with achievements, even with religion! But especially with stuff. We throw anything and everything into that God-shaped hole, the eternity inside of us, but none of it will fill the void. You cannot satisfy the infinite with the stuff of earth. No, only eternal glory can fill an eternal space.

Read the whole post at For The Church.


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The Hardest Thing For Anyone To Swallow, Especially The Winners, Especially You, Or Me, Is That We Are Objectively Loved (via Duo Dickenson at Mockingbird)

A post at Mockingbird by Duo Dickenson that contains phrase after phrase that I turn over and over in my mind.

But later, for many of us, maybe most, who have defined ourselves not by love but by demonstrating an ability to be lovable, failure is guaranteed. If perfection is your standard of lovability, you are doomed to an unloved life.
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We are judged by everything we are given. Every paycheck, every gift, every look from a stranger conveys more than the moment (but, also, is completely confined to it).
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If the world can reveal our worth or confirm our legitimacy or celebrate our value, it can also display our terminal inability to perform. And it is terminal.

Read Who You Are You When You Don’t Win at Mockingbird.


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Growing New Instead Of Growing Old (via Abigail Dodds at Gospel Coalition)

Abigail Dodds writes an article that directly addresses women, but speaks to the experience of every Christian.
She contends that increasing age should represent a growth in more that the number of candles on our birthday cakes.

Now, instead of growing old, we are growing new. The mature Christian woman is the one who has been new for a long time. The mature Christian woman is the one who’s been with Christ long enough to have the unbelief of adulthood reworked into childlike faith. The mature Christian woman is the one who, though outwardly wasting away, is getting newer every single day (2 Cor. 4:16).
Yet how can a mind that’s growing old and forgetful also grow new? We all use our minds on something; perhaps not through relinquishing brain cells via childbirth, but in some form or another, our minds are spent. I have given my mind to storing information like: the location of the stray sock belonging to the 11-year-old, what chapter the 8-year-old needs to finish for history this week, when early bird registration ends for my oldest kids’ youth retreat, who needs new snow boots this year, what meetings my husband has this week. And even more importantly: what area of discipleship needs attention in each child, what godly habits could use further cultivating, what opportunities were missed last week for building up, connection, and growing together. All the data and information at times seem to crowd out coherence! What am I but a jumble of seemingly random, but repetitive, facts and concerns?
But this is a fertile place for newness to grow—in a mind and heart stuffed with the details and rhythms of life, worn out in the work God has entrusted. Our minds aren’t compromised by being used up; they’re replenished with something better than sharpness or quick-wits or brilliance. They’re replenished with a dependent wisdom that only Christ can supply, so that over the course of our lives—as we give away our brain space for the sake of those around us—we gain a mind that holds more than ours ever could have. We gain the mind of Christ, filled with humility, trust, and faith.

Read the whole post at Gospel Coalition.